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 product management books. But out of all these resources, one that has always been under the spotlight was Gayle Lackman’s Cracking the PM Interview.
How to crack pm interview is so popular that we always receive at least one question about it during our live events. So, to tackle the big quetsions, 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.
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. 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 Cracking the PM Interview as a 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.
(PS: 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. If you’d rather stick to a free resource, we’ve got your back.)
Another aspect of the book that we enjoyed was how she clearly explains 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 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.
Cracking the Product Manager Interview: On Startups
There is also a “startup” section in Cracking PM Interview 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 are on the brink of one. Examples of such companies include Uber, Dropbox, and Airbnb.
In 2021, the companies mentioned in this section are no longer startups, so we found it to be a bit obsolete. The bottom line is that product management at every startup differs immensely. However, one common theme we’ve observed is that Product Managers tend to play a more active role in executive decisions in startups, and they interact more with the senior leadership.
When Should You Refer to Other Resources?
First and foremost, we believe that landing the Product Manager role is only possible if you have the right resume! If you haven’t optimized your Product Manager resume, you’re not ready to start digging into interviews yet. Instead, read resume guides and start sourcing PM resume templates. These are going to be better resources for you right now.
In addition to the startup section, we also found a portion of the interview section out of date, especially regarding the questions featured. We have observed that only a tiny percentage of interviewers ask coding questions or estimation questions. Despite this, these question types make up a significant part 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.
Even more than product manager interview questions, a candidate’s success is most dependent on the case study round. The current theme is more focused on case studies to assess the candidate’s ability to solve relevant challenges that the companies are currently facing. You should skip Cracking the PM Interview if you’re looking for resources around the case study interview round. Instead, give this quick guide a watch-through:
Which Cracking the PM Interview Sections Best Represent Today’s PM Hiring Landscape?
We know that getting a Product Manager job is complicated: there are seemingly endless things to learn. In Cracking the PM Interview, Lackman does have many useful tips that prospective PMs could use. It’s a great supplementary resource for your interview prep.
Her explanation of transitioning from engineering to product management is very informative. She shares 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. There is definitely a strong population of non-technical professionals that would also like to transition to product management; it’s 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, but we believe otherwise. Based on the data we’ve collected while helping first-time Product Managers, it’s clear to us that you can succeed without an MBA. In this regard, It was very refreshing to hear a prominent voice confirm our perspective.
Alternative Resources to this Book If You’re in a Hurry
If you don’t have the time or money to invest in buying and reading a book, there are still plenty of free resources you can check out. Check out the Product Gym YouTube channel for our interview tips playlist, or peruse our blog for templates on how to answer all the most common product management interview questions as well as interview strategies.
Still sound like a lot of work and research? 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. Schedule a call to get a free career coaching session with our in-house team. We’d love to answer any questions you may have about interview resources.