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Atlassian product manager interview handbook

What’s it like to interview for a product role at Atlassian.

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At Atlassian, our mission is to unleash the potential of every team⁠, and that means we need to give them the best possible tools. But before we can start building great products, our number one job is finding great people—the future leaders of not only Atlassian itself, but the product world in general. Attracting top performers from a wide range of backgrounds and giving them an environment where they can thrive is the foundation of everything we do in Product, because we understand that the best team wins. 

So a few years ago, to help us build that team, we asked ourselves a simple question: “What does it mean to be a product manager at Atlassian?” The answer included four attributes—we want product managers who lead and inspire, who seek product mastery, who are great communicators, and who deliver outcomes. Today, those same expectations guide both our candidate interviews and our performance reviews; you’ll be measured against them whether you’re a new graduate applying to be an associate product manager or an Atlassian veteran with a decade on the team. As you prepare to interview with us, we think these attributes will give you a clear picture of what we’re looking for, and what the interview process will look like. 

​​​​​​​What we want: Four expectations for product manager candidates

Lead and inspire

What does it mean to lead and inspire? We think of it as the difference between unity of command and unity of effort. In an organization like the military, a leader issues orders and those orders are followed. That’s unity of command. But what about efforts such as natural disaster cleanups or technological transformations that require people to come together around a single vision, even when they don’t report to same leader?

A product manager has to be great at unity of effort; on a team with a designer, a marketing person, and seven engineers, it’s your job to get them all behind the same goal, moving in the same direction. So part of your interview process will be specifically focused on your ability to lead and inspire. We’ll be looking to understand how you’ve inspired others to achieve a shared objective and how you’ve empowered, listened to, and coached others.  We might ask you to talk about a time you led a team, or just a time you believed in something no one else did—and you should feel free to share experiences from outside work as well. We’ll ask you to focus on examples that demonstrate these traits and behaviors:

  • Inspires and influence others – with or without authority
  • Sets product vision, drives strategy
  • Confident with ambiguity and change

Craft mastery

Our product managers always put the customer-first and value a growth (over fixed) mindset. We also emphasize the importance of what we call “T-Shaped” product managers rather than “I-Shaped” product managers, who go deep on one area but also have a broad skillset. We apply this concept to three core characteristics we’ve identified across the product management craft: General Manager, Artist, and Scientist. This interview focuses on understanding your ability to embody the three craft areas, while having a clear forte.

We’ll ask you to focus on examples that demonstrate these traits and behaviors:

  • Customer focused
  • Passionate about building great product
  • 'T' over 'I’ shaped skills across General Manager, Artist, and Scientist
  • Continuous learner - growth over fixed mindset

Deliver outcomes

Great product managers understand they need to focus on outcomes — including customer outcomes (think: reducing time it takes customers to get work done) and business outcomes (e.g. users or revenue). The way you describe past projects matters. Companies ship products all the time; the question is, did those products drive value? If you tell us all about how long something took and what went into it, but can’t explain whether it made your customers’ lives better or how it contributed to business goals, you’re focusing on output. Instead, tell us how that project was received or what it moved year-over-year. The outcomes are what’s most important.

We’ll ask you to focus on examples that demonstrate these traits and behaviors:

  • Drives team to consistently achieve customer outcomes
  • Smartly prioritizes to achieve outcomes – says ‘no’ when needed
  • Balance speed and quality of decision making

Great communicator

Product managers need to be great storytellers who communicate simply and directly. Rather than focusing a specific portion of the interview process on communication skills, this is something we’re assessing throughout⁠. If we ask you to set the scene and give us background context before diving deeper into an example, we’re looking for your judgement – how do you balance giving sufficient context while being mindful of the amount of time we have left in the interview?

We’ll be looking for you to demonstrate your ability to:

  • Speak clearly, simply, confidently
  • Be a strong storyteller
  • Know and cater to your audience
  • Listen and collaborate well with others

“We want people who lead and inspire, who seek product mastery, who are great communicators, and who deliver outcomes.”

Who we are: Getting aligned on Atlassian values

If you’ve read up on Atlassian’s culture, you may be asking yourself, “Is that really what it’s like?”. We understand that at most companies, values aren’t much more than a collection of banal phrases posted on the wall. Here, though, we tell it like it is, with values like “Open company, no bullshit” and “Don’t #@!% the customer.”

As with communication skills, we look for values alignment throughout our interview process, but we also have a separate interview that focuses on our core Atlassian values.

In this session, the values themselves are the focus; it’s not necessarily about the role you’re applying for, and often this interview is conducted by a member of a different Atlassian team.

“When you talk about past accomplishments, for example, we hope to hear you celebrating your team and using "we" more than "I".”

What to expect: Our approach to building the team

Our product management interview process uses a panel approach after the initial hiring manager conversation: 3 interviews covering the expectations for product management candidates (one for each pillar outlined above) + 1 values interview. After leaving individual feedback according to specific assessment frameworks, all 4 interviewers meet to discuss their hiring recommendation with the hiring manager – and, if we’re not aligned, to figure out why.

One thing that doesn’t weigh heavily in our decision? Whether you have an engineering degree. We believe there are many paths to product management, from marketing to math and statistics to liberal arts—and we believe diversity in all forms is critical to our success as an organization. We want our Product team, and its leadership, to be fully representative of our customers and the communities in which we work.

When we say we want to “unleash the power of every team,” that includes our own—and it requires not only building up the diversity of thought and background in product management at Atlassian, but also helping each individual, whether they’re already on our team or just interviewing for a role, to grow and thrive. If you’re excited about our mission, value autonomy, and want to be a better product manager every day, we hope that you’ll join us—and that this guide will help you take the first step on a long and successful journey.

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