Is PM Hiring Broken?

So here’s my experience interviewing for PM. 33 companies. Trying to land a remote job ideally. Finally landed an offer.

I spent the last 6 months during COVID interviewing with various places - FB, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Uber, LinkedIn, F500, mid-tier public tech cos, rocket ship startups, and below average startups.

I’ve noticed a few trends.

FAANGULA - every interview is public knowledge these days. These places just look for regurgitated frameworks and lingo that you can find on YouTube. I honestly feel like it’s like studying for an SAT rather than just talking PM.

Like if you took a college kid, told him instead of studying for the GMAT or LSAT he reads a bunch of case studies, lies, and spits out all of these frameworks, he would get hired in a blind assessment against a PM with years of exp. I honestly respect SWE so much more because you don’t have to deal with this subjective BS.

Rocket ship/average startups - I noticed more and more create a harder process than FAANG and make you work on a 10hr presentations or assignment just to steal your ideas. I’ve been getting a lot of “we legally can’t give you feedback” and canned HR rejections after final rounds too. Very dehumanizing, especially when it’s all on Zoom. Also occasionally if you get a bad interviewer who shows up checked out - you’re done at that point. How can you have any shot if they are unprepared. Everything is luck of the draw and subjective AF. If you don’t have somebody on their good day during COVID, forget trying to spend 45 on Zoom trying to fake it.

Like half these interviewers are fishing for specific answers but are asking the wrong questions.

On WFH - most of these places wanted back to the office at some point. I think only a handful I interviewed were okay with full remote and moving to that direction.

On who I think is best - I think Amazon actually has the best. Situational can really help PMs explain previous problems they solved, although I think they hire too many MBAs.

I feel like what is asked in these interviews is rarely a good measure of how well you will perform on the job.

Anyone else feel this way?


The problem is that everyone wants to be a PM nowadays, whether you are a history major or CS major or an MBA with a poli-sci undergrad.
The hype cycle around investment banking collapsed in 2008, followed by management consulting losing luster and now they all want to become FAANG PMs. 10 years ago no MBA graduate wanted to be a PM unless they came from an engineering background. Now every MBA grad wants to get into FAANG.

And with this pointless randomness FAANG companies overrun by consultants have created the new case study inspired interview format with the BS emphasis on frameworks and ‘structure’ for product design, estimation, issue analysis and behavioral questions. It’s all become like an MBA admission where you need to write heroic BS essays just to get in rather than talk about what matters or your track record. Domain expertise or years of experience is irrelevant for the most part now.

Get ready to get interviewed by a confident 23 year old with no experience and learn how to ‘ace’ interviews from gimmicky interview prep companies - the cottage industry that has mushroomed around PM interview training. It doesn’t matter how many successful products you brought to market or analytical capabilities or how much domain knowledge you have or how problem solving actually works in the real world. What matters is confidence, confidence, and more confidence in the interview regardless of capability. Project confidence and put your ideas in CIRCLES and you are in. As though in the real world people use CIRCLES for product design!


This is spot on! After more than 15 yrs of experience (not all in PM) now when I am interviewing I am so surprised and demotivated on the format and how to prepare. When I first started as a PM no one even knew what a PM role was and there was no bs like today. Even 3-4 years back during my last job change I did not have time to search online and still got through 3-4 offers without all this drama.

I would make one addition: There is a difference between confidence and over confidence. As a PM interviewer it is our responsibility to filter that out. As they say “confidence is good but over confidence will sink the ship”.

Good post. I’ve experienced this myself. There is an art to casing and I’ve gotten a lot better with years of intentional practice but it’s like a standardized test. It’s not for the entrepreneurial achievers who go out and do things you learned to just case. You will learn to be better with time but if you don’t take a traditional path like consulting you are a black sheep in the product space within FAANG.

I used to be frustrated by this as well and then I landed a good job and went on to interview multiple people over several years in the company (the internal tool tracks and shows your , not exaggerating). I have also gone on to interview and eventually get offers from FANG companies, haven’t taken either to date but I’m sure that’ll eventually change. It still annoys me when I do an interview and get immature people who I know will not be a good fit and apply subjective biased judgment, but I’ve mostly learned to accept it.

Reality of interviewing is that it’s a crap shoot who you get in your interview loop. Rarely are different candidates evaluated by the same yardstick because rarely are they interviewed by the exact same people. Every. Single. Interview. Loop. Is different from every other and standardization of outcomes is a myth. Your odds always come down to luck of the draw that depends on the mindset and character of the interviewers.

Having said that — yes there is standardization of the questions and preparation does pay off. The product manager interview by Lewis Lin is honestly the best resource I’ve found, it’s literally the questions that places like Facebook, Amazon, etc will ask you, and the answers in the book are good, they give you exactly the type of answer that people are trained to look for.

One thing to keep in mind is that the interview process at large tech co’s isn’t built to be fair to candidates. It’s built to make sure only the people with a mindset that is most likely to fit into the environment pass it, and they’re totally OK with saying “no” to smart, talented people who would be wildly successful but who don’t fit a certain mold and thus are “unknown elements” aka risky — in other words, accept only the candidates that you know how to evaluate as people that will be productive in your environment, and deny everyone else.

So when you put all that together, my recommendation is this:

  1. Don’t just read the book, practice actually doing the test. You need practical ability to get at the answers they’re trained to look for, so you can adapt it to the exact question you’ll be asked.

  2. Try to reverse engineer what the interviewer’s state of mind will be — in addition to generally applying the framework they were taught in a one-hour course on how to interview at their company, they’re overworked and stressed, somewhat annoyed at having to do interviews probably for someone who isn’t even on their team, pissed off at the people they’ve had to work with on other teams who they wonder how they made it through the process, and just want to make sure the candidate isn’t below the mark: in practice that means they want to hire someone who thinks, talks, and acts like them (yes that’s unconscious bias at work. Use it to your advantage). You need to come off like “one of the pack,” if you’re flying your unique personality flag through the whole thing it’s almost guaranteed at least one of the people on the panel will reject that regardless of your skillset or intelligence, and you’ll wash out.

  3. play the numbers game. Recruiters also know all of the above. Unless you totally botched the interview, they’re more than happy to bring you in again six months later — if your resume is good and you’re a match for the people they look for, they know that often second, third, or fourth time is the charm. So realistically you may need to turn your goal into a 18-24 month goal across a few big co’s, and play the odds until you land a panel who’s friendly to your particular idiosyncrasies, and are well prepared with the right mindset and answers. This is what many PMs who are in big tech co’s do as well to achieve good job mobility — they interview everywhere at least once a year so if/when they decide to move they have better odds.

Good luck.

I relate to this post so much. All the comments on this thread are very high quality. Thanks for sharing everyone.

My two cents:
PM hiring as always been broken, I think now the brokenness has just standardized more. Thirteen years ago I interviewed at Google for APM and they had a multi day interview process that involves taking all the candidates to a play written by one of the PMs in her spare time. After an entire round of actual interviews and campus tours the day before (replete with all the famous Google brain teasers). It was so awful.

I would solve it by asking people what they have done instead of asking them to answer generic case based questions. Just show me what you did and I am gonna hear you talk about it and I am gonna ask you questions about it. If you cannot show what you have done before, I am not interested in betting on you and if you can’t explain what you did, I would assume you did not do the work. It is a bit harsh but it is better than relying on hypothetical case studies.

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