Problem Solving Questions During PM Interview | Hacker Noon

@nishitrajNishit Raj

A product manager trying to make it worthwhile your read. Currently leading the Live Classes Product @Unacademy. Ex-Acko

Problem-solving/product question is something that you’ll come across in every PM interview. Here’s a way on how shall one approach it. (Not my technique, an amalgamation of the best possible ways)

Read the summary again- As I mentioned, the idea is to help on “how shall one approach the question”. We need to understand that every time the interviewers are not looking just at the solution. It’s how does one reach those solutions also matter. Having said that, I am not trying to undercut the importance of a good solution that moves the needle for the product in a significant manner. (We will come to this)

Question Type: There are different versions of this but broadly these question looks like the one mentioned below:

  • What is your favorite app and what would you improve in it?
  • Design an alarm clock for the blind? or Design navigation for the blind

Skills being looked for: how do you think, strategize, prioritize and design the features

Don’ts: Again, before we jump into what to do, most important is what not to do

  1. Please do not directly jump into solutioning and start throwing solutions features.
  2. The features/solutions suggested should not on the lines of visual element changes or an incremental feature. The solution should fundamentally impact the product and its users. Additionally, the feature should have a significant desired impact. (moving the needle)

Solving framework:

  • Lay the Approach: To begin with, always lay out your approach on how you’re going to solve the question.

First, I’ll discuss the problem in depth to make sure I understand it correctly. Then we can discuss the business situation and our objective in details. Subsequently, I will focus on defining the target user and brainstorming what problems we could solve for them. And lastly, I will try to generate solutions for these problems, prioritize them, and make a recommendation .

  • Focus on the problem: Sounds counterintuitive, huh? It’s not. The very first thing that you should do is clarify the problems and break them into smaller problems. Always start with the application of the first principleThe first principles will be one of the most important skill sets in your gamut.
  • Clarify assumptions: The problem given might seem very obvious but still do clarify every pointer which is not stated.
  • Define the business/product objective: This is a very important step to zero in on what exactly is expected to be solved or achieved. Sometimes we jump into solutions only to be made aware that we aren’t solving the right problems and end up embarrassing ourselves
  • Define the target groups: Once we have the simplified problem statements and the business objective, clearly define the target groups for which you’re trying to solve. There can be possibly different segments. In order to keep the solution focussed, choose the target group with a maximum base or the group that can make the most impact
  • Use cases definition: Explain why the users are/will use the product for. Also, this step really helps in setting up the base for your solutions. Explain in detail, how the current product is faring in addressing those use cases and are there any weak spots.
  • Narrowing down the weak spots/problems: Once we have identified the weak spots, narrow down the weak spot or challenge that you’ll address which shall circle back to the objective by making a significant impact.
  • Suggest features to address the weak spots: Suggest all the features that you can think of which can address the weak spots. Among all the features suggested, do pay heed to prioritization and explain the order in which these features can be implemented and how.
  • First and second-order impact analysis:  Once features are suggested, please highlight the metrics and impact on them. Also, be mindful of the second-order impact analysis of each feature.

Side Note

  • Sometimes interviewers might give inputs about say which target user to solve for or what particular aspect needs to be addressed. Please do skip steps as per your recognizance.
  • Also, after each step or after a couple of steps, do keep checking with the interviewer if he/she thinks the approach is okay or if there is any feedback. It really helps to keep correcting the way rather than going off track.

Previously published at

by Nishit Raj @nishitraj. A product manager trying to make it worthwhile your read. Currently leading the Live Classes Product @Unacademy. Ex-AckoSubscribe my newsletter


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