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Famous sketch note artist, Sacha Chua, put together the ultimate product manager interview cheat sheet. This beautiful one-page visual summarizes tips, advice, and framework from my book, Decode and Conquer, the world’s first book focused on product management interview preparation.

Sacha’s cheat sheet covers all the goodies from the book:

  • CIRCLES Method™ for answering product design questions
  • AARM Method™ for answering metrics questions
  • DIGS Method™ for answering behavioral interview questions

And her cheat sheet doesn’t stop there. It has reminders on how to solve technical, estimation, strategy, and stress interview questions.

There wasn’t enough room to fit all the interview answers from the book, so do check out Decode and Conquer.

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For those of you preparing for a Google product manager interview, here’s what Google recruiting is sending to its product manager candidates:

Interviewing can be scary and intimidating. At Google, we hope the interviews will be challenging and enjoyable. As we aim to hire generalists, you can expect to interview with APMs and PMs working on any number of our products – our interviews are centered on problem solving ability so there won’t be many questions about specific experiences or domains.

In preparation, you can expect discussions around the following:

*Product design – Thinking creatively/critically about products – eg. how to monetize twitter, how to change Gmail, design an app for the Louvre. Give feedback and analysis on features (think of how to best delight the user), technical design, UI design.

*Product strategy – Understand Google’s competitive landscape and discuss the vision for Google, the mobile market, the ad market, the internet, and technology in general. Discuss long term product roadmaps and strategies to increase market share.

*Analytical – May be a market analysis, problem solving or brain teaser question, eg. how would you store all the phone calls in the world? Most important is attention to detail and communication of how you’d break the problem into smaller nuggets to reach an overall solution.

*Technical – You could be asked architecture/design (eg. multi-tiered web apps, data storage in databases) or conceptual questions (eg. internet technologies and protocols). Possibly even an algorithm/coding or two.

Photo credit: Jurvetson

ProductCampSeattle2013LewisLin

I gave a talk yesterday on How to Ace the Product Management Interview at Product Camp 2013, hosted here in Seattle. For those of you who are looking for slides, I’ve uploaded them to Slideshare and embedded them below.

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If you’re preparing for a product management interview, you’ll encounter case interview questions. I’ve included 12 case interview questions relating to strategic, business, and product design issues here.

Strategic & Business Issues

  • Amazon cannot get enough Nintendo consoles.  What should Amazon do when visitors find that it’s out of stock?
  • There is no Amazon.cz. That is, citizens in the Czech Republic cannot purchase from Amazon. What issues should Amazon evaluate before deciding whether they should start selling in the Czech Republic?
  • The US government recently submitted a bill to tax all online sales. Pick a pro or con side of the argument, and explain your position.
  • Walk me through Amazon’s marketing plan for the new Xbox.
  • How can Amazon convince users to write more product reviews?
  • Should Amazon decrease payouts to Amazon Associates?
  • What is the lifetime value of a Kindle user?
  • How can Google+ get its users to add more friends to their network? How would that help Google+?
  • Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?
Design
  • Create a mobile app to help adults learn new hobbies.
  • Design a new shopping app.
  • Pick a product from the kitchen and redesign it.

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SEE ALSO: Google Product Marketing Manager Interview Questions and Answers

The Google product marketing manager (PMM) interview is different from other marketing job interviews. There are more questions about hypothetical marketing cases. And they value creativity more than other companies. This post will discuss what to expect and how to prepare for the Google PMM interview.

What to Expect

Google evaluates PMM candidates in 4 different areas:

  • Marketing aptitude. Google PMMs can architect a marketing plan that logically drives specific business goals. PMMs sweat the details too. For instance, they write communication doc that serves as a source of truth for all product marketing materials, whether it’s a sales training deck, website copy, or TV ad campaign. PMMs are well-versed in SEO, SEM, and social media tactics. They understand the value of A/B testing ad copy and landing pages. They can write first draft for a viral marketing video script. For your interview, expect questions such as:
    • Tell me a terrible product that’s marketed well.
    • Tell me a good product that’s marketed poorly.
    • How would you position the Samsung Chromebook?
    • If you are PMM for Google’s AdWords, how do you plan to market it?
    • Name a piece of technology you’ve read about recently. Now tell me your own creative execution for an ad for that product.
  • Communication skills. Google PMMs can communicate difficult concepts to both novice and expert audiences. For example, they can describe a generalized second price auction to AdWords advertisers. Or explain to the California State Legislature that Gmail doesn’t violate users’ privacy. Anticipate questions such as:
    • Google is thinking of increasing its minimum cost-per-click from $.01 to $.10. How would you communicate this change to advertisers?
  • Analytical skills. Google PMMs can calculate the maximum bid for an advertising tactic to achieve a 10X ROAS goal. They understand statistics as it relates to A/B testing and know what high p-values mean. Anticipate questions include:
    • How much money does Gmail make from ads?
    • How many iPhones are sold in the US each year?
  • Creativity. Google PMMs think big. Moonshot big. They don’t do marketing campaigns or creative execution just because Apple did it. They come up with clever ideas like Chrome’s Sophie campaign, YouTube’s symphony effort, and Android’s co-branding efforts with KitKat. Expect questions such as:
    • Come up with 3 creative ideas to promote Google Docs.

How to Prepare

  • Marketing aptitude. Practice leading discussions around marketing plans and strategy using a structured framework. Start with the business and marketing objective, evaluate the segments, and identify a target segment. Develop a positioning statement and then brainstorm promotional tactics. Mention pricing, distribution, and product changes — as necessary. Also practice critiquing creative execution using logical judging criteria.
  • Communication skills. Think about how to communicate difficult product changes that’s in-line with Google’s philosophy of focusing on users first.
  • Analytical skills. Practice estimation questions. Be prepared to do an ROI analysis on a marketing campaign. Refer to marketing ROI calculators for inspiration.
  • Creativity. Practice how to brainstorm lots of innovative ideas quickly. Brainstorming frameworks can help.

Also expect traditional interview questions, such as Tell Me About Yourself and Why Google? Lastly, while it hasn’t been common in the past, Google interviewers are increasingly relying on behavioral interview questions.

Photo credit: Robert Scoble

10 Product Design Questions for the PM interview

September 26th, 2013 by lewis

 

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Yesterday, I finished a coaching session with one of my clients, who’s getting ready for the Google product manager (PM) interview. He asked for additional practice questions for the product design portion of the Google PM interview. So here it is:

  1. Design a new mobile app for YouTube.
  2. Improve Google’s search engine results page for eLearning courses.
  3. Improve Google’s search engine results page for food recipes.
  4. You’re the PM for Google+. What killer feature would you develop?
  5. Design a iPad app for Google Spreadsheet.
  6. Develop a mobile app for ESPN.
  7. Redesign a garage door opener.
  8. Develop a new dating app.
  9. Develop a mobile app for Starbucks.
  10. Build a website focused on home contractor reviews.

Have an AMAZING answer to one of these questions? Email lewis (a-t) impactinterview.com with your response. We’ll feature the strongest responses on the blog.

Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann

Morning or Afternoon for a Job Interview?

September 24th, 2013 by lewis

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Is it better to schedule a job interview in the morning or afternoon? Read my recent Quora answer for details: is it better to interview in the morning or afternoon?

I came across this fantastic article, The 20 Smartest Things Jeff Bezos Has Ever Said. If you’re preparing for an Amazon job interview, it’s a fantastic glimpse into how Bezos thinks and how that thinking permeates into Amazon’s culture. In other words, reading this article can help you with the fit portion of your Amazon job interview.

Here are my favorite Bezos’ quotes from the article:

  • “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
  • “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”
  • “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.”
  •  “If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new.”
  • “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”


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SEE ALSO: LinkedIn Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Have an upcoming LinkedIn product manager (PM) interview? This post describes what to expect during the interview and how you can best prepare. For more details, tips, and sample answers to actual LinkedIn PM questions, check out our LinkedIn PM interview class video.

What to Expect

LinkedIn evaluates PM candidates in 7 different areas:

  • Product design. LinkedIn PMs can articulate a compelling product vision, develop roadmaps, and collaborate on product designs.  Questions to anticipate include:
    • How will you improve LinkedIn’s webpage?
    • What improvements would you make to the site?
    • How do you like LinkedIn’s endorse feature?
    • How would you improve the signup process of LinkedIn?
    • Design an iPhone app which lets you get news content on it.
    • How would you improve Facebook to get people to share more photos?
  • Analytic ability and data-driven orientation. LinkedIn PMs can identify a shortlist of critical metrics and make decisions of the data. Example questions include:
    • Estimate McDonald’s annual revenue.
    • How would you determine the success of a specific feature?
    • What metrics will you look at in order to evaluate the success of our product?
  • Business acumen. LinkedIn PMs understand recent trends with social media, web & mobile. They understand the customer and competitive landscape along with the threats. Example questions include:
    • Why do people use Facebook? How does Facebook increase its page views?
    • How does Facebook increase the number of users?
    • What are mechanisms which Facebook uses to keep people coming back to their website?
  • Strategy & planning. LinkedIn PMs can think strategically about business issues. They lead the analysis of the competitive environment, customers, and business goals. Sample questions include:
    • How many elevators do you need for a 40 story building?
    • If you were the CEO for Facebook what top 3 things would you do for the company?
  • Leadership. LinkedIn PMs work with the product development team to bring features to life. LinkedIn PMs influence others by being decisive and backing up their decisions with clear reasoning. Sample questions include:
    • How do you influence engineering to build a particular feature?
    • Tell me a time when you convinced an executive to reverse a critical decision.
  • Operational ability. LinkedIn PMs know how to launch products. They work with various teams such as marketing, operations, and legal to get products on the market. They know how to engage with the user community and how to use social media to drive feature awareness. Questions to anticipate:
    • What would you do to increase users signing up for LinkedIn? How will you promote a new feature?
  • Technical. LinkedIn PMs can lead engineering discussions, participate in technical brainstorming, and help assess technical trade-offs. Sample questions include:
    • Explain object oriented programming to your grandmother.

How to Prepare

  • Product design. Practice leading design discussions with a framework. Start with possible personas and detailed use cases. Prioritize the use cases and then brainstorm solutions. Invigorate the interviewer with unique, compelling ideas. Draw wire-frames on the whiteboard to help visualize your ideas. To practice, download a wire-framing tool like Balsamiq.
  • Analytic ability and data-driven orientation. Brainstorm LinkedIn’s business goals and the drivers for the goal. Identify the different ways that LinkedIn generates revenue including consumer and corporate products. Also practice estimation questions.
  • Business acumen. Empathize with the customer by going over LinkedIn (and competitive) products. Understand motivations for using the products. Walkthrough the customer funnel, analyzing what aids or hinders customers during the product journey. Read about successful customer acquisition (aka growth hack) efforts at comparable companies.
  • Strategy & planning. Use a framework like SWOT or Porter’s Five Forces to think through the various strategic issues.
  • Leadership. Prepare leadership stories from your background, using the STAR or SOARA method.
  • Operational ability. Understand what it takes to put together a go-to-market plan.
  • Technical. No need to prepare for programming interview questions, so it is unlikely you’ll get those questions at the interview. However, you may be asked about technical concepts and definitions, so take time to brush up on computer science fundamentals and web development basics.

Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri

 


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SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

This post discusses the Google product manager (PM) interview process and how you can best prepare. We also have an Google PM interview class video that goes over actual Google PM questions and provides sample answers.

What to Expect

There are five parts to the Google PM interview:

  • Product design. Google PMs put users first. PMs are zealous about providing the best user experiences. It starts with customer empathy and always includes a passion for products, down to the smallest details.  Sample questions include:
    • How would you improve Google Maps?
    • How would you reduce Gmail storage size?
    • How would you improve restaurant search?
    • What’s favorite Google product? What do you like or not like about it?
    • If you were to build the next killer feature for Google, what would it be?
    • You’re part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?
  • Analytical.  Google PMs are fluent with numbers. They define the right metrics. They can interpret and make decisions from A/B test results. They can write scripts to extract data from logs or write SQL queries. They can make their point by crisply communicating their analysis.
    • How many queries per second does Gmail get?
    • How many iPhones are sold in the US each year?
  • Cultural fit. Google PMs dream of the next moonshot idea. They lead and influence effectively.  They have a bias for action and get things done. If Google PMs were working anywhere else, they’d probably be CEOs of their own startup. Sample questions to assess cultural fit:
    • Why Google?
    • Why PM?
  • Technical. Google PMs lead product development teams. To lead effectively, PMs must have influence and credibility with engineers.  During the final round (aka onsite) interview, a senior member of the engineering team will evaluate your technical competence.  Be prepared for whiteboard coding questions at the onsite interview.  Example questions include:
    • Write an algorithm that detects meeting conflicts.
  • Strategy. Google PMs are business leaders. As a result, they must be familiar with business issues. It’s not necessary for PMs to have business experience or formal business training. However, they do expect you to pick up business intuition and judgment quickly. Sample interview questions include:
    • If you were Google’s CEO, would you be concerned about Microsoft?
    • Should Google offer a Stubhub competitor? That is, sell sports, concert, and theater tickets?

Also be prepared for behavioral interview questions such as Tell me a time when you had to influence engineering to build a particular feature. Google PM interviewers are relying more on behavioral interview questions in recent months.

What Not to Expect

Brain teasers, such as logic puzzles, are rarely used in today’s Google PM interviews. Google’s HR department found a low correlation between job performance and a candidate’s ability to solve brain teasers.  Examples of brain teasers include I roll two dice. What is the probability that the 2nd number is greater than the 1st? or What’s 27 x 27 without using a calculator or paper?

However, hypothetical questions have not been banned at all.  Hypothetical questions are imaginary situations that are related to the job. (This is in contrast with brain teasers, which are not related to the job.) Examples of hypothetical questions include How would you design an algorithm to source data from the USDA and display on Google nutrition?  Google places more emphasis on hypothetical questions than behavioral.

How to Prepare

To prepare for the Google PM interview, I would recommend the following:

  • Product design. Practice leading design discussions using a framework. Start with possible personas and detailed use cases. Prioritize use cases and brainstorm solutions. Many PM candidates (wrongly) suggest solutions that are incremental or derivatives of a competitor’s feature set. The Google interviewers are evaluating your creativity, and they place a big emphasis on big ideas (aka “moonshots”). Inspire them with unique, compelling ideas. Drawing wireframes on a whiteboard will help illustrate your ideas. To practice, download a wireframing tool like Balsamiq. Also study popular web and mobile design patterns for inspiration.
  • Technical. It’s unlikely for interviewers to ask you technical interview questions during the phone interview. But if you are invited to an on-site interview, you must prepare for programming interviews. The technical interviewer does not expect your programming syntax to be perfect, but you should have sufficient mastery of technical concepts so that you can participate in technical discussions and help make technical trade-offs.  I would recommend going over computer science fundamentals and practicing a couple coding questions.  Here’s one of my favorite resources: How to Ace the Software Engineering Interview.  Also be prepared to describe key technologies including search engines, machine learning, and MapReduce.
  • Analytical. Prepare for estimation questions such as How many queries per second does Gmail get?
  • Strategy. Use a framework to structure your strategy discussions.  If you’re not familiar with strategy or frameworks, Porter’s Five Forces is a good start.
  • Cultural fit. Understand what it means to be Googley by reading Google’s corporate philosophy. Review Google’s Android design principles. Optional readings: Google’s visual asset guidelines and Steven Levy’s 2007 (but still useful) article on the Google APM program.  Another optional, but more in-depth (and recent) perspective, read Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.

For more tips and answers about the interview process, refer to our Google PM interview class video.

SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Photo Credit: Antonio Manfredonio