11 questions for marketing and product interviews

I’ve always hated job interviews. On both sides. Not only are they poor indicators of eventual success, they also create a dynamic that isn’t good.

Some of the things I hate:

  • They don’t allow for the possibility that the interviewee is smarter or has a level of experience that interviewer doesn’t have. This is especially true when you have a marketing person interviewing an engineer. Often, the only assessment that can be made is cultural fit.
  • There’s generally no way to assess the interviewer. There have been several cases in my professional life when I know the interviewer was a terrible interviewer and not getting any insight. In some cases, an asshole on the interview loop may by annoying prospective candidates to the point that they don’t want to join the company. There should be a mechanism for an interviewee to rate an interviewer. (The incentives are complicated here, but I can think of some ways.)
  • The process rewards people who know the tricks of interviewing. Because it’s only 20-25 minutes per interviewer, it is often easy to blow through the process with prepackaged talking points.

The biggest issue is that they create a confrontational dynamic, instead of a conversational dynamic.

Here are some of the questions I use when interviewing marketing and product people. In most cases, there is no “right” answer. I’ve often learned something when talking to interviewers. But for some of them, there is a definite wrong answer.

  1. Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel comes up to you with a camera crew and asks you, “Who is the president of the United States?” What should you say? Why?
  2. A pizzeria charges $12 for a 9″ pizza. How much should it charge for an 18″ pizza?
  3. Financial analyst frequently beat up on Google because its CPC is declining (the revenue generated per click). Is a declining CPC really bad for business? Why or why not?
  4. There are extremely rare circumstances where a self-driving car will have to chose among hitting two people. How do you decide which person to hit?
  5. In question 3, what if the pedestrians could be identified as Stephen Hawking and a Wal-Mart clerk?
  6. In the self-driving car scenario, assume the car’s options are: hit a deer head on or swerve into oncoming traffic. If you hit the deer, there is a high probability that the driver will die. If you swerve into oncoming traffic, there is a lesser probability that you will die. But you create a risk for the other driver that he could be injured or killed.
  7. You accidentally get a Vanguard statement that was supposed to go to a well-known psychic. Does this make you believe in her skills more or less? (For the purpose of this question, assume you have some level of belief. You can’t opt out of the question by saying psychics separate the gullible from their money.)
  8. In the heart of Time Square, there has been a tkts booth since 1973. The booth offers 1/2 off tickets many Broadway shows. People line up and wait for an hour or more to get these cheaper tickets. Obviously, technology has changed a lot since 1973. They have a great app whose functionality could be enhanced for online ticketing. The 1 hour wait would go away and offer theatergoers instant access. Should they add app based ticketing? Why or why not?
  9. You are product manager for an OnStar like service. The capabilities include remote door unlock, vehicle status reports, turn-by-turn directions for navigation (talking to an agent to enter the destination), warnings when you need to go the dealer for service. The technical capability is in every car. The package costs $200 a year for unlimited use of all services. It’s possible to offer a one-time remote unlock service. It would cost you $1 to do a one-time unlock. It happens instantly. The consumer’s other alternative is to call a locksmith. The locksmith has to pay a technician $40. The retail price is $80. Again, assuming it only costs you $1 to provide the service, should you offer the a la carte product? If so, how much should it cost?
  10. Back to Question 1. Does your answer change if you’re a 24-year-old aspiring actress? If so, why?
  11. How would you market Twitter?