Here's how to crack the PM interview, written by Richa Pareekh, Uber PM and former Google PM.
Are you worried about getting the ultimate PM job? PM interviews are difficult and very very demanding, especially with the rise of the prominence of the role.
I recently landed multiple mid-senior level PM offers from top technology companies (FAANG and unicorn start ups), and I want to document the process I followed for anyone else who may be in similar shoes in future.
In this article, I'll focus on how I landed my dream PM offer, and how you can too.
My Study Plan
Below is my study plan I followed. This is by no means perfect but it worked really well for me and I hope it does for others too.
1. Select companies to interview with
First, you'll want to pick a few companies you are interested in. I’d recommend including both your dream companies and "safety" companies that you'd consider working for, or might want to use as an opportunity to practice for the dream companies.
This is an important exercise to determine what you really want to do and where you really want to work. This will also help eliminate a few companies where you may never be interested in working in.
Remember, interviewing takes a lot of time on both sides so you may want to not interview only for the sake of practicing. You have mock interviews for that (more on this later in the article).
2. Schedule your interviews
Preparing for interviews is time consuming and mentally exhausting. So it's important to ensure you're timing and spacing your interviews.
I focused on six companies and spaced all my screening interviews over a period of two weeks. For all the six onsite interviews, I did the same. For companies where the onsite process was long and time consuming, I limited it to one per week. Otherwise, on an average I did two interviews per week in the final stretch.
Pro Tip: Space similar types of interviews together so you can reuse your content and preparation.
3. Start your preparation
Most companies are very open about what good looks like for their interviews. So once your interviews are scheduled, read and absorb all the materials your recruiters share with you. For example, Amazon’s focus on leadership principles, Facebook and Google’s prep content on case based questions, etc.
Plus, ask your recruiters to share helpful links. They always do!
Take your time, and don’t do the interview until you’re ready. No one at a large company cares if you push out a few weeks, but that extra time can make all the difference in terms of feeling prepared and confident.
Being good at your job does not mean you’re good at interviewing. It’s a separate skill that you need to work hard to develop. I was surprised at the amount of work I had to put in to become good at interviews.
4. Create a plan and stick to it
A simple Google Search will show that there is a lot of study material out there. It's easy to get anyone overwhelmed and panicked. Don’t! This is where you focus on quality over quantity.
For my interviews, I gave myself 8-10 weeks and created a pretty strict plan. I studied 2 hours after work every day and a few hours over the weekend.
I started with the Exponent PM course and reading through free material on IGotAnOffer. I didn't go too deep into Cracking the PM interview since I already read the book many years ago when I first transitioned into product management.
I focused on one area at a time. For example, I went really thorough on Product Sense before diving into Execution or Leadership & Drive type of questions. It helped me stay focused. Once I had the concepts and a rough idea of the approach, I started practicing some questions on my own.
5. How to practice
It’s important to practice with real questions. The resources I used are:
- Exponent (particularly their interview question database and private Slack Channel)
- The questions published on Lewis C Lin community.
- PM interview questions
Develop a structure or framework for dealing with the questions (more on this to follow). Run through a few practice questions in your head to get comfortable with the format you’d like to use. It might help to record yourself and observe how you respond to specific questions.
6. Mock Interviews
In case of interviews, practice is the key. And mock interviews are really the best way you can keep getting better at interviewing. In my case, I did mocks with ~10 people and did multiple mocks with ~5 of them. Mock interviews are like flexing a muscle: the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Start finding partners to do mock interviews with. Exponent generally has very high quality people to practice with in their peer mock interview platform. In case of mock interviews I’d focus on quality over quantity. Find the best people to practice with, and double down on working with them. That said, everyone has different strengths and perspectives, so don’t stop seeking new people to work with.
When I started doing mocks, I had a lot of fear, couldn't articulate and couldn’t absolutely think straight. Doing lots of mocks made me get comfortable with the format, which allowed me to calm down and think.
Once you’ve got your sea legs and are feeling confident, work with a coach. Make sure the person you’re working with has interviewed at or worked at the company you’re applying to.
7. How much time to invest?
You could spend several months trying to perfect every nuance of your answers but in my opinion, after a while preparing for PM interviews tends to reach a point of diminishing returns. The fatigue is real and you might even get to a point that you stop making any real progress.
So in all, I spent ~10 weeks but that also involved juggling a full time job, family, life in the time of COVID among other things and towards the later part of my preparation, I noticed I was getting worn out and just done with repeating the same questions and answers over and over again.
Here were a few things that help me assess if I was ready to go into the interview battlefield:
- No fear of doing mock interviews: In the initial days, I just ended up postponing my mock interviews because I felt absolutely uncomfortable but as I practiced more, it started becoming a fun exercise.
- Can reasonably get to an MVP or a solution prep interviews: Again, nail the structure but also focus on the content.
- When the feedback starts to get nit-picky: Towards the later half of my prep, both my peers and coaches started nit picking on my solutions and encouraged me to interview. and at that point I felt I could go ahead with the real interviews.
- When you start getting bored: Trust me this can happen! Too much of everything is counter productive and that also holds true for interview preparation. Don't over do it.
I hope you find this guide helpful. Everything written here is what I did and it took me a long time to identify how best to optimize my time in preparing for PM interviews.