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How to Answer Product Design Interview Questions

Are you preparing for upcoming product management or marketing interviews? Your interviewer is undoubtedly going to ask your questions highly focused on product design. Therefore, the wisest thing you can do to prepare is to take a look at some common product design questions, right? Well, don't worry! We've compiled a list of the most common product design interview questions, along with some breakdowns, explanations, and more to help ace your next product design interview.

Types of Product Design Questions

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During your product design interview, you may be asked questions of a few different types. These can be broken down into the following categories:

Situational

Situational interview questions are focused on how you would perform under certain circumstances while in your position as a product designer. They are similar in nature to behavioral questions. Check out our article on Amazon's behavioral questions to learn more. Situational questions are meant to give your interviewer a feel for your on-the-job problem solving, along with the types of situations you anticipate. It's during these questions that you can provide past examples of exemplary work in your previous positions.

Design Challenges

Design challenges are often structured in a similar way. With these types of questions, you will be asked to pitch a product design based on some set of parameters given to you by the interviewer. Some employers may even ask you to redesign something of theirs or some other famous product. All in all, the design challenge portion of your interview may be that which is most important for getting the job offer.

See our Google Photos example.

App/Product Critiques

App or Product Critiques are a bit more focused on your design philosophy and style. Your interviewer may ask more open-ended questions about an app or product of your choosing. Questions may range from what product designs you admire to pointing out major design flaws in an established product. The most common, of course, is about your favorite product. You should come to the interview with some products already in mind.

How to Answer Product Design Questions

While we do not recommend heavily relying on one particular framework when answering PM questions, they can help establish an initial structure for your answer. One that we find very helpful is the broad, then deep framework. Let's take a closer look:

Look at the Users

First and foremost, take a look at the product users. Delineate all the varying user segments that may have different needs. Then, for the purposes of your answer, choose one particular user segment. Make sure to explain why this segment is most interesting to you or one that should be focused on.

For example, there may be many different user segments that use a product such as WhatsApp. If you were asked to think of ways to improve Whatsapp, you could first focus on those users who may not be as engaged on the platform as you may like. You can choose segments such as children, elderly users, or public officials. Once you narrow your selected users, you can dive further into the product design question.

Outline the Pain Points

Next, now that you've chosen a segment of users to focus on, the next part of your answer should be an outline of the pain points for that segment. A pain point is defined as any problem or concern that users experience when using the product. Brainstorm a few of the most important and explain. Remember to go "broad, then deep"

by offering an overview before zeroing in for more detail. Nevertheless, pain points may not always be the most important detail when it comes to your user segment. You may find that it is sometimes more useful to discuss the users' behavior or new opportunities to take advantage of. Ultimately, this part of your product design answer should be driving towards an understanding of the desires and/or needs of the chosen user segment.

For example, what are the things that affect a particular user's engagement when using Whatsapp? If we were to focus on the elderly, a pain point that may discourage them could include an overly complex UX that may be confusing to those who are less technically inclined. You could zero in on this pain point, and outline how simplifying or making the UI/UX more intuitive can help elderly users feel more comfortable using Whatsapp.

Brainstorm Product Ideas

This is certainly the most fun part about answering product design questions. Once the user segment and the pain points have been established, you can brainstorm various product ideas to address them. This is your opportunity to show off your passion for product management. Make no mistake, your interviewer will be paying attention. Brainstorm at least three ideas (three should generally be enough) that can accommodate the users' pain points. If you need some additional resources to help you brainstorm new ideas, be sure to check out our guide on just that.

Demonstrate Product Vision

The most important aspect of your answer, by far, is the product vision portion. For this part, you should choose one of the design approaches from before and elaborate on how this product design may evolve in the future. What will this approach look like in ten years? How will it grow and change? For more information be sure to watch our video on the product vision.

Feature Priority

Once you've covered the product ideas and the overall vision, the rest of your interview answer is rather straightforward. Now, you'll need to list some features and uses for the product ideas. Be as concrete as possible while illustrating for your interviewer how the user will interact with the product. The features you choose should be prioritized in a way that best supports your previously defined product vision. The features should also simultaneously address the users' pain points in the best way.

Pitfalls

Finally, you should always mention the pitfalls of taking various approaches. This is your way to demonstrate that you have a multidimensional thought process when it comes to the nuance of your product and can predict and anticipate future concerns or problems that may arise with different approaches. We made a video focused on pitfalls and tradeoffs that you can check out here.

Common Product Design Questions

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"What is the Future of X?"

One of the most common PM questions that are asked in a hundred different ways boils down to "what is the future of X?" Here's an approach to solving it.

1.) Keep a list of Big Ideas

The best way to stay ahead of these interview questions is to keep a comprehensive list of your 'big ideas.' Write down all your favorites. Try to brainstorm the things that have the potential to radically transform the present. Now, of course, this isn't always a walk in the park. Be sure to keep up with the latest news regarding tech and science for consistent inspiration. Once you have a working list, highlight the 3-5 most important or significant to you. Of these choices, flesh out the pros and the cons, the potential go-to-market strategies, the major competitors, inter-industry discussions or attitudes, etc

2.) Apply the list of Big Ideas

When you're inevitably asked, "what is the future of X product," think back to this list of big ideas. Which of your ideas can apply to the product at hand? Strive to find 2-3 ideas that can relate and outline them for your interviewer. Be sure to illustrate exactly how the future of the product would look given your outline product vision.

3.) Critically answer the interview question.

After the first two steps, you should have a workable structure to answer the question. For example, “I think <Big Idea A> will transform the space in the coming years. It will do so by affecting X, Y, Z, etc. <Big Idea B> will disrupt the way that X operates because…” and so on and so forth.  Also, be sure to include the pitfalls of the new ideas of the future. Future innovations always come with pros and cons. Including the tradeoffs within your answer will demonstrate your deep understanding of future ideas.

"What is your Favorite Product?"

When it comes to PM interviews, the most common product question is "what is your favorite product?" While this may seem like a simple or relatively easy question, it is still very important for aspiring PMs. Here are some tips to help you ace it:

  • Choose something new: Whether it be a product your interviewer may not have heard of or a novel analysis of a product, make sure you're bringing something new to your answer.
  • Choose a product you actually use: Don't make the mistake of choosing a product you think will impress your interviewer. It'll be obvious, based on your answer, whether or not a product is really your favorite.
  • Display your passion for the product and product management as a whole: This question is the best opportunity to demonstrate your love of product from the perspective of a product manager.

Situational

  • How did you handle a situation where you did not agree with the product direction?
  • What is something that would be an absolute no go for a job?
  • How do you deal with a challenging product owner or stakeholder that's insisting on a solution that might not be in the best interest of the product?

Design Challenges

  • Design an interface for a rail station ticket booth.
  • If you were going to redesign an ATM machine, how would you do it?
  • Can you design a car stereo for a car rental company?

App/Product Critiques

  • If you have all the power that in xx company, what would you change?
  • What physical product best describes you as a person or as a designer?
  • What product do you wish exists that doesn't?
  • What are your favorite apps/websites and why?

Tips for a Successful Interview

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Complete some Mock Interviews

There is perhaps a no better way to prepare for a successful interview than to go through mock interviews beforehand. Not only can they help you practice answering PM interview questions, but they can boost your confidence and ease your nerves on the day of your real interview. Set up a mock interview with an Exponent member here.

Interview Coaching at Exponent

As you can expect, we know better than anyone how intimidating and stressful upcoming product design and product management interviews can be. So, along with all the previously mentioned tips, we recommend consulting with one of our product design interview coaches. We also have many Interview Prep Courses focused on Product Management, Software Engineering, Data Science, Product Marketing Management, and Technical Program Management. Currently, a Product Design Interview course is being developed. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list to be notified as soon as our early-access is ready.

What are the benefits that come with Exponent interview coaching you may be asking? Well, when you book a session with one of our coaches you can:

  • Get the insider scoop on the interview process.
  • Receive constructive feedback on your interview performance and your standing as an applicant.
  • Gain a personalized coach and coaching process that will help seal more job offers.  

With Exponent, our community has access to several tech-industry insiders and career experts specializing in product management, product design, software engineering, program management, and data science fields. Join our community today and they can help you nail all your interviews and get that dream offer. A definitive list of our coaches can be found here. So what's the hold-up? Sign up with Exponent today!

Anthony Pellegrino

Anthony Pellegrino

I’m a rather bohemian freelance journalist and tech content writer. Philosophy/CS student - A.I.,Consciousness, Social Sciences.

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