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Practical Guide for Product Management Interview Prep

There are a lot of fantastic articles on how to prep for Product Management interviews. Here is my version of a Practical Guide to the process. It is mainly based on my experience in giving 50+ Interviews and preparing for these interviews for 6 months.

As tables have turned, in my current role I have also taken 50+ interviews for various Product Management roles in Gojek. This is a mixed account of learning from both the experiences for the same objective.

Preparing for product management interviews has been a rewarding journey in itself. My understanding of how to build products also improved a lot in that process. There were shameful failures that taught me grit and pushed me in the right direction. On two occasions my interview got over in 15 minutes as I could not answer even the very basic questions which showed my utter lack of clarity. In one of my mock interviews, I just choked and did not know what to say next.

This one was the lowest point in my prep. But thanks to a thoughtful PM on the other side who handheld and carefully guided me to overcome that phase. It was only an upward trajectory after that point.

How to get started?

I recommend start with Decode and Conquer. Easy to understand and non-theoretical guide to start with your prep. It offers very clear CIRCLES and AARM framework which is a great way to answer Product questions in an interview.

  • Solve problems given in the book without looking at the solution mentioned
  • Get in the mindset of understanding the situation, the user, and their problems
  • Define each step clearly and state any assumption you are making

Single biggest mistake candidates make in answering a Product Question is “Jumping to solution without understanding and defining problem statement”.

This is a RED flag.

Using the above method will help avoid this mistake.

Mocks, Mocks, Mocks

Once you are done with the book, next step is to practice application of these concepts to real interview questions

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The shorter feedback cycle with some value delivered is the key to building a right product. The same is true with interview prep. Get fast feedback on your preparation and iterate on improving your thought process. This will help in:

  • Getting to know early where you are going wrong
  • Enormously improve verbal communication and structuring thoughts
  • Generate confidence with unbiased feedback on what you are doing right
  • Get perspective of others on the same questions you attempted (this is a great learning opportunity)
  • Network with others in the same boat as you and with experienced Product Managers

Best sources to get mocks

Schedule 1 mock in 2 days period to start with. Do a retro after each interview and focus on things to improve → What went right, What went wrong, What do I commit to next

As you move forward with the prep, move to 1 or even 2 mocks in a day to iterate faster based on time available.

Typically a mock session is for an hour. 30 minutes for each person to answer a question another person has asked. Makes the best of your mock session.

  • Keep a list of 5–10 product questions one of which you ask in your mocks. (Questions from my interviews in the end)
  • Repeat these questions with different mock givers
  • Once you are comfortable with the interview rhythm, make sure you are keeping track of time and finish in stipulated time
  • Give constructive and appreciative feedback and ask for the same

In an interview, the maturity of response is expected based on the candidate’s past experience and level she is applying for. But irrespective of the level there are some frameworks that work at all levels.

Intercom Article product management mental models

Ruthless Prioritization

I love Brandon Chu’s blog 😍

Good to Great

One of the challenges candidates face and I also faced in interviews is coming up with a great solution which cements your chances of success. Reasoning from fundamental principles is the single concept that has transformed my success levels in interviews and otherwise.

Here are some of the other content I have learned from.

The First Principles Method Explained by Elon Musk

James Clear on First Principles

The First Principles of Product Management by Brandon Chu

Diwakar Kaushik’s Blog on First Principles

First-principles thinking is a mindset that gets developed by practice. I am also learning 🙂

Questions from my actual interviews

  • You are a product manager for a theme park company. Design a mobile app so that incoming visitors have the best in-park experience when they visit.
  • Design an internal web portal for employees to book a cab for their daily commute
  • Design a futuristic remote control for a smart TV
  • Design a solution for a small restaurant to improve its revenue
  • Design a consolidated job post email. User can click on a job to apply
  • Improve engagement on LinkedIn

Make an attempt to these or other product interview questions. I’ll be happy to discuss and give feedback. Do comment below in the comments section.  You can also schedule a mock interview with me here.

Good luck with your interview prep. Hope you shine!

About author

I am currently working as a Product Manager with Gojek where I am building customer-centric products.