CIRCLES Method And How To Use It To Get Hired

The CIRCLES Method is a framework that guides a complete and thoughtful response to any product design question. The CIRCLES Method is a framework of best practices that Google uses while interviewing candidates for product manager positions.

Understanding the CIRCLES Method

The popular framework – which has been featured on Business Insider – helps candidates answer production design questions through mental cues.

These mental cues are based on fundamental principles of production design. This allows the candidate to respond in a thoughtful, persuasive, and composed fashion instead of saying whatever comes to mind. 

Using the CIRCLES Method, the response will include important aspects of product management, including user empathy, prioritization, and problem definition.

The seven stages of the CIRCLES Method

During the interview, the candidate is encouraged to move through seven stages. Each stage corresponds to a letter which make up the CIRCLES acronym:

  1. C – Comprehend the situation. Begin by considering a few key questions. Who is the product designed for? Why do customers need it? How does it work? Where and when is it available? How does the business define customer satisfaction? Is satisfaction or another important metric failing to meet targets?
  2. I – Identify the customer. Be prepared and have a list of potential target audiences that will benefit from the product. Then, in the interview, choose one buyer persona that best supports your argument. To save time, consider illustrating a buyer persona using a simple matrix that describes user behaviours, needs, goals, and the demographic.
  3. R – Report the customer’s needs. This can be done by creating a user story to delve deeper and understand user needs and their intended benefits.
  4. C – Cut, through prioritization. Narrow the various needs of the customer down to one you feel will have the greatest impact. Think about how certain needs would be prioritized according to time, money, or other constraints. Here, a prioritization matrix or A/B testing is appropriate. This stage demonstrates to the interviewer that you can assess the pros and cons of different scenarios and think strategically. 
  5. L – List solutions. For the identified need, list several solutions. Many candidates are great at identifying problems but have difficulty solving them. Brainstorming frameworks such as the Reversal Method and Attribute Method can help the candidate think on the spot. 
  6. E – Evaluate trade-offs. Evaluation requires that the candidate be analytical, objective, and thoughtful. Trade-off criteria should be defined to better get your point across. Solutions should be analyzed via a pros and cons list. This stage is important because the ability to critique yourself is important in successfully responding to critique from others.
  7. S – Summarise your recommendation. Depending on how well your idea was presented, this last step may be unnecessary. Having said that, some organizations will want to assess your ability to concisely summarise a product proposal. In no more than 30 seconds, make a product or feature recommendation and reiterate why it is most beneficial to the user. In closing, clarify why your preferred solution is better than the others.

Key takeaways:

  • The CIRCLES Method is a framework that guides complete and thoughtful interview answers concerning product development and design.
  • The CIRCLES Method is based on mental cues that represent fundamental principles of product design. Using the cues, the candidate being interviewed can give reasoned, persuasive, and structured answers.
  • The CIRCLES Method is based on seven stages that make up the CIRCLES acronym. If the candidate moves through the first six stages with aplomb, the seventh evaluation stage may be unnecessary.

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"