- PM Interview Structure
- PM Interview Questions
- Product Organizational structure
- Asking the Right Questions
PM Interview Structure
The process of getting the call from HR to obtaining the offer letter takes about 1-2 months on an average.
Phase 1 (Exploratory and Phone Screening Rounds)
1. Exploratory Discussion
This is the stage when you’ll be interacting with your potential Hiring Manager. As soon as your CV is shortlisted, your recruiter will set up an exploratory discussion based on your availability.
🔓The intent of this round is to understand your past experience, expectations and aspirations for the future.
Common mistakes: Speaking poorly about previous employers and coworkers instead of focusing on your own journey.
2. Phone Screening - Product Thinking
Before you come for an onsite interview, you’ll have a discussion with one of your potential peers. This is a technical screening round which is primarily focused on past work experience, role-eligibility and a few problem-solving questions relevant to the role you’re being interviewed for.
🔓You can expect questions about your past experience, major projects that you’ve worked on depending on the role you’re being evaluated for. The interviewer may deep dive into one of your projects that you have executed in the past to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Common mistakes: Not being able to describe your previous projects and contributions to them in clear language.
Phase 2 (Onsite Interviews)
1. Problem Solving
You will be given a real-world problem statement where the interviewer will judge you on how you use structured thinking and frameworks to understand a problem on the macro level and break it down into deeper and smaller areas. The problem statement can be from any domain/industry/business/context. You can also expect non industry-based questions on metrics and guesstimates can also be part of this interview round.
🔓The interviewer will evaluate you on the breadth and depth of your thought process through this exercise. Be as exhaustive and thorough as possible.
Common mistakes: Thinking that there is a single universal solution and not exploring different possibilities, restricting yourself to artificial constraints.
2. Product Thinking
The interviewer will give you a problem statement and will ask you to create the product strategy and roadmap around it. You can expect the problem to be hazy. Which is why you need to try and look deeper into the problem, and figure out the exact customer problem that needs to be solved before starting on product solutions. Never lose focus from the customer or what you are trying to achieve for him/her.
🔓You’re expected to have clarity around success metrics of products and versions you lay out during the interview.
Common mistakes: Not pinpointing the exact problem you are trying to solve and instead trying to solve the initial ‘hazy’ problem statement.
3. Business Understanding
You can expect questions around business strategy, industry landscape, and competitors from industries you have previously worked on. The interviewer may also give you a business problem from any other domain and ask you to come up with suggestions.
🔓You are expected to understand and contribute to business strategies as you move up the ladder. Having a strong sense of, both, short-term and long-term business goals and adding them to product roadmaps is a critical job which PMs do
Common mistakes: Trying to bluff your way past these questions or not being well-versed with the industry in focus.
4. Engineering Understanding
This round is for understanding your past experience, and how deeply you understand engineering implementations. The interviewer will nudge you around a few engineering calls and enquire on why certain decisions were taken.
🔓The intent of this round is to evaluate your expertise or learnability in being part of a complex engineering journey like ours.
Common mistakes: Just focusing on the expertise part of the interview and not being able to show a willingness to learn.
5. Team Fitment
The interviewer will try to understand your aspirations, inspirations and motivations, self-awareness, leadership ability, stakeholder management, strengths and weaknesses, etc.
🔓The intent of this round is to evaluate your team fitment based on your experience, interests and Strengths demonstrated across other rounds
Common mistakes: Trying to present an ideal self before the interviewer and not your actual self.
6. Culture Fitment
In this round, you are being evaluated for your cultural fitment at Ola. The round is meant to assess whether you would be a good fit for the company or not. There are no right or wrong answers. Be honest and think thoroughly before you answer.
🔓There may be questions around your past experiences, career aspirations, hypothetical scenarios, your strengths and weaknesses, etc. We highly recommend that you invest some time in preparing yourself for the interview.
Common mistakes: Lying about your personality in order to seem more aligned with what you perceive the company wants.
PM Interview Questions
- Estimate the number of tube lights used in a big city (10 Million Population). (2021, PM)
Pro Tip: They are testing your ability to guesstimate and take decisions when faced with a lack of data using your discretion.
2. You are a Product Manager at Ola. The CEO and co-founder wants to make itsOla users more ‘loyal’ and increase the stickiness of users to the brand/product. He thinks it is time for Ola to become a larger part of the customer’s life. Your mission is to see his vision to completion.
(March 2022, SPM)
Pro Tip: They are looking to see how you decide what success looks like and understanding the vision of senior Leadership.
3. How would you design a vending machine for the visually challenged travellers in an Airport?
(July 2019, PM)
Pro Tip: you need to go in the details and think about the whole picture as well right from discovery of the vending machine to payment.
4. Ola is deciding if it wants to launch a chat between driver partners and customers. Should this be built? Can you justify it?
(July 2019, PM)
Pro Tip: They are testing your ability to set up metrics and keeping track of them. You should be able to test your hypothesis.
5. Describe the Tech Architecture of the Product you worked on.
(July 2019, PM)
Pro Tip: They want to know how involved and aware you were with the intricacies of the tech side of your product.
6. How would you build a company's hiring portal?
(Sept 2017, PM)
Pro Tip: They are testing your design thinking and how you would go about building a new product.
7. Describe one thing you could add (in terms of a feature) to Olacabs mobile app.
(Sept 2015, PM)
Pro Tip: They are seeing how aware you are about their products. You should do a thorough research on Ola Products before the interview.
On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, most applicants rated the interview and the salary negotiation process at 8+ points.
Product Organisation Structure
PM to Engineers ratio - 1:4
Asking the Right Questions
- Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?
Why ask this : Shows your curiosity and enthusiasm for the company & your planning abilities.
2. What does a typical day look like?
Why ask this : Shows you care about company culture, and are curious about how you would spend your time at the company.
3. What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
Why ask this : Shows you have a planning nature and are eager to learn about the intricacies of the role.
4. What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
Why ask this : Shows you know how to do expectation setting and want to understand the demands of the company from you.
5. What’s your favourite part about working here?
Why ask this : Shows you are eager to learn about company culture.
6. What are the current goals that the company is focused on, and how does this team work to support hitting those goals?
Why ask this : Shows you want to understand company vision and how you would contribute to it.
Day in Life of a PM at Ola
Product Managers, unlike other members of a team like Software Developers or Designers, do not have a clearly defined job description, especially in a startup environment. They have to wear multiple hats over the course of the day, with their job entailing people management, expectation setting, coordination, business analysis, and leading teams.
Over the course of a day, a product manager might have to manage a project’s timeline and budget, gather requirements, and collaborate with the development team to deliver products to the client. They have to start prioritizing new enhancements and updating the iteration plans. They have to ask the development team for the new estimations, add additional members to the team, or renegotiate the project scope with the client to make sure that they can deliver a working increment within the time and budget approved by the client.
And meetings, a whole lot of meetings :)
Important Do’s and Dont’s
While appearing for interviews at high growth companies like Ola, a candidate should exhibit honesty and have a strong reason for wanting to join their team.
Apart from exceptional PM skills, they look for a dependable and well rounded individual that operates with a user first approach. PMs have to work in a collaborative environment which makes good communication skills a must amongst other qualities like the ability to prioritise and execute fast.
What makes any candidate a strong YES for everyone on the interview panel is their approach to the problem statement and the structure of their solution. This post has tried to cover all the information one needs to crack a product management interview.
The suggestions and strategies listed above will help you get rid of interview anxiety and make you a calm and confident candidate, one that is the perfect fit for Ola.