Rant about the PM interview process

I’m sure this has already been discussed at length, but I think writing it out would be cathartic (for me).

I’m still in undergrad and I’m currently applying to full time entry-level PM(think APM) roles.

I stumbled on a cool European company that was hiring junior PMs so I thought I’d give it a shot. I actually managed to land an interview and was ecstatic since I live in a shit country and need visa sponsorship, so it was the first ever callback I get! 10 hours of written timed tests, multiple interviews, and 3 months later I just got news that I got rejected.

I really appreciated that they actually gave me feedback. They really liked my written answers and my soft skills but “my problem solving skills in the final interview were not up to par”. So how did they evaluate my problem solving skills in that final interview? They asked me a brain teaser. So I didn’t get accepted because I didn’t catch a trick in the phrasing(yes, really).

Did anyone else experience something similar? This is my first ever PM interview, is this the norm in the industry since i’ve always thought the bulk of it was product design, strategy, maybe a technical part and some behavioral questions.

Sorry for the rant but I just needed to vent.


I promised myself to ask how many interviews the company has, and if it is more than 2 after this call I won’t be doing them. I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but those that like me do so 11/10. I’d much rather be that person than an average 8 that passes all 5 interviews.

I once interviewed for a year. 1 full year. They gave me an upset pikachu face when I said no to their generous offer we discussed 1 year ago, before I got a promotion and 2 raises.

Like get your shit together.


Brain teaser in an interview. Ughh. First, the goal of an interview is not to trick you up and secondarily is that people solve differently. Not everyone is fast on their feet nor needs to be. Some of my best solves were on the drive home.


This wasn’t a PM specific interview example, but the interviewer (a woman) at a well-known SaaS company asked me what drink I would get her. I’m a guy. No, she wasn’t flirting with me.

I was like uhhh and made up some shit and they asked why. Also, nonsense response.

It was so awkward. Was it a trick and I was supposed to say that’s weird and inappropriate? I don’t know. I didn’t get an offer. Still bugs me to this day.


@AngieGoodwin, Was this for a B2B company? I guess the thought process here was she wanted to see how you would perform a customer or prospect interview to tease out what they need in a feature/product. But it’s a terrible question - not only is it creepy and weird, it also requires the interviewee to be familiar with drinking, cocktails, bars, etc. How is a teetotaler supposed to know how to even approach that question?


Yes, B2B SaaS. In hindsight, totally content I didn’t work there given the known trajectory. I ended up at an early stage SaaS that scaled up while I was there.


Get used to it…unless you are ivy league or already have big-tech experience - this is what it looks like. I once got rejected for not saying 1 word (it’s a common word in PM but it just did not click. But what I said did make the same point the interviewer was looking for).


Some companies like to pretend they are Google. Go on with your life.

Over the course of your career, you will interview with firms who can use your help but will actively resist you. It’s not worth your time trying to help people who don’t want your help.


Basically, they’re looking for reasons to eliminate you more than select you


100% agree to this.

It’s not just the hassle and expense of sponsoring someone, it’s the risk that the person won’t stay long enough to return the investment, and the risk that at the company may be asked to justify why they didn’t fill the position with someone domestic.

It’s tough for hiring managers. I saw a lot of great, highly qualified foreign resumes. The U.S. applicants had little to offer in comparison. But we couldn’t interview people who would require sponsorship without special permission.


In undergrad when you don’t have work experience, consulting type questions (case, market sizing etc), is the only way they can test your problem solving.

Even with work experience, they interview for structure from case interviews.


@ArnieSilvers, Honestly that sounds great. I would have been way more comfortable with an estimation question where I could show my structured thinking (I’ve done plenty of those in consulting interviews).

The brain teaser I got just had a wrong or right answer and was extremely similar to those you see on TEDx where in the end the trick was in the phrasing.


Brain teasers? Really? I think you dodged a bullet. I think a one off, end of the interview, fun question like “how would you measure how many tennis balls fit into a limo” can be fun but are ultimately unproductive.

And truly not a good interview question.


Amazon (according to the interview I did) quit doing trick questions. They tracked the types of questions they asked across thousands of candidates and found trick questions were not more likely to lead to identifying successful candidates.

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Most likely you didn’t get hired because there were lots of applicants with very similar skills and they had to use that criteria or throw a dice. Most hiring processes are pretty much a lottery.