June 01, 2020 / Blog

PM Interview Questions: Product Launch Questions

Right after you sit down for your first round product manager interview, the product launch question is asked: “Launch Instacart.” This can often be one of the more difficult types of questions asked in interviews, but it’s also the perfect time to show you can coherently think through a large scale problem and come to a logical conclusion.

This post will walk you through how to ace this question. Preparing for this type of question can make a world of difference, and this step by step explanation will show you exactly how to prepare!

What Is the Interviewer Looking For?

The interviewer will often throw this question at you for several specific reasons. They aim to assess your abilities to create goals regarding a product launch, weigh multiple business considerations at once, strategically maximize the company’s benefit, as well as to actually design a practical launch plan. Yes, this may sound like quite a few checkboxes, but each is interrelated and you certainly have the ability to showcase each.

Answering Product Launch Questions

To crush this question, there are five distinct steps you should follow.

Step 1Clarify the scope

Kick off the answer by making sure both you and the interviewer are on the same page. It’s often smart to give an overview of the product (such as what it does, who uses it, its competitors, any relevant legal concerns, etc) as well as discuss the boundaries of the product launch (such as clarifying if it is only launching in the USA or if they have the capacity to launch across the globe).

So, say you were answering this question for Instacart. Start by stating how the service solves the need for on-demand groceries. You can also mention how the company does not have access to a pre-existing following, but they’re targeting millennials. Continue on to discuss any other relevant details you see, as well as define the launch boundaries.

Step 2Select a goal

Next up, it’s critical to determine the key goals of the product launch you’re working on. If the product is at a certain point in its life cycle, say more mature, this could dramatically alter your response. The earlier stage in the life cycle the product is, the less relevant the profitability whereas validating key assumptions revolving around market opportunities are more important. A few potential goals which could apply to a product launch are as follows:

  • Obtain a large market share; if Instacart rolled out in a new country, this could be feasible.
  • Determining the feasibility of a new business model; with Instacart, would consumers be open to having groceries delivered?
  • Stimulate brand awareness; for example, generating name recognition for Instacart.

Step 3Define your strategy

This is your chance to highlight how you can allocate your resources to strategically secure the most value through your product launch. This is the base you’re laying to launch this product and achieve the goals you defined in step two. A few steps which I recommend to discuss during this part of the answer are as follows:

  • Discuss key metrics that will define your results and progress towards your goal in step two.
  • Determine a particular segment (ie males ages 35-45) which you believe could yield the best results. You can then use this segment to frame your launch plan.
  • It’s always important to describe risks associated with your product launch. This shows you can consider many angles and be thorough.

For our Instacart example, we could discuss how we want to focus on millennials because they are typically busy, technology forward, are open to delegating tasks, and want to eat healthily. You could even talk about how Chicago could be an ideal launch scene given the customer demographics and the types of industry located in the city.

This portion is incredibly important as it lays the base for the remainder of your answer, so make sure to have a logic behind all of your statements!

Also, as a side note, I always recommend you say “we” instead of “they” when referring to the company, which has always worked with me in interviews well.

Step 4Design your implementation plan

Every product launch plan should include three main phases:

  • Pre-launch
  • During launch
  • Post-launch

If you can be concise and describe the activities in-depth to showcase your detailed approach, this will convey to the interviewer that you have clearly thought out your launch plan and can think through a large scale problem. I’ll also walk you through some specific ideas you could have for each stage below.

Step 4.A – Pre-launch

When preparing for a successful launch, it’s important to think of the pre-work activities needed. Activities completed before the physical launch of the product fall under pre-launch. A couple of potential topics to look into are social media creation, pricing, product beta testing, partnerships, brand awareness marketing, etc.

Step 4.B – Launch

During the actual launch of the product, it’s important to see how you can best execute your plan and reach your initial product goals. A few examples of this would be marketing, strategic rollouts in different cities, paid advertisements, etc.

Step 4.C – Post-launch

Finally, following your launch, you have the chance to analyze if it was successful or unsuccessful. You can analyze launch data and find improvement areas for the product or launch strategy, assess future opportunities, etc. A few key things you can specifically discuss are measuring your launch’s success and conducting a post mortem (looking at what to change for next time).

Step 5Summarize your plan

As always, at the end of any question, it’s important to give the interviewer a 30-60 second recap highlighting your main points. This helps them remember what made you stand out and your strengths, so highlight your key ideas!

Throughout the process, though you must communicate your thoughts to the interviewer and explain your assumptions. They want to see what you’re thinking and how you tackle problems. If you can do this, there’s no reason you can’t land the job!

Want more practice with product manager interview questions? You can get live practice and a list of questions here!

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