Mock Interviews for Product Management Aspirants: Why it is important and how to approach it
One observation that I have made during my 1:1 mentoring sessions with aspiring product managers is that a lot of them don’t give sufficient number of mock interviews.
Lack of sufficient practice leads to unstructured responses, nervousness, missing out on critical details and poor quality of ideas.
So, whenever I talk to aspirants I stress on the importance of giving sufficient number of mock interviews. These become especially crucial if you are appearing for product management interviews for the first time.
In the subsequent paragraphs, I address some commonly doubts around mock interviews.
Why do I need to give mock interviews?
When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion — you fall to your highest level of preparation — Chris Voss
Thinking of becoming good at interviewing without practice is like thinking of learning swimming without jumping into the pool?
“Practice makes one perfect” is a proverb we have been hearing since childhood. And it continues to hold true for interviewing skills as well.
Practicing via mock interviews will help you:
- It gives you confidence.
- It helps ingrain the answer structure you have to follow for a particular question type. (If its not a part of your muscle memory, you might spend inordinate amount of time thinking about the approach itself)
- Identify the common pitfalls you would make and rectify them. For eg. you might have a tendency to make assumptions without informing the interviewer about the same. Or you might speak too fast or too slow while answering. Or you might be forgetting to do a proper user segmentation.
- By acting as the interviewer, you also learn tips & tricks from other candidates.
Thus, regardless of how many interview related videos you watch online, your preparation is incomplete unless you have given mocks yourself.
How many mock interviews should I give?
Ideally around 20 mock interviews should be good enough for a thorough preparation. This will help you cover all the different types of questions — product design, RCA, product improvement, favorite product, guesstimate, product strategy and behavioral.
As you become an experienced PM, the number of mock interviews also would reduce. Around 3–5 would probably be good enough at that stage.
However, the number could vary based upon your past experience, kind of companies you are applying to and your interviewing skills.
How to find the appropriate person for giving mock interviews?
If you are in college, a great way to prepare is to form a group with other serious aspirants in your college. You will be able to do a lot of mock interviews together and guide each other.
If you are outside college, you can try finding people in your network who are also preparing for interviews.
Additionally, you can also check out some free online platforms that help you find practice buddies.
What are some platforms where I can give mock interviews for practice?
Online interview practice platforms help connect you with other candidates who are preparing for interviews.
I have personally used stellarpeers.com for practicing mock interview with peers. I found it to be quite helpful for my preparation.
The structure is as follows:
- You book a 60 minute online meeting with the practice partner of your choice.
- You are the interviewer for 30 minutes and you will be the candidate for the other 30 minutes. (The person acting as the interviewer has to give feedback before the roles are exchanged).
- You decide which ‘question type’ (say product design) you want to practice and your practice partner asks you a question of the same type.
The good thing about these platforms is that you can practice with peers at the same level. Thus, you won’t feel intimidated when starting out.
How can I be an interviewer and take someone else’s mock interview?
Some ground rules you should follow while taking someone else’s mock interview:
- Be serious — Dont fiddle with your mobile/laptop while someone else is interviewing. (If you are not serious while taking someone else’s interview, don’t expect them to be serious when they take your interview)
- Avoid being too casual during the interview — If you start being too casual while taking an interview (because you know the person earlier), your learnings from the interview would be very limited.
- Be completely honest in your feedback — Don’t try to hide the negative portion of your feedback just because the other person may not like it.
- Take notes during the interview — I draw two columns on a sheet of paper — good and bad. In each column, I keep on adding points based on the performance during the interview.
- Use examples instead of giving abstract feedback — The more specific the feedback you give, the better are the chances of improvement for the other person. For eg. if you were not satisfied with the way someone described the success metrics for their product, do highlight what exactly you found missing with the metrics they mentioned.
If you are not experienced with mock interviews, don’t worry. You will be able to come upto speed after the first couple of interviews.
How to leverage feedback received in a mock interview?
Feedback received during the mock interview is the most important outcome of the entire process.
If you don’t reflect on the interview feedback, you might as well give 100 interviews without any tangible outcome.
To reflect on the feedback, make a note of what went well and what did not go well. Don’t just rely on the other person’s feedback. Also use your own judgement to reflect on what could have been better.
In the next interview, be intentional and try to incorporate all the points of improvement that were mentioned earlier.
By consistently incorporating feedback from your practice sessions, you will yourself begin noticing the difference as you move forward in your preparation journey.
Mock Interviews should form an important part of your preparation process. They will help you learn from your mistakes much before the final interview day.
After all, who wants to miss out on cracking a PM role at their dream company, simply because they did not practice enough.