Why Does Everyone Hate Performance Reviews: Quotes Straight from Employees by Lewis Lin

I recently came across this fabulous article on why employees (and managers) hate performance reviews. The best part of the article are the verbatim quotes, which I’ve pasted here:

I have to conduct the performance appraisals and I find them a waste of time. The worksheet that we need to fill out is not really geared to professionals. I wish that we had something else to use as a framework to conduct the appraisals. With that being said, I check in with my staff regularly about their performance so nothing in the formal appraisal is ever a surprise.

We are supposed to set goals, but they end up being boilerplate. My manager knows what I am doing and checks in throughout the year. This annual process is only used to file a paper to justify a raise—which is always paltry, no matter how stellar our reviews are—because we are in a “competitive environment.” The entire process is a waste of time and effort.

They are by nature subjective. There’s a given pot of money dedicated to pay increases. Regardless of performance, the annual increase is tethered to that amount. By working in an HR function with access to the entire company’s pay information, it’s easy to see how this contributes to income inequality. Since increases are in percentages rather than flat dollar amounts, those in higher pay levels inexorably “win” and the gap gets wider. The lower paid jobs are crucial, so telling the incumbents to increase their education and skill levels doesn’t solve the issue. Somebody has to do the work. Disproportionately rewarding those subjectively deemed to be high performers necessarily negatively impacts others.

In my opinion, it doesn’t seem to matter what you indicate as the ratings are already pre-planned and so is the increase amount. Why go through the whole performance appraisal process? However, it does remind me all that has been accomplished over the past year, so I guess that is the good part!

Making people think the review process is linked to annual raises is a scam. The annual budget for raises is established well before the reviews are written but most employees think the process is the other way around.

Who reviews the reviewer?

I view performance reviews in the same category as I do overly complicated expense reporting: they’re part of any job and few companies get them right.

I would prefer a monthly “touch base” session with my supervisor.

Performance appraisals are much like donating to charities at Christmas—they assuage management’s guilt but don’t provide meaningful change or feedback. They’re done to “appease the masses,” not to facilitate a meaningful dialogue about the employee’s AND company’s performances over the last year. They are a necessary evil so management can justify a minimal raise to employees.

Ours is a website that I understand is used by a lot of companies. It is not user-friendly & difficult to navigate.

I have worked for 3 large insurance companies, and it’s the same at all three. The evaluation year is essentially just 11 months long, because self-appraisals must be completed by Thanksgiving—so you never get credit for anything that gets completed in December! Meanwhile, Management has secretly ranked all staff and decided on preliminary raise amounts. Pay is not tied to performance and performing the formal reviews is a huge waste of time for both employees, and managers who also tend to be worker-bees themselves.

Management is selective regarding who gets reviewed and who gets raises.

I have to do my own performance appraisal which I complete in less than 5 minutes. I just copy the one from the year before, change the date, change some figures which no one checks, sign it, and that’s it. My boss then writes one sentence. If you think this is fair, then you are the fool.

The need to improve the connection between performance and rewards continues to be the area for needed improvement identified from the annual all-employee survey at our firm.

The company touts pay for performance, but you can have a stellar year and the cap out for raises is 2%. Doesn’t feel like pay for performance.

Raises and bonuses are determined before appraisals are written. This results in appraisals being written to justify the raise, or lack thereof.

I don’t really know anyone that ‘likes’ giving or receiving appraisals. They are very time consuming and if open communication exists between manager and employee, the feedback is happening all year. That being said, I have a great boss who is very good at providing feedback, so it is nice to see it formalized in an appraisal. To get my current job, I used a prior appraisal as a ‘reference’ because I didn’t want to ask my then current supervisor. It worked very well!

I hate doing them. I feel like I am doing my bosses job—without the pay. All companies do them, so I guess you just have to suck it up and play the game. Can’t wait to retire.

What performance appraisal process???? Employers actually have that process in place????

I have found that, over the years, I wind up doing all the work on the appraisal so that my boss can check the box that it’s been done. Career development? Hey, it’s not like she has a clue… bitter? Nah.

No matter what “system” you choose to use, performance reviews are a necessary evil. The conversations should be happening on a regular basis, but frequently do not. You have to have something in the file for legal reasons…especially, if you need to let someone go.

1 Minute Summary: Takeaways from Cappelli's What Do Performance Appraisals Do? by Lewis Lin

Peter Cappelli is a Wharton professor and wrote What Do Performance Appraisals Do?, which is the best academic introduction and review on performance reviews I’ve read to date. Here are my top takeaways from the article:

  • Performance appraisals have been traced back to the early 1800s and Robert Owen who ran UK cotton mills.

  • They became popular in the United States after World War II.

  • According to SHRM, a whopping 97.2% of US respondents reported their organization had a performance appraisal process. The Aberdeen Group, in 2010, stated 91% of worldwide respondents have a performance appraisal process.

  • The notable exceptions to performance reviews include unions and almost all professor jobs.

  • Cappelli describes a theory that performance appraisals is a form of contract between employer and employee that governs forward looking performance and compensation. As a contract, employers typically do not clawback compensation from employees due to non performance.

  • Cappelli maintains that the supervisor is the best judge of an individual’s performance because “only the supervisor is in a position to know what individual employees were directed to do over time, the priorities and expectations held for various tasks, and what standards constitute good results. Even objective measures such as sales per person may not be accurate measures of individual performance if, for example, the supervisor instructed an employee to take time away from selling to train a subordinate, or if business conditions deteriorated.”

  • Performance appraisals have been critiqued since at least 1959. Likert was attributed with this quote: 'Performance review interviews as a rule are seriously deflating to an employee's sense of importance and self-worth. Not only is the conventional review failing to contribute, in many executives' opinion, it can do irreparable harm'.

  • The most common criticism of appraisals is managers are either reluctant to differentiate employees due to concerns over hard feelings, and they don’t want to give poor ratings.

  • Cappelli used data on 50,000 employees, coming from a US retailer in the S&P 500 index, to answer the question, are performance appraisals useful?

  • Their findings were as follows: despite popular wisdom, performance appraisal scores are differentiated:

  • Cappelli argues that there’s no evidence that “long-term relationships with the same supervisor bias appraisal scores upward, or that breaking those relationships by changing supervisors leads to lower scores.”

  • They did find a correlation where more senior managers have higher average appraisal scores:

  • Cappelli states that concerns over horns and halo effect are likely to be exaggerated. In their dataset, he sees an individual’s performance vary widely.

  • All in all, Cappelli’s data shows, with statistical significance, that an employee’s rating can impact performance:

  • Cappelli maintains that ratings do predict future potential; the ratings aren’t just a settling up of previous performance.

Best Performance Appraisal Books: We Review the Top 4 by Abbie Austin


Is the dreaded performance appraisal period around the corner?

If you’re like the rest of us, figuring out the right words to say and how to say it is impossibly hard. And if you’re a manager, you not only have to do this perhaps 20+ times, but also you’ll have to figure out how to convey negative feedback without hurting people’s feelings.

Fortunately, in a world where people are consistently giving and receiving feedback, performance phrase books can help! These books help by jogging the reader’s memory with example phrases that are categorized by topic and ability.

If you’ve never used a phrase book before, you’re missing out. These books have sold millions of copies; we’ve reviewed four of the best selling performance appraisal phrase books to tell you which ones are best.

This growing market is an opportunity for help in these timely processes and some books are taking advantage of it, selling millions of copies. Just take a quick scan of Amazon’s top results, there are a few favorites among the individuals seeking assistance in the performance phrase arena.

Here are the top resources of 2019:

1) Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals: A Guide to Successful Evaluations

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With over 1.5 million copies sold, it isn’t hard to see why Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals tops our list. This book by James E Neal, is filled with more than 3,800 short, helpful phrase suggestions.

The table of contents outlines countless categories that are sure to help people across all job titles and levels. Attractive selling features include its portable size, ability to lay flat and how it allows customers to quickly locate the examples they are after though topic specification.

2) 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews: Ready-to-Use Words and Phrases That Really Get Results

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Another contender with over 150 5-Star ratings on Amazon is a phrasebook by Paul Falcone. Available for free in the eBook version, this helpful tool guides HR professionals and managers in their process to come up with the right words and phrases.

It even includes action items for those crucial next steps after the review process. Falcone sells this book as an instrumental piece in not only the review process but also in creating job descriptions, monitoring performance and giving feedback year-round.

3) Performance Appraisals and Phrases For Dummies

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Most individuals have at some point come across a “For Dummies” book. These convenient books break down tough topics into easy to understand examples and information. This one by Ken Lloyd on performance appraisals and phrases is no different. With over 3,200 phrase suggestions categorized under useful topics, readers can quickly get the information they are looking for.

The phrases in this book are a bit more detailed than the previous books and the beginning provides additional coaching and situational suggestions. Unlike other phrase books, these phrases are categorized under various levels such as excellent, fully competent, marginal and unsatisfactory. Overall, a useful guide for managers and all individuals spending time in the performance appraisal process.

4) Perfect Phrases for Performance Reviews

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The authors of this performance review book know that a great review is change-driven and meaningful. By including information on planning reviews, setting goals and the overall review process, the authors have hit made a hit.

Customers appreciate how they build on the idea of simple phrases by providing self-evaluation suggestions and calls to action. With 74 different skill areas, this book is designed to help you tackle everything from worded assessments to face-to-face interviews. Don’t forget to check out the appendix which includes examples of common managerial and employee mistakes during the performance review process.

Helpful Online Tools for Building Feedback by Abbie Austin


Everyone has experienced those moments where they stare blankly into space waiting for the perfect phrase to magically pop into their head. Finding the right words can be tough, especially when it comes to performance reviews.

With software and online tools for pretty much everything imaginable, it is no surprise that individuals have taken to feedback building. With a quick Google search, a few promising leads arise. Whether you are looking for help reviewing an employee, a colleague or even a self-analysis, these tools can be useful starting points.

Performance Review Generators

1) Performance Review Generator by Michael Schmitt

This simple webpage holds advantageous qualities when attempting performance reviews. Follow the webpage left to right as it guides your eye through the order of steps. It begins with name and gender, followed by attributes and ends with a button to generate the template.

What stands out about this page is the user’s ability to mark each attribute with a score of perfect, good, average, subpar, or worst. This helps the generator differentiate the subject’s ability to deliver on those attributes, which can be crucial to discern when completing a performance analysis.

Although simple, Schmitt’s page allows the user to jog their memory and quickly come up with a template for writing a performance review. It does say there is a premium version “coming soon” with no ads, custom attributes, and industry-specific examples.

2) Simbline Performance Review Generator

To start using this tool, a signup process is required. There are no fees, but a valid email is needed. Once you are logged in, you have access to all of the tool’s features right away.

Simply begin by entering the name and gender of the individual you are hoping to review. Then scroll through the work and personal skills sections, selecting the options you find to best describe the specific individual’s performance. A helpful aspect of this tool is the color-coded sections for performance levels. Green is meant for the most excellent of subjects and red as a “needs improvement” section.

Once you have chosen all that you see fit, just head to the right and click the “generate” button. Right in front of your eyes, you will then see your review crafted. This tool is both convenient and easy to use. The main drawback is the paragraph-long formulated review can sound in-genuine and would likely need some customization on the user’s end.


What's the difference between Decode and Conquer vs. The Product Manager Interview? by Lewis Lin

Here’s the most commonly asked question since I released The Product Manager Interview:

Could you please tell me what the difference is between the two and if you had to pick one, what would it be?

I'm currently looking for switching my focus from product marketing to product management, and my friend recommended me to read Decode and Conquer written by you. When I searched this book, I found that you also published The Product Manager Interview recently. It says it's an ideal complement to Decode and Conquer. Could you please tell the differences between these two books? And which would be more suitable for me as a newbie?

Difference between Decode and Conquer and The Product Manager Interview

Here's my answer:

Which One Should I Get

I'd get both, because familiarity and mastery, are important objectives.

If you'd want to tip-toe your way into PM interviews, then I'd get D&C first.


Top 10 Resources for Product Manager Interview Preparation by Lewis Lin

There's a lot of product management (PM) interview advice on the Internet.

To help you save time, I've created a map of the most important resources for PM candidates below.

Read on, good luck, and crush those interviews,

Lewis C. Lin 🦊

Facebook PM or RPM

Whether you're an RPM candidate or an experienced PM candidate, start with Facebook's official guide to product management candidates*. It'll provide an introduction to the 3 areas of a Facebook PM interview:

  • Product Sense

  • Execution

  • Leadership & Drive

Then, check out the 30-day Facebook PM interview prep plan included in The Product Manager Interview (TPMI). It'll prescribe a step-by-step prep plan, including specific exercises and recommendations.

You'll also want to download my teaching note on Facebook execution questions. Execution questions are a mysterious question type that's gaining popularity, not just at Facebook, but at other companies as well.

* For an alternate description of the Facebook PM interview process, refer my blog post: Facebook Product Manager Interview: What to Expect and How to Prepare.

Google APM, PM or Senior PM

Google APM, PM, and senior PM candidates will benefit from reading this Business Insider article.

Next, check out my 30-day Google PM interview study guide, excerpted from TPMI. Don't miss out on my Google PM interview cheat sheet, displayed here:


For those Google PM candidates who make it to the on-site interviews, Google will ask technical questions focused on either system design, algorithms, or technical trivia. You'll find the technical topics recommended in my 2-week Product Management Interview Plan helpful. For those of you who aren't interviewing at Google, Facebook, or Amazon -- you'll also find the 2-week PM interview plan helpful in providing a comprehensive list of study topics and keeping your preparation on track.

Amazon PM

Familiarize yourself with Amazon's leadership principles and read about how they'll come into play at not just the Amazon PM interview but any Amazon interview.

Amazon takes its leadership principles very seriously; it's one of the main reasons why they have the strongest tech culture today**. 

**Let's forget, for a moment, about those free Googley snacks and ☀️ rooftop yoga at Facebook.

Use my Amazon interview spreadsheet to organize your responses using my DIGS Method™.

Lastly, jump into the 30-day Amazon interview study guide. There's no shortage of case interview questions including:

  • Product design

  • Pricing

  • Go-to-market.

The good news is, unlike Google PM interviews, you won't have to worry about technical interview prep. Jeff Bezos, after all, came from Wall Street.

Do Mock Interviews

It's easy to get familiar with the question types, frameworks, and examples from my books.

But nobody ever won a boxing match by preparing with books only. 🥊

Mock interviews are the only way to master those frameworks and provide perfect responses to questions you've never heard before.

Easily find mock interview PM partners on my Slack channel. Serious candidates will do at least 30 mock interviews before a Google, Facebook, or Amazon interview.

There's one individual who did 100+ mock interviews; he landed a PM offer at Google.

Who to Practice With

Does it matter if you pair up with experienced or inexperienced PM candidates?

According to one community member, who landed a PM job at Facebook, she learned something from everyone she practiced with: young and old.

So don't waste time trying to find the perfect partner.

Just do it.

New to the PM Interview?

If you're new, you might feel more comfortable shadowing someone who's doing a mock interview. The PM interview community is very friendly, so ask if you can listen and observe.

Some folks want privacy, so that's okay too. In that case, simply get a copy of Decode & Conquer. It'll introduce you to question types & provide frameworks on how to answer each one. And reading the sample answers will give you the over-the-shoulder glance of how an interview response might unfold. You can read those sample answers anywhere, anytime. No permission necessary.

Be Courageous

You may feel awkward about doing mock interviews.

You might also find it impossible to conjure interview answers that are on par with the sample answers in Decode and Conquer or The Product Manager Interview.

You wouldn't be the first the feel that way.

So muster that courage 🏋️. Be comfortable with learning & failure.

Who knows? After your 50th or 75th mock interview session, your answers may consistently be on par or even surpass the sample answers in my books. If so, email me. You might be someone I'd like to partner with on my next venture.

Two More Things

If you’ve gotten a PM job offer, congratulations! Don’t miss your opportunity to get more by using my email negotiation examples from my book, 71 Brilliant Salary Negotiation Email Samples.

And once you’ve started your PM job, learn how you can move up from PM to manager of PMs to VP of Product and possibly even CEO with my book, Be the Greatest Product Manager Ever.

What is the DIGS Method™? by Lewis Lin


By Abbie Austin and Lewis C. Lin

The DIGS Method™ is Lewis’ framework for tackling behavioral interview questions. It’s superior to STAR because most candidates mechanically apply STAR, sucking away appeal. The typical STAR answer sounds like this:

So the situation was that I had to analyze a business challenge…

My tasks included delivering a 10-page written report and an executive presentation…

The actions I took included doing research, formulating my thoughts, and writing the first draft…

The result was that I completed the report and everyone liked it.

So dull. So boring.

It’s like watching an episode of The Office, without the humor.

We’re not against checklists and frameworks. They help. But telling an engaging (and entertaining!) story is important. A good behavioral answer should feel like a causal conversation between friends.

What is the DIGS Method?

The DIGS Method™ stands for:

  • Dramatize the situation

  • Indicate the alternatives

  • Go through what you did

  • Summarize your impact. 

Entertaining stories usually have a dramatic dilemma, and that’s where we’ll start:

Dramatize the situation

Amplify the story.

Details and context are imperative when crafting a narrative about why your job, project, or product matters. Differentiate yourself by emphasizing the issues that were conducive in reaching goals and problem-solving. Can you emphasize what happened the one time a huge deadline needed to be met on short notice? Was there ever an instance where your team had to pivot on an idea last minute? Here’s an example:

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about a time when something didn’t go as planned.

CANDIDATE: My boss, Disha, stormed into my office. She said, “Ji-hyun has an family emergency. You’ll have to do pitch the new product feature to our leading client. If you don’t secure the $50 million deal, we’ll have to layoff 30% of the company.”

Do you see the drama, details, and the impact? Can you imagine how an opening like this will get the listener on the edge of his or her seat?

Indicate the alternatives

The interviewer needs to understand why the choices you made were best in respect to the alternative solutions. Describing other possible solutions can help you and your final solution stand out; not doing so makes your choice seem expected and ordinary.

Strive to pose three other alternatives, to make the listener feel informed, but not overwhelmed. Bonus points if you can describe the pros and cons of each approach. This will show your analytical traits that hiring managers look for.

INTERVIEWER: How do you know the choice you made to continue on the same project timeline was right?

CANDIDATE: There were other options for sure. We could have pushed the timeline back and had more time to go through each step, but that would have compromised the overarching timeline we had planned for releasing the new product.  If we had decided to change the timeline of the whole product because of this, it would be convenient for us personally, but would put us behind the competition who are also ramping up. In the end, we could have asked our colleague to stay and reschedule, but as a team we strive to support one another, even if that means inconvenience.

Go through what you did

Describe what you did. The interviewer should get a front-row seat to the (not-so-instant) replay. What happened first? Who did you call? How did they respond? Did you get any resistance? This helps the listener get an idea of how involved you were and the ways you in which you influenced the situation.

CANDIDATE: During this busy time in the office, one of my colleagues forgot to respond to an important email and continued to disregard the follow up email I sent as well.  When I asked them about it in person, they got very upset, stating how overwhelmed they were by the current pace in the office. Understanding that they were stressed, I tried to explain that I wasn’t meaning to put undue pressure on them and that we could figure out a solution to take the pressure off.  After hearing this, their voice calmed a bit, they apologized and we were able to have a productive conversation about the current workplace environment. We were even able to come up with productivity implementations to take pressure off but still meet deadlines.

Summarize the impact

The best stories often conclude by recapping the main actions and their impact on the overall situation. Tell your listener how you made a lasting difference. Did your actions benefit the business as a whole? Can you provide concrete details such as numbers and percentages to support the account? Is there a qualitative statement from an executive or a customer who thought you excelled?  These are the types of specifics that reinforce your decision-making skills. 

CANDIDATE: This whole situation showed my boss that I can step up and take charge of projects with important timelines.  If we hadn’t have kept the ball rolling, I am not sure our product would have been as successful as it was. After release, we had 30K new downloads in the first month alone and were able to lock in deals with 20 new advertisers on the platform.

For more information on DIGS, check out Lewis’ book, Decode and Conquer.

What VCs Look for in Founders by Lewis Lin

Founders Matter More than the Team

“An excellent idea with a mediocre team would interest me far less than a good team with a mediocre idea.” - Gigi Levy-Weiss

65% of startups fail “…due to problems within the startup’s management team.” - Noah Wasserman, The Founder’s Dilemma

What VCs Look for in Founders

[Elon Musk is] very smart, very charismatic, and incredibly driven -- a very rare combination, since most people who have one of these traits learn to coast on the other two. It was kind of scary to be competiting against his startup in Palo Alto in Dec 1999-Mar 2000. - Peter Thiel

A lot of what we look for is understanding the founder’s grit and resilience." - Josh Kopelman, First Round

If you’re looking for certainty you wind up with boring people engaged in mundane activities. We have a fondness for obsessives on a mission. - Michael Moritz, Sequoia

You need grit to get through the entrepreneurial journey. Startups are a roller coaster of ups & downs. - Jess Lee, Sequoia

I love partnering with thoughtful visionaries who have the grit to turn their dreams into reality. - Stephanie Zhan, Sequoia

If your goal is to get straight As and never speed, you're probably not cut out to disrupt an industry, which requires original thinking, an ability to see the world differently from others, and courage to challenge conventional wisdom when it doesn't make sense. (This is not saying you should be lazy, get Cs, intentionally do bad things, break the law, and challenge conventional wisdom for just the sake of it.) - Alfred Lin, Sequoia

"Talent, integrity, and hardwork... Founding team — stubborn but listen (coachable)." - Jeffrey Paine, Golden Gate Ventures

Quake Capital

  • Original idea or insight

  • Scientific innovation

  • Startup experience

  • Industry experience

  • Communication skills

  • Execution skills

  • Deal with ambiguity

  • Poise

  • Enthusiasm

Alex Iskold, TechStars

  • Ability to grow the business

  • Intellectual honesty and curiosity

  • Complementary skills and chemistry

  • Stellar CEO

  • Domain knowledge, relevant experience and defensibility

  • Vision

  • Product focus

Christoph Janz, Point Nine Capital

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Integrity

  • Right kind of ambition

  • Right kind of person

Getting Started: Better Freelancers Slack Group by Lewis Lin

Introduction: Our Mission

Welcome to the Better Freelancers Slack group! Our mission is to request and share freelancers from different sites including Fiverr & UpWork. To get you started, here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Getting Oriented: What type of freelancers can I request or share?

We have 9 default channels:

  1. #admin-support: Request and share admin support professionals

  2. #customer-service: Request and share customer service professionals

  3. #data-sci-n-analytics: Request and share data science & analytics experts

  4. #digital-marketing: Request and share marketing help

  5. #graphic-n-design: Request and share designers

  6. #music-n-audio: Request and share music and audio experts

  7. #programming-n-tech: Request and share programmers

  8. #video-n-animation: Request and share video and animation experts

  9. #writing-n-translation: Request and share writers and translators


There are two more default channels:

  • #announcements: Reserved for group-wide announcements from the admins

  • #misc: Any discussion that doesn’t fit into the other channels


  • Introduce yourself In the #misc channel including your name and why you joined.

  • (Optional) Share your favorite freelancer from Fiverr, UpWork, etc. in your intro.

How to Request Recommendations

“Anyone have a recommendation for ___?” is a good way to start. 😊

To get the most relevant recommendations possible, I’d recommend that you be as specific as you can.

  • Not helpful: “Can anyone recommend a designer?”

  • Helpful: “Can anyone recommend a designer who excels at removing backgrounds from photos, using Adobe Photoshop?”

How to Share Recommendations

Simply reply to someone’s request. Provide contact information AND be specific!

How to invite others to the group

Just share the instructions detailed in this post.

Better Freelancers Slack Group: What is It and How to Join by Lewis Lin


Better Freelancers is a Slack group to request and share freelancers from Fiverr, UpWork, Toptal, and other popular marketplaces.

If you’re like me, you’ve found Fiverr gigs, UpWork freelancers, and Toptal talent to be hit-and-miss. And their reviews are just as unreliable too.

We’ve got channels in the following categories:

  • Graphics & Design

  • Digital Marketing

  • Writing & Translation

  • Video & Animation

  • Music & Audio

  • Programming & Tech

  • Customer Service

  • Admin Support

  • Data Science & Analytics

To join the Slack group, request your exclusive invite here and find better freelancers.

19 Books & Articles Every Tech-Bound MBA Needs to Read by Lewis Lin


Tech-bound MBA students often ask me for my favorite books and articles, especially as they pertain to these frequently asked questions:

Introduction to Roles

  • What are the differences between product management & product marketing?

Career Excellence: Product management

  • What makes a great product manager?

  • What is the typical product development process?

Career Excellence: TECH marketing

  • What are the most important marketing principles?

Career Excellence: Artificial intelligence & machine learning

  • What’s the best resource to learn the basics of AI & ML?

Interview Prep: Product Management

  • How to get ready for the product manager interview?

Interview Prep: TECH MARKETING

  • How to get ready for the tech marketing interview?

Interview Prep: OTHER ROLES

  • How to get ready for other tech interviews?

Corporate culture

  • What is Google's culture like?

  • What is Facebook's culture like?

  • What is Amazon's culture like?

  • What is Snapchat's culture like?

  • What is Tesla's culture like?

  • What is Twitter's culture like?

There are a lot of excellent books & articles, but you'll find the ones I've found most essential below.

Wishing you the best in your tech career,

Lewis C. Lin

What are the differences between product management & product marketing?

Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager by Product Manager HQ

A simple, straightforward description of the two most popular roles. Includes an easy-to-scan infographic.

What makes a great product manager?


Be the Greatest Product Manager Ever by Lewis C. Lin

Featuring the ESTEEM Method™, this classic covers the six competencies product managers must master as they move from PM to CEO. A must-read for product managers new and old. Perfect for PMs of all levels.


Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is a legendary product manager that’s now one of the most recognizable VCs. Although it was written a few decades ago, this essay is still applicable today. It clearly explains what’s expected of top performing product managers, in an easy-to-read style.


What Distinguishes The Top 1% Of Product Managers From The Top 10%? by Ian McAllister

Bullet point summary of what separates top product managers from everyone else.

What is the typical product development process?


The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen

Olsen’s book covers the end-to-end product development process with clarity, starting from defining your target customer to building MVPs to analyzing product metrics.

Sprint  by Jake Knapp

An elegant how-to guide on how to implement design thinking processes as a product leader.

What are the most important marketing principles?

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Don’t let the dated examples fool you. At 143 pages, this quick-read marketing classic conveys the most important marketing principles ever. I can’t say it any better: violate them at your own risk!

What’s the best resource to learn the basics of AI & ML?

Hands-On Machine Learning by Aurélien Géron

Written by a former YouTuber who developed ML-based video classification systems, Géron writes an easy-to-follow explanation of AI and ML principles without any jargon. Includes information on TensorFlow and the popular ML package: Scikit-Learn. Ideal for beginners.

How to get ready for the product manager interview?

Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin


Featuring the world-famous CIRCLES Method™, Decode and Conquer provides frameworks and examples on how to tackle tough PM case interview questions including product design, metrics, strategy, and technical. Endorsed by Google recruiters and praised by Business Insider.

The Product Manager Interview by Lewis C. Lin


Decode and Conquer helps candidates get familiar with PM frameworks. The Product Manager Interview provides 160+ practice problems, with sample answers, to help you master those frameworks.

How to get ready for the tech marketing interview?

The Marketing Interview by Lewis C. Lin


The Marketing Interview provides frameworks and examples on how to tackle tough marketing case interviews including marketing campaigns, pricing, launching new products, critiquing ads, dealing with PR disasters, and calculating ROI.

This book is also ideal for non-tech marketing candidates, such as those targeting CPG and financial services.

This second edition features new sections on digital marketing and marketing metrics.

How to get ready for other tech interviews?

Case Interview Questions for Tech Companies by Lewis C. Lin

This book includes 155 practice questions for many tech industry roles popular with MBA's including:

  • Marketing

  • Operations

  • Finance

  • Strategy

  • Analytics

  • Business Development

  • Supplier or Vendor Management

  • ...and Product Management

Interview Math by Lewis C. Lin

For those who want more practice with market sizing, ROI, and other quant-oriented interview questions, this resource will make you feel confident about your quant skills after a single weekend. Also ideal for consulting candidates who are looking for more quant practice.

How to understand Google’s corporate culture?

In the Plex by Steven Levy

I personally love Steven Levy’s writing and effort. As a former Googler, I felt he captured the true feel for the company culture.

Also check out How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg for a different (but seemingly sanitized) perspective of Google. Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock provides another ex-Google executive’s take, this time from the people operations (human resources) perspective.

How to understand Facebook’s corporate culture?

Becoming Facebook by Mike Hoefflinger

A Facebook employee’s view on the company including their early growth hacking tactics. Do note that the book can get dry. For a more entertaining, salacious (yet still informative) view of Facebook, read Chaos Monkeys.

How to understand Amazon’s corporate culture?

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Stone does an incredible job reporting on this secretive tech company, compiling several detailed insider accounts. The J-team, compensation details, and the early beginnings of Amazon Prime is revealed in this book.

Stone’s book clearly touched a nerve. Its publication led Jeff Bezos’ wife to give this book a much publicized one-star review.

How to understand Snapchat’s corporate culture?

How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars by Billy Gallagher

This Business Insider reporter provides a detailed scoop on Snapchat’s corporate history, starting from the founding team’s Stanford years.

How to understand Tesla’s corporate culture?

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Vance gives the reader an excellent perspective on Musk’s personality, explaining how Tesla and SpaceX became a juggernaut.

How to understand Twitter’s corporate culture?

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

Beautifully-written, Bilton describes the larger-than-life personalities that started this company. In the end, you can’t help by feel that Twitter became a success, in spite of the founders.

How to Understand Uber from a Uber Driver's Perspective?

The Rideshare Guide by Harry Campbell

Harry Campbell (aka The Rideshare Guy) provides a detailed (and quick!) perspective of Uber's business from the driver-side, filled with insider details on the product experience, economics, and other Uber ecosystem details that you haven't heard as a typical Uber passenger.