How MBAs Can Nail The Tech Interview

Here’s one of the lesser-known insights from Businessweek’s recent 2017 Best Business School rankings: technology is the #1 post-MBA industry for 6 out of the top 20 schools.

And tech’s popularity isn’t an isolated, West Coast phenomenon. Tech is one of the top two industries for half of the top 20. And for all top 20 schools, tech is one of the top three industries post-graduation.

This is no surprise considering how tech companies — Amazon, Google, and Facebook — are changing our day-to-day lives. And these tech jobs are coveted. Fortune Magazine named Google as the #1 place to work in 2017.

Unfortunately, tech interviews aren’t easy. Here are some recent interview questions posed to tech candidates:

  • Design a new iPad app for Google Spreadsheet.
  • You’re the CEO of the Yellow Cab taxi service. How do you respond to Uber?
  • How would you acquire 100 million Xbox One customers in 6 months?
  • You’re part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?

If you’re an MBA who’s looking to land a coveted tech offer, here are five tips on what you need to do.

Tip 1: Know what you’re preparing for

Not all interviews are the same. Interviews can vary by function and by company.

For instance, a Google product manager should be ready for product design, estimation, coding, and strategy questions. Whereas a Facebook product manager should be prepared for product sense, execution, leadership, and drive questions.

Meanwhile, Amazon asks behavioral interview questions, but companies like Google and Uber rarely do.

Each question type can take days and more reaslitically, weeks and months, to prepare. So do your research and see if you can skip specific question types.

Tip 2: Learn new frameworks

Most MBAs have exposure to consulting case frameworks such as Porter’s Five Forces, the 3 C’s, SWOT, or McKinsey’s 7S framework.

Those frameworks can help with strategy questions, but strategy questions are only a small portion of tech firm interviews, if at all.

For the tech interview, you’ll have to learn new tech-specific frameworks including:

  • CIRCLES Method for product design questions
  • AARM Method for metrics questions
  • Big Picture Framework for marketing plan questions
  • MOB for questions for advertising questions

Lastly, if you’re in the process of upgrading frameworks, discard the underwhelming STAR method. Instead, use the DIGS Method to impress interviewers with more meaningful and moving stories.

Tip 3: Practice

Answering a case interview question is like baking a soufflé. It’s hard to get right the first time, even with a recipe or framework. Mastery will take time.

You can either practice on your own or with others. On the one hand, practicing with others simulates an actual interview setting. You’ll also get the benefit of seeing how others answer questions. You can find practice partners on my Slack group.

On the other hand, practicing alone allows you to gain more repeititons by eliminating schedule coordination. Check out Case Interview Questions for Tech for practice questions.

Tip 4: Gain domain expertise

It’ll be difficult to answer how you might “Design a new iPad app for Google Spreadsheet” if you’ve never used it before.

Try popular products before your interview. For instance, a Googler may expect you to be familiar with the following products:

  • Google Search
  • Google Maps
  • Gmail
  • G Suite
  • Google Drive

If you’re short on time, ask friends or read reviews on what they like and don’t like about the products. Incorporate that first-hand research in your interview answers.

Lastly, you may be asked hypothetical questions like, “What’s the future of _______?” Program some inspiration into your head by doing a Google search for “_______ trends 2018.”

Tip 5: How to know if you’ve prepared enough

Candidates can be afraid of being overprepared.

Having spent a decade preparing candidates for interviews, I find that rarely anyone is “overprepared.”

The better question to ask is, “How do I know if I’ve mastered each question category?” Mastery happens when the questions become second nature.

One of my readers spent nearly every waking minute thinking about how he could design better products. For instance, he would walk his dog, look up at a street lamp, and think: “How would I design a better street lamp?”

When these interview concepts — whether it’s product design, metrics, marketing — seep into every step you take, that’s when you know you’re ready to conquer tech interviews.

Author Lewis C. Lin

Lewis C. Lin is CEO of Impact Interview and author of several Amazon best-selling interview prep books including Decode and Conquer, The Product Manager Interview, and Interview Math. Prior to Impact Interview, he was Microsoft’s Director of Product Management. Before Microsoft, he worked at Google, leading new AdWords product launches.


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