Has PM interviewing gone crazy, or is it just me?

I apologize for my outburst. I recently began a round of applications as an SPM. In the past month or so, I’ve conducted onsite interviews with 4 companies. And since the last difficult round I underwent about three years ago, I’ve been amazed at how much tougher and more demanding the interviews have been.

Every employer conducts at least five interviews; some do as many as six or seven. There are case studies for Product Sense, metrics, and several behavioral questioning approaches (leadership, cross-functional). I’ve had to give presentations on numerous occasions that required previous preparation.

I know I’ll have to prepare for an interview, but I feel like I’ve had to spend at least twice as much time on it this time. Additionally, the current trend in case study questions (You are Spotify’s head of PM. What would be your strategy?) seem… completely out of touch with the realities of this job and are mostly concerned with memorization of pre-written structures and improvisational skill.

PM careers are undoubtedly on the rise, but it seems like employers are making the hiring process too difficult while gathering little information that is very valuable for predicting future performance.

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I interviewed with Coinbase last year while I was at FAANG. Most people were friendly, however the interviewer for the execution/metrics round, a young man, seemed like a haughty little jerk. He arrived 10 minutes late for a 30-minute interview (yes, the final rounds are all 30 minutes), and he talked about himself for 5 minutes. Then he threw me for a loop with a question that didn’t really fit that round. But I didn’t get it. A major round of layoffs was conducted three months later. Really averted the bullet.

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Are you still at FAANG? How’s PM work life balance?

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@AngelaBlue, No. returned to my old company. Since I was a part of their overhiring wave last year, there wasn’t enough scope, so FAANG was perfect for me because I had almost little or no work. Additionally, unlike what they represent, PMing at FAANG isn’t some wonderful, free-food nirvana. A PM must continually defend their scope from other people (engineers, PMs, and TPMs). Comparing what I was doing here to PMing there, it was a joke.

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Interesting, there’s a lot of work going around and I work with non-tech organisations who are attempting to become more tech.

Prior to that, I also left a software company where the internal politics and squabbling were just as you describe.

I’ll never work for a company that only does tech.

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@LawrenceMartin, Amazing! I’m curious as to where you work, and if you’re in a pure tech division of a traditional organization or a technology-driven business with a physical supply chain.

I formerly worked for a traditional sector multinational that was as large as they come, serving the IT organization (oil and gas). The last few decades have been largely about managing decline, and the pie has only become smaller. I want to talk about politics and sniping.

I had intended to never return to the “old economy,” but I’m wondering whether I should change my mind.

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Good question. I’d say I’m in a pure tech track as part of a traditional organization’s growth push. Basically, SAFe is what we’re using. It’s not that horrible, despite its problems. Stakeholders have many problems with data literacy, but I believe I am adding a lot of value by doing these things.

Politics will always exist, but I actually prefer working with dinosaur-age stakeholders who manage real businesses than smart-aleck kids who are incredibly arrogant and think they know it all. Please don’t forget that.

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That is a wise and intriguing insight. Technically, I’m still at a big company in a different skill group. I completely agree with your notion of having to defend oneself.

Nothing is someone else’s problem, which is an important and fascinating aspect of the slogan and culture. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone is rushing to make a “effect” without thinking about the scope or their coworkers, fixing everything and nothing.

I was interested to know if this would be a part of a larger industry difficulty where management in larger organizations fails to define and distribute scope since they have never truly been on the front lines. Any takers?

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I’m interviewing and the standard seems to be:

  1. phone screen with a recruiter
  2. video interview with the hiring manager
  3. a virtual on-site followed by a few interviews with team members.

I had a phone interview with a tech company, but I chose not to proceed. They do a case study, get feedback, and then conduct another case study. The hiring manager and virtual onsite are next. Just completely absurd.

Because they are so artificial, case study interviews are not my favorite. Since product managers combine data from so many different sources, it seems impossible to respond intelligently when asked, “You’re a PM at Airbnb and reservations are down.” I much appreciate it when interviewers inquire about my prior experience with deep diving into metrics, etc.

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We do this approach and I hate it as the interviewer. It’s so disconnected from the reality of the job, it’s all unicorns and rainbows idealized product.

But then my org over-indexes on building strategy decks and endlessly reviewing 40-page PRDs.

Anyway, as someone that’s gone through the gauntlet, got offers, and now has to give this case daily to candidates, here’s how to solve (almost?) any:

  • Who’s paying for it?
  • What is their current journey?
  • Prioritize pain points in journey using Important x Satisfied lens
  • Find first-adopter segment (most pain)
  • MVP is 1-3 features that can be launched quickly and cheaply
  • Measure flow success and retention

Always ask your interviewer data/UXR questions to validate at each step.

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40-page PRDs? :hushed: What the heck???

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When I started at a new Product role, I saw my team write 50+ pages PRD. The other problem is because writing is considered to be a good skill, now people try to write as much as possible and the PM role has become an editorial role - where you keep writing and editing docs. :smile: