Skills & interview process for PM roles: Startups vs Big companies

Navigating through the product management realm can be strikingly different when comparing the dynamic environment of startups with the structured process of big companies. As the tech industry evolves, understanding these nuances becomes crucial for aspiring product managers (PMs) looking to make their mark. This article provides valuable insights into the essential skills required for PM positions and dissects the interview process in both startups and big corporates, drawing from expertise within industry giants like Oyo and Paytm.

Key Skills for Thriving in Product Management

Product management is a multifaceted career that demands a diverse skill set, regardless of industry size. In startups, being agile and possessing a “hacker mindset” is paramount, as PMs often don a plethora of hats, dabbling in multiple domains. They must be adept at problem-solving, prioritizing tasks, and exhibit proficiency in retention and monetization strategies. Conversely, product managers in larger firms are expected to excel in stakeholder management, structured thinking, and have the ability to navigate through complex team dynamics, all while maintaining a user-centric approach to product development.

Understanding the Interview Process

The interview process for PM roles in startups versus big companies can vary significantly. In startups, the focus may be on one’s passion for the domain, cultural fit, and ability to work under loose structures. Interviews often involve discussions with founders and head of departments, looking to gauge candidates’ potential and strategic fit. On the other hand, interviews in larger organizations like Oyo or Paytm are more structured and may involve multiple rounds that delve into case studies, previous work experience, and technical skills, testing candidates’ analytical prowess and their ability to bring structure to ambiguity.

Insights from a PM’s Journey

Drawing from a personal narrative shared during a webinar, a successful product manager recounts starting their journey in various startups before transitioning to roles in larger organizations like Oyo and Paytm. Through this journey, it becomes evident that adapting to different environments, embracing mentorship in larger firms, and leveraging the freedom to experiment in startups is crucial for growth in the field of product management.

Comparison: Startup vs Big Company

The sweet spot between a startup and a big company lies in their varied approaches to product management. In startups, product managers might find themselves directly shaping product strategies and getting hands-on with various aspects of the business. In contrast, PMs in large companies find themselves amidst more defined roles with the benefit of learning from established products and processes, fostering an environment for mentorship and network building within the product community.


Conclusively, whether in a startup or a big company, the essence of product management remains the array of skills a PM must master, including user empathy, structured problem solving, and the aptitude to manage complex projects. Understanding these differences helps those in or aspiring for product management to better tailor their career paths, sharpen their skills, and prepare for the intricacies of the interview process across the tech industry spectrum. For those ready to take the leap into this challenging yet rewarding field, grasping the differences between startup and big corporate environments is a stepping stone to success in product management.

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