Prepare for a Product Management Interview at Google

Google Product Managers help bring to fruition new products and features that impact millions of users every day. They act as general managers of their products, providing leadership across engineering, design and business teams. Openings for Product Managers appear every day.

Google is also one of the most notoriously tricky places to interview for, whether this reputation is deserved or not. The rumour mill surely exaggerates from time to time, but it’s certainly no exaggeration that when you apply for Google, you’ve got some serious competition and it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

Here is a quick summary on how to prepare for a Product Management Interview on Google.

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Skills required to work as a Product Manager at Google

  • Previous experience as a product manager. Google has an agnostic interview process in which they aim to hire “generalists” that can easily float through different product lines such as consumer, mobile, enterprise or platform to name a few. That being said, you don’t need to study an MBA in order to work at Google.
  • Technical background. Google is an engineering-driven company and appreciates that product managers are former engineers or have a proven track record working with engineers. That being said, you don’t need to hold a Computer science degree in order to work at Google.
  • Previous startup experience. Google operates as a big startup made out of smaller startups. Having past experience either as a startup founder or early employee in a fast-growing startup are definitely a big bonus points. That being said, you don’t need to try to create a company if your goal is to work at Google.

What’s a Google Interview Like?

The interview process is long, and requires multiple interviews with multiple people, so be prepared for that. There may be a few weeks in between stages where you don’t hear from anyone, and this is to be expected. However if more than a month goes by, you may be able to take it as a sign that you have been passed for this particular opportunity.

In terms of the interviews themselves, whether they take place via video call or onsite, are not as full of strange brain-teasing questions as they once were.

Our data showed that brainteaser questions didn’t predict how well someone would do on the job so we no longer ask them. Instead, we do work sample tests and ask structured interview questions.”

-Google Hiring FAQs

So it’s now unlikely that your Google interviewer will ask you which type of soup matches your personality more, but that doesn’t mean they’ll go easy on you, and you should still aim to prepare as much as possible.

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Interview questions at Google

In preparation, you can expect discussions around the following topics:

  • Product design – Thinking creatively/critically about products – eg, how to monetize twitter, how to change Gmail, design an app for the Louvre. Give feedback and analysis on features (think of how to best delight the user), technical design, UI design.
  • Product strategy – Understand Google’s competitive landscape and discuss the vision for Google, the mobile market, the ad market, the internet, and technology in general. Discuss long term product roadmaps & strategies to increase market share.
  • Trends – An awareness of the technical trends which are gathering momentum will be a useful tool in your interview arsenal. You may be asked which emerging trend is the most interesting to you, and if you’re not asked directly, you can pepper answers to other questions with your knowledge.
  • Analytical – May be a market analysis, problem solving or brain teaser question, eg. How would you store all the phone calls in the world? Most important is attention to detail and communication of how you’d break the problem into smaller nuggets to reach an overall solution.
  • Technical – You could be asked architecture/design (eg multi-tiered web apps, data storage in databases) or conceptual questions (eg internet technologies and protocols). Possibly even an algorithm/coding question or two.

Examples:

“What will be the impact of self-driving cars.”

“Pick a product that you used this morning and tell me why you like it.”

“Pick a product you hate and tell me how you’d improve it.”

“If you could implement a new feature for Gmail, what would it be?”

“Which tech trend are you following at the moment?”

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Additional resources to prepare for an interview at Google

Mohammed Musa is a Lead Product Manager at Google, who held a talk for prospective PMs. He talks about becoming a product manager, and teaching it at Product School. Check out a short clip below:

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