Every new feature or product your team works on is an opportunity cost for the company. As a product manager, it is absolutely critical that you fully understand your customer needs and establish a prioritization process to identify what your team should be working on next. Without proper prioritization, your team could waste many months of time and cash building the wrong thing.
During the product manager interview, you will often get a question revolving around how you think about prioritization. The question could be as high-level as something like:
“You are a product manager for Facebook Groups. Can you talk through your prioritization process?”
There are several different approaches and preferences here but here is one we recommend:
1) Clarify company themes that are relevant to the product.
Chances are, the company will probably have a broader set of themes / goals that they will want to focus on at any given time. You’ll want to first think at a high level which themes make the most sense for the product at it’s current stage in its lifecycle.
Make sure you are asking your interviewer questions through this process! Don’t be afraid to talk through your thought process and ask your interviewer if you are thinking about the right themes.
For example, maybe your interviewer tells you that in this scenario, you need to make the assumption that Facebook Groups has just recently launched and you need to talk through how you would prioritize the roadmap for the next year.
In this situation, you might ask the interviewer if Facebook cares most about user acquisition / engagement at this point vs. monetization given how early the product is.
Knowing these important details helps you better frame your answer and show the interviewer that while prioritization strategies can be subjective to each PM, you are cognizant of the fact that broader company initiatives can externally affect how you think about prioritization.
2) Discuss your prioritization criteria.
Here is your opportunity to show the interviewer a framework for how you think about prioritization. There are endless methods for prioritization that we won’t list here but here is a light example you can use as a baseline for how to think about this question:
Establish a set of prioritization criteria (we recommend the three below – in a real-world situation, you would of course discuss with your team to concretely decide which criteria you will be collectively using to prioritize what to work on):
- Impact: How impactful is this feature going to be to the users (based on the theme you have chosen to focus around)?
- Urgency: How urgent is it for you to be building this feature now vs. later?
- Cost: How long will it take the product team to build this feature?
Create a quantitative scale – i.e. 1-5 so you can assign a number to each of these criteria when evaluating any item. You can also expand even further – maybe you also assign different weighting percentages to each of these criteria (talk through why you might do that).
3) Discuss your prioritization criteria inputs.
Now that you’ve helped your interviewer tactically understand the criteria you use to prioritize, you want to talk through all of the possible inputs you’d take into account that help you quantitatively score each of these criteria you’ve laid out.
Here is another opportunity to let your interviewer know that you don’t just work in a silo, like some mad scientist who works in his/her ivory tower without interfacing with anyone else.
You want your interviewer to understand that you don’t just arbitrarily put a 4 or a 5 into the importance or urgency columns. Are you setting up weekly meetings with cross-functional teams to make sure that everyone’s needs (whether internal or external to the org.) are taken into account? Do you have a documentation tool that you use to track all customer feedback or internal org. suggestions? Do you regularly sync with upper management to understand what themes the company is focusing on for that quarter?
Summarize all of the potential inputs you might use to evaluate whether how you are rating each criteria when evaluating any item, whether it be a feature, bug, improvement, etc…
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