How to Nail Your Design Interviews

Question Types: Product Sense, Product Design

How to Evaluate a Great Product

This is very similar to how investors do due diligence on deals.

  1. How can we create a satisfying product experience?
  2. How can we solve a chronic pain point? How severe is the need based on Maslow’s hierarchy?
    1. Few people + high severity = enterprise product (e.g. Gusto – company payroll & benefits)
    2. Many people + low severity = consumer product (e.g. Tiktok – humans’ need to express themselves)
  3. How can we create a delightful user experience?

Learn from the Design Best Practices

  1. Select up to 3 design criteria. Ask: Is it innovative?
    1. Is it useful?
    2. Is it intuitive?
    3. Is it honest?
  2. Explain how the product may or may not meet your criteria. Do a pros and cons analysis.
  3. Be specific (offer evidence) and contrast with similar products.

Sample questions: How do you like Facebook’s Watch Feature? Tell me about a product you like and use frequently.

The 7-Step Design Formula

Here is the framework I use for every single product interview. It works like magic.

Share this high-level roadmap with the interviewer, so they know where you are going. Be prepared to explain your intuition in great detail.

  • Step 1 Clarify with 3W 1H: Your interviewer may not answer every single question, but do take notes of the key information they share with you.
    1. What is it?
    2. Who is it for?
    3. Why do they need it?
    4. How does it work?
  • Step 2 Focus on a single user persona with a 2 by 2: This helps the interviewer understand who you are designing the product for.
  • Step 3 Use a single sentence to convey the customer needs
    • E.g. As a lifestyle journalist, Amy wants to build up her brand so that she can become a fashion icon one day.
  • Step 4 Brainstorm at least 3 ideas and draw them out. Think big.
    • As you brainstorm the ideas, make sure to tap into future technology and consumer trends. If you simply integrate two existing product or copy an existing feature, the interviewer would not be impressed.
    • Now is a good time to ask the interviewer: “If you approve, I’ll brainstorm solutions for this use case.”
  • Step 5 Prioritize feature requests. Create a prioritization table (with the following metrics) and calculate the final score. Make sure to tie the success metric with the product’s goal/mission. The decision of go/no-go often depends on the result of A/B Testing. Here are some common metrics:
    • revenue
    • engagement
    • ease implementation (engineering effort)
    • revenue impact
    • ROI (= revenue impact / engineering effort)
    • customer satisfaction
    • priority
  • Step 6 Propose a solution (with tradeoffs)
    • Based on the prioritization table, propose solution with the minimum key feature requests. As you pick some feature over others, make sure to address why you make the tradeoffs.
  • Step 7 Summarize your recommendation in 30sec.
    • Recommend the product / feature
    • Recap on why it is beneficial to the user & company
    • Explain why you preferred this solution over the others

Now that you know this framework, apply it to solve some product questions. Ultimately, you want to adapt it to your own form, so that it sounds natural.

Further Reading

  1. The Goal: amazing narrative on key process or operations improvements
  2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman: great intro to user feedback and consistency
  3. About Face 3 by Alan Cooper: great book on design interaction, process, and principles
  4. Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko: endless techniques to help you become more creative

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