Have you done a take home assignment for a PM role, presented it etc., and didn’t get feedback from HR or the hiring manager? It’s happened to me.
If you’re interested, I’d be happy to take a look and provide feedback. I’d be interested in getting some feedback on my exercises as well. Let me know if you’re interested and we can set up some kind of process so we can get better for future exercises.
Or please share what mistakes you’ve made with the take home.
First mistake is taking home an assignment
Is it avoidable though? I feel like of the 25+ product interviews I’ve gotten which move past the phone screen, 20 or so have take-home assignments. I actually don’t mind them, and they helped me land my first product role when I couldn’t lean on my experience and could instead showcase potential/thought process.
I totally get the anti-free-labor sentiment though
Did you just talk to PM or HR to get those assignments? Also, were they work related?
I’m okay with taking home an assignment as long as that assignment is unrelated to the company’s product.
What are the mistakes and are they common? I’m new to applying to PM internships and have only been assigned one (from Cloudflare).
A few years ago, when I applied, Uber and Dropbox had assignments.
@MartyRoss, how were these administered? Can you recall the content of the assignments?
Uber was for first round sent you a prompt and you have like 72 hours to submit. It was to come up with a new Uber product.
Dropbox was for final round, and it was a presentation given to a bunch of people at their office. Prompt was to build something for DropBox in education
A lot of people seem to think this is a scam to get free work, is it though? Would you really want a bunch of solutions that lack context and analytics from outsiders? Maybe it is a scam, but I’m skeptical - does anyone have experience from the other side (tried to get PM applicants to solve a problem for their company)?
Regardless of whether or not it’s a plan to get free work, are they useful?
I have been in Product Management for 10+ years and have NEVER hired anyone without a take-home. They are immensely helpful in understanding how a candidate thinks, likely to perform on the job and the uniqueness the candidate brings to the table.
I have many examples of how a person who looked perfect on the paper perform so badly I was forced to wonder if the person is lying on the resume and on the other hand, I have had recent grads students who brought forth such creativity and enthusiasm that my mind was almost made before I met them.
One thing is that I give the assignment before the main set of interviews right after the phone screen.
One cardinal rule that I have is that I never give any company problem. I create assignments that test for a similar problem, but the setting is always a different industry/situation, and the data is hypothetical. I believe the giving the company’s problem to candidates is borderline unethical and while it may not be very useful for the company, it does border on the free work side. Besides, a hypothetical case allows both me and the candidates to flex our creative muscles and have some fun with the assignment.
I’ve done 3-4 of them over the past 2 months of interviewing, and each time I knew this:
- It was way easier to structure my thoughts on paper than impromptu in an interview.
- It gave me a real opportunity to showcase product skills (research, competition, prioritization, implementation).
- It almost never added value to the hiring manager as free work. They’ve seen 100s like me and the prompts are fairly standard. So only about 5-10% of what I would put up there would have been new for them.
- Each time, I felt I was flexing my product muscles. And it was fun!
@DhirajMehta, As a hiring manager, it’s a great way to learn more about candidates and is of zero value as “free work.” We do an area we’re familiar with (in our area/related to our product) because we have more info to evaluate responses with and because it gets the candidates thinking about the space / lets them shine if they have insights or experience in the space.
We give a lot of take-homes and find it essential in PM screening. The idea that it is getting free work from people seems far-fetched to me. There is no way that the quality of work you do in a take-home could pass the quality bar of what we’d expect from a real full-time employee who actually has access to internal data, real customer feedback, and is thinking about the problem full-time. Also, if somehow your work is so amazing that it could be real work quality (and this has NEVER happened in my experience hiring PMs), you’d get an offer immediately.
@MichaelYoffe, Yeah, I’m with you. I think it’s a fair way to see how a PM thinks, I do think hiring company should keep the scope pretty tight, so it doesn’t take more than like 2 hours. I’ve yet to do one and not get job (though that could change next week), but I’m sure would make it harder to take.
Yeah, this is stupid, you as a senior looking for any job you can find, are not that smart enough. Especially if you did not make it through the interviews, then in the firms eyes they just hired people who are going to do what u did on the interview HW 24x7 for 365 days a year. Your 20 hours’ worth of work is worthless to them.
I have been hearing more and more from colleagues about increasingly “ambitious” interview take-home “assignments” that are blatantly just free work. This is for PM and particularly Product Design roles.
For people trying to land their first role: I get it. Kind of.
When interviewing entry-level candidates, I honestly want to hear more questions than answers.
For mid-senior level roles: Know what your time and effort is worth and make the decision for yourself whether it is worth it.
For those sceptics - let me reassure you that work assignments that are the best predictor of job performance, assuming that the work actually resembles the types of work that is expected in the job. And that the company isn’t doing it some stupid way. Altogether, it’s just so much more effective than anything else in working through candidates.
I agree with this. Although I have not seen a take home assignment that included and entire plan from conception to launch as you’ve described. Interviews can feel a bit like you are being evaluated on your interview skills which does not always translate to work. Having said that, I wish they weren’t so ambiguous and broad sometimes. If I’m presented with an ambiguous problem in the field my job is to arrive at clarity by collecting more information/data. So hard to fake your way through this and not sound like you are making ignorant assumptions. I feel like I end up with a growing series of disclaimers and areas where I would likely look to fill in gaps. Then I worry it’s wishy-washy and presents like I can’t make a decision. So hard not to second guess everything.
Totally. They are hard to get right in order to be ‘useful’. We’ve even struggled with that ourselves. The PM Director wanted the assignment to give candidates a chance to show their big brain thinking and how they’d make serious improvements to some existing product. Ideally while linking it with (their interpretation) of product strategy, vision and goals. But in reality, not much of that made it across. Plus, it’s also quite hard to pick a product you know (not the company’s) and suggest some big transformative change that isn’t already done or written about somewhere.