March 20, 2020

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 (if not 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.

How to Prepare for a Google Product Manager Interview

The first thing we recommend is reviewing tech blogs, such as Stratechery. This is something that you can do right now whether you have an interview scheduled with Google or not.

What to Expect

There are 6 major components to the Google Product Manager (PM) interview:

  1. Product Design
  2. Analytics and Data
  3. Strategy
  4. Culture Fit
  5. Technical
  6. Behavior

Product Design

Google Product Managers put users first. Product Managers are obsessed with providing the best user experiences. Think about all of the Google Products you use and take for granted. Now imagine life without them. At Google, this process begins with customer empathy and a passion for products, down to the most acute details. A wireframe can be sketched just to convey an idea to a designer.

Product Design Sample Questions:

  • How would you improve Google Maps?
  • How would you reduce Gmail storage size?
  • How would you improve restaurant search?
  • What's favorite Google product? What do you like or not like about it?
  • If you were to build the next killer feature for Google, what would it be?
  • You're part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?

How to Prepare for the Product Design Questions:

  • Practice and envision leading design discussions using a framework. (Need a framework? Try CIRCLES Method: http://qr.ae/i6kRM).
  • Begin with possible personas and detail use cases.
  • Prioritize use cases and brainstorm solutions. Many PM candidates often make the mistake of suggesting solutions that are incremental or derivatives of a competitor's feature set. You don't want to end your Product Manager interview with Google this way. The Product Management Hiring Panel at Google is evaluating your creativity, and they place a big emphasis on big ideas (aka "moonshots").
  • Impress and inspire them with unique, compelling ideas.
  • Drawing wireframes on a whiteboard will help illustrate your ideas.
  • To practice, download a wireframing tool like Balsamiq.
  • Also study popular web and mobile design patterns for inspiration.

Analytics and Data

Google Product Managers are fluent in the language of numbers to define the right metrics. Google Product Managers make their point by communicating their analysis. They can decipher and make decisions from A/B test results, go so far as to writing SQL queries, and even running scripts to extract data from logs.

In essence, they don't mind getting their hands dirty and doing whatever is required to prove their point.

Analytics and Data Sample Questions:

  • How many queries per second does Gmail get?
  • How many iPhones are sold in the US each year?
  • As the PM for Google Glass 'Enterprise Edition,' which metrics would you track? How do you know if the product is successful?

How to Prepare for the Analytics and Data Questions

Prepare for estimation questions such as How many queries per second does Gmail get?

Get well-versed in product launch metrics and A/B testing, including interpretation of results.

Strategy

Google Product Managers are business leaders. As a result, they must be familiar with business issues. It's not necessary for Google Product Managers to have business experience or formal business training. However, they do expect you to pick up business intuition and judgment quickly.

Strategy Sample Questions

  • If you were Google's CEO, would you be concerned about Microsoft?
  • Should Google offer a StubHub competitor? That is, sell sports, concert, and theater tickets?

How to Prepare for the Strategy Questions

Use a framework to structure your strategy discussions If you're not familiar with strategy or frameworks, Porter's Five Forces is a good start.

Cultural Fit

Google Product Managers lead and influence effectively, have a bias for action, and get things done. Many Google Product Managers go on to become the CEOs of their own company, as well as other companies.

Having said that, being smart isn't enough; YOU HAVE TO FIT IN WITH THIS CROWD. Google prides itself on their ability to get things done as an organization. This is one of the most difficult criteria to fulfill and one of the reasons why Google is so cool to work at. You are going to have to show that you are smart enough to hang with the best of the best and fit in with the rest. It's a balancing act, but absolutely necessary to weed out all the people that Google DOES NOT WANT.

Culture Fit Sample Questions:

  • Why Google?
  • Why PM?

How to Prepare for the Culture Fit Questions:

Technical Questions

Google Product Managers lead product development teams. Leading effectively means Product Managers have influence and credibility with engineers. At the final round (aka onsite) interview, a senior member of the engineering team will evaluate your technical competence Be prepared for whiteboard coding questions at the onsite interview.

Technical Sample Questions:

  • Write an algorithm that detects meeting conflicts.

How to Prepare the Technical Questions:

Coding questions are unlikely during the phone interviews, but if you are invited to an on-site interview, you must prepare for programming interviews. The technical interviewer does not expect your programming syntax to be perfect, but you should have sufficient mastery of technical concepts so that you can participate in technical discussions and help make technical trade-offs. I would recommend going over computer science fundamentals and practicing a couple coding questions.

One of my favorite resources is How to Ace the Software Engineering Interview Also be prepared to describe key technologies including search engines, machine learning, and MapReduce.

Behavior

Be prepared for behavioral interview questions such as Tell me a time when you had to influence engineering to build a particular feature. Google Product Manager interviewers are relying more on behavioral interview questions in recent months.

What Not to Expect

Brain teasers, such as logic puzzles, are rarely used in today's Google Product Manager interviews. Google's HR department found a low correlation between job performance and a candidate's ability to solve brain teasers.

Examples of brain teasers include:

  • I roll two dice. What is the probability that the 2nd number is greater than the 1st?
  • What's 27 x 27 without using a calculator or paper?

However, hypothetical questions have not been banned at all. Hypothetical questions are imaginary situations that ARE related to the job. (This is in contrast with brain teasers, which ARE NOT related to the job.) Examples of hypothetical questions include How would you design an algorithm to source data from the USDA and display on Google nutrition?

The following are questions that may contain more than 1 of the 6 criteria that Google looks for. Be prepared to answer them, if you aim to work there. We wish good fortune on your journey to becoming a Product Manager with Google. If it was easy everybody would work there, which would defeat the purpose of you wanting to work at Google in the first place.

If you are interested in learning how to craft the best answers for these questions, please schedule a call with us here. We look forward to helping make the transition.

Additional Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a Consumer Product you like
  • Apple music have curatoratorial driven playlists while Spotify is more algorithmically driven, what do you think about that?
  • If you are head of product for a third competitor, where would you go? How would you go?
  • What are the downside of the this particular future? Over indexing, automation have the facebook echo chamber?
  • You are hired by Spotify, you are Product manager, what's the way you would improve Spotify?
  • Let's switch gears, you have been hired by Google (Nest), and Nest want to enter Smart kitchen market. How would you enter this market? What would you build?
  • CEO says this is awesome, how would you bring this product into market? You don't have unlimited resources
  • What other things are you thinking about? Barriers of entry? Competitors?
  • What would your target Alphabet ecosystem or broader audience user? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages of targeting each of them?
  • Do you target online Google users? Or do you target other companies?
  • What's your go-to-market strategy?
  • Different topic, I like you to estimate for me the total amount of data google that google is required to restore all the imagery on Google Earth?
  • Can you calculate for me the total available parking spots there are in New York?
  • What is the total amount of storage space on Gmail? How would you calculate it?
  • Design for me a product that solves the problems for people with loss or impaired listening
  • Explain to me like you would to a 10 year old how the internet works
  • If you were going to describe using a metaphor, what would that be?
  • Your company distributes specifically ATMs to airports. You are in charge of designing a new one. How would you go about it?
  • Explain how machine learning works
  • What are some things about engineers that you are aware about?
  • How would you take present an image on HTML?
  • Can you write me the code on the whiteboard?
  • Define a function that takes the an array (ex [2 , 3 ,4] and spits out 235, takes the last number and add 1 & then combine the arrays(length) to form one number
  • If physics wasn't an issue, can you design for me a smart watch if google was going to enter the market?
  • If you were a PM @ Google, how would you monetize Google's self driving cars?
  • In 10 years from now, do you think the smart watch technology or self-driving would have a bigger impact on society and why?

Want to learn more about Product Gym? Read what alumni have said on SwitchUp.

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