Cracking your next PM Interview: Preparation guide
Now that you have your super awesome resume ready, you need to start searching and applying to roles and start preparing for interviews. The intent of this article is to better equip you on those 3 steps. If you like this article, please subscribe/follow — will keep encouraging me to write more.
Searching for right role : As you gain more and deeper experience as Product Manager, the strategy of “spray and pray” doesn’t work. On the other hand you cannot be too selective — because remember there are too many variables in the entire process till you land the job — so do not put all your eggs in one basket. So how should you go about searching for the right jobs? Following are some techniques that have worked for me very well…
- LinkedIn alerts: LinkedIn has this wonderful feature where once you search for a job with various filters — it allows you to create an alert for similar roles being posted by the recruiters. So I went ahead and created few alerts that had a) designation as criteria +1, -1 to my current designation b) Location — kept this to few cities Berlin, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune c) Key words for role — Platform products, Ecommerce etc.
- Referrals: If you have not been following your alumni emails or have been ignoring some of the openings — I strongly urge you not to. These are really really useful channels and they benefit everyone, so unless the companies referral system is completely broken, this usually works out very well. Also its not a bad idea to reach out to individuals who have been working with the companies where you intend to apply. Things not to do when reaching out to someone for a job opening…
— DO NOT ASK the person you are reaching out to find opening suitable for your resume. Very frustrating. Instead do your homework on the most suitable role and see if the person can help you out with the hiring manager for that role.
— DO NOT ASK the person to refer you, if you do not know the person or do not have any association. Instead first build these associations so its easier for you to reach out when the need arises.
— DO NOT seek an update without giving sufficient time. Remember the person could be unwell, on holiday or even weekend.
- Recruiter connects: Its a good idea to reach out to recruiters and form connections, but make sure you have a good elevator pitch ready before you send the invite. You can mention that “While you are not immediately looking for a role within the company, you would like to be in touch just in case any interesting openings arise”
- Recruitment platforms: Although I have had very little success with this but its a good idea to keep your resume updated here. Companies that can provide good interview practice can reach out to you through these.
Applying to roles: “If you do not ask, the answer is always going to be NO” — remember this quote. As long as you see at least 40% match of the job description being posted and feel confident about your resume, go ahead and apply. At any good company the process is likely to take at least 4–6 weeks, so even if you feel you are under prepared go ahead and apply. There may be so many questions in your head, will the company see me fit for this role, will they pay me a good salary, will they provide me relocation etc. Its always good to get explicit answers from company for all these questions rather than assuming lot of things. Some tips…
— Trying to match keywords of the job description on the resume is generally a good idea. So yes, customize resume for the role you are applying to.
— Cover letters generally do not matter much. They may matter for entry level role, for a lateral entry role its generally the fit of experience that matters most.
— Keep a copy of your resume easily accessible on all channels. Preferably place it on Google drive so you can apply for roles quickly — as soon as they are posted. This also comes in handy if you are on vacation or generally too busy with your work.
— Its okay to apply for long shots, for eg., I applied to some companies that build satellites. You never know what the recruiter might like in your resume.
— Dedicate an hour for searching for relevant roles everyday, this can be a factor of your current situation, but anything less than an hour means you are not making serious efforts.
Preparing for interviews: Interview process will be a very long marathon. Every company will have a minimum of 5–6 rounds of discussion and its likely that you will interview at about 10–15 companies. So you are likely to have 60–90 discussions. This demands a lot of mental strength and you need to seriously shield yourself from this exhaustion. Below are some ways you can do this…
- Keep a diary and pencil ready: Preferably a new one — figurative for you planning to start a new chapter!. This should be used for keeping a journal of your interviews and nothing else. For every interview note the following things…
— Company name
— Person interviewing
— Questions that were asked to you
— Your learnings
- Questions you are going to ask: Most people ignore this part of interview or do not provide enough weightage. Trust me, sometimes this part can swing “No Hire” to “Hire” or vice-versa. Quality questions will be…
— Different questions for each department. Culture ones you can keep generic, but ensure that you have questions ready for different departments.
— No obvious questions — ask yourself if you can get the answer to this question through JD or company’s mission/visison/culture webpage. If the answer is yes, don’t ask.
— Document and make a summary of answers you have received for your questions, very very important.
- Manage your schedule: If you are working and interviewing; things can get really messy. Have a schedule decided — for example block your calendar for 2–4 PM or post 7 PM irrespective of if you have interview or not. This will also help you avoid unnecessary stress.
- Have a pitch ready: Most interviews I have failed or have seen people failed are the ones where I did not make a good start. A great start is necessary for getting that confidence and gaining that momentum in the interview. Have a pitch ready — a brief about yourself. Practice few variations but be sure to stick to 2–3 not more. For each pitch record a video of yourself and see how you are doing, then modify some of those points. Definitely have variations based on if you are pitching yourself to start-up vs an established company.
- Time to call your friends: If you have friends who are preparing for PM interviews then you have hit a jackpot, even if not, its always good idea to get hold of them and give you a shot at practice interviews. Exchanging questions asked and thinking process will help you learn quicker and a great moral booster as well.
- Prepare for rejections: You will receive rejections, a lot of them. Its important for you to not go into negative spiral. Find yourself ways to prepare for these rejections. Things I did that really helped me
— Learn from the rejections — things I could have done better
— Have a healthy pipeline, so you can focus on the next interview
— Download Headspace — helped me a great deal
— Treat every rejection as a way to increase your intensity, apply, learn, practice.