What is More Important?—Sample AnswerNov 03, 2022
Last week, we talked about how to answer a interview question that asks you to pick one option or another:
What is more important: strategy or execution? And why?
This is an example of a typical “What is more important?” type question that you may get asked in a job interview. You will want to prepare for this question by using the C.F.A.S. (Clarification. Framework. Assumptions. Solution.) method as your answer structure. [Click here to read last week’s article discussing the structural strategy.]
Ultimately, you want to present a strong case for one option while leaving the door open to provide an argument for the other concept. This is done with a transitional statement at the end of your answer that allows the interviewer to guide you in the preferred direction.
Today, we will walk through a sample answer to this specific question. You will be able to see the strategies involved in crafting an effective response.
Let’s assume that I am interviewing for a Program Manager role, focused on devices at Google. As always, we will be talking to our imaginary interviewer, Sue. Let’s also assume that Sue is not being very responsive. She is polite, but really isn’t answering any of our questions.
Let’s dive in.
“Thanks Sue. I have a few clarifying questions. First, are we in the beginning, middle or end of this initiative?
“I would also be curious about a few other items. I would like to know if we’ve ever done anything like this in the past. Yes or no? I’d be thinking about the scope of the project. Is the scope of this initiative small, medium or large? Lastly, I’d be curious about the stakeholders. Are we working with internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, or both?
“Sue, can you answer any of these questions for me?”
[Pause here for a response. Then, you can proceed by presenting your own suggested frameworks based on Sue’s answers (or lack of answers).]
“Okay. A few concepts we should focus on are the goals, the historical data, the timeline, and scope and scale. In addition, we want to be thinking about the risk and benefits, the key stakeholders, and the KPIs. I think we should focus on goals, but is there another area you would like to focus on?”
“Let’s start by focusing on the goals, and I am going to go ahead and argue for strategy. Let’s also add in a couple of assumptions. Let’s assume the goal is to release a new Google Pixel tablet, and let’s say the timeline is to have it ready for the holiday season of 2023.”
The first goal should be defining our target audience. We may want to bring in the research team to focus on who our target audience could be. Then, we can start to define the overall demographics, both domestically and globally.
“The next goal would be to focus on the overall reach. We want to think about how we’re going to reach this audience. This is where I would probably bring in the marketing team to start thinking about the communication, the messaging, and the platforms we might use to reach this target audience.
“Next, we will have to strategize. We must think about the purpose behind these overall goals. What are we trying to solve for? We are not only focusing on the who, but also the why. This will probably involve bringing in stakeholders from engineering, product development, UX, and of course, marketing and sales.
“We’ve established the who and why. Now, we want to talk about the buying journey. This will likely involve bringing in more of the sales team. Then, we’ll move on and talk a little about validation. We do want to validate as part of our strategy to determine if the market really wants another tablet. How can we learn from what competitors have done?
“Once we have done a lot of this upfront work, we are going to work on a comprehensive strategic plan and bring in all those teams again. We might use some simple formulas such as using a SWOT analysis and looking at the overall ROI. Lastly, we want to make sure we have full alignment within the strategic vision of our goals.”
“Sue, the next best step is probably to enter the first phase of the program and further argue for the strategy. However, we could also dive a little deeper into the audience. We could talk more about the competition. We could go back to one of those initial concepts I mentioned before. Specifically, we might talk about risk as a very important component of strategy.
“Or, I am more than happy to flip the script and argue for execution. Sue, is there one item or one area you would like me to discuss?”
This sample answer shows you how to make your case for one concept, but the after-solution transition allows the interviewer to guide you to the next part of your answer. Sue may want to hear more about your strategy plan, or she may be interested in hearing your argument for execution. This is a really strong approach when presented with a “What is more important?” question.
Please watch my full video on this topic below:
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