Product managers (PMs) are de facto team leaders; taking ownership of a problem space, rallying teams around a solution, and relentlessly removing executional blocks. The product management career path relies on PMs being able to think on their feet and own the decisions they make.
This involves dealing with conflicts, misalignments and failures. Facebook PMs need to have strong initiative and be introspective to thrive in a fast paced bottom up culture. Behavioral interviews assess your ability to do that.
Leadership and drive (otherwise known as "behavioral" or "cultural fit") product management interviews test a candidate’s ability to support, build and lead their team. In most cases, you’ll be talking through past examples of working with others rather than answering hypotheticals. The focus is on understanding how you build relationships and get alignment. There are a lot of great resources out there dissecting PM behavioral interviews. If you're interested, check out Exponent's guide to PM behavioral questions or try this Facebook PM insider's guide. Instead, I will focus on how to prepare.
The first time I prepared for PM interviews, I realized how hard it is to remember stories and details from your past. After that, I began documenting stories regularly while they were fresh in my mind. When the time came to prepare for the interviews, I only had to pick and practice the stories I wanted to pitch.
I spent approximately 6 hours split over 3 days to prepare, including 2 one-hour mock interviews.
The actual interview felt like a conversation. The interviewer was inquisitive, and asked follow-up questions. There were prompts that I hadn’t anticipated and had to think on my feet to find a story. Quickly responding to changing dynamics is a part of the PM job description.
Let's look at the framework I used to prepare.
Read your target company’s values by researching the website. But don’t stop there - talk to people who work at the company to better understand what those values mean in everyday work. If you don’t know anyone who works at the company, ask your recruiter about it or reach out to someone on LinkedIn.
Don’t go by face value. One of Facebook's core values is to “Move Fast” ...but not at the cost of quality. Facebook empowers teams to move fast with a "bottom-up" culture, giving teams autonomy to make decisions and, when necessary, a quick turnaround from leadership. Facebook PMs must be able to efficiently manage multiple stakeholders, build relationships, and concisely lay out different options for leadership.
After building a strong understanding of the company culture, write down relevant past experiences in the S.T.A.R (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. Highlight your role in achieving those results. Even just writing the key pointers helps frame a better narrative.
Take a look at some of my stories written in the STAR format (abstracted to comply with NDA):
I use a Google Sheet with the company values in the first column, past experiences in the first row, and stories written in each cell. When you are trying to prepare for multiple companies or haven’t yet identified the specific companies to interview with, you can use the Amazon Leadership Principles as they cover most of what you'd run into.
You can start documenting stories today by copying my template, here.
Don’t memorize - instead, work on confidence in the interview. Nailing a few key elements will help you stay on track no matter what question the interviewer might throw at you. You don't need to remember every single word. This shouldn’t be difficult because you’ve lived through those experiences.
3 practice techniques that I found helpful:
And finally, some tips for success: