To kick things off, let’s start with the initial interview you’d likely have with a recruiter:
Initial Phone Screen Questions
Candidates often make the mistake of not treating their initial recruiter phone interview with the same attention and preparedness that they give to other steps in the interview process. But, the truth is, your initial phone screen can be the most impactful on your success throughout the interview process. Succeeding in the early stages of the hiring process helps you develop internal champions that will help you as you progress into later stages. Here are some of the questions you should prepare for in the initial phone interview:
1. Why are you looking for a new opportunity?
Whether you applied for an open job or a recruiter contacted you, it’s important to have a short backstory as to why you wanted to at least learn more about the opportunity. Passive candidates—i.e., those a recruiter contacted that may not necessarily be looking for something new—have a tendency to bomb this question. Just because a recruiter contacted you doesn’t mean you have the upper hand and can play it cool. Recruiting is a volume game, and if you come across as a tire-kicker, recruiters will often move on to more viable options pretty quickly. Even passive candidates have a reason for taking a call—think about why you’re open to exploring new opportunities and share that with your recruiter.
2. Tell me about your experience with “XYZ Company.”
We all know not to bad-mouth current employers during a job interview. That’s “Interviewing 101” stuff. But even outside of that obvious bit of advice, there’s a subtle art to successfully walking a recruiter through your resume. Not all recruiters are technical, meaning not everyone is going to understand the ins-and-outs of what you do. Even those that do understand don’t need anything more than the bullet points:
- What team did you work on?
- Who did you report to? Did anyone report to you?
- What were some of your most common responsibilities?
- What’s the project your most proud of and how did it impact the company?
That’s it. No in-depth overviews of your day-to-day or every project you’ve ever worked on. Just a few sentences on your role and accomplishments. Leave it up to the recruiter to ask you for more information if they need it.
3. What excites you about a career in product management?
Whether you’re interviewing for your first job out of college or you’re a tenured product manager with years of experience under your belt, it’s important to know what motivates and drives you in your career. Because product management is not a technical role where it’s easy to demonstrate your skill set, interviews judge your ability based on two things:
You need both to succeed as a product manager. Recruiters know that and will be looking for examples of each through their questioning.
4. Why our company?
Warning: don’t say “because your product needs a lot of help.” Even if it’s true, that probably won’t fly. But do consider how your answer plays into your skills and expertise. You might be interested in one organization based on their reputation, another based on the loyalty of their customers, and another for their risk-taking and eye for innovation. Think hard about what makes you interested in their organization over the rest and be ready to share it in your initial phone screen.
5. What are your career goals?
You may see this question several times throughout the interview process, and there will be plenty of recruiters who don’t bother to ask. But the good ones will. Why?
Because recruiters care about retaining top talent. And one of the best ways to retain candidates is to provide them with ample opportunity to grow. If your career trajectory sounds like it doesn’t align with what the recruiter knows their company can offer, a good one will be transparent about that instead of wasting your time (and the company’s).