It’s amazing to have a monopoly, to create the rules for the market, instead of playing by the rules. Very few companies find themselves in such a favorable position though. Most of us have plenty of competitors, and we try to eat our fraction of a pie, to find our place on the market, and loyal customers.

In order to do so, companies have to release the right product at a right time, and most importantly, their products have to differentiate from the products of their competitors. They can stand out with the design, price, branding, functionality, or even with something else.

In order to stand out, however, and to release the new product at the most appropriate time, they must know their competitors and their products, and the situation on the market.

And that will exactly be your role as a product analyst–to analyze the product of competitors, comparing them to your products. Based on the data you gather, you will provide advice on product features, release dates, and even on marketing and branding.

It’s an exciting job in which you can have a lot of impact, but not an easy one to get in an interview. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face.

 

Why do you want to work as a product analyst?

Try to talk mostly about things you want to bring onboard, plus about the role this job plays in your career journey. Let me explain.

Perhaps you have been working as an analyst for some time. You have a decent knowledge of their product segment, or at least you are passionate about the field and the future potential. What’s more, you did your homework, you researched about the company. You like their products, and honestly believe that with the right analyst onboard, they can even improve their profits (or finally reach profit, in a case that they were just losing money up to this point).

Now the second part of the answer: the place the job has on your career plan. You should be able to explain how it fits either with the past roles you had (for example you worked as a financial analyst before, or in market research), and the job of a product analyst is the next logical step.

Or you can refer to the future. You’d love to work as a product manager one day. Before it happens, however, you need to gain more experience, and the job of a product analyst is an opportunity to do so. Simply a perfect choice.

Can you please walk us through your resume?

This is more or less an icebreaker question, but you should not underestimate it. The key is to show them how your previous education and experience prepared you for the role of a product analyst.

They also observe the way in which you describe your former occupations. Do you talk with enthusiasm? Do you mention some achievements, something you did for your employer? And do you focus mostly on the good things, or do you dwell on negatives, defaming your past employers and colleagues?

Try to stay positive throughout. Each experience is a learning experience–even if you had a despotic superior in your last job, someone who made you hate your work.

And if you have no previous experience (some companies hire entry level product analysts), you should simply ensure them that you understand the job description, and believe that with your education and intelligence, you’ll handle the job (perhaps after the initial training).

 

What do you know about the products of our company? How would you describe them?

It’s absolutely important to do an extensive research before this interview. Learn as much as you can about their products, try them out if possible, and try to learn also something about the competing products. You should try to find the USP, the unique selling proposition, something that makes their products stand out–or perhaps something that could, if they were marketed in a proper way, or released at different time.

Do not get me wrong now though. Each manager loves to hear words of praise on their work and product. But they would not seek a new product analyst if they were satisfied with the status quo. That’s why it’s fine to point out also some weaknesses of their products (or branding, marketing, releasing strategy), when compared to the products of their competitors.

One they have you onboard, once you do your analysis and market research, they’ll eliminate these weaknesses and reach their full potential. Or at least that’s what they hope for…

 

How would you measure the success of a product launch?

This is a tricky question, and the right answer depends a lot on the field of their business. Let us suppose, however, just for the purposes of explanation, that the company you apply with specializes in games development, for Android & iPhone.

They’ve released some games up to this point, and they certainly have their competitors, companies who work on similar games. In this case, you can measure the success in several ways:

  • Comparing the number of installs with the numbers the company achieved with their previous games, in the same time period.
  • Measuring the success against the numbers of the competitors (how many downloads they had for similar games),
  • Average time spent in the game, how many people eventually made the in-app purchase. 
  • Ratings in the app store, reviews.

You can also say that you will always try to set goals for each product launch, or some milestones, following the results of your analysis. Once you have goals and milestones, it’s easier to tell whether the launch is successful, and to identify areas for improvement.

Tell us about the most successful analysis you’ve made so far in your life.

You do not have to aim for something groundbreaking at this point, especially if you are just starting in your professional career. What matters is your attitude to work.

Try to explain your methodology. Tell them about all the numbers and variables you considered. Show attention to detail. Talk about goals you set for your analysis, milestones, and how you eventually achieved them. And of course, you can also mention the threats, things you struggled with, unpredictable market conditions and variables.

Once they see that you approach your work responsibly, and do not underestimate anything in your analysis, they will be happy about your answer–even if you haven’t achieved any great successes yet.

 

Tell me about a time you had to deal with ambiguity.

Ambiguity, one of the new buzzwords you can hear in the interviews… Speaking honestly, back in the day when I was interviewing for jobs (which was indeed a long time ago), if they asked me anything about ambiguity I’d simply remain silent.

Or I would tell them that they firstly have to explain what ambiguity means, before I can tell them how I dealt with it at work…

But things have changed a lot over the years. Behavioral questions prevail in the interviews, and when you do any sort of analysis, you will always deal with some ambiguity.

You can talk about the following situations:

  • You had to make a decision without possessing all important information. You had to decide but could not assess the possible outcome of various options you had on your table.
  • Leading a project with unclear variables and goals, or one that was impacted by many external factors which you had no control over–for example the actions of your competitors.
  • Hearing or receiving some message from your boss, or even from your subordinate, message that wasn’t clear and offered more than one interpretation.

The thing that matters at the end is this one: You eventually made the decision, and took action, even though you weren’t 100% sure about the outcome. Because they would not benefit from your product analysis if you kept telling them that you did not know, that many variables were unclear…

 

Other questions you may face in your product analyst interview

  • What goals will you set for yourself if we hire you for the job of a product analyst?
  • How do you imagine a typical day in this job?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to get your message over to some managers (for example due to the technical nature of your message).
  • In your opinion, who is our main competitor, and what do they do better than us?
  • Tell us about a time when you took a calculated risk.
  • What challenges are you looking for in this position?
  • What can you offer us that someone else cannot?

 

Conclusion, next steps

Product analyst is a fancy job title, and you will typically compete with many other applicants for the job. What’s more, if you apply for a job in a big corporation, you have to prepare for a variety of behavioral questions, and you may face also a personality test.

This is a difficult interview, and whether you succeed or not depends more on your preparation than on your experience. Learn as much as you can about your future employer–their products, marketing strategy, corporate values. You can also learn something about their main competitors.

Last but not least, try to prepare a short answer to each question from our list, and do not forget to show enthusiasm for the job, and for their products, once you talk to the employer. I wish you good luck!

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Matthew Chulaw
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