Product manager interview prep (relax, start here)

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Whether you're an experienced PM or brand new to the field, PM 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 five 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. Get familiar with the PM interview process
  2. Learn the question types
  3. Practice with example questions
  4. Decide where to apply (top companies)
  5. Do mock interviews

1. Get familiar with the PM 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.

    1.1 Overview

    The PM 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
      • 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

    1.2 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 PM 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.

    2. 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 break-down 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 Glassdoor.com.

    PM interview question types

    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 PM 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 break-down:

    PM interview question sub types

    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 4 of this article, which contains a list of company-specific PM interview guides. This includes guides for Google, Amazon, Facebook, 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!

    3. Practice with example questions

    In this section, you'll find several example questions for each of the five primary PM interview question types we covered previously. This section is a summary of a separate article that we've written, which provides an even more extensive list of PM interview questions.

    For each question type below, we'll also provide links to our related guides. These guides teach a step-by-step method for solving each type of PM interview question, and they also contain additional example questions if you want more practice.

    Let's start with strategy questions: 

    3.1 Strategy questions (24%)

    Strategy questions can be broken down into product strategy 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: Strategy
    • If you were a VC, would you be more bullish on AR or VR?
    • Why do you think Microsoft bought LinkedIn?
    • If you were the CEO of LEGO, what new product line would you come up with to increase revenue?
    • What is the market size for toilet paper in the US?
    • What is the storage space required to host all images on Google Street View?
    • What is the required Internet bandwidth for an average college campus?

    Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

    3.2 Design questions (24%)

    Design 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
    • Design a phone for deaf people
    • Design Google radio 
    • Pick your favorite app. How would you improve it?
    • How would you improve coffee machines used in offices?
    • What's your favorite Facebook feature?
    • Tell me about your favorite product that's not an app or a website.

    Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

    3.3 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 
    • Explain the concept of "protocol" to a 4-year-old child
    • What is the difference between C++ and Java?
    • Explain what happens when executing mergesort
    • Write a program to randomly shuffle an array of numbers
    • How would you output a tree in column sequence from left to right
    • Invert the words of a sentence in a string

    Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

    3.4 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
    • What metrics would you use to measure the success of Facebook’s “Save Item” feature?
    • How would you measure the success of the new YouTube Player UI?
    • What analysis would you use to understand if we should increase the price of an Amazon Prime Membership?
    • You are looking at YouTube’s Daily Active User data worldwide and notice a 10% jump compared to yesterday in Indonesia — what happened?
    • Users are no longer signing up for our email list — what would you do?
    • Reddit traffic went down 5% — how would you report this issue to the executive team? 

    Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews. 

    3.5 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
    • Why do you want to work here (e.g. at Google, Facebook, etc.)?
    • Why product management?
    • Tell me about your most significant accomplishment. Why was it significant?
    • Describe a project that you wish you had done better and how you would do it differently today
    • Tell me about a time you applied judgment to a decision when data was not available

    Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

    4. Decide where to apply (top companies)

    Different companies handle the PM interview process differently. For example, Amazon heavily emphasizes their 14 Leadership Principles during their interviews, and Uber uses "jam sessions" (which are kind of like brainstorming sessions) to evaluate their PM candidates. 

    As a result, identifying the company that you're most interested in can help you prepare more efficiently and more effectively. That doesn't mean you have to apply to only one company. However, identifying your top choice can help you be more strategic during your preparation. 

    Once you have a company in mind, the next step is to 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. 

    5. 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.

    5.1 Practice by yourself 

    Interviewing yourself out loud is a great place to begin practicing PM interview questions. This may sound strange, but it’s an excellent way to start learning the method for solving each question type.

    Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. This will also help you get better at communicating your answers in a clear and structured way.

    5.2 Practice with peers

    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. You can also find peers to practice with on our new PM mock interview platform.

    5.3 Practice with experienced PM ex-interviewers

    Finally, you should also try to practice with experienced PM interviewers, because they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends or peers who don't have first-hand experience with the PM interview process.

    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, Facebook, Amazon, and other leading tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

    PM Interview Coaching

    Any questions about PM interviews?

    If you have any questions about product manager interviews, don't hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

    Keep reading: product manager interview articles