Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology (Cracking the Interview & Career)

by: Gayle Laakmann McDowell (0)

How many pizzas are delivered in Manhattan? How do you design an alarm clock for the blind? What is your favorite piece of software and why? How would you launch a video rental service in India? This book will teach you how to answer these questions and more.

Cracking the PM Interview is a comprehensive book about landing a product management role in a startup or bigger tech company. Learn how the ambiguously-named "PM" (product manager / program manager) role varies across companies, what experience you need, how to make your existing experience translate, what a great PM resume and cover letter look like, and finally, how to master the interview: estimation questions, behavioral questions, case questions, product questions, technical questions, and the super important "pitch."

The Product Manager Role
What is a PM? Functions of a PM Top Myths about Product Management Project Managers and Program Managers

Companies
How the PM Role Varies Google Microsoft Apple Facebook Amazon Yahoo Twitter Startups

Getting the Right Experience
New Grads Making the Most of Career Fairs Do you need an MBA? Why Technical Experience Matters Transitioning from Engineer to Product Manager Transitioning from Designer to Product Manager Transitioning from Other Roles What Makes a Good Side Project?

Career Advancement
Tips and Tricks for Career Advancement Q & A: Fernando Delgado, Sr. Director, Product Management at Yahoo Q & A: Ashley Carroll, Senior Director of Product Management, DocuSign Q & A: Brandon Bray, Principal Group Program Manager, Microsoft Q & A: Thomas Arend, International Product Lead, Airbnb Q & A: Johanna Wright, VP at Google Q & A: Lisa Kostova Ogata, VP of Product at Bright.com

Behind the Interview Scenes
Google Microsoft Facebook Apple Amazon Yahoo Twitter Dropbox

Resumes
The Second Rule The Rules Attributes of a Good PM Resume What to Include

Real Resumes: Before & After

Cover Letters
Elements of a Good PM Cover Letter The Cover Letter Template A Great Cover Letter

Company Research
The Product The Strategy The Culture The Role The Questions

Define Yourself
“Tell Me About Yourself” (The Pitch) “Why do you want to work here?” “Why should we hire you?” “Why are you leaving your current job?” “What do you like to do in your spare time?” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Sample Strengths and Weaknesses

Behavioral Questions
Why These Questions Are Asked Preparation Follow-Up Questions Types of Behavioral Questions

Estimation Questions
Approach Numbers Cheat Sheet Tips and Tricks Example Interview Sample Questions

Product Questions
About the Product Question Type 1: Designing a Product Type 2: Improving a Product Type 3: Favorite Product Preparation Tips and Tricks Sample Questions

Case Questions
The Case Question: Consultants vs. PMs What Interviewers Look For Useful Frameworks Product Metrics Interview Questions

Coding Questions
Who Needs To Code What You Need To Know How You Are Evaluated How To Approach Developing an Algorithm Additional Questions & Solutions

Appendix
Top 1% PMs vs. Top 10% PMs Be a Great Product Leader The Inputs to a Great Product Roadmap How to Hire a Product Manager

The Quotes

Ask about who you’ll be working with on your core and extended team. Find out how much of your time will be spent writing specs and how much you’ll be working with designers. Learn where the balance is between PMs, designers, and engineers in making product decisions.

Prioritization is one of the product manager’s most important functions at this point; if the team were to fix every bug and build every new feature idea, the product would never launch. The PM needs to consider all of the new requests and decide if they should be prioritized for the current release or punted to a later time.

One reason product management is such an appealing career is you get to sit at the intersection of technology, business, and design.

Data-driven PMs can do very well working on consumer products because they’re able to make a strong case for their proposals, and they often can come up with features that will make a difference to the core metrics the company cares about.

PMs who like doing customer research and market analysis could enjoy working on B2B products. These are also the products where PMs tend to exert the most influence, so they can be a very satisfying place to work.

The Reviews

Like many other MBA students, I aspired to break into product management post-graduation.This book was extremely helpful for learning what the role of a PM is all about, how it varies from company to company, what a typical day in the life is like, and some high level interview advice.I do have two criticisms for this book however:1. The content is definitely dated and feels like it was last updated over a decade ago. The book lists Yahoo as one of the top companies for PMs and goes in depth alongside companies like Google, Microsoft, etc. It also says Facebook has very stringent technical requirements for PMs. That is actually no longer true and hasn't been true for several years. Facebook doesn't ask any technical questions in their PM interviews.2. Given the name of the title, I thought the book would focus more on the actual interview questions and answers and less on explaining the role.Don't get me wrong, the other material in the book is still valuable for newbies but if you are already a PM and know the basics, only one third of the book is actually interview prep material. If your goal is interview prep, I'd recommend reading two other books.1. Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy - This book was written by PMs at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to break down the core concepts of tech and business strategy that all PMs should know. The book is essentially a collection of mini case studies on all aspects of tech strategy, featuring pretty much every notable tech company (e.g. Google, Uber, Robinhood, etc.)2. Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews - This book was written by a former Microsoft PM and it's essentially what I was expecting Cracking the PM Interview to be like: a super focused interview book with great frameworks and tons of example PM interview questions and answers.By reading these two books, I was able to get Product Manager offers from both Apple and Amazon straight out of business school without prior product management experience!tldr; If you are new to product management, buy this book immediately. If you are already a Product Manager and just looking to brush up for an interview, read Decode and Conquer and Swipe to Unlock instead.

This has been a difficult book for me to rate. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, I couldn't stop thinking that it fell quite short on some aspects of product management. I will explain both of those reasons in more detail below, but let me first tell a bit about my background as I think it is relevant for this review.I have been in the industry for more than 20 years. Currently, I am the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of a startup that creates networking solutions for the Internet of Things. Previously, I worked for a very large networking vendor in both technical and business roles for more than 15 years. My last role there was a Sr. Product Manager in Office of the CTO. Previously, I held roles as a Product Line Manager (PLM) managing P&Ls north of $200 million. I was also a Program Manager managing multi-year multi-million dollar projects that won innovation awards etc. Throughout my career I coded things, launched products and tools that have been very successful and that are still in use. I also launched products that didn't take of as I had expected them to. I am an engineer by education, I have a EE degree and an MBA and several advanced certifications in business and technical domains. Although I don't have a background in CS, I code for personal projects and I also code for our startup. I have open source repositories on GitHub that have a total of 100 stars in total. I certainly won't claim I know much but I think I have had my fair share of experience dealing with technology, specifically in a B2B/Enterprise model.I try to keep myself refreshed by learning new things, reading books, working on side projects etc. That is the reason I read this book. I liked it and I also thought it missed some aspects while focusing only on a subset of a larger picture. That is what this review is about.First the good stuff. Product Management is a bit of a mystery for outsiders. It is partly science and partly art. There is no specific education for Product Management, which makes it a bit hard to grasp. To make matters worse, it may mean very different things in different companies. Sometimes it is perceived to be more of a marketing role, sometimes it is under engineering and so forth. On this topic, I think the authors have done a pretty good job in creating a fundamental structure for understanding Product Management and making it approachable for those who are aspiring to be Product Managers (mine was a bit of luck, I built a service as an engineer which became so successful that they asked me to lead a team to build it for external customers and launch it as a product manager). I liked that the authors gave specific examples on what product management means in different companies, I also liked that they outline paths for engineers and designers to become product managers, which makes a lot of sense.Authors provide some very good behavioral questions and reasoning behind those questions. I particularly enjoyed seeing that they busted some myths (as they explain, Product Managers are not CEOs of their products, however cool it may sound!). Many of those behavioral questions are also applicable to other roles that require soft skills (Project Management, Program Management, Customer Service etc.) as well and can easily be part of a study plan for interviews for those roles. I must admit, some of the estimation questions challenged me (I haven't done those in so generic ways for probably over a decade) and at times I felt intimidated, which is an indication of good balance.That made me think, how many times I have asked those generic questions myself while interviewing other PMs and the answer is, it wasn't much (I will explain why below). That also made me think what else was amiss.That brings us to stuff that I think can be improved. It feels that the authors' experience has been primarily in a B2C context and the book shows it. Content heavily skews towards consumer oriented Product Management. Majority, if not all examples and questions are around consumer products. Companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft etc.) in question are well known but they share a lot of common traits and pretty much all are consumer focused (and on a side note, it may be time to take out examples from Yahoo and Twitter). There are a few questions that venture slightly outside of B2C but it is an exception. Microsoft is arguably the only company that sits somewhere between B2C and B2B in this list, but the way it is covered is still through the lens of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this approach but it misses a perspective of Product Management for B2B, Enterprise Software and Hardware companies which have their own challenges.Three things that stood out the most for me was a lack of focus on go-to-market strategies, content creation and to a lesser degree, domain expertise. Go-to-market strategy and execution consumes a significant portion of a Product Manager's time and is thus reflected in interviews. Similarly, in most B2B companies, Product Managers are expected to create collateral in the form of presentations (not the fluffy stuff but the ones that have factual information), competitive analysis for sales teams, whitepapers, use-cases etc. A lot of time is also spent on helping sales teams to win deals by helping them with RFPs etc. These activities can intersect with those from marketing (and sometimes sales) but it is an important activity for Product Managers. So, these also are also reflected in interviews, depending on the experience and background of the candidate.Go-to-market is covered in some indirect ways but I didn't find it nearly complete enough. In real life, if I ever created and presented a business case without a fairly detailed go-to-market strategy to an executive team or even a wider PM team, that could have been the end of my career. And when I say go-to-market, I mean an in-depth plan with channel strategies, partnerships etc. Once again, we are talking B2B here. This is reflected in interviews and we expect people to come with at least some knowledge of and experience in go-to-market strategies. I didn't think the coverage of this in the book was enough.Second to go-to-market, there was also no mention of collateral creation. In our interviews, we expect people to demonstrate previous experience on content creation, let it be in the form of blog posts, technical white papers for engineers, product documentation etc. If you are applying for a product manager role in a B2B context, I'd recommend you to have some collateral that you can showcase. It can come in different forms depending on your experience and job history but this will be important.The last part is the lack of focus on domain expertise. This will depend on the industry, company and your previous experience but domain expertise is important for product management especially in B2B. So, while you may get generic estimation questions if you apply for junior roles, in more senior roles, you will be asked more specific replacement questions that require fairly in-depth domain knowledge. This brings out the other implicit assumption that I observed in the book. It is aimed at people who are planning to move to product management starting in more junior roles. There is a certain emphasis on fresh college graduates. So, examples and context make a lot of sense for that target group. But be aware that expectations can vary significantly beyond that target group especially for different industries and companies.All in all, I think this is a valuable book and I applaud the authors for writing it. I recommend it to anyone who is planning to venture into Product Management, also to seasoned Product Managers for some fun and refreshment (just put it into context and set your expectations accordingly). I enjoyed reading it and admittedly it helped me to refresh some topics that I haven't practiced for a while. I get a similar feeling when I open my books from college or MBA days and it feels refreshing at some level. But also understand that this is geared towards people who are in earlier stages of their careers and the content is skewed towards B2C companies and products. I think a different title would be much more accurate and to the point: "Product Management 101 - Interviewing in the age of social media and new tech"

I cleared my PM interview at a big tech with this book!I bought another copy for a family member when they were preparing for their interviewI recommended this to 3 of my friends, who each bought a copy.Read this book cover to cover, take notes & do it again & again!Wishing you all best of luck for those PM interviews!

This short book is a wealth of information for product managers. I recommend reading it whether you plan to interview or not! You will learn some new skills and techniques that will help you improve your own practice, enjoy your work and enhance your career. This alone is the best reason to read this book! It is refreshing to read a book that speaks very specifically and very intently to its intended audience. Many of us in product management have been on both sides of the interview process sometime in our career and so recognize and can relate to many of the specific examples given with new appreciation. While there is a definite bias towards software driven products and companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter), many of the principles discussed are more broadly applicable. Given that these companies continue to lead the way, this book also provides insight into the workings of these specific companies and the different emphases each brings to their development process. A must read if you desire to move to Silicon Valley, but still a great read if you are looking to play in the sandbox in your own backyard.

I just finished reading this book and I'm highly satisfied with the content. 👍 I'm preparing for PM interviews, with mock interviews coming next, and I feel much better having read this book.I have more work to do as a result of this book, practicing my answers to the "self-pitch", behavior questions, product questions, estimation, case, & coding. There are tons of example questions that I can now practice answering before interviews begin. I was very unsure of what to expect before this book, and now I feel like I'm on the right trajectory to land a great job.Thank you to the authors. My highest recommendation. And wish me luck! 🤞

Really good book that covers every single aspect you need to know about interviewing for the PM roles as well as its career outlook

Love it great read with prep info

Best book for preparing for PM interviews

The content of the book is helpful by explaining what kind of people some of the companies are looking for and the company’s culture. The book arrived new but the corner was ripped.

Everyone told me it’s the best book for people who want to be a pm, ummmm…. Hope I can read it and enjoy it

The content of the book is mostly great except for those in the case study/problem solving section. I found them very American-centric in that the only way to solve those problems was to make assumptions that you would only be able to make if you have been raised in the US. There are no strategies suggested for how to cope when presented with a problem for which you have no point of reference with which to make assumptions. Here are a couple of examples -There was a sample problem involving dog food sales in the US. If you've neither owned a pet in the US nor watched TV ads, you have no way of knowing that that there are 2 types of dog food (wet and dry), that they come in 20 lb bags typically, and that a fair assumption is 1 cup of dog food is consumed by a large dog per meal. All of these are key to solving the problem.There was another example illustrating how many high schools there are in the US. Unless you went to school in this country, it's not possible to make a key assumption that was used to solve the problem - the total number of students in an average high school.Ditto for the school bus problem where you're asked to estimate the weight. It was only upon reading the book I knew there are 15 rows of seats in a US school bus, and that's a key assumption in coming up with anything close to the answer.I suppose one could ask the interviewer these questions, but is that the right strategy? It would have been helpful if the book had addressed this.That said, the main reason I am taking off a star is for the formatting/editing on Kindle. I came across at least 6 pages where the text didn't transition from one page to the next (content on new page was irrelevant, with no continuity from the last sentence in the previous page) and the tables were empty or populated with question marks. Either it was not edited at all and was subjected to automatic conversions or the editor had a very poor eye for details. Either way, it detracts from the value of the content, and makes for a disruptive reading experience.

Lot of theory in this book. Good tips on resume but seems little outdated. This book needs a update.

I was a PM many moons ago. This book helped me prep for several conversations as I interviewed for a Product Operations role. I was well prepared, and did get a cool new job as a result

After I started reading the book, pages keep falling out. The content is great but as i progress through the book more and more pages keep falling out.

Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology (Cracking the Interview & Career)
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