Crack the Product Strategy Interview
The Dreaded Open-Ended Case
I still remember my Google Product Strategy interview clear as day:
How would you design surge pricing for Uber or Lyft?
At first, I was scared. Don’t they have a whole team for that? Can I add value in a 30 minute case?
But - I collected myself, built a custom framework, and aced the interview. It led me to the best “pure” PM job of my career.
Now that Google has removed the technical interview from their PM interview (verified by team Google last week), the Product Strategy case has become even more important in determining whether you snag that $415K senior PM comp job.
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Who Uses the Product Strategy Interview?
It’s not just Google. Strategy is one of the most important elements of the PM job. As a result, all of these companies are known to have a Product Strategy round:
Of all the case types, this is probably the third most ubiquitous:
What Questions Do They Ask?
There are 7 major categories of questions you are likely to encounter. These are the most commonly asked questions in each:
What’s the Rubric They Use?
There’s 3 main areas they will look at:
Rubric Area 1 - How you break down a big problem
No company worth their salt cares about using a specific framework. It’s simply not about programmatic use of a framework in 2023/2024.
Instead, it’s about custom use of your frameworks.
They want to see that you can bring a structured process to think about problems.
The anti-pattern 1/4 rating goes to PMs who just jump into solutions and brainstorms. These are folks who “shoot from the hip.”
The 4/4 rating goes to PMs who bring in the right context to brainstorms, the right way to prioritize solutions, and consider measurement as well as risks.
Rubric Area 2 - Your ability to think creatively
The product strategy interview places a very heavy weight on the your product creativity. It’s kind of like product sense and design in that sense.
But in this interview, they’re less interested in how creative you can be with design and feature details. They’re more curious how you can be curious with overall product vision, mission, strategy, and problem areas of focus.
You need to be able to think of 10x solutions that really expand the aperture of what’s possible for a company. That’s a 4/4 response.
On the other hand, if you’re just coming up with creative feature ideas that may not work, that’s more of a 2/4 response.
Rubric 3 - Whether you show real tech insight & knowledge
The final area that especially the big tech companies tend to ding people for is showing real tech insight and knowledge.
This is actually the area I see most PMs dinged on. They’re great at PM, but they aren’t used to thinking at the strategy aperture to show real tech insight & knowledge.
1/4 responses often show that the candidate hasn’t thought critically about tech strategy.
2/4 responses show they can think critically about strategy, but they lack anything beyond CNBC level insights on the tech industry.
3/4 responses show they read newsletter like Stratechery and The Information. They have a news view of the tech world.
4/4 response represent truly unique insight. These are strategic thinkers who make you think, “wow, I didn’t think of it that way” in the interview.
The Most Common Pitfall of Good PMs
This is the most common rubric I saw in my scorecards for otherwise good candidates:
They forget to show that actual tech insight, because they’re so focused on executing that cursed framework.
When I was preparing for this interview, here’s what I would’ve wanted:
The Key Principles to Walk Into Every Interview With
How to Give the Best Answers in Each Category
This is broken down into specific key principles for each of the 7 types, good/ better/ best example answers, and an expanded list of the top 160 questions you are likely to see.
Mock Interview Examples
The Top Mistakes
So let’s get into it.