Cracking the PM Interview: Everything You Need to Know

Cracking the PM Interview guide

Product management has always been a popular topic. In fact, it’s so popular that numerous product people shared their experiences, expertise, and even their memories of product management in hundreds of blog posts and books. However, out of all resources, one that has always been under the spotlight was Gayle Lackman’s Cracking the PM Interview.

Cracking the PM Interview is so popular that we often receive at least one question about this particular book during our live events on Product Manager interviews. So, here’s our very own take on Gayle Lackman’s Cracking the PM Interview.

One big disclaimer before we begin our review: Please be aware that all of the views shared here are the Product Gym staff’s personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect everyone’s views.

Here’s what we will be discussing today:

When Should You Read Cracking the PM Interview

You should read Cracking the PM Interview if you wonder what a product manager does and how this career path is represented in today’s modern corporate structure (especially tech companies).

It’s a reliable resource that explains the birth of modern product management practice. As a reader, you can take a very close peek at how this profession is done or should be appropriately done in a properly functioning tech company.

You get to understand what a product manager at a Big Tech or FAANG company does on a daily basis and in the long run. It’s an excellent way for you to learn what is expected of you as a product manager at large tech companies.

You should refer to this resource, if you aim to join Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft. Lackman successfully covers and explains how product management works in each of these companies.

Lackman is not the only one who knows how product management works in FAANG companies. After helping 1,000+ first-time and experienced product managers land the product manager job of their dreams, we have compiled a very in-depth roadmap to winning the Product Manager interview at these companies.

There is also a “startup” section that talks about how product management is done in smaller companies. The startups that Lackman covers in her book are now big tech companies that either completed their IPO or in the brink of one. Examples of such companies include Uber, Dropbox, and Airbnb.

When Should You Refer to Other Resources?

In 2021, the companies mentioned above are no longer startups, and we found that section to be a bit obsolete. After mentoring more than a thousand members and closely monitoring their Product Manager journey, we can confidently say that product management at every startup differs immensely.

One common theme we observed, however, is that Product Managers tend to play a more active role in executive decisions in startups, and they interact more with the senior leadership.

In addition to the startup section, we also found a portion of the interview section out of date, especially regarding the questions featured. After seeing many of our members interviewing with a broad spectrum of companies for Product Manager roles, we have observed that a tiny percentage of the companies ask coding questions or estimation questions, which are significant parts of the book.

Knowing that many of our members come from non-technical backgrounds and don’t have the time or the means to learn coding or algorithms, we believe this section to be redundant.

The current interview theme is more focused on case studies to assess the candidate’s ability to solve relevant challenges that the companies are currently facing.

Through our experience coaching PM candidates, we noticed that the hardest and the most eliminating aspect of the product manager interview are the case studies. In case you’re wondering what a typical product manager case study looks like, here’s a video of our case study instructor, Roman Kolosovskiy, solving a typical Facebook product manager interview question!

Which Cracking the PM Interview Sections Represent Today’s PM Hiring Landscape?

We know that getting a product manager job is complicated (and that’s how we dedicated a whole blog to it!) as there are many things to learn. In Cracking the PM Interview, Lackman does have many useful tips that prospective PMs could use.

We believe that her explanation of transitioning from engineering to product management has been very informative. She does share a clear roadmap of how these two career paths are related and how one can leverage an engineering background to become a successful product manager.

However, there isn’t enough clarity on how professionals coming from a non-technical or business background can make a transition to product management. 

As you can see from our member success page, there is definitely a strong population of non-technical professionals that would also like to transition to product management; not just software engineers. 

We also love the fact that she addresses the MBA question. Many first-time product manager candidates believe that getting an MBA is the only way of transitioning to product management, which we believe otherwise; based upon our data in being able to help first-time and experienced product managers land the product manager job of their dreams. In this regard, It was very refreshing to hear a prominent voice confirm our assumptions.

One last aspect of the book that we enjoyed was how she clearly explained some of the most commonly asked behavioral product manager interview questions!

We all know that these questions can reveal so much information about one’s career and potential, and therefore it’s essential to answer them in the right way.

Not only does Lackman include sample answers to help you formulate your answers to these questions, but she also talks about the critical aspects you should be demonstrating about yourself. You should pay extra attention to this part to learn what interviewers expect you to talk about!

Alternative Resources to this Book If You’re in a Hurry

First and foremost, we believe that landing the product manager role is only possible if you have the right resume! Please refer to our guide to writing the ultimate PM resume before you begin your application process.

Once you’re done writing your resume, it’s time for you to prepare your pitch to make sure that you are in top shape when asked about your experience. This part tends to throw off many novice candidates who come from unconventional backgrounds and so make sure you read this article on how to market yourself as the ultimate product manager!

You’re almost there, but you still have some work to do! You have to know what to expect from Product Manager interviews so that you can prepare accordingly. After mentoring more than a thousand members, we have compiled a list of the most commonly asked Product Manager interview questions. Here’s the only list you need!

Last but not least, you have to prepare yourself for the case studies! The case study interview happens to be the eliminating step for many candidates, and so you need to learn what to do when you receive one. Don’t step into your case study interview without reading this guide!

Sounds like a lot of work? We are always here to help you land your dream Product Manager job in the shortest amount of time without quitting your full-time job!

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