How To Win The Google Product Manager Interview
There isn’t a single person we know that wouldn’t want to work for Google. I mean its Google! Most people don’t even get a chance to interview with them and now you do. How do you even begin to prepare for one of the most important interviews you will ever have in your lifetime?
We have determined the following findings based on the feedback of over 70 Google Product Managers and Product Manager candidates that have interviewed for a Product Manager role at Google. For your benefit, we have broken down our findings into 3 sections.
Understanding The Tech Landscape
Just drilling interview questions isnt enough everyone does that. To get ahead of the competition, you need to know the tech industry: notable trends, major companies and competitors, rapidly-growing markets, etc. This industry knowledge will help you craft better answers and stand out as a subject-matter expert.
Its much easier to propose a monetization strategy for a new app, for instance, if you know how popular apps make money one example I like to cite is how the popular stock-trading app Robinhood makes money while letting users trade stocks with zero commission.
Also, if you can chat with an interviewer about the product they work on including features, competitors, trends, and business decisions you will leave an excellent impression.
To really impress at the Google APM interviews, you must be able to talk intelligently about common technologies such as machine learning, the cloud, and big data. You also have to know Googles products, strategies, and competitors. You cant learn this by just drilling interview questions.
In short, you have to think like a techie.
While preparing for PM interviews, I needed to gain a big-picture understanding of major technologies and business strategy trends but I couldnt find any resources to do this. So I decided to make one.
Day 27 Getting Familiar With Technical Interview Questions
Review the technical topics suggested in: bit.ly/PMPrepPlan
Gain familiarity with technical concepts and questions. At Google, technical interview questions are reserved for on-site interviews, usually for candidates who have succeeded in other parts of the interview such as product design, analytics and strategy questions.
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What To Interview Product Managers For
In Who, Geoff Smart and Randy Street offer an approach that starts by articulating a positions mission, outcomes, and competencies. Ive articulated XO Groups key Product Manager competencies in this article defining the modern strategic Product Manager. For each Product Manager level at XO Group, we evaluate
- Strategic Thinking, including macro and micro level design making and problem structuring
- Technicals, including engineering and design collaboration tools
- Collaboration, including EQ and conflict management
- Communication, including the ability to inspire others
- DetailOrientation, including QA
- User Science & Empathy, including qualitative and quantitative user research
I asked several other Product Leaders for their top interview questions and key competencies. In addition to the six skill areas above, several also called out:
- Degree of self awareness: Xiaodi Zhang , Matt Smith
- Conflict management as a critical explicit skill: Catherine Ulrich , Anthony Schrauth , Xiaodi
In addition to competencies, I also evaluate if the candidate would be motivated by the positions mission, users, team, structure, and growth opportunity. Not just *can* the candidate do the job, but *will* the candidate be excited waking up every day to do the job? These two separate notions are also known as will and skill.
Will: does the person have the will to do the job, i.e. is the person motivated and excited? Does this position feed the persons soul?
More Google Interview Questions
As mentioned above, Google hires professionals for a variety of departments. Not everyone is going to face the same questions, as some only make sense for specific roles.
Here are 27 more Google interview questions you might face, depending on the job youre trying to land:
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Tell Us About A Product Idea Of Yours That Didn’t Pan Out Where Did You Go Wrong And What Would You Do Differently
As a Product Manager, you need to be a critical thinker. You have to know how to monitor performance and pivot on a dime, how to test and evaluate your design ideas, and how to conduct a thorough and unbiased post-mortem. This question is an opportunity to show that you are capable of handling criticism and taking a clear-eyed critical look at your own work. It’s also a chance to show that you take ownership of your mistakes and don’t shift the blame to others. But you still want to make sure the project you choose to discuss wasn’t a total disaster. Instead, provide an example of when you realized through some form of analytic reflection that your initial concept wouldn’t work and you made changes on the fly to fix it.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What aspects of the product management process do you find the most exciting?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why do you want to work at XYZ Company?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What do you need from your manager to be successful in this role?
- What does success as Product Manager look like to you?
- What is one of the best ideas youve ever had?
- What is one of the worst ideas youve ever had?
- What interests you about this role?
- What is your superpower as a Product Manager?
Best Practice Interviewing For Any Position
In Yale Professor Jason Danas recent New York Times article The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews, Professor Dana recaps research showing that loosely run interviews are often useless, if not misdirecting, for evaluating a candidate. His best advice for conducting useful interviews:
What can be done? One option is to structure interviews so that all candidates receive the same questions, a procedure that has been shown to make interviews more reliable and modestly more predictive of job success. Alternatively, you can use interviews to test job-related skills, rather than idly chatting or asking personal questions.
Geoff Smart and Randy Streets well-regarded book Who: The A Method for Hiring, based on extensive hiring research, outlines a structured interviewing approach as well:
Summarizing the common critical elements of good interviewing:
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The Third Big Product Manager Interview Question: Conflict
Reviewing responses from other senior product leaders about their top Product Manager interview questions, most questions fell into three buckets:
Perhaps I should ask this question more directly given its importance to other product leaders! Managing conflict productively is near and dear to my heart, and I recommend the book Difficult Conversations to anyone interested in the topic. Here are different ways the conflict question is asked:
These three questions arent all the questions to ask, theyre just the most important ones according to this set of product leaders. Other interesting questions that came up include:
- If I spoke to your colleagues, what misperceptions about you would I hear? Catherine, Shutterstock
- Give me an example of a product you love or hate, and why Tomer, LinkedIn
- How do you articulate a future, and how do inspire your team to build that future? Wyatt, Hired
How To Answer Google Interview Questions
Before we dig into some examples, lets take a moment to talk about how you should answer Google interview questions. After all, Google has a reputation for asking some strange ones, many of which felt more like brain teasers than real interview questions.
Do you feel adequately prepared to talk about how many golf balls it would take to fill up a school bus?
The mere idea of facing off against a question like that would rightfully leave any candidate nervous.
Now, some of the questions were deemed so difficult that the company eventually banned them.Plus, there is evidence that these bizarre hypotheticals dont actually lead to better hiring, which may be why you dont see as many of those tricks today.
So, that means you dont have to worry, right? Well, no.
Even if youre only going to face normal interview questions, that doesnt mean you shouldnt have a strategy. Its also important to prepare, increasing the odds that youll impress during your Google interview.
Lets start with the basics. If you want to stand out for all of the right reasons, research is your friend. Start by scouring over the Google job description. That way, you can learn the ins and outs of what the hiring manager needs to find, giving you all of the foundational tools you need to incorporate the right details into your answers.
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The Biggest Mistake Google Pm Candidates Make
Google PM candidates erroneously believe that they the reason they didn’t get a Google PM offer is because they failed the whiteboard coding interview.That’s incorrect.#1 reason why candidates fail: poor responses to product design questions. What are product design questions? Here are two examples from actual Google interviews:
- How would you design a better smoke detector?
- Design an new iPad app for Google spreadsheet.
Product design questions aren’t covered by the standard MBA curriculum nor consulting case interview prep.There are a few reasons why product design questions are so challenging:
- Suffocating time pressure. Great products, such as the iPhone are not built in a day, let alone a 45-minute interview.
- Limited domain knowledge. How can candidates suggest smoke detector innovations if they don’t know how they work?
- No support. Real-life innovation happens in teams team members can build on each other’s ideas. No such support system exists in a solitary closet-sized interview room.
To do well requires lots of practice. And the best place to start is the CIRCLES Method.
List Of Product Manager Interview Questions: Technical Skills Questions
Product Managers will need to understand technical concepts and translate them to non-technical audiences. You may already know how to communicate these concepts to someone on your team, but how would you explain something technical to someone else?
The purpose of this type of interview question is to assess your product management knowledge and how well you can communicate your understanding.
A few examples of questions interviewers may ask include:
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List Of Product Manager Interview Questions: Leadership And Communication
Leadership and communication are two essential skills for all Product Managers.
Most PMs sit at the head of design and development teams, and all Product Managers have to collaborate with a diverse roster of stakeholders with different job responsibilities, specialties, and goals. It’s a crucial intangible skill for Product Managers to get all of those different people working together in an organized, purposeful goal toward a common purpose.
To get a sense of whether you have these soft skills, questions to ask for interviewers include:
Who Do You Believe Are Googles Main Competitors How Does Google Stand Apart
With this question, the hiring manager can determine whether you have a solid idea of which other companies dominate spaces where Google also sits. This can be especially relevant in product-oriented roles, including everything from product manager positions to software developer jobs, where finding opportunities to outshine other companies comes with the territory.
Google has several main competitors, including Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix, Waze, and several others, depending on the specific space. One of the main differentiators is Googles ability to integrate its services, creating a cohesive cross-platform experience. Additionally, Google has such a wide range of offerings. It promotes a degree of familiarity you dont necessarily get with some of the competitors, making using the products and platforms feel like a natural part of daily life.
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Brand New Google Product Manager Interview Cheat Sheet
Speaking of Google, I’m honored to share a brand new Google PM interview cheat sheet with all of you.It’s fun, colorful, and Googley. More importantly, it covers all the different question types you’d encounter at the interview including product design, technical, analytical, and strategy. This cheat sheet is based on my latest book, Secrets of the Product Manager Interview.
Understanding Google’s Product Management Hiring Criteria
First, let’s understand how Google defines the responsibilities of a product manager. Here are the 5 key responsibilities they list on their PM job listings:
Ultimately, Google assesses whether you’ll be able to perform the PM job by assessing you in five core categories: 1) product sense 2) technical chops 3) analytical chops 4) communication skills and 5) culture fit .
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Advice From A Google Associate Product Manager
Movies like The Internship will assure you that being able to answer questions like that as well as hunting down fictitious professors and winning Quidditch matches is your ticket to a job at Google.
But these brainteaser questions are more fable than fact and, well, the other things wont help much either. So if youre looking for a job at Google, youll have to take a more sensible approach. Youll have to prepare for the actual interviews youll be getting.
Im an incoming Google Associate Product Manager , a two-year rotational product management role, and here I want to share some resources I used to prepare for the Google APM interviews. If youre looking to become an APM, I hope this article will give you the tools youll need to succeed.
These same resources were helpful when I was interviewing for Facebooks Rotational Product Manager program and Microsofts Program Manager role, so the tips I share here should be useful no matter which PM role youre interested in.
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Swipe To Unlock: A Primer On Technology And Business Strategy
I authored this book along with Parth Detroja and Adi Agashe to give anyone, even non-experts, a big-picture understanding of tech topics and business trends .
Swipe to Unlockuses short case studies to give you the industry knowledge youll need to craft great interview answers and talk intelligently with your interviewers.
The things I learned while researching for Swipe to Unlock were tremendously helpful in my PM interviews, and the book has gotten strong reviews from people who landed offers from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and more thanks to the knowledge contained in the book.
Linkedin Product Manager Interview Questions
- Whats a product you wish that Linkedin had?
- Where do you see the company going in five years?
- Whats your biggest challenge with Linkedin right now?
- How would you improve the company culture here at Linkedin to be more innovative?
- How would you improve the Linkedin newsfeed to make it more relevant?
- What do you think about Google+ and how might it affect Linkedin?
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