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I am applying for a job these days. I found a company with an interesting product today so I checked their product. I liked the product overall but had some feedback on how it can be improved further and what usability issue I felt as a user.

Is it acceptable to talk about my experience with their product in cover letter or during the interview? Can this be seen negatively as someone who is complaining even before joining?

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Utopian,

This is a tricky area, and I think mannerism and tone become incredibly important for something like this. Firstly, this should not be the highlight of your interview. Focus on demonstrating that you are an appropriate candidate in ways beyond your apparent interest in their product. Additionally, be sure that the changes are substantial and would lend significant value to their product. Put yourself in the shoes of an actual customer and determine if that would help you use the product. If not, do not mention these things just as an interview tactic.

If you do decide to mention these changes, let them stand as the "icing on the cake". At the point when you feel that you have adequately shown your potential value, use this familiarity to highlight the value you can bring to the company. Rather than saying something like: This is bad because..., say something like: I already have a few ideas for improving [SPECIFIC ASPECT] of [SPECIFIC FEATURE OF PRODUCT]. This approach ensures that you are communicating legitimate and genuine feedback in the interest of the company, not simply leveraging an interview tactic to aggrandize yourself.

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    I think even "I already have a few ideas for improving" might raise some hackles with some people - something along the lines of "I really love you product - particularly feature X. Have you ever considered feature Y? I think it would complement the product well". It introduces it as more of a discussion rather than "I know how to do your job better than you do". – HorusKol Jun 30 '16 at 23:13
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The problem with pointing out issues with the product is that you don't know the history, you don't know what they've already tried, you don't know a lot about the company. You need to be very careful in pointing out issues with the product, so it doesn't come across as someone who makes suggestions based on ignorance. A better method would be to ask questions in the interview. That could show that you've thought about the product, and want to know more about it.

This won't go over well:

Candy hairbrushes made with caramel get all droopy. I recommend you make them with a hard sugar candy. The hard sugar also allows for a lot of different colors. If you hire me, I can help make this a lot better.

This is a better approach:

I was looking at the candy hairbrushes you make and wondered why you used caramel instead of a harder sugar candy. Can you tell me more about that?

For all you know, they tried sugar candy and ran into license issues with another company. Or the caramel hairbrushes sell a lot better because they taste better. Or they've been having supplier issues. There's a lot you don't know, you can't know, and you shouldn't make recommendations until you do know more.

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I don't think a cover letter would be a good place to discuss this. It seems more appropriate in a face to face interview when asked if you are familiar with their product.

In the cover letter I think mentioning you used their software is a good thing to say. Just don't put anything negative or how you would "improve" it as that can be perceived as a bad thing depending on how it is written.

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