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.
I just feel the job is an excellent match to my strengths, as well as my career objectives. Honestly I am passionate about product management as a whole, but I understand that at this stage of my professional career, with minimum experience, I cannot really hope for getting a job of a Product Manager—though I’ve been studying the field for years, and read about every book you can find in a library on the subject.
But I believe that putting my excellent analytical skills and creative ideas to work in a role of Product Analyst will allow me to manage the entire product cycle one day. Having said that, I do not see the job of a Product Analyst as a mere means to an end. I did my homework, read reviews from your former product analysts, and I believe to have a good idea about the job. And I like what I saw, and can envision thriving in the role.
How do you imagine a typical day in this job?
You can get several variations of this question, but the goal is always the same—to show realistic expectations. Nothing fancy to talk about here really. Just like in any other technical or managerial job in a big corporation, you’ll spend the vast majority of your time glued to your seat, looking at your computer screen. And you should be aware of it, not seeing it as something negative.
Besides the obvious duties of performing market research and analyzing data (both external and internal) while trying to identify customer behaviors and trends, and eventually make recommendations to the rest of the product development team, you will participate in meetings (often daily), and have to deal with a lot of administrative work—emails, phone calls and stuff—just like in any other job in a big corporation.
What’s more, you will often stay overtime (just like everyone else), and can even suggest it in your answer, without a trace of negativity. Of course, you can adjust your answer to the specifics of the industry, and job description will also help you, though you should remember that job descriptions are written to attract talent to the company, and not to reflect the reality of the job.
Well, I imagine spending the majority of time in front of my computer screen, working on market research and data analysis. I imagine using my creativity while trying to find the most reliable data, and design the most accurate processes for my analysis, but I also expect a lot of routine work, simply collecting and aggregating data and eventually running them through different models, looking for patterns and trends.
Besides that, I envision participating in the meetings of the product development team, delivering presentations and suggestions to various team members, following the results of my analysis. And I imagine staying longer in the office on many days—definitely something one has to count with when working for one of the most successful corporations in the world…
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 a different time, before the competition released something similar.
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…
I have done my research and know a lot about your insurance products, and how they stay when compared to your main competitors. I would say you have a unique marketing strategy with clear branding, and try to make the products more tailored to the needs of individual customers. On the other hand, your pricing could definitely be more competitive, especially know when we are falling into recession and people are trying to save every dollar possible. That’s how I see you situation in brief, from a position of an outsider. Would you like me to elaborate on any product in particular?
* Special Tip: To know how to answer the questions, and to come up with a great answer on a big day, are two different things. If you aren’t sure about your answers, or experience anxiety before the start of your interview, have a look at our eBook, the Product Analyst Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to 25 most common interview questions for Product Analysts will make your life much easier on the big day. Thank you for checking it out!
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 game development, for Android & iPhone.
They’ve released some games up to this point, and they certainly have their competitors, companies that 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 releases, in the same time period.
- Measuring the success against the numbers of the competitors (how many downloads they had for similar games released in the same time period).
- Average time spent in the game, how many people eventually made the in-app purchase, or took other desired action.
- Ratings in the app store, reviews, other metrics.
You can always emphasize individual approach here, saying that each product is different and released in different market conditions, and that’s why it is pivotal to pick the right KPI (key performance indicators) to be able to measure the success of the launch.
Or, just like I did, you can pick a specific example—ideally one of their products, and describe in brief how would you measure the success of the launch. Remember that there are no good or bad answers here—unless you remain silent, of course :).
As long as you explain your thought process, and it makes at least some sense (considering your level of experience, they cannot and don’t expect some super elaborate thinking once you apply for an entry level Product Analyst job), they will be satisfied with your answer.
First of all, I try to set the criteria for measuring the success before the actual product launch. We should identify key performance indicators, numbers that we can realistically monitor, collect and analyze, while trying to determine success of the launch in question. It can be one thing but also ten, depending on the product in question.
The numbers depend not only on the product category and buying process, but also on our goals—what the company tries to achieve with the particular product. It can be anything from rising awareness and benefiting from certain seasonal trend, to outperforming our competitors and grow our market share, or even eliminating some competitor with discounted pricing.
It really depends on the individual situation, and I believe that the entire product development team should be involved while we decide about the KPI. I, as an analyst, am later responsible for collecting the relevant data, analyzing them, comparing them to expectations, or to data we gathered about our competitors. As a result, I will give my verdict, and in an ideal case also some suggestions on how we can improve the metrics…
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.
Once I worked on a sales volume forecast for different products from a portfolio, including new products. I decided to apply budget expense method and consulted different managers from the company to find out what their expectations were. I also included my own market analysis. However, real sales volume was 20% lower than I had forecasted, what was very bad for us. I understood that managers were over-optimistic about the new line of products, and we should include more historical data in the analysis, as well as available data about the competitors and their sales. Simply work with big data rather than relying on personal judgment of the management… Anyway, I learned the lesson, and the next time (they did not terminate my contract) I applied a more complex attitude to forecasting the sales volume, including analyzing the numbers of the competitors, gathering each piece of historical data I could put my hands on, and conducting market research directly with questioning our target audience from the database of customers. Such a complex attitude proved accurate, and the sales volume was almost exactly as I forecasted, and it was perhaps my best analysis to date…
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…
I remember a time when I had to decide about a budget for a project that had a lot of unknown variables. It was a unique project, nothing I did before, and I could not use historical data to forecast the expenses. But we needed a budget to be able to start the project. I estimated what I could–it wasn’t much, and came up with a rough number. It was approved by the management and we started the work on the project. We eventually didn’t have enough funds, and had to extend the budget. Needless to say, my superiors weren’t happy about the request, but what could we do? I learned my lesson, but I still think it’s better to start with an inaccurate budget than to wait for our competitors to make the first move. And I want to apply the same rules when carrying out product analysis in my new job. It’s better to come up with some numbers than with no numbers at all… But of course, it is also important to point out the limitations of our analysis to the product manager, so they can count with it when making decisions.
Other questions you may face in your product analyst interview
- Why do you want to work as a Product Analyst here, and not in one of many other companies that advertise the same position?
- 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 showed initiative at work.
- What criteria are important when you are deciding what data you will work with while analyzing the product?
- What are AB tests and have you used them in your work?
- How many cabs are on the streets of London at this moment? (brain teaser question)
Conclusion, answers to all questions
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 some brain teasers.
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.
And if you aren’t sure how to answer the questions, or simply want to have a significant advantage over your competitors in an interview, have a look at the new eBook I wrote for you, the Product Analyst Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to 25 product analyst interview questions (+ more) will help you stand out and sign a coveted job contract. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Feeling beyond nervous? It’s time to get rid of interview stress for good.
- Market research analyst interview questions – Several questions overlap with the position of product analyst. Check the answers and learn how to make a great impression on your interviewers.
- Salary negotiation tips – Get as much as you deserve, or even more.