In a PM interview at any major company, you’re very likely to face a question such as ‘Choose a favorite product and explain why.
It’s a seemingly easy question but providing an answer that has a good structure that explains your thinking will give you an edge over your competition
Therefore in this article, we will tackle how to answer favorite product’ questions – but visit our website to check out our tips on how to ace PM interviews, secure a PM position as well as how to become a better PM in general.
1. Why are ‘Favourite Product’ Questions asked?
When asking this kind of question interviewers are evaluating:
- How well you understand product design
- If and how you express constructive criticism
- How much you know about a certain product
First of all, as a PM you both need to be able to design new products and better the ones that already exist. To do so, you need the ability to describe the difference between a great product and its not-so-great competitors.
Secondly, because you will work alongside designers you will need to be able to criticize their work aptly but also empathetically. This means interviewers are looking for feedback that is both crisp as well as constructive.
Thirdly, it is the PM’s job to make crucial decisions while having little time and data. This is why a good PM is extremely familiar with their product, a familiarity that helps make tough decisions in tricky situations. As such in some companies, you will be expected to have a detailed understanding of all the products they offer from the get-go.
2. The Steps you Need to Take to Answer ‘Favorite Product Questions’
The best approach is using the BUS framework, which includes the following:
- The business objective
- The problems of the users
- The solutions
Let’s examine each step!
2.1The Business Objective
You need to make sure you don’t leave out this step – it’s your chance to give the interviewer a glimpse into your mind and also showcase your communication skills. When putting together an answer you should:
- Sketch out an outline for the answer
- Explain your product
- Clearly define the business objective
It’s always a good idea to sketch out your answer first, as this makes it easy for the interviewer to follow your ideas step by step.
Your answer should contain three points (whenever possible) and sound something like: “First of all, I will explain the function of the product and what business objective it has. Secondly, I will give a brief overview of its target users and their issues. Lastly, I will go over how my chosen product solves these issues better than its competitions and why it’s my favorite product’
After this outline, you need to explain the product because if your interviewer does not understand it they will not be able to understand your answer either – so take some time to make sure that they do understand it.
Let’s say you chose Instagram as your favorite product. You could summarize it like this: ‘Before we go into why Instagram is my favorite product, let’s have a quick look at how it works. There are two categories of users on Instagram. The first category is the end-users, who pick which accounts to follow, creating a feed that is tailored to them, providing information and entertainment, and who can also upload their photos and videos that they can share with those who follow them. The second category is advertisers who are interested in making their products known by using the platform.’
At the end of this, define the business objective that you will be discussing. Again, providing context from the get-go will aid your interviewer in understanding why this is your favorite product at a later stage – especially if they are not familiar with the product you’re describing.
For Instagram, you might define the objective as follows: ‘If the end-users engage more deeply with the app, the advertisers get more use out of it since their products get more exposure. So in terms of business objective, Instagram is interested in keeping its users engaged and in maximizing its revenue’
2.2 The problems of the users
After clarifying how the product works and what business objectives it has, you need to focus on the users and what problems they have a bit more closely. You should:
- Pick a type of user
- Make a list of their problems
When picking a user type you should detail why and how you identify with it. You need not approach this only from the point of view of the end-user (although that is easier since most often than not you will be a user of your favorite product yourself) and you should feel free to come at it from a business perspective.
Let keep it simple in the Instagram example and say something along the lines: ‘My experience with Instagram is as an end-user, so I will explain the product from this perspective’
You should then explain the problems the product solves for the specific user type you’ve chosen. A potential answer in our example would be something like:
‘Instagram provides the following solutions to these common problems of end-users:
- Many times they are bored when they have free time.
- It’s not easy to find content that is both targeted at the needs of the user and varied in the same place
- There is a need for people to fill up the small moments of free time that pop up between several tasks
2.3 The Solutions
In this step, you will have to delve deeper into the users and the problems they face. You need to do is following:
- Detail how this product resolves the problems its users have better than its competition
- Go into trade-offs and discuss improvements, if required
- Make a summary of the discussion
The problems that the users face need to explain the solutions of the product and how they are better than those of its competition.
In the case of Instagram, you might say: ‘The solutions Instagram offers are better than its competition for the following reasons.
Firstly, giving a choice of which accounts the users can follow Instagram increases the chances that users will see enjoyable content when they launch the app. This edges out the competitors which have users chose the category of content they wish to see before they provide any concrete benefits. So I open Instagram when I experience boredom because of this design feature, as my boredom is addressed without having to make any effort.
Secondly, content is offered to the user from different sources, as opposed to its competitors which separate a potentially finite amount of content into different categories. This makes Instagram’s feed a more seamless experience and increases the likelihood of my using it.
Lastly, the greatest advantage Instagram has over its competition is that it’s an image-based experience. This is to say, it’s much more straightforward to engage with a picture when walking on the street than to read text. The way the app is designed makes the difficulties in engaging with it much smaller than any of its competitors, making it an ideal solution in situations when I have limited time – such as taking the subway for a stop’
The interviewer might ask you how you would improve the product. If that happens your improvements need to work towards your previously defined business objective. In the case they don’t, you should talk about trade-offs anyway.
Again in the Instagram example, you might say: ‘One of the trade-offs is the feed since it’s unlikely that I will look for new content to follow and this will possibly lead to reduced engagement in the future. You could suggest that Instagram includes a feature that suggests which accounts to follow within the feed itself – this may be disruptive but will also guarantee future engagement.
In the end, you should state the question asked initially and make a summary as to why the chosen product is your favorite – this will show off your communication skills and let the interviewer know you are finished with the question.
We have provided you with a consistent method of answering ‘Favourite Product’ questions. But, remember that, as ever, the best way to learn is by practicing. You can do this either with your peers who may be applying to PM jobs or better with an experienced PM – so make sure you check out our comprehensive Mentoring Programs.