Crack the Product Execution Interview
How to master one of PM's fastest growing interviews
The Story of the Product Execution Interview
The product execution interview is everywhere nowadays.
ChatGPT interactions are down 10% in the last week. What would you do?
What success metrics would you set for Uber?
How would you reduce churn for Facebook?
These case questions are up to ~30% of interview processes based on a survey of ~100 processes I conducted this week.
I’ve been mining the internet and talking to hiring managers about where this interview actually came from. It turns out, it’s Google and Facebook.
→ By 2014, execution was officially an interview at Google. This further accelerated the uptick.
In the ensuing years, Meta wanted to make sure its PMs understood the product and its value to users. They also wanted to check that PMs could prioritize impactful metrics.
Since then, the growth of the interview has been scaling fast.
Interestingly enough, Meta now calls this interview Analytical Thinking.
Who Uses Product Execution at the end of 2023
Of course, not just Meta uses the product execution interview. It’s ubiquitous across tech globally. I’ve coached candidates in India, Australia, Nigeria, and more.
And everyone does it a bit differently.
Here are the most common flavors and users of the execution interview.
US L4 PM Total Compensation: $241K
The Meta Execution question is all about how you handle complex strategies and processes. You’re given 1 to 3 scenarios in 45 minutes.
It's a test to see if you can lead a team through tough ideas and tricky problems, making sure you can prioritize when everything is competing for attention.
They're throwing complex stuff at you to see how you deal with it, making sure you can think on multiple levels at once.
US L4 PM Total Compensation: $270K
At Google, PMs are expected to be fluent in interpreting A/B test results and may even run SQL queries themselves.
The product execution interview here focuses heavily on analytics, testing the candidate's ability to make data-driven decisions.
They ask you to break down tough analytical decisions; so if it seems too straightforward, you’re probably missing something.
US L3 PM Total Compensation: $209K
Apple’s execution questions go deep into what types of prioritization metrics you are going to use once you’re actually in the PM seat building products.
They want to make sure that you’re sufficiently technical and analytical to lead a highly cross-functional group.
It’s very reflective of the role. The strategic feature decisions are made top-down, but the execution and measuring metrics is down by individual PMs.
Public Tech Companies
Uber uses this interview round (L3 PM Total Comp: $175K)
Airbnb has also been known to use it (L4 PM Total Comp: $291K)
Lyft has also been known to use the interview (T4 PM Total Comp: $276K)
Fast Growing Companies
Many global startups have interviews with similar questions
The most likely companies tend to be those with larger PM departments
This is an advanced structured PM interview; ask your recruiter if you’ll encounter it
Overall - the execution interview is being adopted at some of the highest paying places for PMs - and is a skill well worth having.
Given the importance of the execution interview, let’s go 4K words to break down:
The exact rubric Meta & others use
The most common interview questions
Suggested frameworks to use to answer them
The key principles to fall back on in your interview
Mock interviews and breakdowns of what works well
And end with the most common mistakes
How to Rock the Meta Execution Question
Let’s first start with the rubric interviewers use in this execution round. Meta is particularly open about their rubric.
Here’s exactly what they send candidates:
That’s the “official line.” Behind that, Meta has interviewers go through a shadowing process before they are considered “calibrated.” These calibrated interviewers then assess candidates.
In these sessions, Meta teaches its candidates to look at 4 major buckets:
Let’s break each down.
Shout out to all the great sources on Meta interviews out there like Meta itself, Ravi Mehta, Rohan Katyal, Parth Tiwari, Will Lawrence Dianna Yau, and more for this info.
Rubric Area 1 - Metrics Skill
This is by far the most important, so we’ll go into the most detail here.
Can this candidate set measurable goals and top-line metrics? They want to see what options you consider, your intuition and experience level, and also your confidence when asked questions. PMs should be great at identifying north star metrics.
Example: Define success for a language learning app
Comprehensive Metric Picture
Can the candidate think through a comprehensive set of metrics for all types of stakeholders in the ecosystem? You need to be able to take metrics and turn them into actionable decisions.
Example: Define success for Bumble
In addition to metrics, Meta is also interested in PM, execution, and Facebook skill.
Rubric Area 2 - PM Skill
Understand the people problem you are trying to solve
Can this candidate define the problem the product or feature is solving?
They really want you to be able to have a crisp definition of this. Solving problems is the core of Meta’s PM philosophy. They even have PMs focus on stats like Daily Active People instead of Daily Active Users.
Identify the best way to start solving that problem
How do you approach prioritization and make sure the right things get done first?
The execution interview rubric always has a specific focus on your prioritization skill. So set up a good framework and follow through it logically.
Rubric Area 3 - Execution Skill
Dive Into the Weeds
Can you really break down what problem areas affect metrics?
You need to be able to get into the details of what metrics might have moved, what user populations to target, and what might have affected something else. The rubric wants to assess how deep you go on topics and where your level of depth ends.
How do you navigate trade-offs
Can you articulate and navigate thorny trade-off decisions?
Identifying and then navigating trade-offs is the name of the game in the execution interview. They’re everywhere in medium-to-large tech companies.
Rubric Area 4 - Facebook Skill
Think at Scale
Can you zoom out from your personal user needs and think about the various types of user groups in the world?
There’s a different set of root causes and analytical issues when it comes to highly adopted products like Facebook’s.
Use and Love Facebook Products
Do you understand the value of the product and how that relates to the metrics?
Surprisingly many people have a faulty understanding of how things would move metrics, which is easy to see as they go through execution interviews. MEta wants you to be able to clearly articulate Meta’s mission and strategy.
What They Aren’t Focused On
Project Management Skills
The interview isn’t about your ability to collaborate with others or bring people along. It’s you asking for first principles thinking about the problem at hand. You should focus on working through the numbers and research hypothesis yourself, not stating that you’d work with others to solve them (even if you would on the job).
Your Past Experience
These cases aren’t the time to tell tales of the dashboards you have built and the SQL you have run. They are simulations where you should focus on the interview prompt at hand.
Now let’s break down the question types, how to answer them, walk through key principles and mock interviews. It’s the web’s deepest dive on the execution interview.
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