Product Manager Job Interviews: The ONE question to prepare for

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I just wrapped up a few weeks of intensive Product Management interview prep and job negotiation work with several clients and wanted to share an important AHA moment from that experience.

Almost everyone I worked with was asked about their salary expectations for the role and most of them were completely unprepared for how to answer!

There are LOTS of things you should do to prepare for your job interviews, but the ONE thing that you must be prepared for is how to answer the salary question. Keep reading to learn how to respond when this question comes up.

Know your rights

Depending on where you live, you do NOT need to tell them your current or past salary. In fact, it’s illegal to ask for salary history in several states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont. So before you interview, know your rights.

However, a company can still ask what salary you would like and this is where you need to tread very carefully. 

When asked this question, it’s always best to avoid giving any salary expectations. Instead, steer the conversation to what the company is willing to pay.

Trust me, any tech company that is looking to hire someone has a salary range in mind. However, some hiring managers will try to underpay if they know the candidate is willing to take a salary below what they had budgeted for the role. Sidebar: You probably don’t want to work for a manager like that!

The ONE question to prepare for

So when you are asked a question like “What salary are you looking for?”, respond with “It’s really too soon to tell. I’m excited to learn more about the company and the role first.” 

If they continue to press, reply with as much confidence as you can muster, “What salary range are you considering for this position?”

At this point in the conversation, the person should be willing to give you a salary range.

Even though you should avoid giving your desired salary range during the interview process, it is absolutely crucial that you be prepared to answer this question if your back is truly against a wall.

So do your homework and research what the typical salary range is for a role like this at a company that’s of a similar size and stage. Early-stage start-ups tend to pay a lower salary but provide larger equity grants. Later stage start-ups tend to pay higher salaries and grant RSUs (restricted stock units) that are smaller in size. 

As you sail through the interview process, it’s important to know what to expect in a job offer so that you can negotiate the various aspects of it. Stay tuned for more on job offer negotiation in my next blog post!

Want more help with getting a new PM job? Check out these articles:

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