If you’re interviewing for a PM role at Facebook, the product sense interview is one of the three types of interviews you’re going to need to crack. With challenging, open-ended questions such as “How would you improve Facebook groups?”, “Design a jobs product for Facebook” or even “What should Facebook do next?”, you’ll need to be extremely well-prepared.
To help you, we’ve created this guide to give you everything you need to know to prepare for the product sense interview, including top tips, an introduction to an answer framework, example questions, and a practice plan to make sure you land that Facebook product manager job.
Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover.
- What is the Facebook product sense interview?
- How to demonstrate product sense
- How to answer product sense questions
- List of Facebook product sense questions for PMs
- How to practice product sense questions
Ready? Let’s get into it.
The product sense interview is one of three types of interviews you’ll face if you’re applying for a product manager role at Facebook. The others are the “execution interview” and the “leadership & drive interview,” which is a behavioral type of interview.
As an ex-director of product outlines in this insider article on the Facebook PM interview, Facebook often describes its product process as "Understand, Identify, Execute."
The product sense interview focuses on the first two parts of this process: how you work to understand the problem you are trying to solve, and how you identify the best way to start solving that problem. You’ll be tested on the third part - how you execute the solution - in the execution interview.
You will face product sense questions both at the first-round stage (phone or video interview) and at the onsite interview. On both occasions, you’ll start with the bigger picture before breaking the problem into smaller components. You’ll be expected to lead the conversation, and you’ll need to sketch out your answer on a whiteboard, or the online equivalent.
For a closer look at the PM interview process at Facebook, as well as more information on the two other types of interview rounds within it, take a look at our ultimate Facebook product manager interview guide.
Your Facebook interviewer will be looking for good product understanding, the right instincts, awareness of the different factors and considerations at play, and enough creativity to breed innovation. If you’ve got all those things, you’ve got product sense.
To convince the interviewer that you possess these qualities, you’ll need to do these nine key things:
9 ways to demonstrate product sense
1. Work within a structure
You’ll need to show you can approach complex problems methodically, always keeping your original goal in mind. Have a framework to structure your thought process, and talk your interviewer through it step-by-step.
2. Break the problem down into pieces
Questions such as "How would you improve Facebook?" are so vast, they’re impossible to properly answer unless you break them down into smaller components. Your framework will help you here.
3. Make intentional design choices
You'll need to constantly be able to refer back to your original objective. That's your North Star, and the design choices you make should take you toward it.
4. Empathize with users
To make the right product decisions, you’ll have to understand who your users are, how to segment them, and how to target the right ones.
5. Talk about trade-offs
There will be numerous approaches and solutions to the problem the interviewer poses, and you’ll have to make tough choices. Discuss them within a prioritization framework to show the rationale behind your decisions.
6. Know your metrics
While the product sense interview isn’t as metric-focused as the execution interview, you’ll still need to give a strong explanation of how you’re going to measure success.
7. Turn ambiguity into specifics
It’s not enough to just have an interesting discussion with the interviewer. You’ll need to turn ideas into specific product solutions.
8. Show creativity
Showing a structured, coherent approach is only half the battle: try to offer creative, innovative solutions that go beyond the obvious.
9. Think at scale
To state the obvious, Facebook is huge. Its products are used by billions of people. So as you outline your answer, make sure you’re thinking big.
To see some more useful guidance about what's expected of you in the product sense interview, check out this very helpful guide to the PM onsite interview from the Facebook team.
Right, now that you know what the interviewer will be looking for, let’s take a look at a method to help you answer product sense questions.
As we mentioned above, it’s very important that you use a framework to approach the problems you’ll face in your product sense interview. PMs use frameworks all the time for a reason - they help you follow a logical process and establish some order in what is often a quite chaotic environment. In the interview, don't keep your framework a secret - share it with the interviewer so they know you've structured your thought process and can follow it with you.
There are three types of product sense questions you might be asked: product design, product improvement, and product strategy. For all three, we recommend structuring your answer with the BUS framework, although there are plenty of other valid frameworks to choose from (you can even make up your own).
3.1 The BUS framework
The BUS framework is a three-step approach to the product process.
- Business objectives
- User problems
The BUS framework’s main benefit is that it forces you to approach problems in a logical order: you only start considering solutions when you’ve first established the business objectives and have found a relevant problem which is impacting them. That’s to say, it’s no good providing a solution to a problem if you can’t link it back to how this helps meet your business objectives.
It also makes it easy to pivot at any moment of the interview without losing your focus.
Learn how the BUS framework can be applied to each type of product sense question by reading our specific guides: product design, product improvement, and product strategy. You’ll notice that for product strategy, we outline a slightly different method, but it is in fact extremely similar to BUS, just without the "User problem" part.
Once you’ve got a solid understanding of how to use the BUS framework (or your framework of choice), you’ll want to start putting it into practice. So let’s take a look at some example questions.
As we mentioned above, product sense questions can be broken down into 3 categories, with subtle differences between each:
- product design questions will ask you to design a new product from scratch. They're to test if you can combine a strong eye for design and UX with an understanding of business objectives.
- product improvement questions are testing the same thing, but instead you'll be asked how you'd improve and existing product.
- product strategy questions come from a more high-level perspective . They test your ability to understand competitive markets and to create a product roadmap that responds to the business strategy.
It’s also common to face a “favorite product question”, but these generally take the form of product improvement questions (e.g "What’s your favorite app? How would you improve it?").
We’ve analyzed the data on Glassdoor to find real questions asked in the Facebook product sense interview for product managers. Twice, we’ve provided a link to a step-by-step approach to the problem that you can refer to as you practice answering it yourself.
Let’s take a look.
Example questions asked in Facebook PM product sense interviews
Product design questions
- Design a social travel product for Facebook
- Design a jobs product for Facebook
- Design a product to help users find a doctor on Facebook
- How would you improve Facebook? (answer)
- Pick a Facebook app / any product — how would you improve it?
- How would you improve Facebook groups?
- How would you improve Facebook birthdays?
Product strategy questions
- Facebook events is struggling. How would you turn it around? (answer)
- Should Facebook enter the dating / jobs market?
- How would you monetize Facebook marketplace / messenger?
- What should Facebook do next?
Now that we've got a good sense of what type of questions you might be asked, let's move on to how to practice them.
Product sense questions are open-ended, complex, and need practice. We'd recommend using the three guides we mentioned above - product design, product improvement, and product strategy - to get your head around how to construct your answer.
For an overview of the product design process at Facebook, watch this video by ex VP of design at Facebook, Julie Zhuo.
For some reading around the topic, we also recommend using Facebook's own resources, such as the Facebook Newsroom, where you can explore different products and product updates.
5.1 Practice by yourself
Of course, first of all you'll need to take time to practice building your answers within your chosen framework, and we recommend you start by doing this on paper. But once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll want to try and simulate real interview conditions.
A great way to practice this is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate your answers during an interview.
Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. Trust us, it works.
5.2. Practice with peers
After you've started to get the hang of some product sense interview questions by practicing by yourself, then a great next step is to do mock interviews with friends or peers.
This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with product sense interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. You can also find peers to practice with on our free peer-to-peer mock interview platform.
5.3 Practice with ex-interviewers
Practicing with peers can be a great help, and it's usually free. But at some point, you'll start noticing that the feedback you are getting from peers isn't helping you that much anymore. Once you reach that stage, we recommend practicing with ex-interviewers from top tech companies.
If you know a PM or someone who has experience running interviews at a big tech company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.
Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from Facebook and other top tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.