Preparing for the PM Interview? Looking for a product manager interview guide? Nervous about the interview. I don’t blame you. Preparing for the PM interview does take a toll on one and can be a really long, tedious, and daunting process especially for the new PMs.
There are a lot of books and materials available on the internet about different aspects of a PM job but nothing comes close to providing you with an easy to follow guide or I should rather call a mindset. Being a PM for over 10 years myself and attended a ton of interviews I have come to a realization that cracking a PM interview requires the PM mindset and thinking.
You can’t learn the PM mindset in a day, week or even in a month but you should practice the few guiding principles in your day to day routine. I can say from my experience these principles have helped me immensely. In most of my pm interview preps, I only research the company and role that I am interviewing for and nothing else.
Product Manager Interview Guide – A Framework to PM MindSet
I urge you to start asking a few questions whenever you come across something new or even a product/service that you use all the time and ask yourself the following questions:
Why does the product exist? What problem is it solving for you as a customer? How would you improve this Product – Product Sense
As a PM you always want to start from the customer and work backwards. The product should solve a real customer problem. There should be a compelling story for the customer to use your product.
Once you understand the customer problem that you want to solve, you need to think about different solutions and then figure out which solution the customers like the best.
In the PM world, this skill is also called Product Sense / Product Design.
I use the Personal Capital app almost every day and we will use this app as a case study.
- Personal Capital solves the problem of managing all your money from one simple place.
- It allows the user to view all bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts and presents them with a nice dashboard of networth.
- Above all, it is FREE (for the most part). It does provide investment services for a fee but is not required.
- For me, it solves the hassle of logging into multiple accounts and I can get a daily snapshot of my money from one app.
- Improvements: I would like to add features to track alternative investments like Cryptos, real-estate.
- Improvements: Ability to track international investments start with North America, expand to Europe and then to Asia
Product Sense Interview Questions
- What is your favorite product? Redesign it
- Design an alarm clock for Blind?
- Design a smartphone for teens?
What other products exist? What is your competitive advantage? – Competitor Analysis / Analytical
You will find helpful – How to become a Great Product Manager
Why is this important? Why should you care?
The thing is as a PM you are always looking for ideas and one way to get ideas is to look at competitors. The other advantage is having competitors kinds of validates the Product-Market Fit.
But the most important thing that you need to get to is how saturated the market is and if there is room for a new entrant. And if you decide to enter what would be your value prop for the customer that would differentiate your product from the rest of the competition.
There are many other competitors for Personal Capital like Mint, Wealthfront, Betterment, and several others. Most of their competitors are good at part of the functionality for e.g. Mint does a really good job of tracking your income and expenses but when it comes to investments Mint leaves a lot to be desired.
Wealthfront and Betterment are more of Robo-Advisors and are a great fit if you are looking for low-fee investment service but lack the ability to track multiple accounts (some of them have started building these features as a catchup game)
I simply chose Personal Capital for the reason of simplicity, cost and the ability to integrate with the largest variety of accounts.
Sample Interview Questions
- What price would you launch Kindle at?
- How much money Google Ads make in India every year?
- Should you launch a kid’s friendly smartphone in Nigeria?
A couple of bonus questions that I believe you should think about in order to get into the habit. Is a smartphone competitor to Digital Camera? Is a smartphone competitor to Gaming consoles? Can you list down all products smartphones are competing with?
Why do you think the company made the decision to create this product? – Strategy and Business Acumen
This is probably the most important aspect of PM especially as a Senior PM or a PM leader. This is where you decide “Why should we even create this product?”
I am sure you remember Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp for a whopping $19B Have you ever wondered why did FB do it? If not, you should start thinking about it and write down your notes. Similarly whenever you read news about a company launching a new product or acquisition. Ask yourself, Why did they do it?
There are a couple of frameworks available to help with the decision-making process like:
It helps to understand these frameworks and use them during the interview as it helps align the terminology and resolve the understanding gaps. It also helps put some structure into your answers.
Sample Interview Questions
- How would you monetize Facebook Messenger?
- Should Google start charging for Chrome?
- How will you launch Amazon in Korea?
Bonus Product Manager Interview Tips
Now you have the framework that you can start practicing but there are a few more things that can help you with building the PM mindset. You should invest time in networking with other PMs from different organizations and learn from them how they do things.
Do Practice sessions with your friends and punch holes in each other’s thinking – this will be awkward, to begin with, but will be super useful in the long run.
If you are a new PM I would recommend reading these books:
- Cracking the PM Interview By Gayle Laakmann
- Decode and Conquer by Lewis Lin
- Interview Math by Lewis Lin
And watch this Video
I hope this post will help you prepare for your future PM interviews or at least gives you the PM mindset that will help you succeed in your PM career. Like always keep sending your compliments and criticism via comments.