How to prepare for a Facebook product manager interview

How to prepare for a Facebook product manager interview

Landing a PM job at Facebook is tough but it's worth the effort.

After all, Facebook PMs have an opportunity to shape one of the biggest, most influential products in the world and their alumni go on to do great things (e.g., Matt Cohler, now a General Partner at Benchmark Capital or Josh Elman, now VP of Product Management at Robinhood).

In this deep dive, we'll present a high level plan for preparing for your Facebook PM interviews:

  1. What is Facebook looking for in PM candidates
  2. Sample questions and tips on how to prepare
  3. How to gain a leg up by diving into metrics and culture

Understand Facebook's hiring criteria

First, let's understand how Facebook defines the responsibilities of a product manager. Here are the 7 key responsibilities they list on their PM job listings:

Ultimately, Facebook assesses whether you'll be able to perform the PM job by assessing you in the three core categories: 1) product sense 2) execution and 3) leadership.

Product sense

Product sense is the key category. Why? Well, if you're a great executor and great leader, but you can't design a great end-to-end product experience, then product management is going to be poor fit.

Here interviewers will be trying to assess the following capabilities:

  • Setting a product vision and strategy: Does the candidate have a strong grasp of why product(s) exist and what they're trying to accomplish?
  • Building and creating new products: Can the candidate concieve of product ideas, features and improvements and credibly describe (e.g., draw rough wireframes) how to implement them?
  • Assessing customer needs: Can the candidate put him/herself in the customer's shoes and clearly understand the needs and pain points of the user base?

Execution

This category is all about getting things done.

As a PM, much of the fun strategy work falls into the product sense bucket, but a bulk of the day-to-day work is in executing on a product plan, getting a product live and iterating to make it a success.

Here interviewers will dig into the tactical skills that help you execute well:

  • Geting stuff done: Will the candidate be able to juggle multiple priorities - big and small - (e.g., roadmapping, bug triaging, working with sales and execs, etc.) and still ship great product?
  • Gathering and analyzing data: Can the candidate identify the right data needed to make decisions, acquire that data and run analysis to arrive at the right product decisions?
  • Determining root cause: Will the candidate be able to methodically investigate bugs, operational hiccups, etc. that come up during the course of the day?
  • Prioritizing features/bugs: Can the candidate lay out a clear framework, prioritize features within it and articulate a clear rationale for doing so?

Leadership and drive

Leadership and drive is essential to the Facebook PM role.

More so than other major tech companies (e.g., Google, Amazon), Facebook prides itself on hiring entreprenurial talent for its PM ranks because it wants PMs who have a track record of demonstrated leadership (e.g., CEO of a startup) and the drive to accomplish tough tasks.

  • Self-awareness and EQ: Does the candidate have a balanced sense of themselves? Do they understand their own strengths and weaknesses and how others perceive them?
  • Drive: Is the candidate determined to make an impact and will he/she break through barriers to make it happen?
  • Visionary: Does the candidate have innovative, exciting, meaningful ideas for what the future looks like?
  • Team leadership: Can the candidate use the aforementioned skills and traits to successfully motivate a team to follow him/her even though they don't have formal reporting authority?

Drill yourself on the core skills Facebook is testing for

Like all tests, knowing what's going to be on it is only the start of the battle.

Dedicated PM interview question practice

At some point, you have to sit down and drill yourself on the types of questions that will come up in an interview.

There are a ton of ways to do this. You could ask a friend to quiz you. You could use the Facebook product and make up sample questions for yourself. Or you could use something like RocketBlocks PM prep to work through sample PM questions and answers (with embedded concept reviews).

Regardless of the method, don't go into the interview cold turkey. To help kick the preparation off, here are some sample questions to think about:

Product sense sample questions

  • How would you improve would Facebook pages?
  • What's the best feature on a competing social network? Why?
  • If you had to redesign the Facebook news feed, how would you do it?

Execution sample questions

  • The DAU for Facebook Messenger is down 4.3% WoW. How would you determine what's going on?
  • You've just launched a brand new feature on Facebook pages. How would you measure its success?
  • In the next two weeks, your team can either fix a bug or launch a new feature. How would you decide which to do?

Leadership sample questions

  • Tell us about a time you led a team to a great result despite significant challenges.
  • Pick an industry and tell us about how it will be different in 5 years and how Facebook could play a role.
  • Tell us about a dispute you had with a colleague. How did you navigate that and what was the resolution?

Build knowledge of Facebook as a business and company culture

Everyone knows Facebook as a user. In fact, there is a meaningful percentage probability that you've used Facebook today already (and maybe even multiple times.)

However, if you're interviewing for a Facebook PM role it's important to start thinking about Facebook as a business and company - not just a product you use.

There are many ways to do this, but an incredibly helpful exercise can be to start by understanding how Facebook thinks of itself as a company. One great way to do this is to think about what metrics matter to them and how those have trended over time.

Key business metrics

We've gone into the key metrics in great detail in our Facebook data pack here, but here we'll highlight some solid starting points.

User growth and engagement

As a business built on advertising revenues, it's critical that Facebook grows and maintains a large base of users who they can effectively monetize by selling ads to advertisers that want to reach that base.

While no one is going to directly quiz you on DAU or MAU, understanding these baseline metrics provides helpful context. For example, if you're asked about how to increase MAU by 5%, if you know that MAU is already 2.2B you'll know how big of a challenge that would be.

Monetization

Furthermore, understanding Facebook's ability to monetize those users is critical as well.

For example, many casual observers (and some investors) often lump Facebook and Twitter together when discussing social network monetization. Despite some similarities in the types of ads they serve, there are massive deltas in how effective each company is at monetizing users (e.g., Facebook's ARPU is 2-3X higher than Twitter's.).

Company culture

Finally, take the time to learn more about Facebook's culture.

If you have friends already working at Facebook, ask them if you can take them out for coffee or jump on a quick call to learn more about what's it like on the inside. If you don't have connections on the inside, it's worth scouring YouTube and other sources online to find Facebook leaders talking about their vision and the product.

Below, we've highlighted one oldie but goodie where then VP of Product, Chris Cox (now Facebook's Chief Product Officer), discusses the Facebook news feed, the social graph and his long term vision.

Next steps: further reading