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How to Win the Starbucks Product Manager Interview

If someone asked you to meet up for coffee, chances are you’d end up at a Starbucks. As the largest cafe chain in the world, Starbucks is a household name and a frequent destination for caffeine seekers, remote workers needing wifi, and college students meeting up to finish a project. Any Product Manager with a penchant for pumpkin spice lattes — or for working with a popular global brand — would be thrilled to join the Starbucks team.

Ready to get a product management job at this well-known company? You’ve come to the right place.

Company Overview

Starbucks is an international chain of cafes and a retailer of coffees, teas, and food items. Consumers can purchase Starbucks products at one of their nearly 33,000 coffeehouses around the globe or through a variety of additional retailers such as grocery chains, department stores, and online sellers. Their full product line goes beyond coffee and tea to include energy drinks, creamers and syrups, seasonal items, and specialty snacks.   

Starbucks Company History

The first Starbucks location was established in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl at the famous Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. The three founders were long-time coffee and tea aficionados, so they decided to create their own coffee company, which they named “Starbucks” after the first mate in Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby Dick. Initially, they sold high-quality coffee beans and ground coffee blends created in-house. By the early 1980s, they had four locations in the Seattle area.

In 1982, Howard Schultz joined the company as the director of marketing and retail operations. Inspired by a visit to cafes in Milan, he pitched the idea of creating a chain of Starbucks cafes. However, Bowker and Baldwin didn’t want to stray from their original business model. Schultz ended up leaving Starbucks to create his own cafe company, Il Giornale, which saw quick success. When Bowker and Baldwin wanted to sell Starbucks in 1987, Schultz and a group of investors made the purchase.

A period of rapid expansion followed. By 1992, Starbucks had gone public via IPO (NASDAQ: SBUX) and had more than 100 locations. Three years later, they introduced their wildly popular Frappuccino beverage and began expanding internationally, opening a store in Japan in 1996. In 1998, the company launched Starbucks.com and began offering its products in grocery stores across the United States. 

By the end of the millennium, Starbucks had more than 3,000 cafe locations. In 2003, they acquired Seattle Coffee Company. More acquisitions followed across the next decade, with the purchases of Ethos Water in 2005, Evolution Fresh in 2011, and Teavana in 2012. In 2018, the company reached 100% pay equity in the US while also making strides toward environmental impact goals. 

Starbucks Today

Today, Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and helmed by interim CEO Howard Schultz after Kevin Johnson’s retirement in March of 2022. It’s the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, with more than 32,000 locations and employs over 380,000 individuals. The company is currently listed at number 114 on the Fortune 500 and earned more than $8 billion in revenue in Q4 of 2021. 

Product Culture at Starbucks 

Starbucks offers a wide range of beverages and food items, with a heavy focus on coffees and teas. Their in-store products include 30 different blends and single-origin coffees, handcrafted beverages (like Frappuccinos, Cold Brew, tea blends, etc.), food items such as pastries, salads, and sandwiches, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, and items like coffee tumblers, mugs, and grinders. Customers can order in-store items via the Starbucks mobile app

Consumers can also purchase a variety of Starbucks products through other retailers, such as grocery stores and online sellers. These products include Starbucks VIA instant coffee, Starbucks-brand whole beans and coffee blends, RTD beverages, and K-Cup and Nespresso coffee pods. 

The Starbucks brand portfolio includes their flagship Starbucks Coffee brand, Ethos Water, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Evolution Fresh juices, and Teavana teas. 

Overall Company Culture

Starbucks’s mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” To further that goal, they’ve established four core values that all team members are expected to follow:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.

Starbucks employees should be hard-working, creative, responsible, and welcoming. As part of the Starbucks team, they can expect to receive a number of perks and benefits. These include stock options, volunteer time off, military and parental leave, product discounts, sabbaticals, tuition assistance, and job training.

Starbucks is also committed to a number of philanthropic causes around diversity, sustainability, and fair trade. Their C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity) practices aim to ensure ethical sourcing of coffee and tea ingredients, and the Starbucks Foundation supports neighborhood and community growth and development through grants and other programs.

Product Team Culture

Many Product Managers at Starbucks are part of the Starbucks Technologists group. Starbucks Product Managers at the company will need to be comfortable working cross-functionally, communicating with leadership, and executing on quick timelines. They’ll also need to be up-to-date on current tech trends and able to work closely with engineering.

How to Get a Product Manager Job at Starbucks

At Product Gym, we apply a simple four-step framework to landing the Product Manager job you’re looking for. With this structure and the support of the PG community, both aspiring and veteran PMs have increased the number of calls they receive for interviews. The process also leads to more of those interviews being converted into offers.

Here’s how the magic works:

1. Optimize

From the best techniques for writing a cover letter to building an attractive Product Manager resume, the first step is to boost your credibility and professional branding. To get the offer from Starbucks, you’ll need:

  • A resume designed to beat the ATS
  • A cover letter that shows your culture fit
  • An optimized LinkedIn profile that aligns with the above
  • A 30-second personal pitch that sells you as the best possible candidate

At Product Gym, we provide branding workshops, resume reviews, and the tools you need to take your professional branding to the next level.

2. Apply

Product Gym members apply for 20+ Product Manager jobs weekly, and often average 9+ interviews in any given week. But how’s that going to help you get the job at Starbucks? Simple: by perfecting your application strategy and interview approach through practice and experience, you’ll build the confidence and expertise you need to wow the recruiter and interviewers at your dream company when the time comes.

Of course, our tried and tested application framework is paired with tools, tips, and interview support that all come together to form a job-hunting strategy that really works.

3. Convert

Once you’ve lined up your interviews, it’s time to zero in on converting those round ones into round twos, and so on, all the way to the Starbucks Product Manager job offer. It’s no secret that we focus on the Product Manager interview process here at Product Gym: we’re there to help our members learn how to ace every step and every question — including behavioral questions, technical questions, case studies, salary negotiation, and more.

4. Learn

When should you start building your product management skillset? Before you apply? When you’re on the job? Honestly, transitioning into product management can be a long journey. We encourage Product Managers (whether you’re a first-timer or an industry vet) to start learning at the beginning and continue on past the finish line.

You likely already have skills that translate well into a Product Manager role: keep sharpening them, and find the gaps where you can learn, grow, and practice new skills to become a better Product Manager every day.

We want to make sure our members show up skilled and prepared for their interviews and their first day on the job, which is why we offer 20+ technical and business courses taught by industry experts.

What Does a Typical Starbucks PM Job Posting Look Like?

Starbucks’ Product Manager job postings begin with their mission statement followed by an overview of the role and the division in which the candidate would be working. Next comes a “Summary of Key Responsibilities” section, which goes through the major responsibilities of the position in more detail. That’s followed by a “Qualifications” section, which lists the qualifications and prerequisites for the role. In general, Starbucks Product Managers should possess the following:

  • Four or more years of experience working with a global tech company
  • Strong presentation and writing skills
  • Comfortability managing multiple projects and timelines
  • Knowledge of Agile methodologies
  • Strong experience with roadmaps, feature builds, user stories, and prioritizing requirements
  • Familiarity with data-driven storytelling
  • Experience managing competing tradeoffs
  • Creativity and problem-solving skills

The job listing ends with an Equal Opportunity Employer statement. 

While salary is generally not listed in the job description, Glassdoor puts Starbucks’ average Product Manager salary at $123K annually. Senior PMs can expect to earn between $160K and $192K.

How Do You Get a Product Manager Interview at Starbucks?

Begin by browsing Starbucks’s current job openings to find the positions(s) that best match your expertise, experience, career goals, and skills. Once you’ve found one (or more!) that seems promising, your next step is to create a fantastic application — and that starts with a stand-out resume.

1. Write a Top-Tier Product Manager Resume

The Starbucks Hiring Manager will probably look at your resume first, so be sure to highlight your relevant job experience and your Product Manager skill set, along with any qualifications around the specific responsibilities and tasks listed in the job opening. If you can demonstrate prior quantitative results around those aspects of the role, now is the time to do so.

Before updating your resume, check out our free webinar on resume writing, which takes you through the process of crafting a resume that you can use for multiple Product Manager roles. 

2. Position Yourself as an Awesome PM Hire

Next, you should demonstrate your product management skills by writing a pitch that outlines the Product Manager position’s key responsibilities. You’ll need your personal elevator pitch polished and ready for the interview process, where you’ll use it to showcase your history and experience.

3. Apply!

It’s time to submit your application! But don’t stop there — if you know any employees at Starbucks, see if they’d be willing to give you a referral. According to Glassdoor, 8% of interviewees got their foot in the door through an employee referral. Also, our step-by-step recruiter networking methodology can help you secure that critical first interview.

What Is the Starbucks Product Manager Interview Process and Timeline?

The Starbucks Product Manager hiring process generally follows these steps:

  1. Introductory call with the Hiring Manager
  2. Technical and behavioral round with team members and stakeholders
  3. The offer

The process generally takes between one and three months from end to end. According to Glassdoor, 77% of interviewees had a positive experience. Candidates rated the difficulty of the interview a 2.2 out of 5. 

How to Win the Introductory Call With the Hiring Manager

During this first round, your goal is to demonstrate that you’re qualified enough to move on to the next stage. You’ll also need to show that you’ll be a good culture fit for the company and be able to adhere to their core values. According to Glassdoor, you should be ready to answer the following questions during this conversation:

  • Why do you want to work at Starbucks?
  • What related experience do you have?
  • What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Explain one of the projects on your resume.
  • What is your leadership style?
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • Tell me about a major mistake or regret in your career.

If your answers impress the Hiring Manager, you’ll be asked to move on to the technical round with additional members of the team.

How to Win the Technical Round With the Hiring Manager and Team Stakeholders 

During this round, you’ll meet with the hiring manager again in addition to other members of the product team. Some of the questions you may be asked during this round include:

  • How would you improve the Starbucks app?
  • Assume you are the placement coordinator of a Tier-1 engineering college and it’s the first day of placements. Inside the campus, there is a cafe. Estimate how many people have purchased coffee on that particular day.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to align a decision across different teams.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make an important business decision and influence others quickly, but did not have any data to support your arguments.
  • Tell me about a time when you weren’t able to complete a project.
  • Tell me about a time when the timeline for a task changed. How did you change priorities and what was the outcome?

After this round, the hiring decision is in the hands of the Starbucks team. Good luck!

How Did COVID-19 Change Hiring at Starbucks?

Like many companies in the food and beverage industry, Starbucks was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, they lost $3.2 billion in the third quarter of 2020 alone. And like most companies, Starbucks switched to a fully-remote interviewing process for its corporate roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of the financial setbacks caused by the pandemic, Starbucks has continued to hire. Currently, they have over 1,000 open positions.

As of the fall of 2021, Starbucks continued to allow its corporate employees to work remotely. The company also plans to remodel its Seattle headquarters to better suit a hybrid work environment. 

Become a Starbucks Product Manager

Want to learn more about becoming a Starbucks Product Manager or getting hired at a well-known company? Our career coaches are now offering free sessions: schedule yours today. We’d be glad to answer any of your questions.

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