· 13 min read ·
🔥This blog is long. Answering a take home assignment well will bring you one step closer to your dream job. This blog is detailed to help you in every step of the assignment. So read on! But only if you have some time🤣
Product Management Interviews can be long and arduous with a lot of stages. Each stage has a specific focus. If you are interviewing for a product manager role you will come across the product management Take Home Assignment. It is unique to product management roles and is used to surface specific skillsets. Over the years I have submitted so many of these that honestly I have lost count. As I progressed in my career and started hiring product managers I also created a few of my own to gauge the skills of prospective hires. In this blog we will look at the different aspects of the product manager take home assignment. We will also walkthrough a product management take home assignment example.
This is an exercise that the product manager needs to do on their own. The assignment is generally sent to you after the initial screen round or conversation with the hiring manager. The email contains:
Every company will tweak the format to meet their specific needs. Some might provide context and information that they’d like the candidate to use. Others might decide to keep it open ended and let the candidate make all the decisions.
Through this exercise the hiring team wants to find out how you tackle different problems that you will most likely face on the job. The goal is to find out the following:
The question will be presented to you in the following format:
“You are a product manager at XYZ Corp and tasked with evaluating and launching a new product. What product will you choose? How will you go about evaluating the opportunity and launching the first iteration of the product.”
“You are the product manager for “X” product. Tell us one feature that you would like to implement to improve it.”
As we said earlier some teams like to keep it open ended to see where the candidate ends up with them. The example above is an open ended questions. Others might be more structured and ask you to include specific information.
Every take home assignment should touch on the following
Start with Questions
Don’t start with brainstorming ideas! When you read the assignment there will be questions that come to your mind. Jot them down. Frame them in a concise and easy to understand manner and then send them back to the hiring team. You can choose to skip this step and make assumptions as you see fit. But let me ask you this - “Would you do that in the real world? At your current job, if you are not sure about something, what do you do? Do you make assumptions and start solving the problem? The answer is NO! You will talk to your manager or peers to understand more about the problem. So why not ask questions about your assignment! Once your basic questions have been answered you can move to the next step.
Define the Problem
Explain the problem you are going to solve with the new product or update to the existing product. Keep your description short and crisp.
Who is facing this problem?
Is everyone facing these issues? Or is it limited to a subset of users? Define the user persona that is facing this problem.
Why does it need to be solved ?
No product is perfect or solves all problems. Why do you think it is IMPORTANT to solve this problem over EVERYTHING else? Why would you prioritize spending time and resources on this versus other things?
How does it align to the organisational goals?
What is the vision of the company? Does the product team have goals that they want to achieve in the next 12-18 months? Does this align with those goals? You can gauge the organisation goals by looking at their public roadmap, website, releases or while talking to your interviewers. (In case the assignment is about a fictitious company, this may be included in the questions)
What is your proposed solution?
How will you solve the problem you have described above? First describe the actions that will solve the problem. Then give a short description of the key aspects of the feature or product that will enable users to take those actions. I would encourage you to put in a wireframe along with the description. This does not mean that you spend hours and hours building high fidelity mockups. Create simple wireframes. You can either use a piece of paper and draw a rough sketch with your hand or use a tool like balsamiq which is simple and easy to use.
What are the risks associated with these changes?
Can your solution cause any unwanted issues for the users or the team? Is it going to make anyone unhappy 🤣 . Think about all the different stakeholders that your update will impact. Once you have identified the risks, try and outline what steps you will take to mitigate them. This section doesn’t need to be crazy long. As long as the hiring team knows that you’ve thought about it you’re good!
How will you measure success?
This is the place where you list out the metrics you will follow in order to gauge the success or failure of the release. It is one of the most critical sections of your assignment and carries a lot of weight. Don’t go overboard here. More is not always better. Think through which metrics truly reflect the performance of the product or feature. Stay away from vanity metrics 🤣 . With each metric add the following information:
The assumptions you have made
While working on the assignment you will have questions that will need to be answered. You will have some data but then it might not be enough to get you all the answers. You will need to make some assumptions in order to come to your conclusions. But that’s ok. In fact that is going to be the case every single time you launch a product or feature. So remember to state all your key assumptions clearly in your assignment. You can do it as a separate section or highlight them wherever they are relevant.
You have cleared the screening round for your dream product management role in Amazon. You get an email from the recruiter on a take home assignment you need to complete. It looks something like this:
“You are the product manager for the Amazon app. What new feature will you add to improve the product?”
On the face of it this is an open ended question. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they want you to just pitch them whatever idea you might have 😀 . So don’t jump the gun yet and start brainstorming on the coolest idea already 🤣 .
“You are the product manager for reviews on Amazon. Recent feedback from customers has shown that they are not happy with how reviews on the site work? How will you go about solving this issue?”
This one requires you to look at a particular section of the platform.
For the purpose of this blog we will use the open-ended question example.
First things first let’s think about what questions come to mind after you have read the assignment?
Send over these questions to the hiring team to see if there is any additional information that the team can provide you. They might send you hard data or insight on which you can base your assignment. Or they can come back and tell you to make your own inferences.
Let’s assume that that the team comes back and tells you the following:
“Our data shows that reviews are an important part of customer conversion. In fact listings with more reviews are 5% more likely to sell than ones with less. However recent surveys have surfaced frustration among users with how reviews work. We don’t have any other information to share regarding the assignment.”
Alright, so this information answers some of your questions. For the remainder we will make and state our assumptions clearly. So let’s start building our assignment step by step as discussed in the last questions:
Define the Problem
Users find it difficult to browse through reviews on Amazon.
Who is facing this Problem
All users are facing this problem. We are assuming that this problem is not limited to a particular category.
Why does it need to be solved?
Reviews play an important role in the buying decision of users. Recent feedback has shown that people are frustrated with how reviews work.
What is the proposed solution?
Empower users to search faster and find the right review. This can be done by adding a search bar to reviews that let’s user type in a specific query. The reviews would filter in real time based on what the user types out.
Will this cannibalise an existing feature?
This update will cannibalize the usage of smart tags in our search results. Overtime we can analyze if one or both features are needed by the users.
What are the risks associated with the update?
Reviews have a high impact on conversion. An update that doesn’t work can negatively impact GMV
How will we mitigate the risk highlighted?
The release will be A/B tested first to validate its effectiveness before making it available to everyone.
How will you measure success?
Additionally it would be useful to analyse if the user is using the search bar when the same search terms is present in the smart tag
What organizational factors do we need to consider before the release?
Before we start work on the update we need to align different stakeholders on proposed changes. And consider the following during these conversations:
Scheduling the A/B test at the right time across the right category is important for this update.
Sometimes we are in a hurry to get started. Sometimes we are lazy. Sometimes we are so burnt out with all the interviewing that we decide to skip this step. Sometimes we just want to get it over with. Please ask questions 🙏
We can get a bit too excited and try to cram in too much information into our submission. It’s quite understandable. You have done all the hardwork and want to make sure that the hiring team sees that. But please stick to the length. Generally it’s 2 pages with font size 12. Being succinct and presenting information in a concise manner is an important skill that product managers need to posses. So when you turn in an assignment that’s too long it sends the wrong signal to the hiring team.
This is true for any work that you present. Cramming in too many graphs or designs in the middle of your documents makes it difficult to read. Use the limited space you have to highlight the important findings and conclusions you have drawn. Leave all the grunt work out of the main submission and attach them as appendices.
Don’t try to hash out the entire assignment in one sitting on a Friday night 😆 . Take breaks! Come back and have a look at your assignment with a fresh set of eyes often.
It’s ok to search on the internet. You do that in the real world too. If you are using certain frameworks or citing data make sure to add the references as part of your submission.
We don’t want to discount the fact that outstanding ideas will get you brownie points. But your idea is only one of the factors in your submission. I’d rather see a mediocre idea that’s built on a structured approach rather than what sounds like a great idea but ends there and is not backed by logical reasoning, thinking and research.
Product Management isn’t binary, I wish it was 😀 . You can’t focus on only data or only qualitative feedback. You have to use both. You have to look at the hard data but also look at the organizational impact of the updates you propose. In order for any update to be successful it requires a cross-functional effort. So make sure that your assignment is balanced. It shows your ability to think analytically while leading pragmatically.
We hope that you have found the information we shared useful. If you are reading this blog you are probably starting to write your take home assignment.
Hopefully it will help you structure your assignment.
Remember - there are no bad ideas! So pick one and ask the right questions. Break a leg!
Checkout some of our other blogs that will help you prepare for your product Management Interviews