Popular PM interview books reviewed

Man studying for a PM interview

Many books offer guidance on the Product Manager interview process. But time is precious when it comes to preparing for PM interviews.

You simply won't have time to read more than a few books. So which ones should you go through to maximize your chances of getting a job at a top tech company like Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Microsoft?

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Before we go into more detail, here’s a quick overview of the best Product Manager interview books we would recommend:

  1. Cracking the PM interview (by McDowell and Bavaro)
  2. Swipe to Unlock: A Primer on Technology and Business Strategy (by Mehta, Detroja, and Agashe)
  3. Decode and conquer (by Lewis C. Lin)

And 3 popular PM interview books we would NOT recommend:

  1. Cracking the tech career (by Gayle Laakmann McDowell)
  2. The Product Manager Interview (by Lewis C. Lin)
  3. Hired: How to Get a Product Management Job (by Cobby and Araujo)

PM Interview books recommendations

Keep reading to find out why we have (or have not) recommended the books listed above.

1. Cracking the PM Interview — Recommended

Our recommendation

Overall we would recommend reading Cracking the PM Interview as it’s a good introduction to the Product Manager interview process. There’s more you’ll need to do to land an offer, but it’s an interesting starting point.

The pros and cons

McDowell and Bavaro cover a lot of ground in a structure that’s easy to follow. The book’s main strength is the breadth of content it covers related to getting a PM job: resume and cover letter tips, interview question types, etc. It also includes clear examples for each of these topics.

The “Behind the Interview Scenes” chapter is particularly valuable, as it provides detailed interview information for a few top tech companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) like how hiring decisions get made, specific areas of focus during interviews, and other company specific tips.

That being said, there are a few shortcomings to the book. First, it feels repetitive in some places where similar content could have been condensed into fewer chapters. Second, there is a chapter on career advancement in the middle of the book, which is distracting if you’re preparing for interviews and feels a little out of place given the content of the rest of the book. And third, it doesn’t provide a clear enough distinction between strategy questions and analysis questions, which can make it difficult to choose the best method for answering these types of questions in an interview.

Authors and content

Gayle Laakmann McDowell worked for Google, Microsoft, and Apple and served on Google's hiring committee. Jackie Bavaro was most recently Head of Product at Asana, and previously a PM at Google and Microsoft.

The book is made up of 18 chapters. It begins with an introduction to the PM discipline and how the role varies per company. Then there are chapters on how to get the right experience, tips on career advancement, and the “behind the interview scenes” information mentioned above. The next set of chapters cover how to get an interview (e.g. Crafting a better resume and cover letter) and how to do general prep (e.g. how to research the company, how to prepare a personal pitch when answering “tell me about yourself” etc.). The remaining chapters, which make up the majority of the book, cover specific question types you can expect during PM interviews, like Behavioral questions, Estimation questions, etc.

2. Swipe to Unlock — Recommended

Our recommendation

It’s necessary to have basic knowledge about the tech industry and its products to land a PM offer from companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. If you don’t currently work in tech or are a new PM, we highly recommend you read this book to better understand the business of technology and communicate about product strategy. However, you should pair it with other resources that focus on methods for answering specific question types and interview practice questions.

The pros and cons

This is a great book for candidates looking to strengthen their knowledge of how technology works at top tech companies and better understand the strategy used to make certain product decisions. It breaks down many complicated tech industry concepts in a simple way (e.g. APIs, cloud computing, hacking and security, etc.), often with helpful visuals (e.g. diagrams that simplify complex product logic), which makes them easy to understand.

The main limitation of this book is that it's not meant to prepare you for interviews directly. You’ll therefore have to use other resources too, like the other books we’ve recommended. And, people with zero tech knowledge might need to plan for extra time to re-read and really grasp some of the ideas covered in the book.

Authors and content

Neel Mehta is an Associate Product Manager at Google, and was a PM at Microsoft. Aditya Agashe is a PM at Microsoft and was the founder of a couple of start-ups. Parth Detroja is a Product Manager at Facebook, and previously worked at Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM.

There are 12 chapters in the book. The first few cover things like understanding how software and the internet work, as well as the business models of popular apps. The next set of chapters covers major technical concepts that power the internet and its many applications, including cloud computing, security, and big data. The last four chapters provide an analysis of trends helpful to understanding tech business strategy as it is today and where it’s heading in the future.

3. Decode and Conquer — Recommended

Our recommendation

Practicing with real questions is essential to acing interviews. We recommend you read this book to get a good sense for the questions interviewers ask during PM interviews.

The pros and cons

This is a great book for those who want lots of practice questions to prepare for PM interviews. Lin covers a few simple frameworks for providing well structured answers to PM interview questions. There are also detailed sample answers to each question which can really help you get a sense for what a good conversation with an interviewer should feel like.

However, the categorization of questions is unnecessarily complex in our opinion. For instance, the book steps through many categories of design questions (e.g. designing a desktop application, designing a website, designing an app, designing a consumer product, etc.). This content could have been condensed given that the same method can be used to provide a good answer to the design questions included in this overly specific categorization.

Author and content

Lewis C. Lin is a former Director of Product Management at Microsoft. Besides being the CEO of the coaching firm Impact Interview, he also appears on news outlets such as Business Insider and The Atlantic.

In just ~200 pages, the book provides lots of detailed example answers to questions you can expect in PM interviews. The 16 chapters cover topics including design, estimation, analytical, strategy, and behavioral questions.

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4. Cracking the Tech Career — Not Recommended

Our Recommendation

This appears on some “best PM interview prep books” lists we’ve seen, so our opinion might be controversial, but we believe this book is too general to be helpful. You’ll make better use of precious preparation time by reading Cracking the PM Interview, which covers similar topics found in this book, but is far more specific to Product Management interviews. 

The pros and cons

McDowell writes authoritatively and personably. The book is well laid out and easy to follow. She manages to cover a lot of topics (e.g. resumes and cover letters, behavioral questions, etc.) that are useful when trying to get a job at top tech companies like Google and Microsoft. It’s a useful introduction to careers in the tech space.

However, there are reasons we wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re preparing for a PM interview. First, the book broadly covers tech careers instead of being PM specific. Second, it includes a decent amount of content that’s not critical to prepare for interviews (e.g. company cultures, different roles, career paths, etc.) Therefore we would recommend reading Cracking the PM Interview by the same author instead of this book, as it’s a better use of your time.

Author and content

Gayle Laakmann McDowell worked for Google, Microsoft, and Apple and served on Google's hiring committee. She co-authored the Cracking the PM Interview book recommended above.

The book is ~260 pages long, consisting of 17 chapters. Its first chapter provides an overview of the world’s top tech companies. Then there are a few chapters that cover topics to help you get interviews, like preparation, resumes, cover letters, and references. The middle set of chapters are focused on acing interviews, like telling your story, behavioral interviews, and programming interviews. Finally, the book has a few miscellaneous chapters on things like getting into gaming, women in tech, and managing offers.

5. The Product Manager Interview — Not Recommended

Our Recommendation

Since practicing with real questions is so important, it might seem odd that we’re not recommending The Product Manager Interview, which is essentially one big list of practice questions and answers. However, it references a few key concepts that aren’t actually explained in the book, which makes it an inefficient study tool.

The pros and cons

Lin delivers a book that’s clear and well-structured. It provides a lot of practice questions (160+) with detailed sample answers. But there are multiple references to concepts from different books without explanations (e.g. CIRCLES Method), which means this book won’t be helpful unless you read some of his other books too. Decode and Conquer, recommended above and also authored by Lin, has a lot of useful practice questions much like this book, but includes explanations for all the topics it covers. In other words, Decode and Conquer doesn’t require relying on secondary study resources, so you should read that instead.

Author and content

Lewis C. Lin is a former Director of Product Management at Microsoft. Besides being the CEO of the coaching firm Impact Interview, he also appears on news outlets such as Business Insider and The Atlantic. He is the author of the Decode and Conquer book recommended above.

The book is made up of 26 chapters. The first few chapters cover things like tips on finding study partners, popular terms and abbreviations, and frequently asked questions. The remaining 21 chapters are made up example questions and answers for specific question types (e.g. estimation, product design, market strategy, etc.).

6. Hired: How to Get a Product Management Job — Not Recommended

Our Recommendation

If you give Product School your email address, they’ll give you this book in exchange. But even if it only costs access to your email inbox, we wouldn’t recommend you spend time reading this guide, since you can find much more clear and specific PM interview advice elsewhere.

The pros and cons

Cobby and Araujo’s guide is well structured and covers a lot of company specific information related to Product Management at top tech companies. However, much of the advice is really general (e.g. “Netflix: Finally, prepare, prepare and prepare for your interview!”). This ends up being more confusing than helpful, as it’s difficult to tell what is truly company specific information. In addition, the guidance in the “Interview advice” section is too nebulous to be useful (e.g. Passion is golden). Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that the formatting makes it really hard to read (note: we reviewed V2 published in 2019).

Author and content

Roy Cobby was a Content Manager at Product School from 2018 to 2019, and Gabriela Araujo has been Director of Content Marketing at Product School since 2018.

This book is ~60 pages long. It’s split into five sections: transitioning to product management, getting hired at your dream company, general tips and advice, interview advice, and your first few days as a Product Manager.

Got a product manager interview coming up?

Product manager interviews can be tricky. But if you start preparing in advance, follow a step-by-step approach, and get used to talking through your answer, you stand a much better chance of getting hired at companies like Facebook, Google, or Amazon.

Like we said before, doing mock interviews is a hugely beneficial way of preparing for your interviews. That’s why we created our coaching service, where you can practice PM interviews 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.