How to Impress Your PM Interviewers

This PM Guide was created initially for LivingOS members in June 2020 and was recently made available to everyone.

What interviewers look for

For technical PM roles, highlight show how you have worked with engineers and asked good questions to move things forward.

  1. Must-haves: Skills that are hard to learn on the job
    1. Skills that are easy to learn: specific tools, domain knowledge, product lingo
    2. Skills that are hard to learn: growth mindset, intuition, customer empathy, design awareness, perseverance, collaboration, effective communications, navigating ambiguity, facility with data
  2. Good-to-haves: PM muscles
    1. Working with engineers and designers: Can you present a repeatable process and drive cross functional meetings?
    2. Writing specs & PRDs: Can you present a logical, data-driven analysis?
    3. Brainstorming ideas and putting together a compelling strategy: Can you synthesize the big picture from the street to the CEO?

Know the Interview Process

  1. Screening: Senior roles focus on skill match. Junior roles focus on communication, leadership, product experience.
  2. Assignments: Companies (Google, Lyft, Asana) use this as a method to screen goal-setting, customer focus, design, and product sense.
  3. Design question: Interviewers will plan the prompts & follow-up questions ahead of time. They want to know whether a candidate could design for a different audience than themselves. Also, they may push back and ask why didn’t you design it in a different way. Refer to How To Build Product Intuition and How to Nail Your Design Interviews.
  4. Analytical question: They can be tricky sometimes. Refer to How to Nail Your Analytics Interviews.
  5. Leadership question: Refer to the strategy and framework. Leadership handbook coming soon.

Entertain your interviewer

People want to work with other interesting people.

The best interviewees come in almost like entertainers. They realize that the people interviewing them are bored, they come in with ideas and anecdotes specific to the organization and tell them in an entertaining way.

Basic questions to ask

  1. What project am I going to work on? Who will I work with?
  2. How is the company culture here different than other tech companies?
    • The ratio of experienced vs new grad hires
    • how much people hang out outside of work
    • how flexible the work locations and hours are
    • how much the company values diversity
  3. Tell me about a project you worked on in the past 6 months.
    • Who proposed this project? How did it get prioritized?
    • How did you resolve/escalate disagreements amongst the project team?
    • How was your manager involved in this project?
    • If you had to do this project again, how would you do it differently?
  4. If they are a manager, ask how do they plan to grow the team?

Advanced Questions to ask

  1. What distinguish a successful hire from an average hire? What does success look like?
  2. How has the company helped you achieve your career goals?
    • Do you and your manager discuss your career goals?
    • How does your manager help you define and execute on those goals?
    • What happens when your personal goals misalign with the highest impact thing you can do at the company now?
    • How do people develop and make progress in their careers within the company?
    • How much responsibility is given to new employees when they start?
  3. What happens when things don’t go right? This can help you understand the company culture.
    • When’s the last time you felt that “wow, it was a great move”?
    • When is the last time you felt that “damn, it was a bad move”? What’d you do?
  4. How are product decisions made?
    • What is the mission and core competency of the company?
    • How do recent product launches fit into that?
    • What are some challenges the company needs to overcome to achieve its mission?
    • How does the company prioritize technical investments vs product investments?

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