Building Confidence for the FB Product Manager Interview

I start next week as a product manager at Facebook. There were so many sponsors and mentors who coached me through this process that I cannot think of a better way to thank them than to pass on what I learned. I will focus this note on how to build confidence through preparation given confidence’s link to performance and the interviews ultimately tests performance. In this note, I use the term Confidence as defined as our own belief in our capability to succeed. Interviewers need to be confident that you can act as a product manager at FB and to inspire that confidence you need to first convince yourself you can do it.

My #1 goal for the FB PM interview was to feel confident through preparation and practice.

Why did I make feeling confident a goal?

I am not a confident person. My biggest fear was “blacking out” during my PM interviews from fear and anxiety and not being able to show up the way I wanted to for this opportunity; especially after all the sacrifices made to get to this point. However, I learned from my high school tennis coach (thanks coach Steve!) that confidence can be cultivated through preparation and practice. Therefore, I set a goal for myself to feel confident and spent 3 months exercising and strengthening my confidence as a muscle so I could be proud of the version of Sandy that showed up for the day of the interviews. Also, setting a goal to feel confident recognized I was not quite there yet but I was working on it and I could get there.

How did my confidence help me during my interviews?

The day of my interviews were a nightmare but I fell back on the confidence I built and it got me through it. All my interviews were remote and I had so many IT issues from not being able to call in to the VC to the call dropping and having to interview on my phone. It took so much mental will power to flex my confidence muscles during the interviews and to convince myself that I am capable and prepared for this moment in spite of all the setbacks. Regardless of how the interviews went, I knew staying confident was key to showing up as the focused, thoughtful, and creative version of Sandy that I needed to give it my all and that was all I had control over.

What was my strategy to build confidence?

  1. Cultivate a growth mindset

You’re interviewing to become a FB PM which means you’re not one yet so it’s no surprise you’re not fully confident in performing in this new role yet. However, the fact you want to interview means there’s a part of you that believes you can learn to be a FB product manager — that’s a growth mindset. A growth mindset is believing your talents can be developed through hard work, strategy, and input from others. Getting hired as a FB PM is hard and being a FB PM is even harder but people do it every day and so can you. On those days where it feels impossible, come back to the fact you’re learning and growing and not there yet but you’re on your way.

Tip: Make and place a sticky note somewhere visible where you’ll see it everyday to remind yourself of the journey you’re on. My sticky note in front of my desk everyday for the last 3 months of my PM prep said “Breathe! You’ve done harder things and you got this!”

2. Set a goal to build your confidence muscle

Confidence is future facing but its based on your past experiences. It’s best explained in the quote by Napoleon Hill that “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” The more confident you are, the more you believe and know you can and will succeed. It’s okay if something in your past experience up until this point doesn’t exactly make you feel confident going into FB Product Manager Interviews. I’ll let you in on a secret — my past performance screams failure and insecurity given FB did not extend me a Product Manager offer after completing all the loops back in 2015 for the Rotational Product Manager (RPM) program. However, we know we can build confidence given we have a growth mindset now and the first step is setting a goal to create new experiences that’ll inspire our minds to both conceive and believe that we’re capable of this greater success. The right approach to setting your goal is going to be key.

Tip:

  1. Be honest and concrete about what areas you lack confidence that is holding you back and what past experience made you feel that way and why. I failed the product sense loop of my RPM interviews and I internalized that to mean I am bad at product sense and can never get better.

3. Develop a plan and exercise and build your confidence muscle

Confidence is a muscle you need to exercise! In physical exercise, working out stresses and breaks down your existing muscle to drive growth. You’ll be doing something similar for your experiences! To be honest, this is the hardest part where you have to put in the work of stepping outside of your comfort zone, pushing through the self-doubt and insecurity coming up from past experiences, and focus on learning through your mistakes. Grow by carrying forward your learnings and not your failures. Your brain isn’t always going to want what you need (i.e. exercising). It’s best to have a detailed plan before you get started to hold yourself accountable to building those new experiences that’ll help you become more confident.

Tip:

  1. Have a specific ‘auto-pilot’ plan so you know exactly what you need to do on a regular cadence to get to your goal. It’s hard to have the motivation to push yourself to do something in the moment especially if you’re not having the most inspirational day, which most days aren’t. My plan included a spreadsheet of people I wanted to mock with that I admired for their product sense and the type and specific questions I wanted to practice to make sure I had enough range in industries and products and a calendar that I would schedule out 2 weeks in advance over the course of 3 months with at least 6 mocks (45minutes) and 1 reflection session (30minutes) a week. This forced me to show up for my mocks after long exhausting work days when that was the last thing I wanted to do.

4. Practice, practice, practice courage!

I put this last but you’re actually practicing courage from when you decided to embark on the journey of becoming a PM, practicing for interviews, and actually interviewing. Know you’re not alone and it’s okay to be afraid — just keep moving forward. Like confidence, bravery is a skill and it can be learned and strengthen through daily practice.

Tip:

  1. Name your fears. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid that I am just bad at understanding and prioritizing user problems and solutions and let alone come up with creative solutions.

If you finished this note, I am proud of you for your courage and confidence to embark on this journey. You got yourself this far and I believe you have the power to be the finisher of everything you set your mind to. There’s always Lennie if you need a personal cheerleader along the way.

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Founder of Subtle Cantonese Traits & Facebooker

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