📹 3 keys to success in the remote PM interview

Including the one thing that 95% of candidates fail to do: digital whiteboarding.

For this edition, we wanted to focus on something a bit different, and something we’ve been asked a lot about in the last year: how to crack the PM interview in the remote-interview era.

As you’ve probably noticed, the vast majority of interview prep advice — whether for product management or anything else — was designed for an era when we’d meet our interviewers in-person, shake hands, make small talk over coffee, and do everything on a whiteboard. During the COVID19 pandemic, of course, we do none of those things: interviews have been reduced to talking heads on video calls. And given how much cheaper it is to interview candidates over video calls than it is to bring them onsite, we bet that remote interviewing will remain popular even after the pandemic dies down.

If you want to excel at interviews in the remote era, you’ll need to apply some new strategies. We’ve come up with 3 keys to success; we’ll show one here and point you to our blog post for the rest.

🖌 Use a whiteboard — don’t settle for talking heads

The single best upgrade you can make to a video interview is to add a whiteboard or some other space to sketch out your ideas. Adding drawing makes it much, much easier to “show your work,” explain complicated ideas, and make your ideas come to life. Best of all, this is something 95% of other candidates aren’t doing so it’s a great way to stand out from the pack.

The lowest-tech way to do this is to get a small, handheld whiteboard and hold it up to the camera every so often. The pacing might get a bit weird, since you can’t draw and show the interviewer the whiteboard at the same time, and the interviewer won’t be able to see much detail, but it’s a good hack if you like using physical whiteboards.

Personally, we prefer using a digital whiteboard, since it’s more convenient to use and present while on a computer. We’d suggest using a free tool like Google Jamboard, which lets you combine shapes, text, images, and handwriting on a digital canvas, like so:

Then, all you need to do is present this screen on the video call as you work through your answer. It’s a bit of a pain to juggle all the windows on a single laptop screen, though, so you may want to invest in an external monitor (there are decent monitors under $100) so you can have one screen dedicated to seeing the other person’s face (and yours) and another screen dedicated to the digital whiteboard.

As you can see from my terrible “handwriting” on the example Jamboard above, drawing anything with a mouse is very difficult. If you prefer freehand drawing on your digital whiteboard, you may want to grab a cheap tablet like an iPad mini or a Chromebook and do your digital whiteboarding there. You’ll now need to join the interview call twice: once from your laptop, where you’ll be talking, and once from your tablet, where you’ll just be presenting the whiteboard screen. The logistics might take some practice, so try it in a mock interview first.

📌 Read the rest at our blog post

The other two strategies (how to create a professional video feed and how to adapt to missing social cues) were a bit long for this email newsletter, so we’ve put them in a blog post over at levels.fyi. Give it a read!

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💠 Charting your “PM Shape”

We also wanted to share a PM career development tool that’s been floating around FAANG PM circles: the PM Shape framework.

Ravi Mehta (no relation to Neel) breaks down product management into 12 key skills, shows how different roles demand different combinations of strengths, and showcases “PM archetypes” like the Growth Hacker or the Project Manager.

Try out Ravi’s exercise to chart where you are right now and figure out what kind of PM you want to grow into. Let us know if you notice results!

🎯 Don’t miss out on future Product Insights

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—Parth, Adi, and Neel