How to Get a Product Management Job at Airbnb

If you’ve got a love of travel and a passion for working on community-building products, then you might have thought about getting a job at Airbnb. Despite the huge amount of growth they’ve experienced in the past few years, they’re still keen to maintain their culture-focused startup vibe. Their mission statement, that everyone should be welcome everywhere, remains the driving force behind operations. Now is a great time to get in the doors, and there’s always an opening on the Product teams.

However, this means that hiring is extremely competitive. You’ll need to bring your A-game, and this quick guide will help you do it!

airbnb apartment

Product Jobs 101

Most Product jobs at Airbnb ask for at least a few years in a Product Manager role, so if you’re thinking of applying this should be practically routine by now. But let’s have a quick catch-up, just in case it’s been a while since your last application! (Or perhaps you’re just getting started in Product and Airbnb is the dream. In that case, you might want to think about starting your own side project.)

  • If you’ve worked in Product, but not directly in Product Management, for some roles you may be able to transition.
  • If you’re short a few years of experience, or you’re still trying to build up your portfolio, top PMs advise that building something of your own is a great gap-filler in your resume.
  • Get involved in your local and the global product community. You may meet people who have already worked at Airbnb who are able to give you some insight.
  • Brush up on your technical PM interview skills. Most Product jobs at Airbnb require a CS degree or similar, so expect some technical questions in your interview.

What It’s Like to Work at Airbnb:

  • Average Salary (US): $138K
  • Benefits:
    • Airbnb credits
    • Paid annual leave
    • Medical, dental, & vision insurance
    • Free food
    • Stock
    • 401K plan (US)
  • Locations: Headquartered in San Francisco, CA. Various offices around the world, with larger product teams based in China.
  • Background required for a PM role: CSS degree or equivalent.
Beijing

What Does It Take to Be an Airbnb PM?

Product Lead for Trust & Safety at Airbnb, Angeli Jain, gave a talk at one of our live events where she laid out some of the key traits she looks for when hiring PMs.

In general, the Product teams at Airbnb look for:

  • Vision
  • Structured thinking
  • Leadership & collaboration
  • Execution and accountability

Vision

Candidates should be creative, able to think long-term with ambition and clear aspirations. To that end, you’ll probably be asked some pretty out-of-the-box questions in your interview such as “how would you redesign an elevator?” You might also be asked to look at an Airbnb product and ask what new feature you would implement. This tests your ability to think creatively whilst also testing your product knowhow.

Structured thinking

It’s not enough to have creative vision, you need to be able to implement your ideas and create tangible plans. By having structured thinking you should be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Strategy
  • Prioritization
  • Decision making
  • Analytical skills
  • Domain expertise
  • Communication

One simple thing you can do in your interview is to take time answering your questions. You can give yourself a few moments to think about what you want to say.

Leadership & Collaboration

Team fit is very important at Airbnb, as it is so culture-driven. This means that your interviewer will be keenly interested in your leadership skills and whether or not you’re a team player. You’ll be asked questions along the lines of “tell me about a time you had to solve a disagreement with a colleague.” They’ll also want to be sure that you don’t crack under pressure and are able to cope well with negative situations. You’ll be asked to talk about times you weren’t able to achieve your goal, or a time you made a mistake and had to recover.

Collaboration is absolutely key at Airbnb. If you walk around thinking you’re the CEO of the product, you certainly won’t be making many friends!

Execution & Accountability

A lot of the responsibility for the success or failure of a product rests on the PM. And so in their PMs Airbnb want to see:

  • Organizational skills
  • Stakeholder management
  • Responsibility
  • Storytelling

To measure this, the interviewer will ask you about some of your previous experience as a PM. Things like “how did you manage your last launch” and “how would you communicate with stakeholders if things aren’t going to plan?”

Company Values

Airbnb is a very culture-driven company. The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with their values and make sure they’re in line with yours.

  1. Champion the Mission: To work at Airbnb you must feel strongly connected to the message. Passion is everything.
  2. Be a Host: While Airbnb doesn’t require you to be an actual host (though it may be an advantage at interview stage) you must have a host personality: warm and welcoming.
  3. Embrace the Adventure: You must be curious, and optimistic.
  4. Be a Cereal Entrepreneur: “We’re determined and creative in transforming our bold ambitions into reality.”
working in airport

The Interview Process

As with many jobs in Product, especially for larger companies, expect a more lengthy hiring process. For the most part, you can expect a very typical set of interviews.

  1. Phone screening: You’ll start with a brief phone interview, possibly with a recruiter or someone from HR, just to make sure you meet the basic requirements for a position at Airbnb.
  2. The next step is a Skype or phone interview with members of the product team, which is more about seeing how they feel about you as a potential teammate. This is closely linked with the company values, which they’ve helpfully now released to the public on their website, compared to a few years ago when candidates went in blind!
  3. Once the product team like you, it’s time for an in-person interview. Although you’re only one step away from the end, the final interview at Airbnb is notoriously difficult, even more so than Google!

More Example Interview Questions:

  • “What is one weakness you have, and how do you overcome it?”
  • “What would you say at the funeral of the current hotel industry?”
  • “Tell me something extraordinary that you did in the past month?”
  • “How lucky are you, and why?”
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