Adapted from an article by Kenton Kivestu
published by Rocketblocks, Oct 24, 2021
If you’ve got upcoming PM interviews, you need to prep. This post will help you kick-start that process.
While product management interviews attempt to simulate the role, they’re are – at best – still a simulation. And, as a result, it’s important that you understand the exact skill sets your interviewers will be looking for, the types of questions that may be asked and how to best respond.
Below, we’ll introduce you to common interview questions for PM roles at top companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and more. We’ve categorized the questions into different skill set buckets and put our tips for how to prep best below.
Let’s start with the “classic” PM interview questions.
Without doubt, if you’re going through PM interviews at multiple companies, one of these questions will almost certainly come up at some point.
Example: How does the internet work?
Example: Design a refrigerator for the blind
Example: What’s your favorite product and why?
Product sense & design
This the “fun” category. If you’re going into PM, you’re likely excited about owning a roadmap, defining a product vision and deciding on what to build (or not).
This class of interview question is all about putting you in the feature-building driver seat and letting you decide what to build and make the case for it.
NOTE: Every company has their own terminology. Google calls these “product sense” questions, while Facebook prefers the term “product design.”
Example: Pick any Google product and tell me how you’d improve it.
Example: How would you design a new to-do list app?
Example: Pick your favorite social network and design a new social video offering for it.
Analytics & metrics
These questions are designed to test a PM candidate’s facility with data-driven thinking.
Interviewers use these questions to understand how you’ll prioritize investigations, evaluate the success of feature launches and think about the business generally.
NOTE: Again, many companies refer to these questions differently. Facebook calls these “product execution” while Google often calls them “analytics.” Since many companies model their PM interview processes on either G or FB, they tend to use one term or the other.
Example: What metrics would you use to measure the success of a new feature launch?
Example: Daily active users (DAU) is down 5% WoW – how would you figure out what’s going on?
Example: How would you determine whether a user sign-up flow is working well or not?
Since being a PM involves day-to-day collaboration with engineers, speaking the language is important.
While most PMs will never write a line of code in their daily jobs, companies assess PM skills to ensure that candidates will be able to successfully communicate with their technical counterparts.
NOTE: There is a lot of variation in how heavily companies screen technical skills. Some companies like Google prefer technical candidates (e.g., CS majors) while others, like Facebook, have explicitly stated that technical skills aren’t tested. Most companies are in the middle – they’ll test a little bit but won’t go overboard asking you to design an algo or explain a hash table.
Example: Twitter is considering launching a “scheduled” tweet, what parts of the tech stack would need updates to support this?
Example: Explain what an API is and how it works to someone who isn’t technical.
Example: Walk me through the process of how LinkedIn loads your personalized news feed.
Approaching technical questions can be intimidating – especially if you don’t have a CS or technical degree.
Estimation & market sizing
Example: How many photos are uploaded to Instagram in any given day?
Example: How many search queries are run on Amazon.com each day?
Example: Estimate the market size for online photo printing in the US.
Behavioral interview questions pop up in every from process – from Google and Facebook to start-ups just coming out of YC.
If there is any true constant in PM interviews, it’s the presence of behavioral questions. Here are a few *super* common examples that come up frequently.
Example: Tell me about a time you disagreed with your colleague and how you resolved it?
Example: Tell me about a time you navigated ambiguity successfully.
Example: Tell me about a time where you successfully led a team to an important milestone.
In addition to standard interview questions, many companies give PM candidates homework assignments as well.
A standard homework assignment presents a product problem (e.g., “Explain how you’d solve for X problem we’re facing…”), a suggested time commitment (e.g., “Spend no more than 6 hours…”) and comes with some associated information – this can range from everything to a full blown data pack to a handful of bullet points about what to consider and think about.
The goal of the HW assignments is often three-fold:
- Understand how candidates would approach a real business problem (in more depth than a 30-minute interview allows).
- Watch how a candidate explains and fields questions about his/her approach to the assignment – this is often just as *if not* more important than the answer itself.
- Weed out uninterested candidates (e.g., if someone isn’t willing to spend X hrs on the assignment, they’re likely not very interested in the job).
Interview prep tools
The too long, don’t read (TLDR) is this: the best route is to do targeted practice on interview questions in each skill area above.
Interviewing is a game. And while the game is designed to simulate the job and, importantly, test the skills you’ll need on the job, demonstrating those skills in a condensed, intense and anxiety-ridden 30 minute interview is tough.
Thus, the best way to shine is targeted practice on each of the key interview skill areas. Rather than aiming to “be good at cases,” you want to become excellent at answering questions in each skill area (e.g., product sense, analytics, technical).