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Kunal Bahl, Kunal Shah
AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
How do you know who’s the right fit?
PIECES OF A PUZZLE

When Indian entrepreneurs tried to draft a hiring guide for product managers

Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

If you’re a techie looking for work with an Indian startup, here’s some help.

Yesterday (Aug. 20), serial entrepreneur Kunal Shah took to Twitter to ask his peers, “What are some of the best interview questions for hiring a product manager?”

One of India’s most prominent entrepreneurs, Shah’s last project, the e-wallet Freecharge, was bought by Axis Bank for Rs385 crore (then $60 million) in July 2017. He went on to set up the fintech platform CRED, which he currently heads.

Some key industry professionals stepped up to share their views on hiring for a role that entails being responsible for a tech product over its entire life-cycle, from ideation to development to launch and use.

For Rajesh Bysani, the mobile transformation lead at Google and former chief product officer at the self-drive car rental company Zoomcar, there are two go-to questions for a potential candidate:

  1. Which physical product did you come across recently that delighted you and why?
  2. You are looking to open up a new Darshini in Bangalore. How will you
    – identify the area
    – estimate the foot falls
    – design the menu
    – price the products?

Interestingly, one respondent to Shah’s question said that even for this technical job, he would look for someone who could keep the jargon away. “I would add a question to describe say working of (the) internet to your kindergarten student,” said Ayush Gupta, who is part of the product management team at Air Asia. “You will be amazed on (sic) many people cannot talk without jargon.” Doing this will show if the candidate has the “skill to simplify any feature or product so that anyone (can) understand,” Gupta said.

Although product managers are the backbone of a tech business, there’s no set playbook to hiring them. Some leaders thought completely out of the box. For instance, Ankur Warikoo, co-founder and CEO of deals and coupons website Nearbuy, said he would ask two “diametrically opposite questions” to test “intricate details about thought process” and the “ability to zoom in and out and how:”

  1. Reimagine the world, if you were appointed CEO of Mars. What would you change, why and how?
  2. Estimate my monthly phone bill.

Some of the questions Twitterati asked revolved around solving real-world problems such as “How would you redesign a hotel check-in and room experience” or “What would be your 24-hour customer journey from the time he or she entered the hotel?” A couple of them focused on the geriatric or disabled end-user.

Finally, there were also the more expected set of questions:

  • What is your favourite digital and non-digital product and why?
  • What is the best insight you learned last week?
  • What aspect of being a product manager do you find the least interesting?
  • Which feature in your last product contributed most to user retention?
  • What is the toughest product problem you have faced till date?
  • What is an example of a situation where your idea/work failed? What did you learn so that you don’t make the same mistake today?
  • Describe a feature “X” to me, from the perspective of a designer, developer, copywriter, and a business development manager
  • Can you tell me about a situation where you were thoroughly outsmarted by a person less educated/qualified than you?
  • What do you do outside of work?
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