I am a product manager at Facebook and previously I worked at Instagram. I have been interviewing at least 5 PM candidates a month, fighting for my favorite candidates at final-round hiring committees, and helping many friends prepare for PM interviews. I have seen many ‘good’ applicants, but being good isn’t going to get you hired. If all your interviewers think you are a “weak hire”, you will NOT get hired. You need to WOW your interviewers, making them want to spend hours(even days) of their time begging you to take the offer. You need to be outstanding.
Is this a real problem?
Good candidates assume the product they are designing for is solving a real problem. If I ask them to design a product for teens to read news, they would jump right in, quickly writing on the whiteboard that the problem is “teens want to read news” and starting to brainstorm 10 ideas.
Outstanding candidates ask if this is a real problem. They would first take a step back and wonder how we can quickly validate this is a real problem. They couldn’t wait to share with me the kinds of questions they would ask in surveys to validate this need before laying out any ideas.
Long-term success versus short-term success.
Good candidates give me one clear metric that defines success. If I ask them what success looks like for a product that helps young professionals find mentors, they would tell me it’s the number of mentors found per mentee.
Outstanding candidates define both short-term and long-term success. Those candidates would tell me the long-term success for this product is for people to grow because they’ve found the right mentor. We could measure that by looking at the salary increase, tracking the frequency of conversations between mentors and mentees, and sending a survey. The short-term success is the number of mentors found per mentee. The most immediate success is the % of mentees who get a response from mentors when they first reach out.
Good candidates impress me by listing 20 ideas. Good candidates can’t wait to burst out ideas after ideas, and they choose the top ideas based on what’s cool.
Outstanding candidates impress me by not only listing 20 ideas, but also showing me what each idea is giving up in order to get. Outstanding candidates have a lot of cool ideas too, but they tell me Idea #1 is prioritizing getting new users against retaining existing ones; Idea #2 is prioritizing resurrecting losing customers over getting new ones. They then tell me the most important thing for this product or company is to get new users so even though #2 is the coolest idea combined with deep learning, AR, VR, and Bitcoin, #1 matters more.
Don’t only think about your own products
Good candidates only care about their own products. If I ask them to build a product that easily sends a “Happy Birthday” GIF to their friends, they would only care about how many more of those GIFs get sent.
Outstanding candidates think not as the PM of Product A, but the boss of that PM. They would wonder if there is any cannibalization effect on the overall experience when more Happy Birthday GIFs get delivered. Maybe there are fewer VC calls to that birthday girl. Maybe there are fewer text messages. Is this a good thing or a bad thing overall?
Design a product that helps teens find new music
You are owning Yelp reviews. How do you define success?