Advice > Product management

Product Manager Interview Prep (7 steps to a FAANG offer)

By Max Serrano with input from the following coaches: Mark R . March 27, 2024
Product manager interview preparation

Whether you're an experienced PM or brand new to the field, product manager interview preparation can be a big challenge. There are a variety of question types you'll need to master, and some questions are more heavily emphasized at certain tech companies compared to others. 

So, what do you do? And where do you start? 

Think of this article as your "table of contents" to the PM interview preparation process. Below, we've mapped out the seven high-level steps you'll want to take to get ready. Along the way, we've provided links to other resources that will allow you to do a deep-dive into the topics where you need the most help. 

To begin, here's a quick overview of the steps we'll cover:

  1. Decide what kind of PM you are
  2. Get familiar with the PM interview process
  3. Learn the question types
  4. Practice with example questions
  5. Follow our Senior PM's interview tips
  6. Research your target company
  7. Do mock interviews
Click here to practice 1-on-1 with FAANG ex-interviewers

1. Decide what kind of PM you are

In recent years, the product manager role has become increasingly specialized, with positions such as “Growth PM" or “Data PM” now common. After all, at a large company, it’s simply impossible to be the “know-everything” type of PM that can exist at smaller companies.

With that in mind, before you start preparing for a PM interview it's worth thinking carefully about the type of product manager you want to position yourself as, as this will influence which skills you focus on and which achievements you highlight.

This could depend on what the job description says, or how you see yourself as a PM going forward.

The excellent article by Reforge, “The Growing Specialization of Product Management”, outlines 4 PM specializations:

  • Core PMs, who focus mostly on product feature work and are sharply focused on solving customer pain points. If you’re early into your PM career, you are probably a Core PM.
  • Growth PMs, who focus on improving the business metrics that determine a product’s success: acquisition, CAC, sign ups, free trial starts, conversion/purchase rates, monetization, ARPU, and retention.
  • Platform PMs, who focus on internal customers (e.g. engineering, operations, etc.) and scaling internal platforms and services for continued organizational growth. Most Infrastructure and Data PMs would be in this category.
  • Innovation PMs, who focus on identifying and experimenting with new opportunities to reach and expand product market fit.

Of course, it’s very likely that you don’t fit neatly into one of these groups. However, do some further reading and take the time to think about where your strengths lie as a PM and which description best fits you.

Next, let’s take a look at the typical product manager interview process.

2. Get familiar with the product manager interview process

The interview process for product managers will vary significantly depending on the company, the specific role, your level of seniority, etc.  However, there are some elements that are pretty typical across the board.

So, in this section we've summarized common elements of PM interviews to help you get an overview of what to expect. This is an important first step because it will help you gain a high-level understanding of the steps you need to prepare for, allowing you to be more strategic with how you allocate your prep time.

Note: If you are interviewing for a product leadership position (VP, Director, Group PM), learn more about the process and how to prepare here.

2.1 Overview

The product manager interview process typically takes 4-8 weeks in total, from your initial application to receiving an offer. This does vary and could be as high as 3+ months, but most of the leading companies will finish the full process within a 4-8 week time-frame.

Here are the usual steps that you will face:

  • Submitting your initial application
    • Your PM resume, cover letter, and referrals
  • A phone interview with HR or a recruiter
  • 1-2 phone interviews with PMs or the Hiring Manager
  • 3-7 onsite interviews at the company's office or headquarters

2.2 What to expect in the interviews

Now let’s cover the above steps in more detail.

Step one is getting the interviews. For that, you’ll need a quality resume and cover letter that are tailored to the role and company to which you're applying. Don't underestimate the importance of customizing your application to the specific company that you're applying to. Leading companies like Google and Amazon heavily emphasize the importance of culture or values fit during their application processes.

If you have yet to apply, you can optimize your documents using our PM resume and PM cover letter guides. In addition, if you have a friend or connection who's already working at your target company, then see if they'd be willing to give you an internal referral. Getting a referral can have a really big impact on your chances of getting an initial interview.

Once you’ve been invited to interview, you’ll first speak with a recruiter or HR rep for a phone screen interview. During this initial conversation, you should expect the recruiter to cover typical resume and behavioral questions. For example, they’ll likely ask you about your past experiences and how you’ve handled specific situations (i.e. “tell me about a time you…”). If you pass this phone screen, then the recruiter will advance you to the next round of interviews. 

Next, you’ll have 1-2 phone (or video conference) interviews that focus more on PM questions. Your interviewer for this call will usually be a current PM within the company or the Hiring Manager for the team you'd be joining. When you get to this stage, you should be prepared to answer common product manager interview questions, but more on those later in this guide.

The final round is the onsite interviews. For this part of the interview process, you'll usually spend a day at the company's headquarters or the office location to which you're applying. You'll have anywhere from 3-7 interviews during your onsites, and depending on the company you may also have an opportunity for more informal conversations. For instance, at Google you'd usually have lunch with a Google PM during your visit.

If all goes well, the onsite interviews are your last step as a candidate, and from there you just have to wait to (hopefully) receive your offer.

Now that you have an understanding of the typical PM interview process, let's take a look at the most common question types.

3. Learn the question types

The questions you'll be asked in PM interviews can be boiled down into five broad question types. Below you'll find a breakdown of these five question types, showing their frequency of use at the four leading tech companies. 

Note: the below numbers come from a previous analysis we conducted using interview data from hundreds of reports on Glassdoor.com.

product manager question categories

If you're not familiar with these question types, don't worry, we have plenty of examples later in this article that should help to make things more clear. But first, you may know of some other product manager interview questions that you don't see in the image above. For example, estimation, algorithm, or metric change questions. 

We actually consider these other questions to be sub-types of the five question types mentioned above. Here's a detailed breakdown:

PM interview question categories

Using the information above, you should be able to identify the question types that are most relevant for your situation. This will help you to be more strategic with your preparation. 

Now, you're going to have 2 main options for how to proceed:

  1. You can do general preparation for PM interviews
  2. You can focus on preparing for a specific company

If you want to do general preparation for PM interviews (for example, if you're looking to break into the field, or if you're interviewing with multiple companies), then you can continue on to step 3 below to begin practicing with some example questions.

Or, if you'd like to focus your preparation on a specific company, then we'd encourage you to skip down to section 5 of this article, which contains a list of company-specific PM interview guides. This includes guides for Google, Amazon, Meta, Uber, and more. 

And, if you're not sure exactly what you want to do, then continue on to step 3 below. It never hurts to start thinking about some practice questions!

4. Practice with example questions

In this section, you'll find 30 example questions for each of the five primary PM interview question types we covered previously. This will give you a great jumping-off point, to start learning about the different question types you’ll need to master.

Let's start with strategy questions: 

4.1 Strategy questions (24%)

Strategy questions can be broken down into product strategy, prioritization/trade-off, and estimation questions. You can learn a step-by-step process for solving these questions, and find additional practice questions, by visiting the below guides:

Example questions: product strategy
  • How would you increase bookings on Airbnb? (Solution)
  • Imagine you're CEO of Uber: What would your 10-year strategy be?" (Solution)
  • How is AI changing product management? (article)
  • Devise a new line of business for Amazon (Solution)
  • If you were the CEO of LEGO, what new product line would you come up with to increase revenue?

Example questions: estimation

  • Estimate the time spent at stop lights each year (Solution)
  • How many Google docs are created daily? (Solution)
  • Estimate the paint market in the USA (Solution)

Example questions: prioritization / trade-offs

  • How would you prioritize projects A, B, and C? (Text Solution)
  • How would you prioritize WhatsApp group chat features? (Solution)
  • How would you prioritize features for Google painting app? (Solution)

4.2 Design questions (24%)

Design questions (sometimes referred to as product sense questions) can be broken down into product design, product improvement, and favorite product questions. You can learn a step-by-step process for solving these questions, and find additional practice questions, by visiting the below guides:

Example questions: design
  • What's your favorite product? (Solution)
  • Design an app for a theme park (Solution)
  • Design a computer keyboard (Text Solution)
  • Design a Facebook experience around movies (Solution)
  • How would you improve Google Chrome? (Solution)
  • How would you improve Facebook groups? (Solution)

4.3 Technical questions (9%)

You can learn a step-by-step process for solving technical PM interview questions, and find additional practice questions, by visiting the below guide:

Example questions: Technical 
  • How does Google Calendar work? (Solution)
  • How do Google Docs work? (Solution)
  • Explain how APIs work (Solution)
  • What is the difference between C++ and Java? (Solution)
  • Explain what happens when executing mergesort (Solution)

4.4 Analysis questions (12%)

You can learn a step-by-step process for solving PM interview analysis questions (which includes metric definition and metric change questions), and find additional practice questions, by visiting the below guide:

Example questions: analysis
  • Define success metrics for YouTube (Solution)
  • What topline metric goal would you set for Airbnb? (Solution)
  • Imagine that cart additions are down 10%, how do you find the root cause? (Solution)
  • Imagine that Instagram engagement drops 10%. What do you do? (Solution)
  • YouTube traffic went down 5% — how would you report this issue to the executive team? (Text Solution)
  • Users on dating app have dropped 10% overnight. What do you do? (Solution)

4.5 Behavioral questions (31%)

You can learn how to answer behavioral questions in your PM interviews, and find additional practice questions, by visiting the below guide:

Example questions: behavioral
  • Tell me about yourself (Solution)
  • Why do you want to work at this company? (Amazon, Meta, Google)
  • What makes a good product manager? (Solution)
  • Tell me about a time you demonstrated product leadership (Solution)
  • Tell me about your most significant accomplishment. Why was it significant?
  • Tell me about a time you solved a team conflict (Solution)
  • Tell me about a product you led from idea to launch (Solution)
  • Tell me about a time you improved a process (Solution)

5. Follow our Senior PM's interview tips

Mark is a Senior PM formerly of Google and Meta and ran 100+ PM interviews during his career. He's now one of the top coaches on our platform and has helped hundreds of candidates just like you ace their PM interviews.

We asked him for 10 tips to help you pass your product manager interviews - this is the list he came up with.

# Tip 1. Understand the company's mission and products

Familiarize yourself with the company's mission statement, core values, and the range of products and services they offer. Highlight how your work can contribute to their goals.

"You're going to literally want to cite the company's mission back at them. If you're interviewing remotely, write it on a post-it note and stick it on your laptop!"

#Tip 2: Product design/sense is key

Expect questions that assess your ability to ideate, design, and improve products. Practice structuring your thoughts on identifying user needs, envisioning features, and prioritizing them based on impact.

"Product sense is really the most important interview at these companies. So if you're looking for where to focus your preparation, really prioritize product sense questions."

#Tip3. Showcase leadership

Top tech companies look for candidates with a vision who can inspire and lead. In behavioral interviews, be ready to discuss instances where you've taken initiative, made tough decisions, and led projects to success.

Showing leadership isn't just for behavioral questions. You should conduct every interview like a leader.

"Don't ask the interviewer 'Here's my segmentation, what do you think'" says Mark. "You need to be more confident. Say 'Here's my segmentation, and I'm going to choose this segment because of X. Ok?' Check-in with the interviewer instead of trying to get them to show you the way."

#Tip 4. Practice data-driven decision-making

Be prepared to answer questions that require data interpretation and making data-driven decisions. Familiarize yourself with basic metrics for product success and have a few methodologies in mind for tackling growth, engagement, and scalability issues.

"You should be schooled on all the activation metrics - adoption, engagement, quality...etc. - there are dozens of metrics in there and you need to be solid on them all. Often I think people don't think enough about retention and especiallhy at Meta, that's a huge metric and it's becoming more important at different companies too."

#Tip 5. Get enough technical proficiency

While not usually required to code, a solid understanding of software development processes, system design, and technical challenges is crucial. Be able to discuss technical trade-offs and work effectively with engineering teams.

"You need to understand how the big blocks work together. You don't need to know how to code, but you do need to know how things kind of actually work and be able to communicate about them" says Mark.

#Tip 6. Understand user experience (UX)

Demonstrating a keen sense for UX design and user psychology is important. You should be able to critique existing designs and propose improvements grounded in user research.

"You should be able to create wireframes, mock ups. Take a piece of paper in with you to the product sense interview and be ready to scribble out a rough design."

#Tip 7. Practice behavioral questions:

Prepare for questions about past experiences that illustrate your problem-solving skills, leadership, teamwork, and resilience. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers.

"Time your answers and make sure they're 5 minutes or less because that's the kind of time boundary they're looking for. No matter what company you're targeting, you can use Amazon's leadership principles as a guide and make sure your answers always hit at least one of these principles."

#Tip 8. Stay informed about tech trends

Being knowledgeable about recent technological advancements and industry trends can help you bring fresh perspectives to the table. This demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment to staying relevant in a fast-paced field.

"I recommend TechCrunch for fairly light reading, and Ben Thompson's Stratchery blog to get a lot deeper." says Mark.

#Tip 9. Mock interviews are crucial

Practice with peers but also try to use platforms that offer mock interviews with current or former PMs. Feedback from these sessions can be invaluable in identifying areas for improvement.

"I think the quality of feedback you get from a professional mock interviewer is just way, way higher than with a friend or peer."

#Tip 10. Thank your interviewer

It's a small thing, but Mark points out that when you finish the interview and can breathe a sigh of relief, the interviewer still has to spend an hour writing up their evaluation.

"Show your appreciation of their situation and you'll demonstrate a key PM skill: empathy!"

Watch the video below if you want to see Mark's insights and advice with more detailed explanations:

 

6. Research your target company

Different companies handle the PM interview process differently. For example, Amazon heavily emphasizes their 16 Leadership Principles during their interviews, and Uber uses "jam sessions" (which are kind of like brainstorming sessions) to evaluate their PM candidates. 

Familiarize yourself with that company's specific interview steps and points of emphasis. To help with that, we've put together the free company guides below, which go into detail on each company's interview process and how to best prepare for it.

Whether you're targeting a specific company or starting with more general preparation, all PM candidates should do mock interviews as part of their preparation plan. 

7. Do mock interviews

Learning the question types and the specific interview process for your favorite company will go a long way in helping you prepare. But this information is not enough to land you a PM job offer. 

To succeed in your PM interviews, you're also going to need to practice under realistic interview conditions so that you'll be ready to perform when it counts. 

The easiest way to start practicing under simulated interview conditions is to practice interview questions out loud or with peers.

7.1 Practice by yourself or with peers

In our experience, practicing by yourself is a great way to prepare for PM interviews. You can ask and answer questions out loud, to help you get a feel for the different types of PM interview questions. Practicing by yourself will help you perfect your step-by-step approach for each question type. It also gives you time to correct your early mistakes.

You can find free practice questions on articles like this one or on YouTube.

After you've started to get the hang of some PM 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 PM interviews, or is at least familiar with the process.

7.2 Practice with experienced PM ex-interviewers

Finally, you should also try to practice product manager mock interviews with expert ex-interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers. 

If you know a product manager who can help you, 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 Google, Meta, Amazon, and other leading tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

 

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