Mikaela Reyes
Mikaela Reyes

Product Management Interviews for Newbs

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Dear first time product management interviewee,

So you’re past that first round for the KPCB product fellowship… or your resume was picked out for a junior PM role…

But wait – it’s your first product stint? You’ve never gone through product sense questions before? What even happens in PM interviews??!?!?!?!!!?

I can help!

I don’t claim to be an expert at this – it’s been a while since I’ve interviewed. But I’ve gone through a lot of the hurdles starting out – reading a bajilling Medium posts, buying all the design and product books, mock interviewing with strangers. I’ve absolutely had my (enormous) share of interview failures. (Oh, the good ‘ol days). But those failed interviews def made me better and I like to think, they’re what made me stronger for KPCB interview rounds.

It’s also KPCB interview season and, boy oh boy am I getting lots of asks for advice on this. Thought I’d share some knowledge to whomever else needs it!

This post will hopefully make the process less painful for you, dear interviewee (and soon to be PM.. wink wink).

Note: a few of this will be specific to KPCB Product Fellowship interviews, but most is applicable to entry level PM roles as well. I’ll take note which relate to the fellowship!

The first interview round for the KPCB Product fellowship is usually to check if you’re a good fit for the program as a whole. So keep in mind the reasons for your 1) getting into product/tech; 2) your reasons for why you think you’re a good fit for the fellowship and most importantly; 3) your general “WHY” in life!

It’s always good to be prepared for product questions though so here are some things to get started:

  • Read Cracking the PM Interview and then Decode and Conquer. If you have time, try your hand at Hooked by Nir Eyal or Design of Everyday Things but those are less of a priority, assuming you won’t have much time to read.
  • You’ll see a lot of different frameworks for product questions (CIRCLES, SWOT, 5 Whys, DIGS, AARM, blablabla). These are all beautiful and dandy. What you’ll start to notice as you’re reading is that there are certain patterns that emerge. Great. Now, create your own framework and stick with it. Those product people will know all these frameworks and will sense if you’re memorizing from a book, but they will not know frameworks you made. Create something that works and that makes you stand out. Always the best strategy.

    for you

  • Do a mock interview with someone. It’s SO different in actual situations. I joined a bunch of support groups (Women in ProductHH Product ManagementLadies Storm HackathonProduct School), messaged random people and had a great time with interviews. Also, practice giving interviews to others – it really helps being on the other side. Also check this out.
  • Focus. Don’t get too overwhelmed with how much you need to prepare. In the books, you could get crazy with all the types of questions and the formats and the techniques and the variability in types of interviews and BLAH. Hey, the interviewers get it, you’re a bit more junior. Good to be prepared, but good to focus and cut out the noise. I say concentrate on behavioral and product sense / design questions the most, and some metric-related questions. If you have time, work on estimation questions.
  • Prepare outlines for common & general problems! You want to nail your product sense and overall process, so practice with common questions. Some questions to prepare for:
    • Tell me about yourself – make sure you highlight good leadership qualities, any and ALL product experience you have and side projects you’ve led. Be as concrete as possible. If you’ve worked for a startup or started one before, that is also very gold.
    • Tell me about your fave product and why – for fellows, go beyond what you wrote on your app. This should include quick top 3 things you like but also 3 things you don’t like.
    • Be prepared for redesign questions, how you would improve it and how you would quantify success.
    • Related to the previous one: pick a product from [company, likely the company you’re interviewing for] – how would you improve this feature or product?
    • BONUS(es): What are key metrics you will use to track a product’s success? What was your favorite product that you built? How would you validate and experiment on whether this feature was a failure or success for this company?
  • Be expert at outlining your top 2 – 3 points (e.g. “I like product because 1, 2, 3… let me explain further”) or your thought process (e.g. if you’re asked to evaluate a product, say you’ll first start with A: problem, goals, target users, B: some solutions, pros and cons, C: what you’ll do moving forward, for example) BEFORE you start tackling the question. Show your organization and ability to think on your feet, crucial for PMs.
  • Be expert at giving summaries (e.g. “in conclusion, the problem was this, these were our target users, the best design solution weighing pros and cons is this and this is what I would do moving forward”). Show your ability to synthesize and, again, your organization.
  • Three (3) is the magic number. You can go under, try not to go over. If you’re a blabber like me, this will help you stay grounded. Come up with 3 top things you want to highlight about yourself, 3 design solutions (1 super creative, 1 tactical, 1 that is allowably mediocre), 3 metrics you’ll optimize for.
  • Be prepared with insightful questions that help you gauge whether you’d be a good fit for the company and whether you can optimize for growth in your position.

As with any interview, it’s a conversation you’re having with another human. In general, have fun with it! It’s a chance to nerd out on all this product stuff.