Marketing Interview Questions: What to Expect and How to Prepare by Lewis Lin

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Today's marketing candidates have to be prepared for a range of questions from traditional, behavioral, case, analytics, and digital marketing interview questions. 

In this blog post, I'll discuss each marketing interview question category and offer tips on how to prepare.

Lastly, I'll include instructions on how you can download my special marketing interview cheat sheet at the end of this post, based on my book, The Marketing Interview.

TRADITIONAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

WHAT IS IT

Traditional interview questions are used to learn more about your marketing experience or to test your marketing knowledge. Here are some examples:

  1. What is digital marketing?

  2. What is SEO?

  3. What is PPC?

  4. What is on-page and off-page optimization?

  5. How does a "link building" campaign work?

  6. Describe a marketing strategy that failed.

HOW TO ANSWER

Use the Five Ws and / or the Rule of Three. It'll help structure your response so it's easy to follow. At the same time, it'll help ensure your answer is complete. Your answer should be as credible but as concise as the first paragraph explanation of a Wikipedia article.

SAMPLE ANSWERS

See Chapter 9 of The Marketing Interview and refer to the sample answer for "Tell me about a terrible product that’s marketed well.”

Also refer to Wikipedia definitions for likely marketing trivia questions like:

  • SEO

  • PPC, including PPC, CTR, PPC

  • Page optimization

  • Call-to-action

BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

WHAT IS IT

Behavioral interview questions center around a candidate's past experience. They usually start with "Tell me a time...":

  1. Tell me about a piece of content you edited and how you strengthened that piece of content?

  2. Describe the most difficult scheduling problem you have faced at work.

  3. Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.

  4. Describe a time you were faced with stress that tested your coping skills.

HOW TO ANSWER

While the STAR method may work for behavioral interview questions, I've found that in practice the STAR method leads to answers that are dull and uninspiring, I'd recommend the DIGS method™ instead. DIGS will lead to stories that are impactful and entertaining.

SAMPLE ANSWERS

  • Chapter 18 - Answering Behavioral Questions

HYPOTHETICAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

WHAT IS IT

Hypothetical interview questions asks candidates to speculate how they would handle a theoretical situation. They typically start with "How...?" Here are some examples:

  1. How do you use social media as a tool for customer service?

  2. How could you leverage YouTube in order to promote our brand and increase engagement?

  3. How and when do you evaluate your marketing campaigns?

  4. How do you measure ROI for a social media campaign?

  5. How would you pitch innovative and new approaches to both paid and natural search campaigns?

HOW TO ANSWER

Answer this question in two parts. Part I, spend the first 30 to 40 seconds to present your approach to the hypothetical scenario, using the Rule of Three to structure your response.

Part II, spend the remaining 90 seconds explaining how you've actually used your approach to generate marketing results.

Part I explains a theoretical approach that not only answers the question but is easy-to-remember and easy-to-understand.

Part II eliminates the interviewer's concerns that you simply memorized a textbook approach. Instead, it demonstrates that you not only had relevant experience, but also garnered results.

SAMPLE ANSWERS

  • Chapter 2 - Creating a Positioning Statement

  • Chapter 9 - Critiquing a Marketing Effort

  • Chapter 16 - Strategy Questions

CASE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

WHAT IS IT

Case interview questions tests the candidate's ability to solve a real-life marketing problem. During a case interview question, a candidate may be asked to:

  • Build or fix a marketing campaign

  • Calculate marketing ROI

  • Critique a marketing campaign initiative

Here are some recent examples:

  1. You are working at an independent search marketing consultancy and begin working with a client who believes they have been penalized. How would you diagnose the problem and what corrective action might you reasonably expect to take?

  2. You are working for a major hotel chain as a PPC manager and you’ve been asked to explore expanding your campaign to target American customers looking to book hotels in the UK. What would you need to know to forecast whether this campaign would be profitable?

  3. Take a look at these 2 different designs for our new website, which one is better? Why?

  4. Create a 1 month content calendar that includes different types of content ranging from videos, ebooks, blog posts to podcasts and social media.

  5. You’ve been put in charge of planning the company’s nationwide conference. Where do you begin?

  6. A customer has just posted a negative review to the company’s Facebook page and you’re in charge of responding. How do you handle it?

  7. What do you think about our blog?

HOW TO ANSWER

For case questions, you want to apply the appropriate framework from The Marketing Interview. For example:

  • Marketing plan questions: Use the Big Picture Framework from the book.

  • PR disasters: Use the PR disaster framework from the book.

  • Critiquing a blog: Use the MOB Framework from the book.

  • Evaluating marketing campaign performance: Use the before-and-after analysis framework from the book.

SAMPLE ANSWERS

  • Chapter 3 - Developing Marketing Campaigns

  • Chapter 6 - Launching a New Product

  • Chapter 9 - Critiquing a Marketing Effort

  • Chapter 10 - Critiquing Advertising

  • Chapter 11 - Dealing with PR Disasters

  • Chapter 14 - Getting Analytical: ROI Calculations


One more thing, if you're interested in getting my special one-page marketing interview cheat sheet featured at the top of the blog, you can download the PDF version here.

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 thisBusiness 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:

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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 anyAmazon 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.

One Last Tip

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.

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

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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?

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?

    TOP PICK
    

    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.

    TOP PICK

    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?

    TOP PICK
    

    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!

    How to get ready for the product manager interview?

    Decode and Conquer by Lewis C. Lin

    TOP PICK

    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

    TOP PICK

    Decode and Conquer helps candidates get familiar with PM frameworks. The Product Manager Interview provides 164 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

    TOP PICK

    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.

    Lewis C. Lin's Spreadsheet for Product Management Interview Preparation by Lewis Lin

    I've made many of my product manager interview resources available for free on the web.

    There's one item that's coveted more than anything else: my Google Spreadsheet that recommends topics to study and exercises to do for:

    • Product design questions
    • Metrics questions
    • Estimation questions
    • Lifetime value questions
    • Behavioral interview questions
    • Technical questions
    • New market entry
    • Go-to-market strategy

    It also includes links to my two company specific guides: a 30-day study guide for Google PM interviews and a 30-day study guide for Amazon PM interviews. (I do have a 30-day study guide for Facebook PM interviews, in my book The Product Manager interview.)

    Best of luck with your PM interviews,

    Lewis C. Lin

     

    Lewis C. Lin's Slack Community by Lewis Lin

    It's been almost three years since we launched the Slack community. 

    I'm very proud to see all the PM mock interviews completed, connections made, and most importantly, PM offers won!

    Here's what some participants have said about the PM interview community:

    • This community and Lewis Lin is the best. Just heard back from Uber, it’s a yes! 🙏  I had interviewed there twice before over the years, but it wasn’t until I encountered Lewis, his materials, and this community that I was finally able to crack it.

    • Hi Lewis, I wanted to say thanks for putting together the books and community for PM prep. It’s been extremely helpful to me and many others.

    • You’ve created a super awesome community, especially the Slack channel. It is the best Slack channel out there! Thanks for all your contributions to the PM community!

    • Thanks a lot @lewislin for publishing the books and creating this community. This helped me get an offer.

    • Your book, Decode & Conquer, has been immensely helpful for me understanding "product speak", since my professional background is actually in Sales & Marketing. I hope you're having a great Labor Day weekend! I'm spending most of my time off practicing for my Facebook rPM interview in about two weeks. Thank you for creating an amazing community on Slack as well to practice mock interviewing!

    • Hi Lewis. Firstly I want to thank you for creating such an awesome platform for learning for product manager community. While browsing the content of your books on Amazon i was really amazed and really became your die heart fan. It is such awesome content. For people like me who were struggling to find the right content and direction in this domain you have given us a clear direction. Thanks a lot!

    If you're not part of the PM interview community already, sign up following the instructions here.

    lewis-lin-slack.jpg

    The Marketing Interview by Lewis C. Lin: eBook, Kindle or PDF Available? by Lewis Lin

    The Marketing Interview: eBook is Available

    Is The Marketing Interview available on Kindle or another eBook format?

    The answer is absolutely! You can get the eBook for The Marketing Interview here.

    EBOOK VERSIONS OF MY OTHER BOOKS, NOT AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

    While we're at it, here are the links to eBook versions of my other books, not available on Kindle:

    Here's What People Say about The Marketing Interview

    For aspiring marketers, Lewis Lin's The Marketing Interview provides a solid grounding, with concrete examples and exercises, on how to stand out during a marketing interview and land that job of your dreams. — Luanne Calvert, Former Chief Marketing Officer, VIRGIN AMERICA

    There’s so much confusion on how to succeed at the marketing interview, especially tough case questions. The Marketing Interview examines the most common and challenging interview questions including developing marketing plans, launching new products and dealing with private label competition. — Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling, Former Vice President Marketing, T-MOBILE USA

    Lewis Lin presents both classic and new marketing cases, along with right and wrong approaches, to sharpen your interview impact. Useful for new graduates and mid-career professionals, The Marketing Interview contains marketing analogs and role plays to help you elevate yourself above other candidates. —Dan Frechtling, Former Vice President, MATTEL

    I have interviewed countless candidates for marketing roles, and I wish more of them could attack problems this smartly. Follow the step-by-step guidance in this book, and you will set yourself apart from other candidates and succeed in your marketing interviews. — Scott Shrum, Former Brand Manager, S.C. JOHNSON & SON

     

    Bad Product Names: How They Happen by Lewis Lin

    There are several reasons for the poor product names.

    Uninspired marketers
    There are simply some marketers who didn't care enough about their product to put proper effort into coming up with a good name.  I would put Microsoft Family Safety in this category.  And it looks like the executive in charge didn't care either.

    Opinionated bureaucrats
    Sometimes, the influential executives care too much.  Decision makers with limited marketing experience start throwing ideas out.  And unfortunately they're influential enough to have these bad names stick.  That's why you get products with "RT" appended to it.  Apparently RT doesn't mean real-time; instead it's much, much geekier.  Yes, some engineering VP cried and moaned enough to get their way.  Good luck explaining that one to a 55 year old small business owner.  (Details: What Does the ‘RT’ In Windows RT Stand For?)

    Indecisive and weak marketing leaders
    The role of a strong marketing leader is to clarify the brand strategy & hierarchy.  For example, P&G's leadership team made a conscious decision to have strong product names (e.g. Tide, Swiffer, Pampers).  They opted out of using the corporate brand as an umbrella brand.  In other words, it's not "P&G Tide" or "Procter and Gamble's Pampers."  At Microsoft, there's no clarity around the brand strategy.  Sometimes Microsoft is the umbrella brand e.g. "Microsoft Office."  Other times, the umbrella brand is left out such as "Xbox" or "Bing."  At other times, Microsoft uses multiple umbrella brands such as "Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail Premium."  Microsoft has no shortage of run-on product names -- and it's largely because of indecision.

    The Product Manager Interview by Lewis C. Lin: eBook, Kindle or PDF Available? by Lewis Lin

    The Product Manager Interview: eBook is Available

    Ever since I published The Product Manager Interview last November, the most common question I get is:

    Is the book available on Kindle or another eBook format?

    The answer is absolutely! You can get the eBook for The Product Manager Interview here.

    EBOOK VERSIONS OF MY OTHER BOOKS, NOT AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

    While we're at it, here are the links to eBook versions of my other books, not available on Kindle:

    Strong Demand for The Product Manager Interview's ebook

    • How can I purchase "The product manager interview" on kindle/other E-Book method? If I order today to my country, it'll arrive after my interview date!!

    • Urgent Help Needed: Do you have the ebook version of "The Product Manager Interview: 164 Actual Questions and Answers" I can purchase... I have a couple of important interviews lined up in a week and really would love to read the new edition of your book. I'm based out of Mumbai and the paperback will take too long to get here..

    • I want to prepare further on more q&a and I think that this book of yours- The Product Manager Interview: 164 Actual Questions and Answers. can help me with that. is there a way to get it digitally? my interview is on the coming Monday and I live in Israel- ill be getting the book only after the interview :(

    • Do you have an ecopy or pdf version of these that I can buy?

    • Do you have a kindle edition for the pm interview book?

    • Any chance we can buy an electronic version of the book?

    • Thank you for sharing this information. I've benefited a lot in the past by reading your books. I have an interview coming up this Monday and was hoping to get my hands on your new book, however due to shipping delays with Amazon it doesn't look like I'll be able to get the book in time. Is there an e-book version that I can purchase or a faster way I can get the book? Would really appreciate your response.

    Identifying Proactive People in Interviews: How I Do It by Lewis Lin

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    Here's how I evaluate initiative in an interview:

    Behavioral interview questions

    I'd ask, "Tell me a time when you took initiative." or "Tell me a time you volunteered for a project that everyone else thought was dull or boring."

    Most candidates would give an example of a task their boss or some other person asked them to do. This is not initiative. It requires some careful listening and follow-up questions to determine whether or not the candidate was truly proactive.

    I would also ask, "Tell me a time when you were given a project without guidance. How did you figure out what to do?"

    Here I would evaluate how thorough they assessed different options before deciding on a course of action. If there was only 1-2 options that may not indicative of a truly independent individual.
     

    Hypothetical questions

    Before the interview, I'd tell the candidate to do some pre-interview homework. For instance, "Re-design our website and bring mock-ups to the interview." or "Take a look at the Google Maps API, and hack together a mobile app."

    Based on their effort, you can evaluate their initiative.

    The truly proactive ones would likely do this anyway without prompting. ;)