What is the Facebook RPM Program?
The Facebook Rotational Product Manager (RPM) is an 18-month rotational program that includes one month of training, three 6-months rotations across different product teams, and a 2-week global research trip. Throughout the three 6-month rotations, candidates are involved in a wide range of work, from selecting metrics and designing products to developing product strategies & roadmap.
Who is the program for?
The Facebook RPM program is designed for entry-level Product Managers who are generally early in their career and have not previously taken a Product Manager role. They are typically fresh graduates or industry hires with 1 to 4 years of experience, who are passionate to make product management their long-term career. A technical background is not required for the program.
Where does the program take place?
The RPM Program takes place in Facebook’s Menlo Park (MPK), NYC, Seattle and London offices. Facebook typically hires fresh university grads for the MPK office and looks for industry hires for the Seattle, New York, and London offices. Regardless of their home/permanent office, all RPMs do their first rotation in Menlo Park. Temporary relocation benefits are available for candidates from elsewhere.
What are the compensation & perks?
A big part of what makes Facebook’s RPM Program so competitive is the compensation. Facebook PRMs are very well-paid, averaging around $100,000 to $130,000 annually, depending on where you’re hired. This is equivalent to the rate of full-time business analysts at top consulting firms. Aside from the lucrative pay, Facebook RPMs enjoy many other enticing benefits:
- RPM Mentorship & network: Initially, each RPM is paired with one manager for the entire program. However, for each of the three rotations, you’ll work side-by-side with project managers – experienced PMs at Facebook who will also mentor you throughout the project. These are not only valuable learning opportunities but also exceptional ways to build career-long relationships.
- Launchpad for Tech careers: For engineers and developers out there, the RPM program is one of the best launching pads if you want to pursue a career in tech. This is because RPMs typically have exposure to high-impact projects that will stretch their tech skills beyond current expertise.
- Research trip and community events: As part of the program, RPMs get to experience a 2-week research trip somewhere in the world. There are also ongoing events (including a holiday party) organized for RPMs and RPM alumni.
What happens after the program?
At the end of the 18-month program, each RPM receives feedback on their performance. Everyone who performed well can stay full time at Facebook, and can choose to return to a team they had on rotation or find a completely new team. It’s unlikely for an RPM to leave after the program, but some people have chosen to start their own companies afterwards.
Now that you’re aware of the Facebook RPM Program key facts, let’s look at how the interview process unfolds and three key recruitment criteria for the RPM program.
What does the interview process look like?
The Facebook RPM program consists of three interview rounds:
- First Round (Phone): Recruiter screen (15 minutes)
- Second Round (Video Call): Product Sense (45 minutes), Execution (45 minutes)
- Final Round (Onsite): Product Sense (45 minutes), Execution (45 minutes), Leadership and Drive (45 minutes)
What are the recruitment criteria?
Generally, there are three main criteria that Facebook expects its candidates to demonstrate:
- No.1: Leadership ability: The ability to influence people and coordinate them as a team.
- No.2: Achieving mentality: The willingness to always work hard and stay on top of the game.
- No.3: Problem-solving abilities: Analytical problem-solving mindset & skills.
Facebook’s product managers manage global scale products. They are responsible for identifying the most pressing user problems, creating long-lasting solutions for them, while ensuring they’re aligned with Facebook’s strategy.
To assess candidates on these aspects, Facebook uses three types of questions during interviews – product sense, execution, and behavioural. For each question type, I will go over three things – the logic behind each type, sample questions, and how you can tackle them. Let’s dive in!
Type 1: Product sense
Product sense is Facebook’s term for a candidate’s product design abilities. This question type assesses how the candidate thinks about user problems at scale, and whether they can turn that into concrete products. Every question that might require you to think about users is, in essence, a product sense question.
Below is a list of product sense questions commonly asked in Facebook RPM interviews. As you’ll notice, they are a mix of product design, product improvement, and product strategy questions. In order, each question type asks you to improve an existing product, design one from scratch, or setting the product vision and roadmap to deliver it:
- How would you improve Facebook stories?
- Build a Facebook product for travel.
- How would you build Facebook Birthday if it weren’t there?
- Design a social travel product for Facebook
- Design a jobs product for Facebook
- Design a product to help users find a doctor on Facebook
- Facebook events is struggling. How would you turn it around?
- Should Facebook enter the dating / jobs market?
- How would you monetize Facebook marketplace / messenger?
- What should Facebook do next?
- Pick a Facebook app / any product — how would you improve it?
- How would you improve Facebook groups?
- How would you improve Facebook birthdays?
How to tackle
For this question type, interviewers will most likely want to see a structured and coherent answer. Because you’ll likely be given difficult questions, a well-structured, clearly-communicated answer shows your ability to think analytically, solve challenging problems, and deliver solutions under time-pressure.
Whenever you need to structure an answer, I recommend using frameworks. A word of warning: always customize frameworks to the specific question asked, and never mention the framework’s name (framework-vomiting) in actual interviews. Otherwise, you’ll come out as extra rigid and bookish.
Specific to the product design/improvement question type, you should follow the 3-step BUS framework, which stands for Business Objective, User Problems, and Solution. The approach here is to start with the business objective in mind, analyze user problems, then recommend solutions.
Step 1: (B) Business Objective:
Whether you’re designing a new product or improving a product feature, the first step is to clearly understand what the business is trying to achieve, or knowing the overall business objectives. Designing a new product with clear business goals in mind ensures that it will satisfy these goals.
For example, suppose the interviewer asks you to redesign an app for deaf people, what clarification questions relating to business objectives should you ask? Here are four:
- Why does redesigning this app matter to the business? Is the current state of the app affecting revenue, or cost?
- How do we know that’s a problem? (low conversion/retention/engagements, etc?)
- What are the business expectations for product redesign? (increase engagement/ downloads/retention, ect?)
- Do we already have a target user in mind or is that something we should explore/discuss?
Step 2: (U) User Problems:
The second step when designing/ improving a product is to identify possible user problems. And I’m talking about the big, fundamental problems, not the symptomatic ones. For example, if you’re asked “How do you improve Gmail”, a big problem to look at should be storage, not the fonts or sidebar colors.
It’s also not very effective to list out user problems in an unstructured fashion. Instead, you should approach them with the following steps:
#1. Select a user type: identify the different types of user for your product and select one that is causing the business problem. You can find these answers by doing user interviews, ethnographic studies, diary studies, quantitative metrics, etc.
#2. Identify user problems: after selecting your user type, list out some problems you believe this type of user is facing. You can confirm your beliefs using the methods mentioned above. It’s important to understand what really constitutes these problems by being aware of surface-level problems.
#3. Prioritize user problems: finally, you should prioritize user problems using some kind of metric, for example, how painful the problem is to your selected group of users.
Step 3: (S) Solution:
Keep in mind that if at this point the B or U of your framework is wrong, your solution is almost guaranteed to fail. If you don’t fully understand what problem you’re solving, you will most likely make something nobody wants!
After having a clear picture of what you’re trying to solve and achieve, you can generate solutions by following these three steps:
- List solutions: draw a table with two columns, one listing the problems you’ve identified and one listing out potential solutions for each problem.
- Prioritize solutions: a common way to prioritize solutions is to grade each of them on two criteria: (1) how much value they would deliver for the user, (2) and how easy they are to implement. After deciding on solutions, you should also talk about tradeoffs – the forgone benefits of other solutions that you did not choose.
- Summarize: the final step is to reiterate the entire problem-solving process, as a simple way of telling the interviewer that you’re done answering the question. You should restate the question, summarize what problems you’re solving, what products you suggest building, and why.
Type 2: Execution
Execution is often understood as the ability to get things done, like a project manager would. This is, however, not Facebook’s intent. When evaluating candidates on their “execution” skills, what Facebook really looks for is “executive decision-making”. Great product managers formulate critical, data-driven product strategies (product roadmaps), and are adept at implementing them.
2.2. Sample questions:
Below is a list of execution questions commonly asked in Facebook RPM interviews, check out more questions here.
- You are the PM for Facebook live — what features would you prioritize?
- You are the PM for Facebook pages — what features would you prioritize?
- You are the PM for Facebook posts — what reactions should we add next?
- How would you set goals and measure success for Facebook live?
- How would you set goals and measure success for Facebook notifications?
- How would you set goals and measure success for Instagram stories?
- Facebook groups usage dropped 10% — what do you do?
- Facebook ads revenue dropped 20% — what do you do?
- Facebook newsfeed engagement dropped by 2% — what do you do?
- You are the PM for Facebook newsfeed — how would you rank posts?
2.3. How to tackle:
Execution questions basically ask you to do two things: (1) develop a vision for your product with good justifications and (2) describe the steps to realize that vision. This is equivalent to answering two questions: (1) “What is your product vision and why?” and (2) “How are you going to implement that vision?”.
Sometimes, the answer to the first question is given and your job is to figure out the second one, but sometimes you need to answer both. Here’s how you can approach each question:
- For the first question, the key is to base your vision on the most pressing user problems, i.e. you need to prioritize key user problems. Two factors to logically think about prioritization are “how much impact is this going to have on my user” vs “what are the difficulties in implementing a solution”.
- For the second question, the key is to not worry too much about the implementation timeline. Instead, focus on visualizing every step of your product implementation plan in a structured manner. I recommend drawing an issue tree as you explain your roadmap to the interviewer. Issue trees are great visualization tools, and will make your solutions sound instantly structured.
Example: A restaurant business wishing to increase its profitability may look into the following ideas:
Type 3: Behavioural
In Product Manager interviews, behavioural questions are meant to assess whether a candidate exhibits the required traits to perform well in the role of a Product Manager. Additionally, they will also evaluate a candidate’s fit with the company culture and values (such as leadership ability or achieving mindset).
3.2. Sample questions:
Examples of behavioural Product Manager interview questions are:
- Tell me about a time when you used data to influence/persuade people.
- In layman terms, describe your day to day activities as a Product Manager.
- How would you keep Developers working on a product motivated and turning out quality work?
- You are a PM and you are about to enter the product launch meeting with all stakeholders. How would you prepare for that meeting?
- Tell me a time when you influenced engineering to build a particular feature.
- Describe a complex topic like I’m a high school student. Assume I don’t know anything about it.
- Tell me about a time you failed as a product manager.
- What product would you build if I were to write a blank check for an idea you have?
- Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a team member.
- How do you know when to cut corners to get a product out the door?
- What is the toughest problem that you have solved as a Product Manager?
- How did you turn an adversary into a confidant?
3.3. Three steps to tackle:
When it comes to behavioural Product Manager questions, the key is to implicitly exhibit the well sought-after product manager traits I outlined above. Broadly, there are three instant tips you can apply:
- Prepare stories, not questions: Many candidates make the mistake of preparing on a per-question basis, i.e listing out the possible questions and the corresponding answers/stories. A much better approach would be to prepare 3-4 detailed, all-round, refined stories exhibiting all the required attributes, then fine-tune the stories according to the interviewer’s questions.
- Implicitly show your product manager traits: To prepare your stories, compare your past experiences with common product manager traits, along with personal values you’re most proud of. Then, select the stories best reflecting those traits and values. You want to show that your values and experiences perfectly match what recruiters look for.
- Use the STAR method: STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. By structuring your answer based on these four criteria, your answers will sound more structured, logical, and easy for listeners to follow.
Below are the five tips you can apply to instantly improve performance in Facebook RPM interviews. These are the tips drawn from the “how to tackle” section for each question type above, and can be applied to any problem-solving questions you’ll encounter. Let’s dive in!
Tip 1: Ask for time-out to outline your answers
Whenever you’re asked a product design question or a guesstimate question, avoid answering right away. Instead, ask for a timeout to think through and/or draft your approach to the question. After that, walk the interviewer through the details of your approach. In candidate-led consulting case interviews, we call this “case-opening”. Learn the formula to perfectly open any case here.
Read more: Case Interview 101 – The Online Guidebook
Throughout the interview, interviewers might also ask questions to which good answers require careful thinking. In these situations, it’s always a good idea to ask for time-out to ensure your answers are always structured and logical, which signals good communication skills.
Tip 2: Number your items and keep them MECE
When tackling problem-solving questions, you’ll likely encounter two steps (as detailed above): problem listing and solution-listing. For list answers like these, two useful tips you can apply right away is to (1) number each item and (2) keep all items MECE.
First, numbering each item not only makes your answers sound instantly structured, but also makes the items easier to keep track of. Second, keeping all items MECE means ensuring that none of your listed items overlaps, and all of them combined creates a whole. By keeping your items MECE, you avoid repetition and missing items.
MECE is one of those defining concepts of the consulting world, and has applications everywhere. If you’re not familiar with this concept, I highly recommend checking out this comprehensive article, or this video for better visualizations.
Tip 3: Ask clarification questions
For all problem-solving question types, always make sure to thoroughly understand the problem you’re about to solve. Do so by asking clarification questions before moving on. Often, the best practice is to ask three questions:
- What’s the objective?
- What’s the timeline required?
- Any quantified or well-described goals?
You can scroll back to the “how-to-tackle” section of question type 1 and type 2 for clarification question examples for each type. But to demonstrate my point, let’s suppose we are presented with a problem: “Dave lost his car key”. In tackling this problem, be sure you’re crystal clear about the following points:
- Objective: Dave in fact just needs to be able to use the car.
- Timeline: this is an urgent need. Dave is happy only if we can help him within the next hour.
- Specificity: help the client put his car into normal operation like before he lost the key.
Tip 4: Pause frequently to summarize
Another useful tip is to pause frequently, summarize what you’ve done, where you are, and how you’re going to proceed in solving the given problem.
Problem-solving during interviews can often be stressful, especially in cases where you must process large amounts of information. It’s not uncommon for even the brightest candidate to derail from the objective or forget what they’ve just calculated.
Pausing frequently to summarize gives you a sense of direction and authority while making it easier for the interviewer to follow your case progress. It also makes you sound organized and systematic – a definitive trait of good communicators– and interviewers will love it!
Tip 5: Prepare a script in advance
Finally, it is best to prepare a personal script in advance, especially the part right after the interviewer gave you a problem-solving question. This is the time to deliver a perfect 3-minute case opening that leaves a good impression throughout the interview.
Here’s an example of a good personal script for the product design problem. Use the script after you’ve received the question:
"Thank you for this very interesting question, I am really happy to get a chance to solve it!
The first step in solving any problem is to make sure we solve the right one, so before diving into the problem, I would like to ask a few clarification questions to make sure we’re both on the same page, and announce my overall case approach.
<wait for answers>
Thank you for the clarification. Is there anything else I should be aware of?
<wait for answers>
Thanks for all the insights. It’s great that we all agree on the key details.
For the overall approach to this case, I will start by looking at the business objectives behind this product design decision. After that, I will identify potential problems that our users are facing, then prioritize which problems to tackle first based on two metrics – (1) how much value they would deliver for the user, (2) and how easy they are to implement. From that knowledge, I will develop solutions for each problem. Does that approach sound reasonable to you?
<assumes the interviewer agrees with your approach>
It’s great to see that we’re on the same page regarding the key details as well as the overall approach to the case. I do need some time to gather my thoughts, so may I have a short timeout?"