Best 14 interview questions for hiring Product Managers and Designers

Hiring is one of the few ways to increase intellectual assets for any organization. Ironically, Hiring might be one of the most overlooked processes there is. Searching "best interview questions to ask" on Google, dreaming that the cliche questions like "what is your weakness/strength" will bring in top-notch talents to solve our billion-dollars problems.

Hiring is heavily underrated. From the conversations that I had with different managers, I have an impression that the hiring process is one of the most overlooked and underinvested processes.

Perhaps you might feel the same if you’ve also searched “best interview questions to ask interviewee” on Google a night before the interview, ended up with questions like “Why should we hire you?”

Now you might ask, what’s the problem with that? I’m glad you ask.

Let’s take a look at modern-day businesses, and only focus on Managerial positions as an example (because compared to other positions which perhaps requires physical strengths or a certain type of certification, Managerial positions that mainly leverages internal resources like knowledge and personal characteristics are easier to illustrate my point)

To set the stage, let’s agree that the effectiveness of the growth of the company is directly proportional to the effectiveness of the application of human capital within the company. Simply put:

  1. Micromanaging a room full of smart and passionate people. GG.
  2. Fill the room full of empty heads and souls. GG.

The first is more of a management/people problem, but the second one is definitely a hiring problem.

Questions like “What are your greatest strengths/biggest weaknesses?” fail to get deep enough to extract the real essence of who we decided to hire as an addition to the team. It’s like asking “What do you like to do” on a first date. The answer could be perfect, but what lies behind the perfect answer could just be a sloppy one-night stand with nothing left but regrets.

As such, I’ve curated a list of helpful questions for those who wish to build teams that are above and beyond.

Do not ask

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. Why do you want to work for this company?
  3. What are your greatest strengths/biggest weaknesses?
  4. Why should we hire you?

Instead, ask

  1. How do your former managers and coworkers describe you?
  2. What topic has got you excited about recently? Why?
  3. Please teach me something you've been learning recently.
  4. Can you recommend to me 3 things to read/watch? What would they be, and why?
  5. Who is your role model? Why him/her?
  6. What is your proudest career moment? Why do you feel that way?
  7. Can you share with me one of your biggest failures? How did you overcome it, and how did that change you?
  8. What was something that you tried to improve? Why did you choose that, what did you do, and what result did you achieve?
  9. What was the last time you helped someone grow? What was that about, and why did you think he/she needed to grow, and in such a way?
  10. What is the purpose of a {{position}}?
  11. What is the difference between a top-notch {{position}} and a mediocre one?
  12. How do you spot a bad {{position}}?
  13. Whom’s designs/Which product do you hate/love/inspires you the most, how and why?
  14. What was something that you did that wasn’t part of your superior's request? Why do you think it was necessary to do so?

Bonus: Ivan’s judging criteria

At the end of the day, the questions are just a means to an end. It facilitates the selection process to choose the right kind of people for your team mix.

While resonating with my personal values, I would place my bets on those who possess the following qualities.

  • Problem-driven: Know what problem
  • Evident-driven: Only ideas are not helpful
  • Result-driven: Focus on the result, don’t let processes box-in
  • Curious: Always, always be learning
  • Humble: Don’t let ego get in the way
  • No BS: Never settle for less than the truth
  • Clarity: Explain things like I’m 5 years old
  • Trustworthy: I want to trust them with my back
  • Mindfulness: Help the team to do meaningful work
  • Clear set of principles, and not just picked up from a self-help soup, is with strong reason
  • Strong individual contributor: Steve Jobs On Recruiting People
  • Passionate: What’s that undying reason that pushes beyond just great
  • Walk the talk: Don’t just say it, show it
  • Helpful and generous: Always be giving and helping
  • Respectful: People can always learn from him/her