Should a Product Manager interview a developer during hiring?
+ List of Sample Questions the PM can ask during such interviews
Tldr; If you are a Product Manager in a lean startup team, you should definitely consider being involved in dev hiring. A PM is a primary stakeholder, after all.
The interview questions you should be asking, however, need to be tailored to understand a candidate's approach towards breaking down requirements, sizing them up & detecting gaps.
The common mistake I see Product Managers make in interviews with engineers is that they focus on questions like:
I'd suggest to leave these for the technical assessments where other senior engineers will likely ask them anyway.
Instead, think about the relationship that you, as a Product Manager, would have with the developer on a daily basis. Attempt to simulate that interaction & gauge how it would fare in the future.
A Product Manager & a developer collaborate on matters involving requirements/specs, mockups, releases, testing, technical debt & troubleshooting. Good Product Managers also involve developers in ideation sessions and leverage their expertise to design creative solutions to customer problems.
Direct your questions on those areas.
Sample Interview Questions
“How does you like to consume requirements? Mockups, PRDs, Specs?”
“How have you received specs in the past? What's the best PRD template you've seen?”
“Have you worked with a product manager before? What do you think a PM does?”
“What do you expect from a product manager? What should they expect from you?”
“When's a time you disagreed with a Product Manager? What was the outcome?”
“Talk about a situation where you raised flags regarding technical debt. How did you express the concern to a non-technical audience? What was the result?”
“You push a release to live. The order volume/lead gen/traffic/[insert value metric] on the site tanks the next day. Walk me through how you'll troubleshoot the problem.”
Along with these questions, you can role play situations. Typically, I'm looking for how curious they are about the requirements I'm sharing:
Describe a user story in detail to the developer and ask them to attempt to estimate it. The number isn't as important. You're looking for their ballparking skills. The idea is more to see the kind of questions they ask to go about preparing an estimate. What's the thought process? Attention to detail?
Show them a flowchart that has a few missing nodes and see if they would be able to convert that to code. If they highlight unclear areas, you know you have someone who's thinking on their feet. Hand-raisers in the dev team are great assets.
If this is for a senior architect, describe a system to them (e.g. a search mechanism) and let them ask business/domain questions they would need answers to before nominating a tech stack for the problem?
How do they tackle non-functional requirements? If you told them that you needed an API service that needed to deliver results in 200 ms, what would they ensure?
In the end, you want to see how this engineer will proactively work alongside the Product Manager to focus on delivering an exceptional product, not just code.
You have a winner if you can foresee that specific relationship thriving.