I am Nikunj Sharma, Co-founder at PM School. Ask Me Anything!

Hi All :wave:

Super-excited to do an AMA session on How to Crack Product Interviews at 4pm today. :rocket:

A bit about me

I love building Products, running and teaching. I have ~11,400 hours as a Product practitioner and have excelled at achieving Product Market Fit, growing B2C user-base in ed-tech, insurance and mental health sector(s). Currently scaling a conversational AI platform for FSI, E-commerce and Digital native enterprises in Customer support use cases.

Looking forward to this session! :studio_microphone:

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@NikunjS

Let me begin by asking, how did you crack your first Product role?

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Had given a bunch of interviews before finally cracking one. In an interview, it’s really about can you break down problems and understand how to communicate with the interviewer. Practising case studies and different variety of Product Interview questions helped. Got better at approaching a Product design or strategy question without jumping to the solution. I think it was my 7th PM Interview that got me my first Product role. After every failure, I’d prod for feedback from the company. And that cued me to get better at question categories I am not good at.

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What is the role of a tech PM? and what skills do we require for it?

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@NikunjS

At an APM level, what are the hiring managers looking for?

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A Tech PM understands how to communicate with an engineer more so being a pseudo engineer. But then you need to hone your ability to prioritise product asks, communicate a vision across non-engineer stakeholders - and you get this if you are talking to your end customers, and are good at gathering insights (analytical bent). Eventually all PMs need to be good at taking good decisions and execution. So your end goal is understanding the domain / industry to take right calls and executing on it. You are at the overlap of Vision-setting (Product Roadmap) and Executing (committed timelines).

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@NikunjS Thanks a lot

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Most recruiters would look at self-starters and ownership as a trait. Do you -

  1. Have Customer empathy and the ability to get context from end users
  2. Research a problem and dig deep before reaching a conclusion
  3. Understand product mgt = iteration / experiments and you’d not be afraid if you go wrong
  4. Would be curious to learn cross-functional difficulties and break barriers to develop skill-sets to enable your product KPI success

Note that the above is at an APM or early stage PM role. These are the basics even if you don’t have technology exposure or domain knowhow. Obviously having technology chops and domain expertise helps. But, the above 4 points would be fundamental for a PM role.

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Any advice for non technical PMs? Seems like more and more employers are shifting to more technical PMs! :thinking:

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Though hiring managers dont test tech or any functional skill knowlege (ui/ux design; data analytics - python, R, tableau, SQL, excel; digital marketing, coding - css, html, javascript; JIRA) in interviews of early stage APM’s and just want the candidate to have empathy and problem solving attitude. but, still most of the job descriptions still describe requiring a hell lot of skills. so if we dont have the skills it might get difficult to get the resume shortlisted in the first place.

my perception goes this way. am i wrong?

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Google is shifting focus to hiring PMs with more strategic and analytical (data-driven) competency rather than pure technical skills. You’d also see Marketeers or Designers transition into Product roles. I myself never had any technical skills. So, fundamentally, you need to have domain expertise, user-driven insights and a structured approach to problem solving.

Say you are applying for a PM role at a neobank product company - it helps if you understand the banking/fintech landscape and certain regulations. Add creativity to the mix, and you are ideal candidate for consumer tech product roles. Creative problem solving skills are key for PMs other than communication and stakeholder management.

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can you throw some throw some light on how can we target and crack famous rotation APM programs? what do they look in a candidate? what should we learn? what kind of experience do they expect us to have?

On your CV or LinkedIn, you have to stress on past efforts that signal that you are keen on product management. Share assignments, case studies you must have solved. Any past projects or blogs that highlight your abilities. You’d need to stand out. Try to work on projects relevant to the company you are interested in - put in efforts. Build an app with your friends or work on a side project as it’s clinical to tell the recruiter that you are serious about them. And what helps in the final step is if your fundamentals are right in cracking interview case questions. For interviews, practice as many questions and case studies, so that you are ready with an approach and new creative ideas. You will get points for structure, clarity in thought process and original ideas.

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The responsibilities vary as per the company requirement. You might need to know a querying language (SQL) so that you are not handicapped and can fetch data insights by yourself. What really helps is if you have tangible plans to do projects and side hustles that are super relevant to the product challenges for the company where you apply, this side hustle will hold more weight and give you an edge in interviews. Relevant prior experience is super important. Key traits that help is basic customer and industry background combined with ruthless prioritisation, and technical skills (as an added bonus).

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Thank you so much @NikunjS for taking out your time and giving those nice answers!

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