Interview process for PM asks for concrete growth presentation on actual product. Red flag?

I'm currently interviewing for a Sr/Lead PM role on a data privacy product for a start-up. They mentioned the final interview round is a 2 parts presentation to a panel that are: 1) 30-60-90 goals for the actual product this role would oversee, and 2) strategic growth plans on the product in relations to evolving regulations.

This set off alarm bells in my head as this is the paid work the role would perform during the job, so asking for this during interview seems to be asking for free labor. Is this a red flag to anyone else?

I've also had a bad experience during a previous interview with a different company, where the final interview round consisted of 1:1 interviews with 8 different people with the prompt of what would you do to improve the current product. During the interview, it became clear to me, no one in that company had expertise in that product area which is why they were hiring a PM. During my interview process, everyone took significant notes during my recommendation portion. Then I didn't get position because the role was scratched due to budget. But I recently noticed some of the recommendation I provided have been reflected in their latest updates.

How do I say I'm happy to showcase my process on product growth plans and goal setting with past experiences, but not comfortable with doing free labor?

@shirleyjiang - it sounds like you already know exactly what to say."I'm excited to continue to pursue this opportunity and would like to get clarity on the final interview round. I'm more than happy to provide past examples or do a sample project to demonstrate my skills. However, if the project provides value to your company/product I expect, as with any service I provide, to be paid a commensurate contractor fee."The way the hiring committee responds will tell you all you need to know. There are so many fish in the sea for you, Shirley!
Response from a product person with 25-years of experience in tech startups across Product Owner, Product Manager, Director of Product, CPO and co-founder. Being asked to do a homework project/presentation for a PM (product) job is common place. Being asked to present a 30/60/90 day plan is also common place. Have I done homework projects/presentations that are focused on a company's specific product in the past? YesHave I refused to do homework project/presentations in the past? Yes Difference between my answers to the above questions are "my desire to pursue the job" and "the scope of the project that's needed." Am I happy to share my experience? Yes. Do I work for free? Nope. Do I mind if I'm asked to present a 30/60/90 day outline? No. I generally offer to send my 30/60/90 day plan as part of my follow up with hiring manager, but this 30/60/90 day plan is pretty general, So how to you handle balancing the needs of a company to understand if you are the right person to solve all of their Product needs and your need to not work for free for a company? 1. Measure your tolerance to not get this job vs. your need for employment. I have no advice on this one for you other than to say we all have to balance how much time to dedicate to a particular interview process. 2. Ask probing questions of the hiring manager to get answers to possible red flags. It's okay to ask the hiring manager questions about the homework project, and the product role in general. - Why is this position open? - Has anyone informally or formally held the Product role before? - Why is the company hiring a product person now? - Why is homework project being assigned? And here is a great question to ask: - How much information is the company going to share with you prior to the homework presentation? This is a great question to ask because if the company wants a detailed plan, a Product person would need access to specific data. Asking for access to that data tends to change the scope of the project once the hiring manager is faced with a talented Product person asking for the data that they need to complete the work. Generally, when I have asked this probing question, and I want to pursue the position, I can negotiate the scope of homework project and presentation. Here is an example of a negotiated project: "I will spend two hours researching a similarly placed product (type of product, industry, product's lifecycle stage) for a similarly-placed company (size of company, stage of company's lifecycle, current round). This presentation will focus on Product Management for Product X and will not cover Project Owner, or Product Marketing work. I will prepare a one-page executive summary that will include short paragraphs and bullet points with no statistics or graphs. I will share the presentation with the interview team during a 60 minute zoom call. I'll present my findings and suggestions for Product X (the make-believe product) along with my assumptions and questions for the first 20 minutes and then I'll be open to take questions and have a discussion with the team about my findings and suggestions Does my understanding of this project match your expectations?" Good luck! Side comment: Is it common to be interviewed for product positions by hiring managers, teams and companies that have no understanding of what the different types of Product roles are or what Product people do in general? Yes. Startups often want one product person to do everything - product owner, product manager, product marketer, scrum master, QA tester, business analyst, UX designer. Asking probing questions of the hiring manager can help determine the real scope of the Product job and can help in the salary negotiating phase, if you choose to take on a Product Unicorn - one product person who does everything - job.
I am not a product person but this is basically a situation where the only question that matters is: How badly do you want the job?Considering the downturn it's likely companies are now picking and feel as if they can ask for a lot. All you need to ask yourself is, is this 'too much' for me, OR is this worth doing IF i want the job. What you COULD do is give a summary instead of a detailed presentation and say, if they are looking for further information then you would be happy to discuss compensation for as a freelancer. That way you do *something* but not the whole thing. As long as you're ok with the probable outcome of them cutting you out of the candidate pool. But then you're right that they were exploiting you as a candidate. There is no easy answer. It's about you trusting your gut and knowing what you want. You can ask all kinds of questions also which is a way to suss out what they are really looking for.
It's understandable that you have concerns about being asked to do unpaid work during the interview process. The best approach to communicate this would be to express your willingness to share your past experiences and processes around product growth plans and goal setting. However, it's also important to communicate your discomfort with doing unpaid work during the interview process. You can state something like, "While I'm happy to share my experiences and insights, I prefer to focus on discussing the role and how I can contribute to the company's goals during the interview process. I would prefer to leave the specific details of my plans and goals for after a job offer has been made." This shows your professionalism and also sets clear boundaries for what is expected during the interview process.