Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interviewing @ eBay Part IV - Product Management Interview

First let’s review, very briefly, what product managers are expected to do – I also highly recommend you read the following Q&A from Quora contributors:

In my view the core of product management role is to understand firm’s resources and capabilities, existing products and markets, customer needs and wants, existing and adjacent market dynamics and economics and use the intersection of these four factors to conceive of and design new products or improve and evolve the existing ones in a manner that is profitable for the firm - i.e. reduces costs or increases revenue. 
That is indeed a tall order, and rarely can be performed by one person – it is a role – but an individual product manager should perform any part of this role.

(Notice that we are not talking about product marketing manager, project manager or program manager, the focus is only product management as it is defined above)

In addition to – or to accomplish - this core function– product managers at eBay work closely with business to understand the markets and trends, participate in conception of ideas, communicate and get buy-in from all stake holder (formal, actual or both), help marshal resources and come up with execution planning and ensure the success roll out – and post roll and operations out activities.

To me, the core traits of a product manager are clear and analytical thinking ability, communication and influence and discipline (in capturing assumptions, solutions, exemptions, follow ups, coordination as required by the breadth of activities above etc.)

In a typical interview (45 min) you can expect 4,5 questions from below list:  

-        Technical questions:
Most eBay products are either technology-based or have a strong technology component to them, so you have to understand technology (as in software engineering, operations, statistics …) also you need to build credibility with engineers, for these two reasons expect a few technical questions, I don’t personally ask you to code, unless you volunteer to (a plus) or you state on your resume that you are “fluent in Java”, then I consider it a fair game. By the way if you are applying for a “Technical PM” please read the “architect” interview post. These two jobs are almost the same at eBay.

o   What is the general architecture of a web application, how about a mobile application?
o   Your product has to use service of a service provider – the service is available online – what are the list of question you would like to know about this service provider?
-        Analytical ability
o   What is BMW’s revenue (do not look it up, I actually change the company randomly)
o   In a marketplace the actual instance of fraud is decreasing, but the perception of fraud is increasing, what is going on?
o   What data/information you’d like to know in order to estimate eBay revenue
-        Business and Strategy
o   Typical management consultant questions on strategy, competition, profitability, new markets etc.      
o   How do you grow eBay revenue by 20% in one year?
o   What adjacent markets eBay should consider entering?
o   Should eBay expand into Japan?
o   Should eBay buy ETSY?
o   Should eBay buy Yelp?
-        Product Design
o   How do you improve eBay buying experience, how about selling experience?
o   Should eBay accept Facebook Identity, if so, what are the considerations?
o   What do you think about “Social Commerce”, hype or real?
o   How do you incentivize excellent selling behavior on eBay?
o   How would you plan the launch of a product? Say fashion vault in Germany or integration of a new shipping carrier into the system.
o   How should eBay verify and confirms the identities of all sellers and buyers?
o   How best you think eBay can combine e-commerce and offline commerce?
o   What are the risks an electronic marketplace faces?
o   How should eBay implement “calendar of event” feature for sellers?
o   How do you improve eBay feedback system?
o    You are asked to improve eBay registration performance, what would you do?
o    What set of metrics would you use to measure the health of a marketplace?
-        Awareness of markets and trends 
o   Which companies eBay marketplaces should acquire
o   What are the eBay main competitors and why?
o   What trends (technology, consumers, economical, social etc.) will impact eBay business and how
o   Describe the economy of electronic payment industry 
o     What are your favorite products and why (please be prepared to mention something other than iPad or iPod)
o   What is the biggest product blunder in your mind and why
o   Which web sites do you visit regularly?
-        E-Commerce and Payment
o   How do you design a multi-merchant shopping cart
o   What is the “e-commerce funnel” – how do you optimize it.
o   How should “best match” algorithm be designed?
o   What are the risks an electronic marketplace faces?
o   You meet an eBay seller that complains about low sales volume, what would recommend him to do?
o   How do you measure the success of a shopping cart?
o   How can you use one's FB and Twitter accounts to improve searches on eBay?
o  How would you design an effective refund experience, how do you measure its effectiveness?

-        Personal qualities and fit  
o   How do you influence people?
o   What is leadership to you? Give me an example where you demonstrated leadership
o   Tell me about the most interesting project you worked on in your career
o   Suppose a technical leader is telling you that your product requirements is not implementable, what do you do?
o   How do you ensure that your product idea/project get priority over competing ideas/products?

Of course, the list of question changes from time to time and you may not get the same exact
question, but this is the general flavor of your interview. Again, if you happen to see this post
before you interview, please let me know.


Supa said...

Hi, your article is really insightful. I just got HR interview notice from Paypal regarding product manager - Risk control position. I would really appreciate if you could provide some guidance and tips on how I may better prepare. Thanks so much!! my email is

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Stiven McGreat said...

If you are new to eBay, then you should start by selling items from around the house. You might have read that same advice elsewhere and for good reason. eBay has become a intricate system and nothing can prepare you for the reality of selling. Everyone makes mistakes when they start out and it’s best to get some practice - to find out what sells best on eBay - before you start investing in inventory and selling seriously. eBay has an excellent guide to helping you find things around the house to sell. said...

Tks very much for your post.

Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

Source: Interview Questions & Answers:

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Anonymous said...

Hi I have an onsite interview for eBay Mobile Product Manager next week. Any Advice is appreciated. My email is

RMC Exclusive said...

Very good and i appreciate your article.

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