Clubhouse Session with 4 Leaders in Product Management

For Your Next Role, Ask These Unconventional Questions

How to benefit from a full-spectrum approach to interviewing

avigating a career path is tough. Asking yourself – and the employer– the right questions can unlock clearer next steps. Guidance from people who have defined their own version of success helps, too. A second Clubhouse session with 4 Berlin-based product leaders called How to choose your next PM role offered perspectives that help pinpoint professional purpose and cultural fit. Beyond strictly product-focus, these insights benefit everyone.

The moderator, Stephanie Leue, a Product Leadership Coach, channeled knowledge from experienced product managers – Merissa Silk, Darja Gutnick, and Lisa Mo Wagner. Stephanie asked them: What is it they look for in roles? How do they recommend preparing for the interview process?

I’ve grouped their collective answers into a handy framework you can use when pursuing any new role, but might be especially applicable in a startup.

Hope this helps you in taking on your next professional challenge!

Pre-interview considerations:

Start with the obvious: the job description’s wording and tasks — how do you really feel about it? Does it spark joy or distaste? Listen to that initial instinct.

Is the vision and strategy of the company you are applying to clear to you?

Is the company product-led, or does it at least match your own passions?

How does the team dynamic and communication appear?

Do you believe you can learn from this team?

Then go more internally by asking yourself:

What is the precise value that I can bring to this company?

What can I add to the team so that they want to hire me? (Asking this will reposition your thinking to ‘market or sell’ yourself differently.)

Which learnings have I gained throughout my career that will help the startup/employer proceed in a convenient way that benefits them? ( And ultimately you, too.)

During the interview, consider asking:

How does work come in? (In other words: “How would I receive tasks?” This reveals the overall set up and whether there are established pathways.)

How do decisions get made? ( This helps shine a light on stakeholder relationships and overall communication.)

Can you tell me a story that embodies your company values?

What is your favorite thing about working here? (Ideally, ask this of multiple people in the company. And if possible, interview with a few people in the company which helps both sides assess cultural fit.)

Create authenticity in this setting:

Interviews can seem artificial, where both parties are putting on a show. This is unproductive. Instead, try bravely saying to yourself: I don’t care what happens; I am going to be direct and transparent. Know that it might get uncomfortable, but better to know in advance if it’s a good match.

All you can control in this situation is yourself. And being yourself is more likely to generate a better outcome. Ask as many questions as you need to. Be honest and speak your truth. While this might sound absurd, it does 2 things: 1) prevents disappointment later and 2) protects your mental health.

After the interview:

Learn to spot any red flags that came up and don’t ignore them, saying: oh, I can live with that…

Consider and prioritize your own values and needs; make an “instructional guide for me”.

Clarify for yourself: What do I need to succeed in this role? What can I not tolerate?

Next steps:

If you treat an interview like a conversation, that’s where the magic happens. Try it and let us know how it goes!

In case you want to catch up on diverse lessons shared during the first gathering of female product leaders, check that out right here:

If you seek business coaching expertise, follow Stephanie Leue. If looking for a product or growth role, get in touch with Darja Gutnick! Finally, do check out all the product-related roles open at Earlybird portfolio companies. ✌🏽

If this resonated, please give it a 👏🏾 or a share, so more readers see it. Thanks!

Reporting from within a Venn diagram of health, tech and empowerment. Berlin-based. Internationally minded. Comms @ Earlybird Venture Capital