Ready to dive into the role of a Product Marketing Manager with two feet? Then you’re probably wondering how to ace your next interview. But before we get stuck into the nitty-gritty, for anyone who’s new to the role, let’s take things right back to basics.
What’s product marketing?
Simply put, product marketing can be summed up as the driving force behind getting products to market - and keeping them there. Product marketers are the overarching voices of the customer, masterminds of messaging, enablers of sales, and accelerators of adoption. All at the same time.
The finer details of a product marketer will vary from company-to-company, but to give you a flavour, here are a handful of the role’s most common responsibilities:
- Product messaging and positioning
- Managing product launches
- Creating sales collateral
- Customer and market research
- Reporting on product marketing success
- Content marketing
- Managing the website
- Product roadmap planning
- Onboarding customers
Sound like your cup of tea? Then let’s delve a little deeper into how to prepare for your next interview.
Scrutinise the job description
Unfortunately, in 2020, the role of a PMM is still largely ambiguous and misunderstood, meaning what’s expected of you in one company could be vastly different from another. So, to ace your interview, you need to get to grips with the business in question and what they want in their next PMM.
How? Go through the job advert with a fine toothcomb and look at the responsibilities the company’s listed. It’ll give you a better idea of exactly what you’re walking into and how you can ensure you not only meet the criteria, but the role is what you’re after.
Tip #1: check out our jobs board to compare the variety involved in product marketing descriptions.
Tip #2: sign up to our Slack channel. Everyone’s super friendly and we’ve had tonnes of PMMs jumping on a call to help each other prep for an interview.
Link to your experience
For each of the responsibilities listed, think about all your previous work experience and pair specific examples to each - ideally, with some bottom line business metrics, too. For example, if you’re talking about a new product launch, what were the data-driven results of that? How many leads did it bring in? How many of those leads converted? And what was the monetary value of those conversions?
Or even if it’s something on a smaller scale, like a customer case study, who utilised that asset? How often was it used? And what level of influence did it have in the buyer’s journey?
If you’ve got a project or initiative in mind for each responsibility, when it comes to the interview, you’ll be ready to easily link your experiences and skills to the job. Not only that but you’ll be demonstrating an understanding of the role in question.
For example, if you’re talking about your collaboration skills, don’t just limit your response to “I think I’m really good at collaborating with other teams.” Think about a testing situation you overcame thanks to smashing the collaboration side of things and talk the interviewer through it from start to finish - it’s all about showing, not telling.
Plan your questions
There’s a time in every interview when you’ll be asked if you have any questions of your own. This is the perfect opportunity to:
- Demonstrate a genuine interest in the role and business, and
- Get a better idea of the role.
So, do your research into the organisation and write down anything you’d like clarifying. Hiring managers love a candidate who shows initiative, so you’ll be earning some brownie points and probably discovering something about the company you didn’t already know which’ll help you answer other questions fired your way, win-win.
If you’re struggling, here are some broad questions you could start with:
- What’s the size and structure of your product marketing team?
- How long has your company had a product marketing function for?
- What do your interactions with sales and product teams look like?
- How do you measure the product marketing team’s success?
Don’t ask questions you could and should know the answer to yourself though - like “What’s your main customer market?” A bit of online research gives you this answer and just highlights a lack of preparation on your part.
P.s. we recently saw an interesting thread in our Slack channel around what questions you, as an interviewee, should look to get answered during the process, and these suggestions came in:
- What’s the breakdown of responsibilities within the product marketing and wider marketing team?
- Where’s the emphasis in the short term (product <> sales or marketing <> product, etc.)?
- What are the deliverables in the first 30/60/90 days? And which KPIs would be used to measure those deliverables?
- How often do you launch? Are those broken down by t-shirt size today?
- What’s the current communication cadence between Sales/CS/Marketing/Product?
4. Immerse yourself
A good PMM will know their product inside out. Adopt this methodology in your interview.
We just talked about doing your research into the organisation, but take things one step further and do your homework on their products - old and new. Once you’ve got your hands on them you can test them out and make notes on your favourite features as well as what you think could be improved.
Tip: if they’ve got a freemium version, download it and have a nosey around and feed your findings into your prep.
Don’t fall into the trap of being a yes man either - that’s not what hirers are looking for. If they walk away from your interview with an idea on how to improve X, Y or Z, you’re guaranteed to be in their good books. So, with that said, go into the interview armed with positives and areas that could be enhanced.
Tip: be mindful of how you frame the negatives. Saying “I didn’t think this was very good” can come across arrogant, saying something like “I noticed ____ and had an idea of how it could perhaps be improved by doing ____ instead.”
5. Know the industry
To get a competitive edge, it’s a good idea to do some research on the sector you want to work in as a whole. Who’s the main competitor? What’s their rival product? What issues is the industry facing in today’s market?
Get to grips with this and you’ll be able to have an informed discussion, demonstrate a concrete interest and even discuss ideas for future strategies.
In the run-up to your interview, our top tip is to set up news alerts for industry-related articles so you’re up-to-date and in the loop on all the most relevant info. You might also glean some interesting insights on social media.
6. Practice makes perfect
Unfortunately, there isn’t a set guide to the questions you’ll get asked (although how sweet would that be?), but there are always some pretty standard questions you can expect nine times out of 10.
Generally, during interviews, you’ll be faced with two types of questions: behavioural and role-specific. Here’s a couple of examples to set you on the right track:
- What would you say are your strengths?
- Can you tell us about a time you managed a cross-departmental team?
- How would you say you cope working in pressurised environments?
- Can you walk us through your last product launch?
- What went well and what would you do differently?
- What were your main responsibilities in your last job?
It’s a good idea to practice answering some common questions so you develop a comfortable flow when the time comes and boost your own confidence.
Remember, your answers should highlight how your skills are relevant and add value to the business, and always keep your responses structured.
Tip: plan a few answers that you can mould to generic questions and conclude your response by bringing it back to the question asked so it doesn’t seem like you’re just reciting a script.
7. Don’t forget the customer
The ultimate goal of a good PMM should be to put the customer at the core - after all, they represent the consumer’s voice at every stage of a product launch. So, with that in mind, it’s a good idea to dig a little into the company’s existing customer base.
Read as many reviews as you can find to get an idea of the customer perspective - Product Hunt and G2 Crowd might be good places to start, but you’ll find feedback in loads of places depending on the nature of the organisation, like:
- Trust Pilot,
- TechRadar, and
- Social media.
Doing your research will open up the door for a well-informed and rich discussion about the future goals of the business and where you think you can add value.
Time to go and apply what you've learned...
To help you prep as best you can, here are eight relatively common PMM interview questions to prepare for so you can walk into your next interview brimming with confidence.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Despite the fact it’s one of the most common interview questions, it’s surprisingly easy to draw a blank. Do I tell them my favourite color? (No) The idea here is that they get to see something that maybe isn’t on your CV, or a little way to break the ice. Don’t give your life story, have a little run through of your name, where you’re from, some things you enjoy and a little bit about your interest in the role.
2. Why us?
This is where doing your homework pays off. Having good knowledge of the company’s values, their business model and customer base will get you through this early question with flying colors. Make your answer as recent and up-to-date as possible, using examples of products and campaigns to really convince the interviewer you’re ready for this role.
When doing your research, here’s a bit of a checklist of things to look out for:
- We’ll start with the obvious...what product(s) do they sell?
- Who’s their target market?
- What pricing strategy do they use?
- How do they position themselves?
- Who are their main competitors?
- Which acquisition channels are they using?
- What are customers saying about them? (Check out reviews for this one)
- What’s the latest product or feature they publicly launched?
3. Could you explain your role at your previous company?
Employers will want to know what experience you have in this role, so be prepared to give examples of projects you worked on and what successes and failures you had at your previous job. This one might sound simple, after all, you obviously know what you spend your working days doing, right? But without a bit of prep, it’s really easy to start fumbling, rambling and not focusing on the right parts of your role, so doing the pre-work can help you do yourself justice.
Tip: Be sure to explain the value you personally added to that company - having statistics and clear, unique examples to back up these claims can help easily show this.
4. What product marketing campaign do you think worked well recently? Can you think of any that haven’t?
These types of questions are to establish your broader understanding of the market, so have some examples ready to show you have an interest in the world of product marketing. Interviewers usually follow this up by asking what you’d have changed about the unsuccessful campaign, so have good reasons for why you did and didn’t resonate with the examples you have chosen, too.
“I really liked Awesome Company Ltd’s new feature launch and going off vanity metrics like their social engagement it looks like it was well-received by the market, however, it struck me as odd that they didn’t create a dedicated landing page to take prospects to. I think this would have taken their launch to the next level and enabled them to personalise their approach much better.”
This not only shows you’re hot on the pulse of market trends, but that you understand product marketing fundamentals and how to optimise campaigns for success.
5. We’re about to launch this feature, how would you go about it?
Case study time. Once again your research into the company should help you here, but this is the time to show off your creativity and understanding of the demands of the role. Maybe reference a similar product you’ve launched in the past (if it was a success) or a strategy you think worked well.
Remember, hirers don’t just want ‘yes’ people, so don’t feel like you have to mirror activities you’ve seen them pull off in the past. If you think they could do a better job of launching features in the future, tell them (politely, of course) and arm them with ideas for the next one.
If the person who interviews you walks away with a new idea they have every intention of implementing, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re going to remember you - and for the right reasons, too.
6. What metrics would you use to determine your success in this role?
This question is their way of asking you what makes a good product marketer. Use methods you were measured on in the past, or if you think you have something new to bring to the table then lay it out and explain why you should be targeting these specific areas as measurements for success.
Tip: be specific. Saying something along the lines of “I’d probably measure success against the number of new sign-ups” sounds a bit wishy-washy. Instead, go in with something like:
“Success would largely depend on the type of project we’re working on, but I think a fundamental metric to monitor is the number of churned users, and we measured this using tools like X, Y and Z in my last company, and by doing so, we were able to reduce churn by X% and save the company $XX,XXX a quarter in recurring revenue, with very little outlay.”
Let’s be honest, the latter leaves you sounding much, much more credible, right?
7. Who would you work most closely with in this role?
Not a trick question as such, but the answer will, of course, be multiple people. A product marketer’s work encompasses several teams including sales, support, marketing, product and more. Not only is this question further teasing out your understanding of the role, but it’s a good time to give examples of when you’ve worked well in a team - so go in armed with lots of practical examples.
8. If you were an animal…
Now, this question is one you can’t rehearse but you can prepare for. Some kind of curveball is going to be thrown your way. Whether they ask you to tell a joke, what kind of animal you are or who your ideal dinner guest is, there’s going to be something unpredictable asked at some point.
Don’t cram your head with too much information so you stutter and stall at something a bit off topic. Stay cool, be genuine and you’ll nail this answer just as well as the others.
Ultimately, to give yourself the best chance of success you want to approach the job interview like you would the role of a PMM. A PMM knows their customer inside and out and uses this information to deliver a solution or product that meets their needs and solves their problems.
So, do your homework and get to know the business you want to work for in detail, and then work out how you and your skillset will add value, meet their requirements and help solve their problems. You are the solution and the employer is the customer.
All that’s left for us to say is good luck!