The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Prepare

Learn how to efficiently use the product being described.

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The most important thing you can do to prepare for a product interview is to use the product.

Don’t believe me? Think about the issue from a behavioral psychology standpoint.

Let’s look at the following scenario: I now work at LinkedIn and spend over eight hours a day thinking about how to grow and improve messaging between users. I run AB tests, have growth benchmarks, test different designs, run thousands of SQL queries and analyses, and have now been pulled into an interview.

What is expected of a data science candidate here?

Given that my coworkers are smart and approachable, and I am able to bounce some good ideas on InMail and other LinkedIn messaging features off them, an ideal candidate will also have these qualities. Is it a realistic expectation that the data science candidate in front of me has thought about LinkedIn messaging as much as my coworkers have? Probably not.

As an interviewer, I judge candidates against all the other people I have interviewed, as well as the data scientists that I work with.

Whenever you are interviewed, remember that your interviewer is likely testing you on the knowledge you do not have as a company’s non-employee. In order to catch up, you need to do as much product research as possible.

How to “use” the product

Here, we might say, “But I already use LinkedIn all the time! I’ll ace the interview.”

However, thinking about the product as a person who works at the company is very different from thinking about it at as a user who interacts with it regularly… While I may use LinkedIn to browse articles and connect with other professionals, I don’t use it in a way that I am mindful of which LinkedIn features have the potential for growth in Q3. It’s the difference between using a calculator and knowing the laws of arithmetic.

Understanding a company’s product from a business perspective is imperative to connecting with employees in technical and product discussions during the interview.

Some ways to do this would be to guide our thinking with a few questions.

For example, with LinkedIn, we can brainstorm:

The faster we start treating an interview like a business consultation, the better prepared we’ll be for a product interview.