[Episode 4] DANGEROUS questions to ask interviewers

“Do you have any questions for me?”

Interviewers usually give you time to ask questions at the end of PM interviews. If you are familiar with the concept of recency bias, you would know that whatever you say most recently has a disproportionate effect on how the interviewer perceives you. That’s why this question is very important and can be DANGEROUS if you don’t handle it carefully.

Photo by Jon Tyson

It is still part of the interview, not your due diligence time.

Do your due diligence outside of interviews. Don’t ask about what you truly want to know if it’s NOT going to help your candidacy.

Many of you might say interview is a two-way selection process. My view is why taking unnecessary risk in an interview. You can always ask those questions after you receive an offer.

You should always avoid negative, controversial or vulnerable topics in an interview. Below are some bad examples.

Negative or controversial topics that you don’t want to bring up:

“How do PMs drive product decisions in a design-centered culture like your company?”

“Given your company size, how does knowledge flow across teams to avoid two teams working on the same problem?”

Photo by Francisco Moreno

Questions that make you seem lack of motivations:

“Have you ever thought about leaving the company? If so, what made you stay?”

“What is your internal mobility policy?”

“How does work balance look like at your company?”

Pure info gathering, which can be done outside of interviews:

“How does a typical PM career ladder look like at your company?”

“What is a typical day of your life?”

Vulnerable topics that may even hurt your candidacy:

“Do you have any advice for aspiring PMs who don’t have CS background?”

“Do you have any feedback for my interview today?”

If you want to get above questions answered, try personal contacts first. If you don’t have any, reach out to interviewers or ask recruiters to put you in touch with the right contact after receiving the offer (AFTER is key!).

Be prepared. I mean really prepared.

Prepare at least 10–15 good questions for your on-site.

On-site interviews are often structured as 3–5 consecutive interviews with PM/Engineer in a single day. Most interviewers will leave 5–10 minutes at the end for you to ask questions. I have even come across a PM interview in which I was told to use the entire 45 minutes asking questions. You don’t want to run out of questions in those situation.

Do your research. Show your passion about the company, product and role.

A good question is specific, thoughtful, and cannot be easily answered by Google search. A good question can demonstrate your motivation, curiosity, and depth of thought. Below are some examples for your inspiration.

One way you can go about demonstrating your product intuition is to ask about a particular product decision of the company that might seem counter-intuitive:

“For LinkedIn’s search filter feature, what make the team decide not to update the suggested location, company, school options based on users’ search history?”

Source: LinkedIn.com

You can also asked about a recent product launch to show that you are on top of your games:

“Apple launched Arcade a month ago. Given that most gamers focus on a few titles they really like instead of constantly browsing, what factors do you think could drive long-term success of Apple’s game subscription model?”

Source: Apple website

To present cultural fit, here is a fun question to ask a designer:

“If you can use one color to describe your daily job, what color would it be and why?”

Another good topic to ask about is long-term career growth:

“What differentiates a great PM from a good PM at your company?”

“If you travel back in time to when you first joined your company, what advice would you give to yourself?”

It’s also good to dive deep into the daily job of your future role:

“You worked on product X. What’s your biggest challenge when working on product X?”

“How are product ideas generated and product decisions made at your company?”

Summary

Asking interviewer questions is still part of the interview, not your due diligence time.

You should always avoid negative, controversial or vulnerable topics in an interview.

Prepare at least 10–15 good questions for your on-site.

Do your research. Show your passion about the company, product and role by asking specific questions.

A rational idealist into product and learning