How to use RocketBlocks to land a PM offer
A three-step process for landing your dream product management job
Kenton Kivestu, ex-Google, ex-BCG, Founder at RocketBlocksPublished: December 15, 2020
RocketBlocks is built by experts with PM experience at Google, Facebook and Amazon and designed to help you land your PM dream job.
This document is a “How to” guide – written explicitly to provide a roadmap on how to use RocketBlocks product management prep for interviews and get an offer.
The RocketBlocks 3-step prep process:
- Learn the PM context
- Build the PM skills
- Evaluate and repeat
#1: Learn the context (Top)
Understanding the context is key.
Many aspiring PM candidates walk into their interviews with only a superficial understanding of what to expect.
For example, if you’re interviewing at Facebook and you ask the recruiter what to expect, then they’ll be very forthcoming and say something like “You should expect two interviews: one focused on product design and one focused on product execution. Both will be case-like questions, and you’ll be expected to problem solve on the fly and come up with a good solution.”
That’s not wrong – but it’s far from the full picture. Here’s what you’re really walking into:
Your interview will be a 45-minute discussion that begins with a fairly open-ended product design prompt – you’ll be expected to structure a logical approach to it, engage the interviewer in your problem solving and propose a well-articulated solution.
To complicate things, your interviewer will have a lot on her mind. She’s running behind on a presentation she has to give to the execs in 45 minutes and still hasn’t finished the last slide. For her, the stakes are high because if she doesn’t sell her product vision well later today, the resources for her team may be cut and, along with that, any chance she has at making the promotion to Director in the upcoming year.
To add to the pressure, 5-minutes before she sat down with you her engineering manager raised the flag on an urgent production bug just found. Her team is investigating now and she’s watching the Slack notifications pile up ominously on her phone. As she tries to shut that out and focus on your answer, she’s thinking to herself: “Does this candidate have the excitement and determination to really drive a product while dealing with this type of chaos…?”
Now, this is the full picture of a PM interview. The nature of the PM role is intensely operational, and understanding how that specifically affects the mindset of your interviewer as you’re speaking to them is critical. Your interviewer will not only care that you come up with a clever solution to the product design prompt, but that you articulate it in a way that shows conviction and rigorous thinking that will help you navigate the day-to-day reality of shipping products.
To put it bluntly: if you understand the nature of the role, then you’ll build a stronger grasp of what type of talent these companies need to hire. And once you understand the type of talent they need to hire then you know what, specifically, you need to demonstrate in the interview. Finally, if you can use all of that to understand your interviewer herself, then you’ll gain a huge advantage.
If you’ve landed here first, we recommend reviewing our detailed Product Management Getting Started Guide, which covers key topics about the role, industry and skills needed. It’s peppered with insights from product management leaders at places like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Stripe, Twitter and more.
- The three core components of the PM role
- What’s the career path of a PM look like?
- How to do a product deep dive
Once you’ve got the industry context down, you’ll be ready to dive in and start building your skills.
#2: Build the skills (Top)
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” This is the advice that Steve Martin, the uber successful OG comedian, gives to people looking to break into the industry.
It’s as true for product management as it is for comedy.
However, many candidates try to take shortcuts. Rather than focusing on skill building, they try to find an “answer key” so they can look good. They devote precious time to looking up past interview questions in false hope that they get the same question and can parrot back a prepared response. This is like studying for yesterday’s test – don’t fall for it!
There is a better way. Focus on identifying the key skills your target company cares about in PM candidates, and do dedicated, targeted practice to get better at those skills. If you want to learn how to do anything in life, there is only so far you can go by reading a book or watching a video. You must sit down and practice the exact skill you’re trying to build. Steve Martin didn’t learn how to tell jokes by reading a book. He learned by testing sentence structure, facial expressions and delivery timing of punch lines – he learned by practicing the individual skills.
RocketBlocks product management is built with this philosophy in mind, so no matter which type of product skill you’re trying to build, we can help.
Case skill setTargeted RocketBlocks practiceProduct design & strategyDrills > Product sense & strategyExecution & analyticsDrills > Analytics & metricsTechnical abilityDrills > Technical fluencySizing opportunitiesDrills > Estimation & sizingPrioritizing featuresDrills > Product cases (prioritzation questions)Product designDrills > Product cases (UX and design questions)
#3: Evaluate and repeat (Top)
Put it all together in a mock interview.
You can think of this process as a skill building loop: build individual skills, test your skills in a mock interview and identify which skills need to be better. And repeat the cycle.
RocketBlocks can help propel you through this cycle by facilitating mock interview experiences as well – both in a solo regard and with live partners. Specifically, we can help in three ways:
- Providing full product cases you can walk through with objectively right and wrong answers
- Giving access to expert PM coaches who have experience at leading companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.
- Offering a peer marketplace where you can find other candidates to practice your skills with
Regardless of which method(s) you utilize, the goal is the same: identify which skills need the most work, and begin another round of targeted practice in those areas.
Summary and Next Steps
Preparing for a PM interview is tough. Landing a role is tougher yet. And succeeding on the job… well, you get the point.
However, there is reason to be optimistic. If you employ a skills-based approach and do targeted practice, then your skills will improve. Better yet: over time, the improvements will compound.
This has a final advantage: you’re now studying for the right test. By focusing on the skills, not only will you be better equipped in your interviews, but you’ll also have a leg up on the job as well.