Interviews for product management positions are difficult affairs, and particularly so for Google as questions are based on a broad range of topics.
However, with practice and guidance, you can definitely land your dream job at Google. The first step in this guide but check out My Product Mentor for more tips as well as a tailored career advancement experience.
This article will provide
- An overview of the interview process
- Some examples of the questions you will be asked
- Tips on how to prepare
1. The Interview Process
Similar to other PM interviews, the whole process will take between 4 and 8 weeks and will follow roughly this structure:
- CV, cover letter, and references
- Phone interviews (one or two)
- Interviews on-site (anywhere between four to six)
- The recommendation of the hiring committee
- A review by a senior leader
- The recommendation of the compensation committee
- A review by a senior executive
- The offer
1.1 The Different Kinds of Interviews
In the majority of cases, you will go through the following steps:
- CV/CL screening
- A phone interview with a recruiter
- One or two phone interviews with product managers from Google
- Four to six on-site interviews
Normally phone interviews last around 30 minutes and will be with a recruiter and after that one or two Google product managers. Their purpose is to make sure that you meet the criteria for hiring. In terms of the questions you will be asked, recruiters have a preference for behavioral and CV-related questions, whereas PMs will ask about product design, estimation, and strategy. There is always the possibility that Google is very keen to hire you in which case you might skip the phone interview stage and move on straight to the on-site interviews.
The latter is the true test, where you’ll spend a whole day at the Google offices. You will have two interviews in the morning, have lunch with a Google PM and then have three interviews in the afternoon. On average each interview is around 40 minutes and the majority of your interviewers will be PMs (you may also have your technical skills assessed by an engineer, as well as your communication skills with developers)
Google interviews have a strict structure, with the interviewers evaluating your performance and making notes so they can write a thorough report. The lunch you have with a PM will be your opportunity to ask questions – although you won’t technically be assessed during this time it’s better to behave like you are.
1.2 What the Interviewers Do
Provided that everything goes the way it’s supposed to, these are the last steps of the process:
- Your interviewers will submit their feedback
- The hiring committee will make a recommendation
- There will be a review by a senior leader
- The compensation committee will make a recommendation
- There will be a final review by an exec
- You will get the offer
The interviewers will score your answers after the on-site round and submit feedback which will be reviewed by the hiring committee, together with your CV, the internal references, and your submitted past work (if applicable).
This will be the point when the hiring committee recommends you to be hired or not. Their decision is then examined and validated by a Senior manager before the compensation committee decides what your potential salary will be. At the end of the process, a senior executive from Google will review everything before you get sent the offer.
It’s quite obvious that Google wants to make sure they are hiring the right person and this process – with several layers – helps them grow their teams with very competent people. As a tradeoff, this does extend the process to 4-8 weeks and sometimes even more.
1.3 What Are Your Chances?
Google has been experiencing rapid growth which means every year they need more engineers and PMs.
They do report how many employees they have every year. 40% of yearly job ads are for engineering positions and normally the ratio of PMs to Engineers is around 1 to 8. This means that the number of PMs has increased from somewhere around 800 to 5000, and Google hires anywhere between 500 to 800 new PMs every year.
Because Google needs so many PMs you could think that it’s quite easy to get a job with them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Less than 1% of applicants are hired, making Google one of the most difficult places to get a job.
The good news is getting through PM interviews is doable if you know how to prepare, so we’ll take a look at the types of questions you will be asked and how to answer the next.
2. Types of Questions
The problem when interviewing at Google is that they will ask you a broad range of questions. These can be grouped into the following categories:
- Questions about product design
- Strategy questions
- Technical questions
- Questions about data analysis
- Estimation questions
- Behavioral questions
We will go through each type of question in what follows.
2.1 Questions about Product Design
PMs have several main tasks, one of which is helping design and improve products’ features so it’s obvious that design questions will feature prominently in the interview process
They assess how empathetic you are towards the customer and how much creativity you show and also test how you structure your approach. These are some of the questions which were asked in Google interviews:
- How would you design a bicycle renting app for tourists?
- Build a product to buy and sell antiques.
- Design a library for the future.
- How would you design a “Google Refrigerator”?
2.2 Strategy Questions
A PM is in charge of the overall vision of the product and putting together the roadmap that realizes said vision. This process can be more simply named product strategy, and this too is a major component of the Google PM interview.
These types of questions evaluate whether you can envision the multitude of elements (such as competition, pricing, marketing, etc.) which any successful PM needs to consider when making decisions about the product.
Creativity and structure are a must when tackling these questions – here are some examples of strategy questions that Google has asked its interviewees in the past:
- What should Airbnb’s strategy be during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Define a strategy of loyalty programs for Google Pay.
- How would you develop the strategy for YouTube for the next 5 years?
- How would you enter into blue-collar hiring?
- If a VC gave you $100M to build a payments app for India and maximize market share in 12 months, what would be your strategy?
2.3 Technical Questions
The founders of Google were Ph.D. students so they have kept the tradition of hiring very technical candidates too – including PMs.
Therefore, the interview will contain several technical questions. However, these will not contain any coding but will be centered instead on whether you have a good grasp of certain technical concepts.
Here are some examples:
- How would you design the technical aspect of location sharing in Google Maps?
- How technically deep are you?
- Describe a project where you had a large impact on technical direction.
- Draw the diagram of a system you are familiar with (in as much detail).
2.4 Questions about Data Analysis
All products at Google have a hero and secondary metrics. These help PMs evaluate the success of said products and make decisions about what to focus on in the following stages.
This means interviewers will inquire about metrics – whether it be what metrics you would use to assess a certain situation or how you would track the changes in a certain metric.
- How would you measure the success of Gmail?
- What is the most important metric for Google Docs and why?
- If you were the PM for Lyft, what dashboard would you build to track the health of the app?
- Engagement is going down by 10% month on month for your product. What data /metrics would you look at?
2.5 Estimation questions
Important decisions about products involve estimating a few elements such as market size, the potential for revenue, and the number of customers. Therefore this type of question assesses whether you can handle numbers and break down problems into their constituent parts.
Interviewers won’t be very concerned about whether you provide the right answer but they will care about your thought process when tackling the problem and whether you are good at making assumptions and performing simple computations.
Some examples of estimation questions asked by Google are:
- Calculate the number of queries answered by Google per second.
- How many dentists are there in New York?
- Estimate the number of Tesla Model3s in California.
- How much storage is required to store all of the images on Google Maps?
- What is the market size of toilet paper in the US?
2.6 Behavioral questions
Google, like most companies, asks you several behavioral questions. These can be grouped into the following categories:
- Why you want to work as a PM at Google
- How you managed conflict in the past and how you worked with different people
- Whether you understand what a good PM should and should not do
This category of questions is relatively easy so it is often overlooked. To secure a small advantage over the other candidates you should spend a little bit of time preparing some answers to some potential questions from this category.
Here are some of the most commonly asked behavioral questions at Google:
- Why do you want to work at Google?
- Why have you chosen this particular PM position?
- What are the attributes of a good PM?
- Tell us about a situation where you managed a conflict successfully
3. How Should I Prepare
Here are a few things you should focus on, now that you know what type of questions you will be asked at Google
3.1 Research the Organization and its Products
It’s readily apparent from the list of examples that you can’t really become a Google PM without detailed knowledge of their products and of Google itself – so make sure you study up on the company and their products well before the interviews.
3.2 Make Sure you Have Strong Product Fundamentals
If you have experience as a PM then you should already have this down but if you’re just now transitioning to product management then you need to make sure you know all the basic product management concepts.
3.3. Have a Method for Answering PM Questions
As you’ve seen, the questions you will be asked can be grouped into categories (see above). Having a method with which you approach each category can be very beneficial and can help develop very strong interview habits. These will help you be less worried when going into the actual interview which in turn will help impress the interviewers.
This article provides a good overview of the steps you need to take in order to get ready for a Google PM interview. However, it is not a substitute for practice and you should remember that doing mock interviews with an actual PM with Google experience is the best way to prepare.