👋 Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.
Over the last few years I’ve hired or have helped hire tons of product marketers, experimenting with different questions and formats.
What I find works well – for the companies I’ve worked with and roles I’ve hired – is asking three specific questions that:
- Help me understand how they approach product marketing (and work in general)
- Gives them a chance to shine
- Opens an opportunity for reflection and learning
These questions take place in a ~30 minute chat that – whilst casual and conversational – is focused on extracting the meaty, juicy bits as quickly as possible.
In this post:
Tell me about a product marketing project you’re proud of
I love this question because it lets candidates to explain something they’ve done that they were really happy with, where they were excited about the work. I find it helps candidates to relax into a conversation too, and let their personality shine through too.
I’m looking to see if candidates answer using STAR (Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results), and I’ll ask more targeted questions if not.
I’ll dig in further to ask about tradeoffs, how they collaborated with different people and teams, and try to uncover the specific role they played: were they a supporting actor, or were they running the show?
I also use this question to uncover their passion. In most cases, I want to work with product marketers who are interested in both the application and the theory of our craft. What did they like about it, what skills did they learn, where did they go for support?
Tell me about a product marketing project that could have gone better
I think eager self-improvement and a growth mindset is a really powerful trait in good product marketers. So this question is targeted to identify opportunities that, with hindsight, could have been avoided.
Here I’m looking for their maturity, how they approach accountability, and their proactivity in raising/solving challenges. I’m still looking for a STAR response to show the role they played in the project.
This question isn’t about admitting blame, but I think self-reflection is important. What can we do better next time, what challenges should we avoid?
I usually ask followup questions like “What would you do differently next time?” and great responses will include a core learning, with a disclaimer of ‘it depends on the context’.
Tell me about a time when you had to learn something new, inside or outside of work
Product marketing is so broad. Nobody has all the answers. That’s why I think proactive learning and application is important to tease out in the interview process.
Firstly, I ask for a situation that’s work-related or personal, because not everyone has a chance to learn new stuff at work.
I want to see how a candidate approaches the challenge. Did they identify a knowledge/skills gap early in the planning, or did they only spot it when they were in execution-mode? How did they figure out ‘what’ to learn?
If it’s a work/product marketing example, it’s always interesting to see how aware they are of the big world out there. Do they rely only on a narrow set of internal resources, or are they explorers looking for how others have tackled similar issues?
I ask targeted questions to tease out their critical analysis thought process. How did they know the solution they learnt would work? How did they weigh up different options?
How do you interview?
Disclaimer: the above is based on my experience hiring PMMs for specific types of companies, cultures, and is biased towards the traits I think are important. Your mileage may vary.
The interview questions and format that gets the best results for your business will be different. The traits, skills, and experience you’re looking for will impact the questions you ask – so don’t blindly ask the questions above without considering what you’re looking for.
Let me know what interview questions you ask in the comments.
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