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How to Make the Switch From a Service-based to Product-based Company

Posted on 
March 22, 2022
Utkarsh Sahu
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About The Author!
Utkarsh Sahu
Utkarsh Sahu
Director of Category Management at Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW

If you’re a software engineer wondering how to prepare for product-based company interviews because you’ve finally decided to make the switch from a service-based company, you’ve come to the right place.

At Interview Kickstart, we’ve encountered many software engineers who begin their careers at a service-based company only to realize that a product-based company is more suited to their likes and interests. Having helped thousands of engineers transition career paths, we bring you key insights into how to prepare for product-based company interviews.

If you are preparing for a tech interview, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation e-book to get interview-ready!

Having trained over 10,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Our alums consistently land offers from FAANG+ companies. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $1.267 Million!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

Want to nail your next tech interview? Sign up for our FREE Webinar.

In this article, we go over why software engineers prefer product-based companies, how to get an interview at these companies, and most importantly, how to prepare for product-based company interviews. 

We will cover:

Differences Between a Service-based Company and a Product-based Company

Software engineering career paths can follow multiple directions. At the start of their careers, software engineers work at a software-based company or a product-based company. 

What is a Service-based Company?

Service-based companies develop software solutions or provide IT support services for clients who are usually businesses of varying sizes. 

Software engineers at a service-based company usually work on standardized, repetitive tasks to meet clients’ needs and ensure client satisfaction. Client management is essential here.

What is a Product-based Company?

Before moving on to how to prepare for product-based company interviews, you should first understand what a product-based company is and how they function.

Product-based companies design and develop the products they sell to customers, whether businesses or retail customers/individuals.

Software engineers work on tasks focused on the company’s product suite, developed to meet customer needs. Product quality is critical here.

Service-based companies usually hire a lot of entry-level engineers. Their hiring processes are also not very challenging. Given these reasons, many software engineers begin their careers at service-based companies. Over time, as software engineers learn more about various types of tech companies and roles, they may grow more interested in working for a product company.

Advantages of Switching to a Product-based Company

A top tech interview question at product companies centers around why you wish to join the hiring company. One way to prepare for product-based company interviews is to zero in on a key reason you want to switch from a service to a product company.

Some of the key reasons why software engineers are drawn to a product-based company are:

  • Compensation: Product companies generally offer very competitive salaries. Top product-based companies like FAANG and other Tier-1 tech companies are among the highest-paying companies in the world for software engineering talent. 
  • Innovation and Talent Development: Product-based companies focus on innovation. At product companies, software engineers work on exciting projects and highly skilled teams on cutting-edge technologies.
  • Attractive Work Cultures: Product-based companies offer favorable work-life balance and other great perks and benefits to attract and retain top talent. 
  • Stability: Product companies are considered stable, long-term career choices with solid growth potential to further one’s career. 
  • Growth and Specialization: Product companies offer software engineers opportunities to specialize in a particular field, e.g., data science, full-stack development, mobile engineering, etc., and advance their careers.

How to Get Interview Calls from Product-based Companies

Before figuring out how to prepare for product-based company interviews, you will first have to resolve the issue of how to get interview calls from product-based companies. Some ways to land product company software engineering interviews are:

Through Online Applications

One of the stages of how to prepare for product-based company interviews is your job application strategy. 

Top on the list of how to get interview calls from product-based companies is applying for open positions online via job portals or the company’s website. Getting interview calls will via this route depends on the strength of your resume. 

To create a product-based resume:

  • Showcase skills, including cross-over skills and work experience that closely matches the job description of the role you’re interested in, especially in technologies your target company’s product is based on. 
  • Highlight any certifications or professional development programs you have undertaken to prove you possess sound knowledge of the technologies used by the target product company.
  • Build and list projects that demonstrate a working knowledge of skills required by the product company.
  • Create an ATS-optimized resume by including keywords that match the job description.
  • Develop and include in-demand and futuristic skills based on your target company’s planned direction. 

Through Referrals

Getting a referral from an internal employee at your target company is more effective than landing an interview. When considering how to prepare for product-based company interviews, chalk out a plan to get referrals. 

To get referrals for a product company interview:

  • Reach out to contacts: Connect with friends or people in your tech circle who work at your target company to find out about open positions and ask for a referral.
  • Connect With Internal Employees on LinkedIn: Connect with employees at your target company on LinkedIn. Request for an informational interview to find out more about the company. Nurture the connection for a referral. 
  • Network: Attend networking events or build connections through peers to connect with employees at your target company. 

How to Prepare for Product-based Company Interviews

This section gives you an overview of how to prepare for product-based company interviews. 

1. Understand the Interview Process

Large tech product companies like FAANG have highly standardized and rigorous hiring processes. To learn how to prepare for product-based company interviews, you have to determine how many interviews and the types of interviews you will have to undergo. Broadly, most tech interview processes at most product companies follow the following pattern:

Initial Screening (1 or 2 rounds)

This includes first-level screening by recruiters and hiring managers, usually conducted via telephone or video call. Interviewers will ask questions about your experience, skills, interests, etc. You may also have to solve basic coding problems. This round aims to assess if you meet primary role and company requirements.

Coding Interviews (2 or more rounds)

This is an integral part of a product company’s interview process. You will be required to solve coding problems of medium to hard complexity by writing out solutions on a whiteboard within a predefined time frame. You may also be asked about previous projects you’ve worked on during this round.

How to Prepare for Product-based Company Interviews on Coding

  • Prepare thoroughly on core coding concepts: Data structures and algorithms: string, trees, arrays, sort, search, hash tables, linked lists, dynamic programming, programming languages including object-oriented programming.
  • Learn how to identify patterns to solve unseen problems. 
  • Begin by practicing simple problems with generous time constraints and gradually move to solve harder problems with tighter time constraints until you can comfortably solve complex problems quickly.
  • Practice communicating your problem-solving approach as you solve problems.
  • Practice writing solutions on a paper or whiteboard.
  • Go over your resume to answer questions on past projects and work experiences confidently.

Design Interview (1 or 2 rounds)

In this round, you will be assessed on:

  • Product Design
  • Systems Design  

You will be asked to develop design olutions. The focus of this interview will be more about your approach than arriving at the right solution. Design interviews are important for senior roles. 

How to Prepare for Product-based Company Interviews on Design

  • Prepare key product and system design concepts and technologies, including machine learning, SQL, and similar technologies.
  • Prepare to explain your high-level design process and your problem-solving approach, including technologies and tools you use.
  • Practice designing products of your target company or similar products
  • Practice analyzing an existing product design for ways to improve it.

Behavioral Interview

In this round, you will be assessed on your interpersonal skills. This round will include situational questions to uncover your behavioral skills based on how you respond to different situations. 

How to Prepare for Product-based Company Interviews on Behavioral Skills

  • Ascertain your personality traits and strengths, and weaknesses
  • Prepare for questions on key interpersonal skills such as:
    - Communication
    - Leadership
    - Teamwork
    - Creativity
    - Critical and Analytical Thinking
    - Problem-Solving
    - Project Management
    - Time Management
    - Conflict Resolution
  • Practice answering questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method

2. Research the Role and Company

Product companies differ from service-based companies in their offerings, operations, and work cultures. A crucial part of how to prepare for product-based company interviews is researching the role and company. 

  • Find out all about the products and the technologies used to develop it
  • Understand the market in which the company operates and competing products
  • Find out about the responsibilities the potential role will entail 
  • Learn about the company’s work culture

3. Practice Salary Negotiations

Compensation is one of the biggest draws for software engineers to switch from service-based companies to product-based companies. Ensure salary negotiations are a part of your strategy in how you prepare for product-based company interviews. 

  • Understand the level you’re interviewing for at your target company (every company levels differently).
  • Collect market data about salaries offered for the potential role at similar levels.
  • Ascertain your market worth based on the value you can bring to the company.
  • Practice salary negotiation skills to land the best offer you can at the end of the interviewing process.

Java Interview Questions for Product-based Company Interviews

When deciding how to prepare for product-based company interviews, you have to first understand its technologies to develop its products. If you’re preparing for the role of a Java developer or a role that requires Java skills, you should have a strong grasp of Java concepts and applications.

Java interview questions for product-based company interviews are typically based on the following topics:

FAQs on How to Switch From Service-based to Product-based Company

Q1. Can I switch from a service-based company to a product-based company?

Yes, many software engineers transition smoothly from a service-based company to a product-based company. The key to effecting this type of career change lies in knowing how to prepare for product-based interviews and land an offer for the role you desire.

Q2. How long does it take to prepare for a technical interview at a product-based company?

Part of knowing how to prepare for product-based interviews is estimating learning timeframes. Depending on your current skills levels, it can take between 3 - 6 months of daily, structured study to prepare for a technical interview.

Q3. How to prepare for a product-based company interview?

To prepare for a technical interview at a product-based company, focus on three broad knowledge areas — Coding concepts on DSA (Data Structures and Algorithms), Systems Design, and Behavioral Skills.

Q4. How to prepare for product-based company interviews at FAANG?

Technical interviews at FAANG+ companies are highly standardized processes. Research the interview process to learn unique traits FAANG interviewers look for. Develop coding skills based on the technologies used to build FAANG products.

Q5. How do I get a job in a product-based company?

A key step to landing a job at a product company is knowing how to prepare for product-based company interviews. By enhancing your coding and design skills to crack tech interviews effectively, you can land the job you desire at your target company.

Upskill for a Successful Career Switch

When you think of how to prepare for product-based company interviews, your prep methodology is what it comes down to. 

At Interview Kickstart, we have helped many experienced engineers level up in their careers by providing the training they need to upskill. A structured and focused technical interview prep is the most essential part of how to prepare for product-based company interviews.

Our alums have landed lucrative offers from FAANG and other leading tech product companies by teaching engineers how to crack coding interviews.

Our team of instructors and coaches, comprising 150+ tech leads and hiring managers from FAANG and other leading tech companies, offer first-hand training on hard product-based tech skills such as data structures, algorithms, system design, behavioral and domain-specific skills. We also offer salary negotiation guidance to help students negotiate top-notch offers.

Join our free webinar to learn more about how to prepare for product-based company interviews through our programs.

Last updated on: 
September 22, 2023

Utkarsh Sahu

Director, Category Management @ Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW.

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