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This is a self-guided, 30-day, step-by-step interview prep guide for Google product management (PM) interviews. It’s one of the most popular features from new book, PM Interview Questions; this brand new book has 166 practice questions for product management interviews.

I’ve excerpted that Google PM study guide here.

Best of luck and hope the study guide helps with your product management interviews!

Lewis

30-Day Google PM Interview Study Guide

Day 1. Getting familiar with Google’s PM Interview

Tasks

Goal

Know the scope and nature of the Google PM interview.

Day 2. Getting familiar with the product design interview

Background Reading

  • Read about the CIRCLES design method in Decode and Conquer.
  • Review the product design examples from Decode and Conquer to see how CIRCLES is applied.

Exercises

Do the following pain point exercises in PM Interview Questions:

  • Child’s 1st Birthday Party
  • Best Handyman
  • Job Search Pain Points
  • Finding Someone to Do Taxes

Do the following customer journey map exercises in PM Interview Questions:

  • Expedia Journey
  • AirBnB Journey
  • Online Course Journey
  • Job Search Journey
  • Home Improvement Journey
  • Customer Service Journey

Goals

  • Learn about product design questions.
  • Understand the product design framework, CIRCLES.
  • Observe how others answer interview questions with CIRCLES.
  • Practice two parts of the CIRCLES framework:
    1. Listing (brainstorming) solutions
    2. Reporting customer needs (customer journey map).

Day 3. Putting product design questions together with the CIRCLES method

Exercise

Do the following product design exercises in PM Interview Questions:

  • Disney Experience with Your Phone
  • Improving Google Hangouts

Goals

  • Like a wine connoisseur, detect and deduce how your response differs from the sample. As you become attuned to the differences, your own responses will improve.
  • For now, don’t worry about response quality or speed. Getting started, by practicing, is half the battle.

Day 4 to 10. Putting product design questions together with the CIRCLES method

Exercise

Complete one example a day for the next seven days, choosing from the list of questions from PM Interview Questions, below.

  1. Improving Google Play Store
  2. Monetizing Google Maps
  3. Mobile App Design for Nest
  4. Favorite Product
  5. Favorite Website
  6. People You May Know
  7. Car for the Blind
  8. ATM for the Elderly

Goals

  • Easily explain why CIRCLES leads to better interview responses.
  • Understand when, how and why one should adapt CIRCLES.

Day 11-13. CIRCLES in Real-life

Exercise

Further improve your product design skills by applying the CIRCLES Method to real-life. For each one of the next three days:

  1. Walk around the neighborhood.
  2. As you walk, use the CIRCLES method to improve everyday items. Here are some design problems you can ponder:
  • How can sidewalks be improved?
  • How can street lamps be more effective?
  • Build a product to solve the dog poop problem.
  • What new products can prevent flat tires in cars or bikes?
  • What innovation can make gardening less of a chore?
  • What innovative new product can make park gatherings be more social, with strangers?

Goal

Acculturating a product design mindset 24 hours a day, both at the interview and in your everyday life.

Day 14*. Find a practice partner for product design

Exercise

Sign up for the product management interview practice group on Slack: bit.ly/PMInterviewGroup

Post a request for a partner or partners in the #req-practice-ptr channel.

Take turns during your practice session. That is, Partner A (interviewer) gives a case to Partner B (interviewee). Then, swap roles.

Coordinate in advance which case each person will receive; to simulate the interview environment, the interviewee should do a case that they are not familiar with. The interviewer should take time to acquaint themselves with the question and the sample answer.

* Repeat the partner practice activity as often as you would like. The best candidates will have practiced at least 20 product design cases.

Goal

Master the product design interview. It is the number one reason why candidates fail the Google PM interview. If you have committed yourself to thoughtful practice, you should be an expert when it comes to tackling product design questions. Use the guidelines below to gauge your product design proficiency:

  • A novice suggests the obvious or copies competitive features. An expert suggests novel and memorable ideas. An expert suggests ideas that make the interviewer go, “Hmm, I wish I thought of that; maybe I should build a company based off of that idea.”
  • A novice mentions user insights that are shallow. The novice does not take interest in users or their motivations. The novice is deficient in user empathy. The expert is a lifelong learner of human psychology and behavior. An expert continually asks questions about what people do and why they do it. As a result, an expert easily points out insights that are urgent, relevant and surprising.
  • A novice follows the CIRCLES method step-by-step, like a home cook trying to make a sophisticated soufflé for the first time. The novice is afraid of making mistakes and clings tightly to a prescribed framework. The novice is so busy trying to recall the different steps of the CIRCLES framework that the novice’s responses sound robotic and textbook. The expert understands that a framework is a checklist, not a recipe. The expert understands that CIRCLES is there to prevent errors of omission. CIRCLES is there to help ensure that the listener’s experience is complete, satisfying and possibly even entertaining.

Day 15. Getting familiar with the metrics interview

Background Reading

  • Read about the AARM framework in Decode and Conquer.
  • Read metrics examples in Decode and Conquer to get familiar with metrics questions in an interview setting.

Exercises

Do the following metrics brainstorming exercises in PM Interview Questions:

  • Metrics for eCommerce
  • Metrics for Two-sided marketplaces
  • Metrics for SaaS
  • Metrics for Mobile Apps
  • Metrics for Publishers
  • Metrics for User-Generated Website
  • Metrics for Support Tickets

Do the following metrics prioritization exercises in PM Interview Questions:

  • Most Important Metric: Two-Sided Marketplace
  • Most Important Metric: Mobile App
  • Most Important Metric: eCommerce

Goal

Get more familiarity in coming up with and identifying good metrics.

Day 16. Diagnosing metrics problems

Exercises

Complete the following examples in this book, on your own or with a partner:

  • Shopping Cart Conversions
  • Mobile App Ratings
  • Reddit Posts

Goals

Gain proficiency in brainstorming a complete and exhaustive list of issues when troubleshooting a metric.

Day 17 and 18. Putting the metrics problem together

Exercises

Complete one example a day for the next seven days, both on your own and with your practice partner, from this book.

  • Your Favorite Google Product
  • Drop in Hits
  • Declining Users
  • Slow Download on Kindle
  • Pinterest Metrics
  • Go-to-Market and Success
  • Metrics for Uber Pick-up

Goals

Build proficiency in identifying, prioritizing and diagnosing metrics issues.

Day 19. Getting familiar with the estimation interview

Tasks

  • Read about estimation questions in Interview Math.
  • Read the following estimation examples in Interview Math to get familiar.
    • Women’s Rain Boot Market
    • Smartphone Case Market
    • Subway’s Sales
    • Netflix Subscription Sales

Goals

  1. Learn about estimation questions.
  2. Learn how to setup estimation questions using issue trees.
  3. Learn how to make assumptions.
  4. Try the following estimation questions:
    1. Cars in Seattle
    2. How Many Google Apps Users
    3. Revenue from YouTube Red

Day 20. Practice estimation questions

Tasks

Complete one example a day, from this book, for the next seven days.

  1. Planes in the Air
  2. Gmail Ads Revenue
  3. Google Buses
  4. Gmail Costs
  5. Driverless Car Purchases in 2020
  6. Storing Google Maps
  7. Facebook’s Ad Revenue

Goals

Master estimation questions. Not only is response quality important, but also you should complete most estimation questions in about 10 to 15 minutes.

Day 22. Learn more about strategy questions

Tasks

Read the following chapters in Decode and Conquer.

  • Strategizing: Tradeoffs
  • Strategizing: New Market Entry
  • Strategizing: CEO-Level Issues

Goals

  • Learn about common strategy question types.
  • Figure out how to approach strategy questions using frameworks.
  • See how the frameworks are applied to common PM strategy questions.

Day 23. Practice strategy questions

Tasks

Practice the following strategy questions, in this book, either on your own or with your practice partner:

  1. Google’s TV Cable Service
  2. iPhone Exclusive Partnership

Goals

Provide a response that is thoughtful, logical and addresses the company’s objectives. For more examples of thoughtful strategy responses, refer to the popular blog, stratechery.com.

Day 24. Learn more about pricing questions

Tasks

Read the “Pricing” chapter in Rise Above the Noise.

Goals

  • Learn about pricing questions, including the difference between pricing new vs. existing products.
  • Figure out how to approach pricing questions using frameworks.
  • See how to apply pricing frameworks to popular questions.

Day 25. Practice pricing questions

Tasks

Practice the following pricing questions, either on your own or with your practice partner:

  • Pricing New Products
    • Google Driverless Car Pricing
    • Google and Teleportation
  • Pricing Existing Products
    • AWS Price Reduction
    • Kindle Pricing at Target

Goals

  1. Google’s Strategy
  2. Google vs. Microsoft
  3. Google Moonshot Projects
  4. Google Maps in Mongolia
  5. Google Store

Day 26. Traditional and Behavioral Questions

Tasks

  • Read the “Winning the Behavioral Interview” chapter in Decode and Conquer.
  • Draft and polish your answers for the following questions:
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • Why Google?
    • Influencing your team
  • Practice and get feedback from your practice partner

Goals

While Google has an affinity for case questions, you should spend some time preparing for traditional and behavioral questions. Google interviewers usually ask traditional icebreaker questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why Google?” However, behavioral interview questions like “Tell me a time when you influenced a team” is a newer occurrence. Google’s HR department, since 2013, has asked its PM interviewers to ask more behavioral interview questions.

Day 27. Getting Familiar with Technical Interview Questions

Tasks

Review the technical topics suggested in: bit.ly/PMPrepPlan

Goals

Gain familiarity with technical concepts and questions. At Google, technical interview questions are reserved for on-site interviews, usually for candidates who have succeeded in other parts of the interview such as product design, analytics and strategy questions.

Day 28. First Try at Technical Interview Questions

Tasks

Attempt the following technical interview questions:

  • 100-Story Building and Two Eggs
  • Reducing Bandwidth Consumption

Goals

Try some technical interview questions, with a focus on calming your nerves and approaching questions with open curiosity. The “100-Story Building and Two Eggs” question is an example of an algorithm question. “Reducing Bandwidth Consumption” is an example of a technical architecture question.

Day 29-30*. Second Try at Technical Interview Questions

Tasks

Attempt the following technical interview questions from PM Interview Questions:

  • Load Balancer for Google.com
  • Dictionary for Scrabble
  • Google Search Services
  • Bayesian vs. AI

* Repeat the technical interview practice activity, as necessary.

Goals

Build confidence tackling technical interview questions.

Photo Credit: Google Inc

Email Templates for Responding to Interview Request

Congratulations! You received an interview invitation! Let’s get started on a professional response that will have recruiters and hiring managers wanting more. For inspiration, take a look at our email and phone call/voicemail templates below.

Be Prompt

The response to an interview request should always be done on the same or next day. The sooner the better, so check your email and voicemail frequently!

Structuring Your Interview Response

Respond to email invitation requests through email. Phone calls should be answered personally (if possible), and given a call back if they go to voicemail.

The structure of your interview response should include:

  1. Formal greeting and salutation (exp: Dear Mr./Ms.).
  2. Thanking the recruiter/hiring manager and accepting the invitation.
  3. Confirmation of scheduling details (date, time, interviewer, location).
  4. Alternative time and date if you have a scheduling conflict.
  5. Request for a reply to confirm interview scheduling details.
  6. Proper closing salutations (exp: Sincerely, Regards, Yours).
  7. Include your full name, phone number, and/or email.

If needed: Answer any questions from the employer, or ask any questions about the interview process.

Email Template

The following template can be used for email interview invitations:

Dear Mr./Ms. [Recruiter or Hiring Manager],

Thank you for inviting me to an interview for the [Job Title] position at [Company]. I appreciate you considering me for the position and I look forward to meeting you soon.

As per your availability, I would like to schedule the interview on [Day of the Week], [Date] at [Time, AM/PM, Timezone] in the [Company Office] at [Address]. Please let me know if the time and interview location works for you.

I am excited to learn more about the opportunities at [Company]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Your Phone Number]

Phone Call/Voicemail Template

The following template can be used for phone calls or voicemail:

Mr./Ms. [Recruiter or Hiring Manager],

Thank you for calling me to schedule an interview. I’m sorry that I couldn’t take your call earlier. I am available to interview with you on [Day of the Week], [Date] at [Time, AM/PM, Timezone]. I understand the interview will be held in [Company Office] at [Address].

Please let me know if the time and interview location works for you. I look forward to meeting you soon. To contact me, please call me at this number or email me at [Email Address].

Thank you,

[Your Name]

Additional Interview Invite Tips

  • First impressions are important, so make your invitation response count.
  • Set the tone for your interview with a professional and formal response.
  • Proofread emails and check for spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Avoid abbreviations, emoticons, fancy fonts, backgrounds, or images.
  • Do not include attachments in your response unless specifically asked for.
  • Do not CC, forward, or include multiple people in the invitation email.
  • Interviews are first-come, first-serve so be timely with your response.
  • If you have any urgent questions, don’t be afraid to call!
market-sizing-example-from-interview-math-book-1

Source: Interview Math Book, Market Sizing Example

What are estimation questions?

Estimation questions test your ability to approximate a value. Here are some examples one might encounter in an interview:

  • What is the market size of disposable diapers in China?
  • Estimate annual sales for Starbucks’ retail stores in the United States.
  • Estimate summer sales of Disneyland tickets in the United States.

Some candidates refer to estimation questions by its catchier portmanteau, guesstimates.

What are the different types of estimation questions?

There are different types of estimation questions; market sizing and revenue estimations are two of the most common.

What is a market sizing question?

In the phrase “market sizing questions,” “market size” refers to a total addressable market. That is, what would be a company’s revenue if it had 100% market share of a category? For example, an interviewer may ask you the following market sizing estimation question: “What is the market size of disposable diapers in China?”

Market size is usually stated in terms of revenue, but some interviewers may define it in terms of units sold. To minimize miscommunication, clarify with the interviewer.

Examples of market sizing questions include:

  • What is the market size of women’s rain boots in Seattle?
  • What is the market size of toothbrushes in the United States?
  • What is the market size of real Christmas trees in the United States?

What is a revenue estimation question?

For revenue estimations, a candidate is expected to calculate company, product, or service revenues.

Examples of revenue estimation questions include:

  • Estimate annual sales for Subway restaurants in the United States.
  • Estimate annual sales of Target’s brick-and-mortar stores in the United States.
  • Estimate annual sales of Netflix online streaming subscriptions in the United States.

Why do interviewers ask these questions?

Interviewers use estimation questions to evaluate a candidate’s:

  • Problem solving skills. Can a candidate take an unfamiliar problem and develop a plan to solve it confidently?
  • Communication skills. Can the candidate clearly communicate his or her action plan to the interviewer? Is it easy-to-follow? Or does the interviewer have to ask an excessive number of clarifying questions to unravel the candidate’s thoughts?
  • Analytical dexterity. Can the candidate confidently calculate numbers in real-time? Or is the candidate hesitant? Does the candidate rely on using a calculator or computer to crunch numbers? Or does the candidate needlessly round up numbers to oversimplify calculations?
  • Judgment. Does the candidate choose reasonable assumptions, backed by logical thinking? Or is the candidate too casual and sloppy?

Some may deride estimation interview questions as not having real-world applicability. However, estimation is a skill that helps professionals do their jobs. For example, if you are store keeper, your responsibilities include figuring out how much inventory to order. If you are an equity analyst, you may estimate a firm’s future enterprise value.

Estimation can also help with decision-making. Here is an example: let us say we are evaluating a business decision; we want to open a new McDonald’s in our city. To breakeven, we need to generate $500,000 in sales. There are several McDonalds’ stores already, which means we are not going to get many customers.

Given this constraint, let us say for the sake of argument, we deduced that each visitor needs to spend $150 to breakeven. Yikes! We just identified a flaw in the investment thesis. A typical McDonald’s customer spends $8; getting customers to spend $150 per visit is a big stretch. To summarize, the estimation example showed how our calculations identified a faulty sales per visitor assumption.

What are they looking for in an ideal response?

Here is what interviewers would consider as a top notch answer to an estimation question:

  • Logical plan of action that is easily understood. Interviewers want to feel confident (and you should feel confident too) that you have a clear plan when solving an ambiguous estimation problem. Good candidates communicate a plan that not only gets them to the right answer but also easy for the listener to follow along.
  • Communication skills. Interviewers do not just want to hear the answer. They also want to hear the thinking too. So candidates who silently solve a problem on their own and resurface in five minutes will not do well. Communicating one’s thoughts is critical to sharing knowledge and gaining buy-in to one’s approach.
  • Choose reasonable assumptions with clear explanations. Interviewers would like you to use reasonable assumptions. Silly assumptions such as “there are 100 billion people in the world” show that a candidate is out-of-touch, which minimizes the individual’s credibility with clients, executives, and co-workers. Furthermore, it would be polite to explain why you chose a particular assumption.
  • Accuracy. Some estimations are the basis for decision-making. Thus, accuracy is important. But clearly, accuracy will improve if there is more time to work on it. Given an interview scenario, most interviewers would like candidates to spend at most 15 minutes and as little as 5 minutes on an estimation question. Candidates must tradeoff between accuracy and speed – and get the most accurate response possible in a 10 minute timeframe.

Do you have an example of a market sizing question?

We’ve included two examples of market sizing questions and their solutions:

  1. What is the market size for smartphone cases in the United States?
  2. How many TV ads are shown in the US each day?

You’ll find sample answers for each question at the top and bottom of the article, respectively.

How do I find more market sizing examples?

You can find more market sizing examples from Lewis C. Lin‘s book, Interview Math.

market-sizing-example-from-interview-math-book-2

Source: Interview Math Book, Market Sizing Example

PM Mock Interview Practice

September 7th, 2016 by lewis

The PM interview practice partner community provides free mock interview practice by matching PM candidates with one another.

We’ve found that the best PM candidates are consistently doing more than 20 mock interview cases before interviewing. We highly recommend that you do so, in conjunction with expert coaching, to increase your chances of landing your dream PM job, whether it’s Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Uber.

To learn how to sign-up, visit this detailed article about the PM interview practice partner community.

PM interview practice partner group

Screenshot: PM Interview Practice Community

Free Download: Case Interview Books

August 29th, 2016 by lewis

Need more case interview practice? MasterTheCase has the best repository of free, case interview casebooks from all the top schools:

  • Harvard
  • Wharton
  • Michigan

 

free-download-casebooks

I just released a new book, PM Interview Questions. It’s my 2nd product management interview book after my Amazon bestseller, Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews.

You may be curious: what is the CIRCLES Method™ product design framework? To help demystify, I’ve explained it below, using excerpts from Decode and Conquer.

Introduction to CIRCLES Method™ Product Design Framework

CIRCLES method product design framework

What are product design questions?

Product design questions test your product design ability. Interviewers are assessing your ability to:

  • Define an objective for the product improvement
  • Choose and identify the most appropriate target customer
  • Empathize with the target customer
  • Articulate use cases (aka pain points)
  • Prioritize those use cases
  • Brainstorm creative ideas
  • Make a logical recommendation

Examples of product design questions include:

  • Redesign the Facebook Newsfeed for the Web.
  • How would you improve Pinterest?
  • Create an experience around Disney theme parks using your phone.
  • Design the next product that Nest will offer, focusing on mobile app design.
  • If you were the CEO of LEGO, what new product line would you come up with to increase revenues? Why? Who is the target customer? How do you reach them? How does the product function and what does it look like (UI/UX)? What’s the potential market size?

Note: Many of the above questions are featured in PM Interview Workbook with an accompanying sample answer.

What are interviewers looking for?

The interviewers are looking for six key elements in a strong response:

  • Goals and metrics. Did the candidate define objectives before answering? Were the candidate’s selections reasonable?
  • Target Persona & Pain Points. Did the candidate choose a target persona? Did the candidate explain the persona’s pain points to the extent that demonstrated true consumer insight?
  • Prioritization. Did the candidate demonstrate ability to prioritize competing use cases or pain points in a compelling way?
  • Creativity. Did the candidate demonstrate sufficient creativity? Or were the ideas copycats of competitive features and products?
  • Development Leadership. When asked, did the candidate have a reasonable explanation of how a proposed feature would be implemented?
  • Summary and Next Steps. Did the candidate summarize their main argument at the end, including clear next steps?

What is the CIRCLES Method™?

CIRCLES Method from Decode and Conquer

CIRCLES Method™ is a framework on what makes a complete, thoughtful response to any design question. It’s a memory aid that prevents us from forgetting a step in the interview. You can also think of it as a checklist or guideline.

Use it for questions on how you would design a new desktop, website, or mobile application. You can even use it to design new consumer products like a car, camera or can opener.

In case you forget, remember that designers love circles. Therefore the CIRCLES Method™ is perfect for design questions.

Comprehend the Situation

Not too long ago, I asked a candidate, “Pretend you are a Windows 10 product manager. How would you improve it?” I stopped her 45 seconds into her response. She rambled and used nonsense phrases like “Windows 10 deepens customer empowerment.”

I asked her, “Have you used Windows 10?” She sheepishly replied, “Never. I use a MacBook Air.”

Sigh. If you don’t know the product, speak up. It’s not fair for you to discuss a product you don’t know.

You’re entitled to ask the interviewer clarifying questions. What can or should you ask the interviewer?

Here’s a list:

  •       What is it?
  •       Who is it for?
  •       Why do they need it?
  •       When is it available?
  •       Where is it available?
  •       How does it work?

This list of basic questions is frequently called the “5 W’s and H.” However, the interviewer may not have patience for you to ask 101 questions about the product. To start the interview, you really just need answers for the four bolded questions: what is it, who is it for, why do they need it, and how does it work? So we’ll call our version the “3 W’s and H.”

If the interviewer refuses to answer your clarifying questions, make an assumption based on what you know. Then, give the interviewer an opportunity to correct you, in the event he thinks differently about whom it is for or how the product works.

I also recommend that you pull up the website, mobile app or application. A visual improves communication. And who knows, since we live in the world of rapid experimentation, the website that you saw yesterday may have changed today. Or if you’re talking about a product that the interviewer is working on, it’s possible they use a beta version internally, which is completely different from what you use. It would be lethal if you and the interviewer were thinking of different things.

Identify the Customer

There’s no magical device that does everything for everyone. But that hasn’t stopped companies from trying to build all-in-one devices. As sexy as they sound, all-in-ones aren’t very good.

During the interview, you want to propose an amazing product, not a mediocre one. To do so, focus and empathize with a single customer segment or persona. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, you will more likely design a solution that resolves their specific needs.

Start the second step of the CIRCLES Method™ by listing potential customer personas. Here are some examples:

  •       Food lovers
  •       Soccer moms
  •       College students
  •       Small business owners

Time is limited, so choose one persona to focus on. The interviewer may not be familiar with your chosen persona; help them comprehend whom you are talking about. A 2 x 2 matrix is a powerful way to visualize it.

Kat, the traveling reader Behaviors

  • Goes on vacations with books
  • Travels four times a year
  • Carries four books per trip
Demographics

  • 55 year old, single female
  • Lives in Hoquiam, Washington
  • Income: $70,000 USD
Needs & Goals

  • Discover new books
  • Discuss books with others
  • Write a book one day

Report the Customer’s Needs

The third step of the CIRCLES Method™ is reporting the customer’s needs. You can call it user needs, user requirements, or use cases. In modern product development, the use case format is a popular way to capture user needs. A user story conveys what the end user wants to do in normal everyday language. It does not describe how the solution works. Here’s the user story template:

As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>.

Here are two examples based on our persona, Kat, our traveling reader:

Book discovery

As a traveling reader, I want to get recommendations so that I read books that are either well-written or are good examples of my favorite genres.

Write a book

As a traveling reader, I want to write 500 words a day so that I can publish my memoir.

User stories have become popular because they are concise, complete and casual. In a single sentence, we know the user, the user’s needs and the intended benefit.

It’s important to explore customer needs deeply, especially if there are hidden needs or constraints. Why? Here’s a classic anecdote from one of my students:

During her product management interview with a top 5 technology company, she was asked to, “Design the perfect airport.” She plunged into the exercise, detailing what the airport of the future would look like, including numerous runways to eliminate delays and a sprawling food court that would satisfy any palate.

As she concluded her answer, the interviewer revealed that the airport would have to fit into 100 square feet.

Needless to say, she did not get the job. But it reinforces the power digging deeper and asking the simple yet powerful question, “Why?”

Cut, Through Prioritization

Looking at our “book discovery” and “write a book” use cases above, each one screams for completely different solutions. Step four of the CIRCLES Method™ is to cut, through prioritization.

The prioritization step mimics the real world development process. You’ll have a big backlog of use cases, but you’re limited by time, money, and labor. Which one do you do first?

In the interview, you don’t have time to discuss all use cases. So you’ll have to pick one. When you make your choice, it’s an opportunity to showcase your ability to make prioritize, assess tradeoffs and make decisions.

User Story Revenue Customer Satisfaction Ease of Implementation Overall
Write a book A A A A
Book discovery C C C C

The prioritization matrix example above shows how a product manager can be thoughtful about choosing priorities.

Real world prioritization is not that different from the matrix above. That is, it’s based on subjective criteria, weights and grades. Despite some flaws, I feel the matrix is effective. I’d rather have an imperfect process than no process at all. The matrix method forces the decision maker to think and articulate what’s important. Is revenue more important? Or is customer satisfaction? Ultimately, the true arbiter of go versus no-go for a particular feature should be A/B testing.

If you’re looking for an even more thoughtful and quantitative approach to prioritization, you could estimate the revenue impact and investment, measured in engineering effort. From there, you can calculate a ROI-like metric, which I call revenue per point of effort.

User Story Revenue impact Story size Revenue per point of effort Priority
Write a book $500,000 8 $62,500 1
Book discovery $20,000 2 $10,000 2

Note: “Story size” is a metric to estimate the engineering effort necessary to complete a story.

List Solutions

Step five of the CIRCLES Method™ is to list solutions. For instance, if we wanted a solution to help consumers to reduce their junk mail, we could offer the following solutions:

  • Global do not mail list. Consumers can sign-up for the mailing list, and responsible companies can periodically check the list and opt-out consumers.
  •  Opt out Camera App. Create a mobile app that allows consumers to opt-out of junk mail by taking a picture of the junk mail they receive.
  •  SMS Opt Out. Allow consumers to opt out of junk mail by texting a special code to a SMS number.
  •  Third Party Review. Send all your mail to a third-party who will review your mail, discard your junk mail and forward the rest.
  •  Junk Mail Warning Application. Before you submit your personal information to a website, a sweepstakes, or a product warranty registration site, this application will warn you on whether or not you’re likely to receive junk mail when sharing your personal information to the site.

Most candidates freeze when they have a design problem without a solution on the tip of their tongue. Brainstorming frameworks can help overcome designer’s block. Here are my favorites:

Reversal method. Reversing the situation helps uncover new possibilities.

Example: Create a new car buying experience.

Need: Buyers don’t have time to travel to the car dealership.

Solution based on reversal: Dealership should deliver test drives to the buyer’s home.

Attribute method. List all the product attributes. Mix and match to get interesting new combinations.

Example: Design a new laundry hamper.

Material Shape Finish Position
Wicker Square Natural Sits on floor
Plastic Cylindrical Painted On ceiling
Paper Rectangle Clear On wall
Metal Hexagonal Luminous Basement chute
Net material Cube Neon On door

Solution based on attributes: I suggest we build a rectangle, plastic hamper with a natural finish that can be mounted on the door.

Why? Method. Challenge the status quo.

Example: Design a new coffee cup.

Start by challenging the status quo: Why should coffee cups have handles? Cups are too hot to hold directly.

Solution based on Why? Method: Create a coffee mug with an insulation layer.

Reversal method. Reversing the situation helps uncover new possibilities.

Example: Create a new car buying experience.

Need: Buyers don’t have time to travel to the car dealership.

Solution based on reversal: Dealership should deliver test drives to the buyer’s home.

I have two more tips when listing potential product solutions.

Tip #1: Think big

Your typical candidate usually list solutions that fall into one of two categories:

  • Me too ideas. For example, “As the Google+ product manager, I would create a new feature that’s similar to Facebook’s groups feature.” Yawn.
  • Integration ideas. For instance, “As the Google product manager, I would integrate YouTube with Android.” Yawn.

As part of the interview, most employers are evaluating your creativity or product vision. They’re looking for product managers that can see future trends, both in technology and customer behavior. They expect those product managers to plot and execute a plan that exploits that trend, for the company’s benefit.

To help spur your thinking, consider the following big bets from the tech industry leaders:

  • In 2008, Google made a $4.6 billion bid for wireless spectrum. How did Google have the gravitas to make a multi-billion dollar bid when Google had no experience as a wireless operator? Google had guts. In the end, it was one of the biggest bluffs in business history. Google didn’t win the bid, but they didn’t want to. They got the FCC to adopt open access rules that would force the winner to allow any Google device or application to connect to this new spectrum. That privilege was worth billions to Google. And they got it for free.
  • That same year, Facebook launched Facebook Connect. Facebook encouraged developers to use Facebook as their sign-in service. Facebook positioned the feature as trustworthy and easy-to-use. Developers could now devote time that would have gone into building proprietary sign-up and sign-on systems for something else. And web and mobile applications would have access to a user’s valuable Facebook data. But Facebook had the biggest win. Facebook Connect allowed Facebook to track user behavior around the web. They knew which websites a user visited and what mobile apps they used. They could use this data to build better products, and more importantly, deliver more targeted ads. Facebook makes billions from advertising. Better ad targeting can easily lead to a 500 percent increase in revenue.

Tip #2: Have at least three ideas

Great innovators know that your first idea is rarely the best. Why? Innovation is an iterative process. As you learn more about customer needs and competitive products, your proposed solutions will be more precise and focused. You’ll avoid ideas that have failed in the marketplace.

At the interview, brainstorm at least three ideas. It’s hard but it’ll be worth it. You’ll find that idea number 2 or 3 will usually be the best of the bunch.

Also, it will help you from being defensive during the interview. The interviewer will critique your idea. If you have only one idea, you’ll take it personally. If you have multiple ideas, you’ll be more comfortable because you’ll have other solutions to prove your self-worth.

Evaluate Tradeoffs

The sixth step of the CIRCLES Method™ is to evaluate tradeoffs. The first part is optional: define your tradeoff criteria. Criteria could include customer satisfaction, implementation difficulty, and revenue potential. It’s not necessary, but it’ll keep your response organized and easier to follow.

The next part is analyzing the solution. A pro and cons list is a good way to do this.

By evaluating tradeoffs of each solution, you come across as thoughtful and analytical. You’ll also be perceived as objective.

You’ll also protect yourself from being defensive. If you’ve taken the initiative to critique your own solutions, the interviewer has fewer things to criticize. You’ll also mentally prepare yourself for criticism by critiquing yourself.

Summarize Your Recommendation

The seventh step of the CIRCLES Method™ is to summarize your recommendation. This is an optional step; sometimes the interviewer is satisfied with a brainstorm and the pro and con analysis.

But others want to test your communication and decision making skills. That is, can you present a short 20 to 30 second summary of your product proposal? And can you make the hard decision to suggest just one solution?

Summarize with this three-step approach:

  1.     Tell the interviewer which product or feature you’d recommend.
  2.     Recap on what it is and why it’s beneficial to the user and/or company.
  3.     Explain why you preferred this solution vs. others.

Tip on using the CIRCLES Method™

My clients often struggle with design questions because they’re uncomfortable exploring customers and needs without a solution. If that’s the case, it’s okay to have a solution in mind and lead your CIRCLES Method™ discussion toward it.

It’s important for you to exude confidence during the design discussion, and if this is what makes you feel better, fantastic. I also find that having a solution in mind can help constrain the realm of potential personas, needs, and solutions, which can improve the quality of your responses.

Ultimately, I would love for you to embrace the great unknown and enjoy a design problem without having a solution in mind.

 

GoogleProductManagerInterview

SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Google product managers (PMs) are an elite and successful group. Here are the six signs that indicate you have a great chance of getting in:

Go to a Top University and Major in Computer Science

Review the LinkedIn profiles of current Google PMs , and you’ll find several common themes:

Schools

  • Stanford
  • UC Berkeley
  • MIT
  • Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale

Majors

  • Computer science

This is not to say that those who don’t go to a particular school or major in computer science can’t be PMs. However, Google does get thousands of resumes for its PM program. Going to a top school and majoring in computer science can’t hurt your chances of getting an interview.

Have a Track Record of Entrepreneurship

There’s a prevailing sentiment that if Google PMs weren’t working at Google, they’d start their own company. Thus, it’s no surprise that many Google PMs have demonstrated entrepreneurial experience either during or before college.

Entrepreneurial experience doesn’t have to be a software start-up or a profitable small business. Instead, it can also be any extracurricular activity that showcases your intellectual curiosity, flawless execution, and propensity for achievement.

Some entrepreneurial examples include contributions to an open-source movement, completing a successful Kickstarter campaign, or creating a popular smartphone app.

Have Teaching Experience

Many Google PMs are former teaching assistants (TAs) for their university’s computer science courses. Marissa Mayer, widely known as the caretaker of Google’s PM program, was the head teaching assistant for my CS 106 course at Stanford. Google continues to tap CS 106 section leaders as potential PM candidates. Why are former TAs attractive PM candidates? Excellent communication skills and technical mastery.

Get Referred into Google

The most effective way to get an PM interview? Get an existing Googler to refer you. Your resume will make it to top of the recruiter’s review stack. And within 1–2 weeks, you’ll likely get a call for a phone interview.

Why? It’s the similarity principle. A+ PMs are friends with A+ candidates. You can take your chances by submitting your resume online, but you’ll have to compete with thousands of unsolicited submissions.

And no need to be bashful about getting a referral. Google has a generous referral fee for employees that land top candidates. So bug your friend, have them submit your resume, get hired, and have them take you to a nice non-Google lunch after they get the referral bonus.

Show Passion for Google and the PM program

It doesn’t matter if it’s Google or another company, hiring managers want employees who dedicate themselves to the job and give 120%.

Why? It’s a lot of work for managers to prod employees to do their work, take initiative, and / or think outside of the box. Managers pray for candidates who are just rockstars — without constant nudging. Most rock stars are those who are passionate about the company they work for and the work that they do — every single day. What’s the best way to do this? Give your 120% even before you get the job. If you can code, write an Android app using the Google Maps API. If you can’t or don’t have time to code, do a product teardown and offer recommendations on how to improve it. Just imagine sharing your pre-interview homework at the interview. I’d be impressed. And there will be less time for those pesky Google Interview Questions.

Prepare for the Google Interview

There’s no way you can opt out of the interview, unfortunately. And the interview is tough. You’ll get hypothetical case questions used to assess your skills in product design, analytics, and technical. For more information on what to expect at the Google PM interview and how to prepare, refer to this article: How to Prepare for the Google Product Manager Interview.

SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Photo credit: YouTube

 

Salary Negotiation Book

Here’s a nice freebie for Labor Day weekend, Lewis C. Lin’s salary negotiation book, Five Minutes to a Higher Salary.

The offer expires tomorrow. Don’t miss out on your chance to grab it!

Words That Get The Job Offer

July 29th, 2015 by lewis

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On a job interview, chemistry and rapport with the interviewer is important. Why? Interviewers hire candidates they like!

 

There are a lot of ways you can get the interviewer to like you. My favorite is to tell an entertaining story. When it comes to telling entertaining stories, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This morning I came across Richard Bayan’s book, More Words That Sell. Bayan makes several good points about how one should tell their story, and I’ve picked a couple of tips that I feel are most applicable to job candidates:

  • Favor the specific over the general. Most stand-up comics would agree that New Jersey is funnier and more evocative than a Middle Atlantic state. The more specific you can make your language, the more impact it will have. I can’t overemphasize the importance of creating sharp, well-defined images in the reader’s mind.
  • Use colorful words to energize (the listener). Make a habit of combining your copy and substituting colorful words for limp or fuzzy ones. Short, lean, gritty native English words (like short, lean, and gritty) still pack a wallop. Words derived from Latin and Greek (such as efficient, productive, and harmonious) tend to sound more abstract and cerebral. Favor the native English vocabulary when you want to create a dramatic impression. Turn to our Greco-Latin heritage when you strive for erudition and precision.
  • Be aware of rhythm. Vary your sentence structure to create a lively, flowing movement that carries the reader effortlessly downstream. Use dashes here and there to introduce exciting shifts and turns. For dramatic impact, follow a long sentence with a short, taut one. Or inject an occassional sentence fragment. For emphasis. Copy rhythm is an intuitive matter, so it’s not easy to learn or teach. Like jazz, it’s something you have to feel.
  • Put the emphasis on clarity. This is more important that word magic. (Listeners) can’t act until they understand you. And they won’t be able to understand you unless you explain it clearly. Seasoned copywriters swallow their pride and opt for clarity over creative expression.

Photo credit: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu

Facebook

SEE ALSO: Facebook Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

For those of you with an upcoming Facebook PM (FB PM) interview, here’s what you should expect at the interview along with tips to prepare.

We also have a Facebook PM interview class video that reviews actual FB PM questions and provides sample answers. Read on for more information.

What to Expect at the Facebook Product Manager Interview

The Facebook PM interview has standardized across three components:

Product Sense

Product sense is Facebook’s term for product design interview questions. Good Facebook PMs innovate beautiful products that solve big, messy user problems.

Example questions include:

  • How would you improve the Facebook Newsfeed?
  • How would you design Facebook Events 2.0?
  • How would you redesign Facebook Pages?

Execution

Good Facebook PMs get things done and make critical decisions. Facebook’s term for this competency is called execution. Facebook interviewers test for executive skills by understanding:

  • Fit. Is the candidate a good fit for the company? Is the candidate aligned with Facebook’s mission and values? And are the candidate’s skills and experiences aligned with Facebook?
  • Scrappy. Can the candidate get things done?
  • Decision-making. Can the candidate evaluate data and make decisions, especially when the situation is murky and the decision is far from being unanimous?
  • Focused on the big picture. Can the candidate select an appropriate product goal that factors in the needs of the user, team, and / or company?
  • Analyze, diagnose, and evaluate. Can the candidate troubleshoot a problem by analyzing the root cause and suggesting a course of action?

Example questions include:

  • We’ve outsourced a critical mobile app to a third-party developer. How do we decide when to take that development in house?
  • What are the goals for Facebook’s News Feed?
  • How would you decide between showing more ads on the Facebook News Feed vs. showing a People You May Know recommendation widget?
  • Weekly active users (WAU) for Facebook’s iPhone dropped. What happened?

Leadership + Drive

Top-notch Facebook PMs are driven leaders. Facebook interviewers test for leadership + drive by evaluating the following:

  • Is the candidate self-aware, especially of their own flaws?
  • Does the candidate get along with others? In other words, how is their EQ (emotional intelligence)?
  • Does the candidate like leading others and building teams?
  • Lastly, does the candidate get excited about technology and have the capacity to set forth a bold and inspiring vision?

Example questions include:

  • What’s a self-development area that needs improvement?
  • Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?
  • What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?
  • What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?

Ice Breakers

As with any interview, expect standard ice breaker questions during the beginning of the interview process including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your favorite project you’ve worked on recently?

What’s No Longer Covered in the Facebook PM interview

In the past, Facebook included a technical portion in the PM interview. They’ve phased that out now. For those of you who are rusty on technical concepts, you’ll be happy that you’ll no longer have to answer questions about recursion or object-oriented programming.

Keep in mind that interviewers are always free to ask whatever question they want. So while technical questions are not prescribed as part of their PM hiring process, some interviewers may choose to operate outside of those boundaries.

How to Prepare for the Facebook Product Manager Interview

To prepare for the three interview components, I would recommend the following:

Product Sense

Practice leading product design discussions using a design framework like the CIRCLES Method™.  Explore possible personas and articulate the use cases. Prioritize the use cases and then brainstorm solutions.  Most candidates fail the product design interview because they jump straight into solutions.

Facebook interviewers say that it’s not critical for candidates to wireframe their ideas. However, effective communication counts, and pictures communicate more effectively and elegantly than a bunch of words. Download a wireframing tool like Balsamiq, and get comfortable sketching UI designs on the whiteboard.

Execution

When tackling questions in the execution bucket, I’d recommend using a couple of different frameworks:

  • ROI estimation
  • AARM Method™
  • Root cause analysis
  • Behavioral interview framework
  • Rule of Three

ROI estimation

For interview questions around evaluating or comparing tradeoffs between different features or decisions, the Facebook interviewer wants to see that your decision is grounded in data. And that inevitably means evaluating the net benefit to the company. Now that Facebook is a profit-making, publicly-traded company — net benefit and even user engagement — can be measured in terms of revenues and costs.

For your different feature choices, calculate the ROI impact of your various options. You can also evaluate the options qualitatively by drawing up a pros and cons list. However, a qualitative comparison is rarely sufficient at the Facebook PM interview.

AARM Method™

AARM Method™ stands for four sets of metrics: acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization. It’s a handy metrics checklist when answering questions about appropriate goals and metrics to track as a product manager. For more details on the AARM Method™, refer to Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews.

Root cause analysis

When asked to identify the cause of a WAU drop in the Facebook iPhone app, brainstorm, as best (and quickly) as possible, all the potential causes. Then systematically investigate and rule out each cause to get the root issue. A fishbone diagram may help organize your thoughts, brainstorm a more complete list, and impress the interviewer with your visual communication skills.

Behavioral interview framework

When answering FB PM interview questions such as, “Tell me a time when you needed to complete a deadline, but didn’t have the resources” use a storytelling framework. My personal favorite is the DIGS Method™ featured in Decode and Conquer; the STAR method is a decent alternative.

Rule of Three

For cultural fit questions, such as Why FB? or Why PM?, I highly recommend using the Rule of Three. It worked for exceptional communicators like Steve Jobs and Thomas Jefferson. It’ll work for you too.

Leadership + Drive

To get ready for interview questions in the Leadership + Drive bucket, I’d recommend using many of the frameworks I’ve introduced previously:

Behavioral interview framework

Use STAR or the DIGS Method™ to answer questions such as “Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?”

Rule of Three

Use it to answer questions like “What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?”

CIRCLES Method™

Use the CIRCLES Method™ as a checklist for answering questions such as “What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?” Key areas to emphasize: the customer problem, the technology trend or solution that will address that problem, and a thorough discussion of feasibility including technical, cost, and consumer adoption.

Weakness framework

Use this framework to answer questions about what is your biggest weakness and other personal development areas.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Photo credit: Christoph Aigner