What is the most difficult question you've been asked in a PM interview?

I have been a Product Analyst and am preparing myself for the PM role and am practicing mock interviews with a few PM friends. Does not seem that difficult, but then I wonder, “What is the most difficult question you’ve been asked in a PM interview?”


Design an elevator for a children’s hospital…

Context matters, I had no idea how to answer it. I thought cute pictures were important.


@PouyaTaaghol, Aren’t’ these types of questions just to see how you think about products and how you handle curve balls because once you’re a PM you’re going to get a ton of curve balls? (I’m told there’s no ‘right’ answer… but I feel like there are tons of “wrong” answers…)

IDK though, I was expecting these questions, but I didn’t get any. Instead, I got asked what % jerks am I willing to tolerate at a company… not PM related but that really threw me for a loop…

The hardest question I got was to role play with the interviewer how I’d develop the product they were interviewing me for…knowing next to nothing about the product. I ended up asking a lot of questions and saying I’d have to talk to the users…


What industry was the company in that you were interviewing for?


@PriyaVarma, “Tech” it was MICROSOFT program Manager.


@PouyaTaaghol, What the hell! That would’ve thrown me off as well. I would’ve needed some time to think :joy:. What did you end up telling them? I would’ve started at the foundation of a PM product development process. That would be applied to any product you’re thinking of rolling out.


@PriyaVarma, Yes! That would be a great way to answer it! Understand why… and the build around it! Why are we designing it, who’s gonna use it, for what, etc.

I just rambled some nonsense for 30 mins. I wouldn’t have hired myself. I didn’t know the framework… or what frameworks are. I focused on trying to design the best children’s elevator with random stuff- pictures, good smell, low buttons. It made no sense.

It was great though: I was devastated. I googled and practiced like a mad person. Got better and eventually got it.


I think the point is to ask who is using it and what is the point - is it even seen by kids? Where are they going? etc. instead of designing what you think a children’s hospital elevator is?


Come On Reaction GIF by MOODMAN

When I used to get stupid questions or the process didn’t make sense to me, I used to say “thank you but I’m not interested”. The process/questions represents (to me) the way this company works


@AngieGoodwin, How is a question stupid? How is it different from asking you to design the check-in kiosk for a children’s hospital?


@AmyWalker, I’m expecting that the questions will be related to the actual kind of product or the team culture. For example, what would you do to improve sign-ups? What is your process creating a new feature? How you validate an idea? What KPI you would use for this feature? How do you communicate releases? How do you engage the team? What would you do if someone is coming to you with an idea that you don’t like?


@Angie, At most of the Big N companies you will often be doing a generalist interview, with team matching coming after you pass onsite interviews. You therefore can’t be asked questions about your destination team, and these companies usually optimize for hiring people that could’ve successful on most teams in the company.

“Design an elevator for a children’s hospital” could lead the interviewee through every question you’ve listed, other than signups. Hypothetical product examples help test creativity.


I guess this is why I’m not the person to work in corporates or companies who wanna be one.


As a hiring manager (Sr Director) I throw one of these into PM interviews.

This isn’t a trick question or even a ‘generalist’ question. It’s designed to see how you’d logically break down solving a problem in an entirely new area. If all I did was ask you questions about things, you already know I won’t learn much more than I can glean from your resume. This is entirely relevant to Product Management when you’re exploring new ideas, opportunities, markets… Now I get that this question is waaaay out of your expected day to day job in terms of SUBJECT MATTER, but it’s exactly on track for a leader evaluating your ability to apply logic to solving a problem and build a defensible product strategy.


@NathanEndicott, I strongly disagree. I understand that many companies try to find the right person in those questions and home assignments, but I think it’s wrong and that’s why every job I had was when the direct manager simply said “I want you! come to work with me” after having 1on1 with me. It happened even in 500 people company.

But I’m also entrepreneur who worked on his own products for years (and still), which is not a common thing for PMs, so I guess I represent a different kind of people than what you (and most of the market) are looking for.


I was asked to justify to the CEO that a particular feature was worth funding. I was an internal candidate. I did not get the job.


I interviewed at Postmates a few years ago and suddenly a small dog enters the room with two guys. They introduce themselves, sit down, and tell me to help them design the Postmates app for blind people.

It was a damn good question despite not really being relevant to the role I was interviewing for. I think I was able to hold my own, but my knowledge of accessibility guidelines was limited to go in depth.


@MarcoSilva, did you get the offer or positive feedback about this portion? Pretty interesting question.


I did not get an offer. I wasn’t very interested in Postmates, so I went into this interview with minimal preparation, and I treated it as a practice interview.

As for how I did on the question, it’s hard to say. From my perspective I did okay (7/10) but not great. They don’t provide feedback to interview candidates so there’s no way to say for sure. Obviously, I didn’t do well enough since they didn’t offer me a position.

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Prompt was similar to: NYC’s JFK airport has shut down. You are responsible for finding accommodations for everyone who is stranded. How do you proceed? How many rooms do you arrange for? What could you do to avoid a similar situation next year?

We spent the entire 60-minute interview on this question, diving into different aspects of it. Generally, they were looking for structured thinking.