This is a commonly asked question, “How do I stand out?” or “How do I best position myself?” or “What are they really looking for?”
I’ve always thought this an interesting question because when I apply for interviews, generally, I don’t think of how to standout. Because if you do well, you will stand out! (I promise!) You’re not competing against other people; you’re competing against yourself. So the question people should be asking instead is, “How do make sure I present my best self?”
And for that, my answer is the same as in other articles on the site: practice until it feels natural. Some people are scared to practice because they don’t want to sound “over practiced.” However, I’d argue that “over practiced” is 2 steps behind “enough practice so it looks/sounds natural.” Think of it like baking cookies from scratch. The first 1-2 times, you will probably mess something up; too much of 1 ingredient or maybe just leaving it in the oven for too long. Then, you start to get used to the process, but you’re still gingerly sticking to the script because you’re still afraid of messing up. Then at some point, maybe after the 10th or 12th time, you’ve done it so many times you don’t need the recipe. You don’t care if you mess up because you know how to bounce back/salvage the results. You’re a pro!
You’re not competing against other people; you’re competing against yourself.
You want to be the pro baker when it comes to your PM interviews. That way, you can let your personality come through, you can feel relaxed, you can think logically and calmly when curveballs are thrown and you overall feel ok. You get to a point where you don’t even care so much whether you get the interview because you know you’ve put in 1000% and can interview anywhere else comfortably. You’re a pro 🙂
So practice, do mock interviews, read about product development, immerse yourself in the mind of a product manager until it feels 2nd nature. At the end of the day, the only thing that changes between you having the job vs not having the job, is that someone is paying you to deliver. But your mind and approach to problem solving will still remain relatively unchanged. So develop it now and by the time you interview or are on the job, you’ll feel comfortable to give it your best shot.