Interview Tips for Senior PMs

Some quick tips I’ve been sharing on my Twitter and wanted to expand.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

PEARL Framework

Instead of STAR for answering “tell me about a time when..” questions, try PEARL — Problem, Epiphany, Action, Result, Learning.

What makes a person look senior in an interview?

  1. Autonomy / Agency: How much did you notice and decide to do on your own, as opposed to getting direction from your manager? Did you see it as your responsibility to make changes?
  2. Strategy: Did you set the strategy for your team and build a good roadmap off of it? If not, how much did you understand and absorb the strategy? Do you tie ideas back to their larger purpose?
  3. Tough Decision Making: Did you make strategic decisions in a place where there was more than one reasonable option? Did you grapple with tough tradeoffs? Ironically, the more you try to make your decision look obviously correct, the less that decision makes you look good. Instead, build up how good the alternatives looked so it’s clear that you needed good judgement to choose the option you went with.
  4. Influencing other PMs or other teams: Did you introduce processes that other PMs started following? Did you convince other teams to voluntarily change their approach? This broadening of scope is a sign of seniority.
  5. Relevant experience: Look for excuses to reference your past work in relevant ways to help the interviewer see that your time translated into valuable experience. An easy way is to mention it during hypothetical questions: “Ah, this reminds me of a time at my past company when…” or “One of the things I learned a while back was …”.
  6. Confident grasp of the basics: If you’re a senior PM, you shouldn’t have just recently learned, for example, that meetings should have agendas. That’s PM 101 and should feel obvious and boring. If an interviewer asks how you’d improve a team, quickly mention “well obviously agendas for all meetings”, but then move on to more advanced ideas. Similarly, you can name-drop popular product concepts to highlight your familiarity.

Make the most of your past years of experience

If you recently switched to become a PM after years in another role, companies might not know how to level you. Should your years as a doctor count half-credit towards your PM experience? Full credit? Zero?

Co-Author of Cracking the PM Interview, the best selling book on product management http://amzn.to/2dLr46H. Advisor at Asana. Previously @ Google & Microsoft.

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