product manager interview

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.

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Product Manager: From Interviewee to Employee by Rohan Katyal

After talking to several product managers (PMs) and understanding the interview process, it was evident to me that getting the right job wasn’t going to be easy. Several aspects of the process were a mystery to me (and some still are!). This post highlights my learnings from preparing for interviews and accepting the position of a Product Manager - New Grad at Yelp.

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Getting Started

  1. I bought all the essential reading material - PM Interview Questions, Interview Math and Decode and Conquer (all are authored by Lewis Lin).

  2. I started looking into the companies I was interested in. I researched the mission, values, skills the company looked for, whether I would be a good culture fit, product growth and whether their mission resonated with me.

Mock Interviews

In all, I scheduled more than 100 mock interviews through the Slack community during my internship and full-time job search. The interviews usually lasted for 1 hour and 15 minutes comprising of two 30 minute long interviews where each individual took turns to interview the other followed by 15 minutes of feedback. I usually found questions to ask on Glassdoor. I tried to make it a two-way interaction by asking questions, taking pauses and often checking if they were following.

To my surprise, I learned a great deal by interviewing other people. I found it helpful to take note of what I liked about the interviewee and tried to incorporate those strategies into my own. This helped me develop a keen eye for product design, come up with creative ideas and pay attention to detail.
I suggest that you try to do at least 5 mocks for each category of questions (elaborated below).  This practice will help you think on your feet, build muscle memory and tackle unexpected follow-ups in the interview. Don’t hesitate to do mock interviews even when you feel less confident about your preparation. I cannot emphasize enough the utility of mock interviews. This will allow you to identify what truly differentiates you from other candidates. To find partners for mock interviews, I signed up for the PMInterview Slack team and reached out to friends and school alumni.

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Product Design Questions

Product design is one of the most important PM interview question categories. I started by preparing my own framework - a modified version of the popular CIRCLES method. You should stick to what works best for you.

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In order to empathize with the user in question, I define a good mix of user personas in the beginning and then describe their demographics, values, and characteristics. I think of people I already know while outlining the personas. Several resources on building user personas are available online. I particularly like the IDEO ones.

The personas need to be complemented with unique and creative ideas. I read technology blogs like Stratechery, subscribe to newsletters like Springwise and listen to podcasts like Exponent to help me with that. Being aware of market trends and competing products in the market made the task of coming up with good ideas easier. I also practiced wire-framing solutions with designer friends of mine. This makes it easier to explain to the interviewer what the solution looks like and ensure that both of you have the same idea in mind.

Products You Like/Dislike Questions

I picked five products I liked and five I didn’t. For each product, I brainstormed the user personas, what utility it serves, its shortcomings and how it can be improved. Before interviewing with a particular company, focus on its products along with  a few others.

I applied this process to different classes of products: apps (such as LinkedIn and Google Trips), services (such as supermarket checkout) and physical products (such as wearables).  

Behavioral Questions

After identifying qualities that the company cares about, I prepared a spreadsheet with those qualities along the rows and past experiences along the columns. I referred to the company’s website and Amazon leadership principles to fill the rows. Then, I filled the cells with a few stories from my past experiences highlighting those qualities, in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format.

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I practiced my pitch in front of the mirror and with my friends. I wasn’t able to complete the spreadsheet in one iteration. Talking to friends and colleagues helped in discovering qualities and remembering incidents I hadn’t thought of. Stories should be authentic otherwise the delivery makes it evident that they are either rehearsed or made up. Additionally, I kept a 30-second and a 2-minute ‘About Me’ pitch handy.

Analytical/Experimentation/Metrics Questions

Usually, one of the interviews is dedicated to evaluating the candidate’s analytical ability. It is essential to have your metrics game on point. My strategy is to define the key actions that the user needs to perform (such as upload a picture or save an article) and then describe how this can be best measured using the available data. In order to focus on the primary metric, I eliminate all that aren’t actionable.

Being prepared for statistical questions about A/B testing and usage experiments helped me tackle the rare curveball. I read Lean Analytics (by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz) and PM Interview Questions to have a strong understanding of product metrics. I also spent time on SQL for questions pertaining to the actual computation.

Problem Solving Questions

I practiced for these by breaking the problem into smaller problems and solving for each subpart separately to come up with the overall solution. I developed a framework to fall back on for problem-solving questions. The examples in the book PM Interview Questions are a good representation of what to expect.

Technical Questions

Be prepared for typical technical questions such as ‘What happens when you type google.com in the browser?’ and ‘How would you explain machine learning to a 5-year-old?’. You could also be asked system design questions like ‘How would you go about designing Twitter?’ and ‘How would you design a Google search type-ahead?’. I also studied how scalability is ensured by different companies on highscalability.com and practiced questions on Gainlo and Interview Bit. For coding questions, I studied Leetcode and did a few mock interviews on Pramp.

The most critical piece of advice I got was from a friend of mine who told me to not just be prepared but to be over-prepared. I have now realized that is what gives you confidence during the interview. As Louis Pasteur said ‘luck favors the prepared mind’!
 


Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback, feel free to comment below or reach out on LinkedIn. Thank you, Megha Arora, Aryan Chhabria, Abhivyakti Saxena and Raghav Sethi for your invaluable insights!

Originally published on @rohankatyal.

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Rohan Katyal is an incoming product manager at Yelp in the data products team. Presently, he is a human-computer interaction graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology. Previously, Rohan worked as a product management intern at Yahoo (now Oath), as a research associate at INRIA Sophia Antipolis Méditerranée and as a mentor at Google Summer of Code. He holds a degree in computer science from IIIT Delhi.

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

Since I released The Product Manager Interview, here's the top question I've received:

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: 164 Actual Questions and Answers 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.

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Kudos for The Product Manager Interview: Lewis C. Lin's New Book by Lewis Lin

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My newest release, The Product Manager Interview, is out!

I'm happy to announce that sales have absolutely exceeded all of my expectations. Two weeks after it's release, it continues to hold the Amazon's #1 spot for new release in job interviewing.

And readers are finally getting the book in their hands. Here's a nice note that one reader sent about his experience with the new book.

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With the winter break around the corner, I can't think of a better book for those who are getting ready for product management interviews...either for now or for interviews in the new year.

Conquer those interviews,

Lewis C. Lin

What is the AARM Method™? by Lewis Lin

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Sometimes referred to as AARM Metrics™, the AARM Method™ is an analytical framework that defines the metrics for a product. This four letter acronym refers to acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization:

  • Acquisition: Tracking customer signups for a service. The bar for signing up for a service has gotten lower and lower, thanks to the popularity of free signup and pay later “freemium” models. The typical acquisition metric to track is lazy registrations or app downloads.
  • Activation: Getting users that have completed a lazy registration to register fully. For a social networking site like Google+, this may include uploading a photo or completing their profile page.
  • Retention: Getting users to use the service often and behave in a way that helps the user or business. Key metrics include adding more information to their profile page, checking the news feed frequently or inviting friends to try the service.
  • Monetization: Collecting revenue from users. It could include the number of people who are paying for the service or the average revenue per user (ARPU).

For more information and examples on how to use the AARM Method™ refer to Lewis C. Lin's book: Decode and Conquer.

Another Win for the PM Interview Community: Amazon Web Services by Lewis Lin

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I'm happy to announce another win for the product manager interview community: a job offer with Amazon's AWS team!

If you're looking to the join the PM interview community, you can find details here.

Lastly, you mind find these two remaining Amazon product management resources to be helpful: