Facebook Product Manager Interview: What to Expect and How to Prepare

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Facebook product manager interview preparation

SEE ALSO: How to Ace the Facebook Product Manager Interview (Second Edition)

What to Expect

The Facebook PM interview has standardized across three components:

Product Sense
Good Facebook PMs innovate beautiful products that solve big, messy user problems.

Product sense is Facebook’s term for a candidate's product design abilities. In this article, I'll use the terms product sense and product design interchangeably.

Example questions include:

  • How would you improve the Facebook News Feed?
  • How would you design Facebook Events 2.0?
  • How would you redesign Facebook Pages?

Execution
Good Facebook PMs get things done and make critical decisions.

Facebook’s term for this competency is called execution. Facebook interviewers test for executive skills by understanding:

  • Fit. Is the candidate a good fit for the company? Is the candidate aligned with Facebook’s mission and values? And are the candidate’s skills and experiences aligned with Facebook?
  • Scrappy. Can the candidate get things done?
  • Decision-making. Can the candidate evaluate data and make decisions, especially when the situation is murky and the decision is far from being unanimous?
  • Focused on the big picture. Can the candidate select an appropriate product goal that factors in the needs of the user, team, and / or company?
  • Analyze, diagnose, and evaluate. Can the candidate troubleshoot a problem by analyzing the root cause and suggesting a course of action?

Interview questions can include:

  • We've outsourced a critical mobile app to a third-party developer. How do we decide when to take that development in house?
  • What are the goals for Facebook’s News Feed?
  • How would you decide between showing more ads on the Facebook News Feed vs. showing a People You May Know recommendation widget?
  • Weekly active users (WAU) for Facebook’s iPhone dropped. What happened?

Leadership
Top-notch Facebook PMs are driven leaders. Facebook interviewers test for leadership + drive by evaluating the following:

  • Introspection. Is the candidate self-aware, especially of their own flaws?
  • EQ. Does the candidate get along with others? In other words, how is their emotional intelligence (EQ)?
  • Leadership & team building. Does the candidate like leading others and building teams?
  • Bold, eager visionary. Lastly, does the candidate get excited about technology and have the capacity to set forth a bold and inspiring vision?

Sample questions include:

  • What’s a self-development area that needs improvement?
  • Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?
  • What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?
  • What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?

Ice Breakers
As with any interview, expect standard ice breaker questions during the beginning of the interview process including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your favorite project you’ve worked on recently?

What’s No Longer Covered in the Facebook PM interview

In the past, Facebook included a technical portion in the PM interview. They’ve phased that out now. For those of you who are rusty on technical concepts, you’ll be happy that you’ll no longer have to answer questions about recursion or object-oriented programming.

Keep in mind that interviewers are always free to ask whatever question they want. So while technical questions are not prescribed as part of their PM hiring process, some interviewers may choose to operate outside of those boundaries.

How to Prepare

To prepare for the three interview components, I would recommend the following:

Product Sense
Practice leading product design discussions using a design framework like the CIRCLES Method™. Explore possible personas and articulate the use cases. Prioritize the use cases and then brainstorm solutions. Most candidates fail the product design interview because they jump straight into solutions.

Facebook interviewers say that candidates are not required to wireframe their ideas. However, effective communication counts, and pictures communicate more effectively and elegantly than a bunch of words.

Download a wireframing tool like Axure Wireframe or Balsamiq to get comfortable sketching UI designs on the whiteboard.

Execution
When tackling questions in the execution bucket, I’d recommend the following frameworks:

  • ROI estimation
  • AARM Method™
  • Root cause analysis
  • Behavioral interview framework
  • Rule of Three

ROI estimation
For interview questions around evaluating or comparing tradeoffs between different features or decisions, the Facebook interviewer wants to see that your decision is grounded in data. And that inevitably means evaluating the net benefit to the company. Now that Facebook is a profit-making, publicly-traded company — net benefit and even user engagement — can be measured in terms of revenues and costs.

For your different feature choices, calculate the ROI impact of your various options. You can also evaluate the options qualitatively by drawing up a pros and cons list. However, a qualitative comparison is rarely sufficient at the Facebook PM interview.

If you're not comfortable generating your own revenue estimates, grab this workbook and practice developing estimates from Chapter 4.

AARM Method™
AARM Method™ stands for four sets of metrics: acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization. It’s a handy metrics checklist when answering questions about appropriate goals and metrics to track as a product manager. For more details on the AARM Method™, refer to Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews.

Root cause analysis
When asked to identify the cause of a WAU drop in the Facebook iPhone app, brainstorm, as best (and quickly) as possible, all the potential causes. Then systematically investigate and rule out each cause to get the root issue.

A fishbone diagram may help organize your thoughts, brainstorm a more complete list, and impress the interviewer with your visual communication skills.

Behavioral interview framework
When answering FB PM interview questions such as, “Tell me a time when you needed to complete a deadline, but didn’t have the resources” use a storytelling framework. My personal favorite is the DIGS Method™ featured in Decode and Conquer; the STAR method is a decent alternative.

Rule of Three
For cultural fit questions, such as Why FB? or Why PM?, I highly recommend using the Rule of Three. It worked for exceptional communicators like Steve Jobs and Thomas Jefferson. It’ll work for you too.

Leadership + Drive
To get ready for interview questions in the Leadership + Drive bucket, I’d recommend using many of the frameworks I introduced earlier:

Behavioral interview framework
Use STAR or the DIGS Method™ to answer questions such as “Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?”

Rule of Three
Use it to answer questions like “What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?”

CIRCLES Method™
Use the CIRCLES Method™ as a checklist for answering questions such as “What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?” Key areas to emphasize: the customer problem, the technology trend or solution that will address that problem, and a convincing discussion around feasibility including technical, cost, and consumer adoption.

Weakness framework
Use this framework to answer questions about what is your biggest weakness and other personal development areas.

SEE ALSO: How to Ace the Facebook Product Manager Interview (Second Edition)

Photo credit: Christoph Aigner


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