Product Management Interview Question: Design [X] for [Y]

If you’re a product manager or an aspiring product manager, you must have come across questions that must be this format “Design [X] for [Y]” or something like “Improve [X] for [Y]”. If not, then you’ll come across one soon. These are very common questions asked in any product management interview.

Having read dozens of articles, hundreds of questions, watching a couple of mock interviews, and having cracked a couple of interviews, I think I am in a position to give a general framework for such questions.

Have you ever heard “The journey is more important than the destination”? I think this quote has been written to describe a product management interview. Because there are no right answers (the destination) to these questions because there aren’t any. These questions judge your ability to understand a problem and arrive at possible solutions (the journey).

The interviewer can give any imaginary scenario and ask you for a solution. I have been asked to design Youtube for low-end smartphones (remember Nokia 3310?). These products can be software or hardware devices. In another interview, the guy asked me to design a microwave for the differently-abled whose hands don’t work. These questions might not make sense at first, they probably won’t launch in the market ever. But what the interviewer wants to understand is if you’re the kind of person who hears a problem and goes “Nah! This can’t be solved. How will you make a microwave for a person whose hands don’t work? Who’ll put the food in the microwave in the first place? (The answer is ASSUMPTIONS! As these are hypothetical scenarios, they are bound to have certain assumptions).” Or are you the kind of person who goes ‘This problem sounds rather interesting, let me think of possible solutions for this?”

While there might not be any right or wrong solutions, there are ways to arrive at the solutions in a structured way. Now, we’ll explore a general framework to arrive at the solutions.

The framework -

  1. Clarify Scope: Ask clarifying questions. Ask as many questions as required to get enough details to be able to solve the problem.
  2. Goals: Clarify the goals of the problem. If the improvement is to be made for an app to improve its activation, retention, or to increase revenue or decrease churn. There can be many aspects of any product that can be improved.
  3. User: This consists of two parts (a) User Persona and (b) User Journey. Think of different users that will be using the product, and the ideal user group for this particular product. Once done, think of how the user journey will look like on this product, right from signing up (in the case of software products) to quitting the application. This will help understand their pain points.
  4. Assumptions: Mention any assumptions you can think of before mentioning their pain points
  5. Pain Points: List down all the pain points that these users will have in their user journey. Prioritize these paint points according to their severity so that you can focus on these pain points and list down their solutions later
  6. Solutions: For the prioritized pain points, list down the potential solutions. Prioritize these solutions, according to different frameworks. There are various frameworks available to prioritize product features. The most popular ones are RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Efforts) Score, IC (Impact, Complexity)/ VE (Value, Effort), MoSCoW (Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, Won’t-have). We’ll understand these frameworks in detail in some other blogs. Prioritize the important features according to any of these frameworks.
  7. Trade-offs (Optional): Mention any trade-off that you’ll be making to build these features.
  8. Success Metrics: Mention the metrics that you’ll be measuring to understand if the feature was successful or not. Mention all the key metrics, indicative metrics, etc.
  9. Go-to-market Strategy (Optional): Mention how you plan to launch this product in the market and plan to acquire customers.
  10. Summary: Summarize everything right from the goals to the go-to-market strategy to give an overall view of the problem and its potential solutions.

Now, in the next blog, I will explain how to use this framework by giving an example. So make sure you follow me here. All the best for your product journey!

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Product Manager. Ex- Scala Developer. Talks about product management, designing, art, and football.

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Prayansh Ratan

Prayansh Ratan

Product Manager. Ex- Scala Developer. Talks about product management, designing, art, and football.

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