15 essential product manager interview tips

If you are targeting a product management position in a company like Facebook, Amazon, or Google, you need to be able to impress interviewers and stand out from the other candidates.

This is difficult, especially if you’re not used to presenting your PM experience in an interview setting. The good news is that we have helped thousands of candidates prepare for tech interviews, through our tech interview guides and 100+ mock interview coaches.

We’ve dug into the source material for our product manager guides in order to give you advice about what works and what doesn’t. In this article we summarise the most important tips we’ve learned in the process. So let's get started!

  1. PM interview prep tips
  2. PM interview tips

1. PM interview preparation tips

Let’s start with some tips to help you prepare.

Tip #1: Start early

This might sound obvious, but PM interviews are challenging.  Top tech companies and start-ups recruiting PMs routinely receive 300+ applications for a single position. That's less than a 0.5% success rate. 

So you should start preparing early. Some of the people we work with start studying up to 6 months before their interview. Starting that much in advance may not be necessary for everyone, but the earlier you start, the higher your chances of getting an offer.

Tip #2: Get to know the company

Get acquainted with the company you’ve applied to. In many cases, the product questions you’ll be presented with will be based on real-life cases the company is facing. If you’re applying to a specific team, study up on their products, the user, etc. 

For instance, Facebook divides its PM interviews into three distinct categories: Product Sense, Execution, and Leadership & Drive, while Amazon places a particular emphasis on their 16 leadership principles. Google’s most frequently asked PM interview questions center on product design and strategy.

Take the time to find out which products you’ll most likely be working with, based on the job description, and research them. Look up relevant press releases, product descriptions, product reviews, and other resources in order to discuss what’s most important to the role: the company’s product.

If you'd like to learn more about a specific company's PM interviews, then we'd encourage you to check out our guide for that company below :

Tip #3: Brush up on product fundamentals

If you're already an experienced PM, then this step may not apply to you. But if you're more junior, or if you're trying to break into product management, then it's worth spending some time on refreshing your memory about basic product management concepts.

Here is a list of free resources to give you a starting point:

  1. Popular PM interview books reviewed (by IGotAnOffer)
  2. Product Management Guides (by Aha.io)
  3. Product Design (by Udacity)
  4. What distinguishes the top 1% of product managers from the top 10%? (by Ian McAllister on quora)
  5. Product vs. Feature Teams (by Silicon Valley Product Group)
  6. What's something product managers know that others don't? (by Dan Schmidt on quora)
  7. Product Requirements Document Example (by Product Hunt)
  8. Data-Driven Product Management: Choosing the Right Metrics for Your Product (by productcoalition.com)
  9. How Should Product Managers Say No? (by productcoalition.com) 

Tip #4: Learn a consistent method for answering PM interview questions 

Most companies will ask you questions that fall into certain categories like behavioral, design, strategy, estimation, and metric questions. Approaching each question with a predefined method will enable you to build strong interview habits.

Then, when it comes time for your interviews, these habits will reduce your stress and help you make a great impression. Here is a list of our free guides on different types of PM interview questions to help you prepare: 

  • Behavioral questions, which test your culture fit with the company through your resume and personal experiences
  • Technical questions, which test how well you can think like a developer and work with teams of engineers
  • Product design questions, which test how well you design, improve, or understand a product from the user perspective
  • Product improvement questions, which test your critical thinking skills and understanding of the company’s products
  • Favorite product questions, which test your understanding of product design, ability to give constructive feedback, and knowledge of a specific product
  • Strategy questions, which test your ability to set a product vision and build out the roadmap to deliver it
  • Estimation questions, which test your quantitative skills and how you break down complex problems into workable solutions
  • Metric questions, which test your ability to analyze the success of a product through clear and definable metrics
  • Prioritization questions, which test how well you can identify customer needs when it comes to picking the most important features and ranking key tasks

Tip #5: Practice with real PM interview questions

Once you’ve reviewed the concepts and learned an answer framework, apply that knowledge to practice questions. 

Talk out loud as you practice. Play the role of the interviewer and the candidate, asking and answering questions. This will help you develop your communication skills and your process for breaking down problems.

For a full list of interview questions and solutions, take a look at our ultimate list of product manager interview questions.

Tip #6: Use a cheat sheet

If you’re asked estimation questions in your interview (e.g. “What is the market size for driverless cars in 2025?”), it will be useful for you to know some data and assumptions off the top of your head. This will help you move more quickly into analyzing the question, rather than spending too much time on initial calculations.

Take a look here for our estimation cheat sheets, including key advertising metrics, company information, and socioeconomic data. Use these to practice and memorize key data before (but not during!) your interviews.

You can also ask your interviewer for input, in case they are able to give you approximate numbers that will make the analysis easier along the way.

Tip #7: Do mock interviews

The most thorough way to prepare yourself for a product management interview is to simulate the conditions with a peer or interviewer. A great place to start is to practice with friends or family if you can. You can also find peers to practice with on our free peer-to-peer mock interview platform.

If you know someone who has experience running interviews at Facebook, Google, or another big tech company, then that's even better. Otherwise, you can practice PM interviews 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies using our mock interview coaches.

While doing mock interviews, make sure that you write down the feedback you receive after each round. Use it to create action items for yourself, to know exactly what you should do to improve. Keep documenting the feedback and modifying the action items in your subsequent mock interviews, in order to continuously adapt and perfect your approach.

2. PM interview tips

Now that you know how to approach your preparation, let's focus on a few tips that you should use during your PM interviews.

Tip #8: Focus on the customer

There are many different methods and frameworks that you can use to answer a PM interview question, and most of them will include this key component: focus on the customer.

When in doubt of how to answer a certain question, this should be your first instinct. Ask yourself who is using the product, why they are using it, and what the use cases are. Avoid designing a product in a certain way simply because it is how you would like the product to be. Explain how the product you’re working on will achieve the customer’s idea of success.

Tip #9: Check in with your interviewer

Your interviewers will vary in terms of how willing they are to give you hints along the way. Some will wait until you ask to give you certain details about the customer or product, while others expect you to make reasonable assumptions on your own.

The best way to feel this out is to clarify, either by asking a direct question (e.g. “What do we know about the customer?”) or by specifying your assumptions and allowing the interviewer to jump in if they want to (e.g. “Based on this information, the customer must be XYZ.”).

If the interviewer is the type to offer specifics, they’ll jump in or answer your question. If not, avoid asking many more questions, or else they will question your ability to make decisions on your own. 

Tip #10: Don’t get stuck in a framework

As we mentioned in the preparation section, using a framework to answer questions will help you tackle them in a methodical, structured way. However, as some of our successful candidates have mentioned, being overly reliant on the framework may hinder your performance.

When preparing for the interview, practice your preferred frameworks during your mock interviews. Test them against different questions, and take note of when they help you answer the question versus when they hinder your creativity.

During the interview, don’t be afraid to go with your gut and stray from the framework if necessary. Consider whether the framework is helping you craft a better answer, or if you’re having to twist your answer to fit the framework.

Tip #11: Know your favorite product

You will likely be asked about your favorite product. This may be your favorite product from the company you’re applying to, or it may be your favorite physical or digital product outside of that company.

Be ready to not only state what your favorite product is, but also why it is your favorite. Consider why this product excels over its competitors, which design considerations help it stand out, and what, if anything, could be improved about it.

Tip #12: Center the company’s core values

This is especially important at companies like Google and Amazon, who heavily emphasize the importance of culture or value fit during their application processes. You should have studied the company’s values, core principles, and/or mission statement before the interview.

During the interview, bring up stories from your past experiences that align with the core values. When designing a product, consider how the design meets or doesn’t meet certain values, and do the same when discussing strategy. Showing that you fit in with the company’s mission is the best way to show that you fit in with the company itself.

Tip #13: Think before speaking

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away in the stress of an interview round. Once you have said something, it can be hard to take it back. It is perfectly acceptable to take a pause, or to ask your interviewer for a couple minutes to think before moving forward. This will help you organize your thoughts before speaking and avoid jumping to conclusions.

Tip #14: Treat the interview like a conversation

This tip is especially useful for those who struggle to remain calm in an interview setting. Keep in mind that this interview is part of a mutual discovery process. The interviewer is there to find out whether you’re a good fit for their company, and you are there to find out if the company is a good fit for you.

Tip #15: Save questions for your interviewer

At the end of most interview rounds, you’ll be left with a few minutes to ask your interviewer some questions. Coming without any questions for them may give them the impression that you’re not invested enough in the company or in the job.

Take some time to consider a good question, rather than asking something that you could have easily researched in advance. You could ask about opportunities to advance in the company, what they see as the ideal person for the role that you’re interviewing for, what a typical day would look like, or another topic that is pertinent to the role.

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.

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