In this video, learn how to prepare for success by understanding what makes product management interviews some of the most unique and challenging interviews in the world of technology.
- Interviewing for a job is one of the most intimidating things you can do in life. It's way beyond going on your first date or even going to the dentist. But even with the scary reputation that interviewing has, I'd actually say that the entire job application and interview process still doesn't get the amount of respect it deserves, why? Well, think about. Acing an interview can decide where you'll spend the majority of every day for at least the next year of your life. And this potential job will give you and maybe even your loved ones the resources you'll need for your livelihood.
On top of all of that, this job acts as a stepping stone for future jobs. Just like a bank account with compounding interest, the better the job you get now, the more you'll learn and be able to land those really high-end jobs in the future. Getting the interview right matters. Unfortunately, product management interviews are some of the hardest ones out there. But they can be made a tad bit easier if we understand what makes them so unique and challenging. So let's go through a few key traits of a PM interview that makes them challenging.
Firstly, the PM interview process tends to be much longer than it is for other jobs. In most job interview processes, you might talk to five people over three rounds of interviews that maybe last two weeks or less. In the PM world, it's not uncommon to see an interview process involve over 10 different people and have five to 10 rounds. In fact, one of my previous jobs took eight rounds of interviews where I spoke to 15 different people in three different timezones, really. The reason for talking to so many different people is because your job involves working with stakeholders from nearly every department.
And as you might have guessed, with the scheduling challenge of so many interviewers, the entire process might take anywhere from three to eight weeks. Secondly, product management tends to be a position that is implemented differently at different companies or in different industries. For that reason, the way that people interview PM candidates varies. Some companies might be fine with some phone and in-person interviews where you just talk. But there's other ones that prefer you be on-site and doing physical exercises like drawing out concepts on a whiteboard.
Still others might prefer you to do a take home case study. It's tough to predict the format of a PM interview, so you need to be prepared for any circumstance. Third, it's difficult to be absolutely certain that someone is competent for the role. If you boil it down, the purpose of the job interview is to find out two things. One, that you fit with your company culture, and two, that you can do the job you're applying for. If you talk to someone for enough time seeing whether or not they fit within the company culture is relatively easy.
If you want to see if a designer or engineer can do a job, you can get a pretty good idea of their skillset by checking out their previous portfolios, opensource code contributions, or something like a design or coding test. But when it comes to product management, it's very difficult to assess whether someone has the appropriate amount of skill in a wide-range of PM responsibilities like leadership, analytics, and decision-making under pressure. Not to mention the fact that it's a very autonomous role that has the potential to seriously hurt or benefit a company's revenue.
So then, it should come as no surprise that interviewers have to ask a variety of questions, and use a number of exercises to assess a candidate, even after all the questions and exercises in the world, it's nearly impossible to be certain that someone is a perfect fit until long after they've been hired. Okay, so these are some of the traits that make PM interviews unique and challenging. Keep these traits in mind as you prepare for your interviews to ensure you're giving yourself the best chance of getting the job.