Generic interview advice is easy to find but getting practical advice tailored specific for product marketers is another matter. Aspiring marketing candidates looking to take that next step in their careers intrinsically understand that standing out in a job interview is critical. More often than not, though, product marketer fail to differentiate themselves in front of the hiring executive.
Many marketing candidates tend to speak mundanely about specific tactical activities (i.e. derive messaging, create sales enablement, conduct competitive intelligence, communicate cross-functionally), but rarely focus on the thing that actually matters - the tangible outcome of their actions.
Product marketers often fail to differentiate themselves
As a result, they fail to make a meaningful impression with the potential future boss. Because they do not properly articulate their impact on the business, they end up fading into a sea of uniform and mediocre-sounding candidates.
But there is a better way.
Having interviewed many candidates over the years, I have noticed certain tendencies and behaviors that distinguish the top marketing talent from the rest of the pack. Based on these observations, here is practical advice that will help you ace your next product marketing job interview, regardless of whether you are looking for a junior, mid level or senior role.
Focus on outcomes, not activities:
The most common mistake product marketers make during their interview is to recite a laundry list of activities they have undertaken in their current/past job without ever tying anything back to tangible business outcomes.
If you have several years of work experience, I’m going to assume that you have already done messaging or sales enablement or even a product launch. But marketers tend to forget that the launch itself is not the end goal. In the interview, I want to know about the outcome. What was the adoption of the new product or capability? What was the impact on revenue? How much did you increase market share or reduce churn? Tell me specifically the goal you were trying to achieve and how you drove the business towards that end.
Examples of tangible business outcomes will vary depending on your goal. But you should quantify them and your metrics may include:
- Impact on revenue (ARR, MRR, etc.)
- Market share growth
- Product adoption by customer type or new penetration in key market segments
- Winning a key customer target (or getting them to commit to staying with you)
- Reducing overall churn rate
- Increasing loyalty or satisfaction (and how it leads to reduced churn)
- Nurturing referenceable customers that led to new opportunities
Not all of the above may be relevant to what you worked on but if you are data-driven, you will make a far stronger impression.
Before and after:
I once interviewed a candidate who really impressed me with her ability to provide a clear ‘before and after’ picture. For each part of her resume I probed into, she was able to articulate in straightforward terms what the situation was beforehand and how she changed it for the better. All the while, she also indirectly related how she could apply that experience to the product marketing role for which she was interviewing.
Articulate your unique value proposition:
As product marketing professionals, we spend a fair amount of our time thinking about how to differentiate our offerings from the competition. So that logic should also extend to ourselves as candidates. The best product marketers clearly articulate three specific skills or experiences that make them uniquely suited to the job. Simply stating that you are a dynamic self-starter or a master storyteller is not good enough - give me something far more tangible.
(I presented a methodology at Product Marketing World in London in December for developing differentiated value propositions. The principles of that framework can also be applied to positioning yourself as a unique candidate. Check with PMA if they will provide you with a recording of that presentation.)
Stand out by asking strategic questions:
The types of questions a candidate asks me are a major insight for me into your capabilities as a product marketer. The vast majority tend to ask tactical and low-level questions. If you want to stand out, ask strategic questions that require critical thinking and a higher-level response from me. Don’t be afraid to challenge your interviewer. What is the vision for your products and what are the main obstacles to achieving it? Tell me about a key customer you have lost and why they left. How has your go-to-market strategy changed over time? How has the competition compelled you to evolve?
If you ask strategic questions, you signal that you possess a deeper level of thinking and understand how to take ownership of your products.
One caveat: if you simply respond with “OK” to each answer and then move on to the next question, you communicate that you are asking questions merely as part of the process. This will count against you. The purpose of asking questions is to engage the hiring manager into a two-way discussion that provides you with insight into the role while also impressing the interviewer with your knowledge. My recommendation is to arrive at your interview with at least three strategic discussion points.
The ability to be direct and succinct is far more difficult than it appears. I have seen how candidates have ruled themselves out because they were not able to get to the point. After all, a product marketer’s core job requirement is to translate a complex solution into a simple and consumable value proposition. If you cannot answer a question directly during your interview, you effectively say that you won’t be able to do so for messaging either.
Get your point across within the first 10-15 seconds of your answer. As a hiring manager, I’m not interested in the history of your company or other irrelevant background information. I am interested in your work results and outcomes achieved.
Last but not least: practice, practice, practice!
None of us are born great interviewers. Just like anything else, it requires extensive practice to get it right. Rehearsing your interview on your own is fine but it never comes close to the real-world interview experience. Interviewers ask all kinds of questions that you can’t anticipate, have very different interviewing styles, and tend to focus on key aspects that they consider to be critical. You simply cannot replicate those intangibles on your own. You want to fail as many practice interviews as possible so that you can ace the real thing.
My advice to you is to find yourself an expert product marketer who also regularly conducts interviews and ask them to conduct lots of practice interviews with you. This could be co-worker, a mentor, etc.
If you have any specific interview questions, feel free to ping me over on LinkedIn.