The PM Guide

Three key ways to prepare for product management interviews

Kenton Kivestu, ex-Google, ex-BCG, Founder at RocketBlocks
Published: May 7, 2018 | Last updated: May 29, 2019

Imagine you're walking into a PM interview with Uber.

You've aced two interviews with other Uber PMs already and you're sitting down with the engineering lead for Uber Eats. She introduces herself, asks a few questions about your background and then drops a technical question: "How would you think about designing an API for Uber Eats?"

If your first thought is "What's an API?," the rest of the interview is likely going to be a slog.

Key product manager concepts

One key challenge of the PM job is the breadth of knowledge required.

Few jobs require someone to engage on technical issues with engineers and then minutes later context-switch to discuss the look and feel of a sign-up flow with a design team.

Thus, the first step in preparation is making sure you've got a grasp on key concepts that come up repeatedly in product management interviews (and on the job!). Below we've included a smattering of the topics that will likely pop-up:

An alternative to the laundry list

Admittedly, curating the list of potential concepts, ferreting out great content online and consuming it is tough.

Great content is out there but it originates from disparate, unique sources, assumes varying levels of background knowledge and utilizes a range of pedagogical approaches.

Due to that challenge, we created our very own RocketBlocks Product Management Concepts resource which covers the key technical, analytical, strategic and design concepts PM candidates should know when they walk into their first interview.

Core product manager skills

When you're confident on core concepts, the next step is to apply those concepts and reinforce core PM skills.

Consider the super common product management interview question: "Tell me about your favorite product and how you would improve it."

To effectively answer this question, you'll utilize a majority of skill sets we covered earlier. For example, you'll put prioritization skills to use when commenting on which features you'd add first. You might draw on UX sense when discussing how the design could be improved to support core use cases. You might highlight your analytical skills by suggesting what metrics you'd like to measure before making improvements. And certainly when walking through the answer your communication skills will be on display.

The better your underlying skills are, the more effective you'll be at answering product management interview questions. To hone those skills, we recommend three different tactics:

  1. Critique top products
  2. Debate product merit(s) and fault(s)
  3. Practice targeted skill building exercises

đź’ˇ Got a PM interview? Our PM interview drills help get you in top form

#1: Critiquing top products on ProductHunt / TechCrunch

ProductHunt and TechCrunch are great sources of new products to critique daily. For example, here is a ProductHunt thread on Uber Health. You can practice your core skills by drilling yourself on Uber Health scenarios. For example, you might ask yourself:

  • If I was the PM for Uber Health, which key metrics would I measure after launch? (Analytical)
  • What is the next feature Uber Health should launch and why? (Prioritization)
  • What are the core components of this product? What key things did Uber need to build to support this? (Technical skills)
  • What is the user experience for the providers? How could it be improved? (User experience)

#2: Debate product merit(s) and fault(s) with friends

A second option: pick a product each week and debate it with a friend. For the sake of a good debate, frame a key question and assign each person a side in the debate.

Continuing with the Uber Health example, a good framing is: "Should Uber have launched Uber Health?" One side might argue that the healthcare market is massive, has unique requirements (e.g., HIPAA compliance) and thus a dedicated product in this space makes sense. The con side might argue that a verticalized version of the core Uber product complicates the offering, requires too much custom development (e.g., HIPAA compliance) and isn't clearly differentiated enough from the core product.

Regardless of the specific arguments, you'll find this exercise helps hone your core skills. Again, it will force you to debate things like market opportunity (analytical skills), whether it should have been launched (prioritization skills), etc. As an added benefit, doing this exercise with a friend will also begin to hone your communication and persuasion skills.

#3: Using RocketBlocks PM Drills to hone skills

Obviously, friends aren't always available to debate and building robust scenarios yourself is tough (e.g., how do you know if your answers are good?).

To help PM candidates address this, RocketBlocks PM prep offers a series of real-life product scenarios designed to test all of the core skills: analytics, product strategy, prioritization, technical and user experience.

P.S. Are you preparing for PM interviews?

Real interview questions. Sample answers from PM leaders at Google, Amazon and Facebook. Plus study sheets on key concepts.