"What's your favorite product and why?"
This is possibly one of the most popular product interview questions. And it tests a candidate on multiple fronts of product thinking - product sense, execution, and sometimes even estimation. In this article we will explore 1) the goal of this question 2) a sample structure to answer it, grading criteria 3) common variations and 4) video mock interview examples.
In my opinion, there are two main reasons why this question is asked so often and is so popular. The first is assessing if you display product sense - can you see beyond the lens of a day-to-day user and actually talk about what makes that product tick? What makes it special? What does it do and not do well? The second is having a reference point. A person is more likely to have an intelligent conversation about a thing they use often and know a lot about, especially in a high-stress environment such as an interview. Centering a question around a topic that the candidate is familiar with allows them to think more critically about the product and have more insightful conversations around it. This is especially helpful for folks who are trying to break into product management while still developing their product intuition.
Before focusing on how to answer the question, let’s refresh on what we mean by a product or a service. Given a market that consists of existing and potential customers with underserved needs, a product is an offering that meets a subset of those needs for a particular customer segment of that market. A product is said to have product-market fit, if it meets those underserved needs better than the existing alternatives (competition). A lot of time when you’re answering a favorite product question, the interviewer will expect you to convey why, in your opinion, the product has product market fit i.e. why it meets a specific need for you and why it does it better than its competitors.
Keeping this in mind, let’s approach on how one can structure their thoughts while answering this question.
This is where you introduce the product. Pick a product that you think is interesting and you use often. It is imperative that you can convey your passion for this product (it is your favorite product after all!). State the key value proposition (user goal) of this product.
EXAMPLE: “My favorite product is Robinhood. Robinhood is an app that allows users to trade stocks, options and other forms of securities. It also has great educational content and newsletters that allow novice investors like me to learn the fundamentals of financial investing. It has become my one stop shop for all things related to investments”
The deep-dive should segue from the product introduction. Once you’ve established the core goal of the product you should then proceed to state the underserved needs that this product solves for you. Another way to think about this is to think about the features of the product that you use the most and why they matter to you. Be sure to mention what you love about these features and what is so cool about them.
EXAMPLE: “What I love about Robinhood is the intuitiveness of its UX no matter which device I access it from. The other feature that I really like is the easy to use search feature. I can search for a company stock by using its ticker name or the company name. The search will immediately show you a bunch of pertinent results and you can usually find your intended company in the top 3 results. Finally, the checkout experience is really simple as well, I can select the number of shares I want to buy, or the amount of money I want to invest and checkout. All of this just works and I can access this experience from my desktop or my phone. The app seems cater made for the rookie investor”.
Describe the competitive scenario for this product. Who are its key competitors (Facebook’s key competitors are TikTok, Snap, and Twitter)? You can also talk about substitutes for this products (example a book is a substitute for a movie). Be sure to mention what these competing offerings lack. There’s a reason your favorite product is meeting your needs better than the competitors and you should mention that here.
EXAMPLE: “Before Robinhood, I used to use Charles Schwab for my investment needs. As a beginner I found the UI very intimidating and needed about a week of understanding how to use the website before I could make my first investment! Schwab also doesn’t have a very powerful mobile companion app - it removes most of the features from the desktop website. Schwab seemed to be a product targeted at experienced investors and had advanced features and analysis such investors would require. Robinhood on the other hand targets rookie retail investors and has thus made its whole experience as simple as possible.”
No product is perfect, what are the areas of improvement you see in this product? This is basically a product design question at this point. State a few improvements, the goal of those improvements and who those improvements target.
EXAMPLE: “Robinhood does a great job of opening up financial access and making the process simple - but it offers fairly complex options trading. And, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up in trouble there. So the key improvement I’d like to see is embedded education on how to use options products. In particular, I think supporting education videos, quiz questions to validate understanding and quick tools to simulate outcomes based on various options trades would help a lot. To measure success, I’d measure engagement with these tools (e.g., video views, questions answered, % of new options traders engaging, % running simulations, etc.). Importantly, I’d also want to see if better education would reduce incoming support volume from people upset about trades they didn’t understand - that could be a huge win. The key risk here is that these tools negatively impact trade volume and, by extension, our revenue but I believe if done correctly this could be mitigated. It may even encourage more users to adopt options and boost revenue. I’m happy to go into more detail.”
NOTE: Since this isn’t a stand alone product design question, this level of detail here is good. But it’s nice that the candidate suggests that they are happy to provide more detail if the interviewer is interested. If prompted, this question could morph into a bigger product design exercise, which we cover here .
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Finally summarize the conversation you’ve just had in 4-5 key takeaways. Be careful not to ramble as the goal here is to make sure that you re-iterate the key insights from your conversation so that the interviewer remembers them.
EXAMPLE: “To recap, we talked about Robinhood being my favorite product. We discussed how its simple UI, powerful search features, and inter device operability make it an appealing investing platform for rookie investors. RH is simpler and catered squarely towards the new rookie investors, something the investing platform offerings before it lacked. Finally, we talked about improving the “XYZ” aspect of RH and how it could improve the overall user experience for a new user.”
Here are the things an interviewer is looking for in your answer:
Because of its popularity, interviewers can ask the favorite product question in multiple ways. Here are a few sample variations -
Finally, if you're interested in seeing how a few PMs at top companies like Google, Microsoft and JP Morgan approach, check out the videos below.
Real interview questions. Sample answers from PM leaders at Google, Amazon and Facebook. Plus study sheets on key concepts.