Google APM interview: the only post you'll need to read

Practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from Google. Learn more.

If you're reading this, then you're probably interested in becoming an Associate Product Manager (APM) or an APM intern at Google. Well, you're not alone. There is a lot of competition for a limited number of open positions (~45 full-time positions each year at the time of writing). So if you want to get one of those offers, you'll need to know how to nail your Google APM interviews.

But here's the good news for you; a lot of people don't put in the work to properly prepare for their interviews. So, if you focus on the right kind of preparation, and put in the time to practice for your APM interviews, then you'll have a leg-up on the competition.

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know to prepare for your Google APM interviews. Let's begin with a quick overview of Google's APM program. Then we'll cover the interview process, some example questions, and tips for your preparation. 

1. Google APM program overview

The Google Associate Product Manager (APM) program is a full-time job and a 2-year rotational program, which is intended for candidates who just graduated or who are early in their careers (e.g. 1-2 years of work experience).

Google also has an APM internship, which is similar in some ways to the full-time program. It's a 12-week summer internship, typically for students who will be entering their final year of college (e.g. Juniors). The rest of this article is primarily focused on the full-time rotational APM program, however, much of the information will still be helpful for those interested in the internship.

1.1 Why Google created the APM program

The APM program provides opportunities for new recruits to gain exposure to a variety of technologies and to learn how those technologies are used in different industries and geographic locations.

From a business perspective, Google began the APM program in an effort to develop their own in-house PM talent, rather than hiring established industry professionals. Or, as Nisha Masharani (a Google APM alumni) put it: "Google leaders value the APM program because it allows them to develop strong leaders from scratch, within the company."

1.2 APM program perks

The APM program at Google is a great opportunity to break into both Google and the Product Management field. The Google APM program is somewhat famous, and Eric Schmidt (former Google CEO) has even predicted that someone from the APM program may become the new CEO of Google one day.

In addition to the reputation and exposure that the APM program offers, there are also some unique benefits that may not be available in other entry-level PM roles:

  • Mentorship
    • APM members get an APM buddy who is 1-year ahead of them
    • APM members have access to management coaches (from outside Google)
  • APM Trips
    • Each APM group gets to take a 2-week trip to different cities around the world, to visit international Google offices and to learn about how technologies are used in different places/industries
    • APM groups also get to take "mini trips" within the US, to different cities to learn more about industries or businesses of interest
  • Community
    • Each year a small group of new APMs are hired by Google, and this is the APM "cohort" for the year
    • APM "cohorts" can grow to be tight-knit communities that remain connected for years after meeting in the program

In addition to these benefits, it's also worth mentioning that APMs at Google are compensated generously. The average base salary for Google APMs is about $135k/year according to data from Glassdoor.com.

Now that we've covered an overview of the APM program, let's turn our focus to the rigorous APM interview process, so you can learn what it takes to land one of these jobs!

2. Interview process and format

In this section, we'll walk through a high-level overview of the typical stages you'll face during Google's APM interview process. Once you have an idea of the sequence (and number) of interviews you'll face, then we'll dig into the typical interview format. Let's get started!

2.1 Interview process

The typical interview process for a Google APM role is roughly as follows:

  • Resume / cover letter application
  • Phone screen (1 interview)
  • Onsite interviews (3-5 interviews)
  • Final interview with an executive

As mentioned above, Google only recruits a small group of APMs each year, so to get an interview you'll need your resume and cover letter to really stand out. 

Then, once you get past the initial resume application, you'll usually have your first interview over the phone, before Google decides if they want to bring you in for the onsite interviews. 

The onsite interviews are held at a Google office (often the Mountain View or New York offices). During this busy day, you'll have 3-5 interviews, in which you'll be expected to answer a variety of product management interview questions.

If all goes well, then your final step is an interview with an executive from the APM program. Historically, this has been a 1-on-1 meeting with Brian Rakowski (The APM Program lead). If you are successful at each of these stages, then you'd receive an offer!

Now, let's spend some time digging deeper into the format of an individual interview.

2.2 Interview format

Google has published a really insightful video, led by two current Google Product Managers, on APM interview preparation. This video covers several topics, but we think it's particularly helpful for gaining an understanding of the flow of an APM interview.

It's a fairly long video (~30 mins), and so we've summarized some of the key points for you below, particularly around the format of APM interviews.

In the video, they explain that a Google APM interview includes 3 main parts:

Part 1: Warm-up 

The warm-up at the beginning of an APM interview is more of a casual conversation starter. But, you'll definitely want to be prepared for this portion of the interview because it will help you make a good first impression.

Warm-up questions would be something like "why Google?", or "tell me about yourself". Your interviewer will typically expect you to give a brief (~1-2 minute) answer to this type of question.

    Part 2: Product management questions

    Once you've finished the warm-up discussion, your interviewer will begin to ask you product management interview questions, to assess you on areas like product design, strategy, and technical skills.

    This stage of the interview will take up the bulk of the interview time. The example question they give in the video above, is "how would you design a smart watch for a child?".  

    Your interviewer will typically expect you to give a more in-depth (~5-10 minute) answer to this type of question. You can find more example questions in the next section of this article. 

      Part 3: Your questions 

      Finally, your interviewer will usually provide some time at the end of your interview for you to ask them questions. You should plan a few questions to ask your interviewers in advance, in order to gain insight and make a good impression.

      This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you've done your homework and that you're excited about the type of work you'd be involved in as an APM.

      3. Example questions 

      The types of questions that you'll encounter in one of Google's APM interviews are similar to the types of questions that are asked in Google's regular Product Manager interviews

      We've previously analyzed the questions asked in Google's PM interviews using data from Glassdoor.com, and we've organized these questions into six buckets. You'll find an overview of these six question types below: 

      Google PM Interview questions

        Let's step through each type of question, take a look at a few examples, and briefly discuss why Google asks these questions.

        3.1 Design questions

        One of a product manager's core tasks is to help design new product features and to improve existing ones. 

        Product design questions assess your customer empathy, creativity, and your ability to use a structured approach to design products. Below are a few examples of design questions asked in Google PM interviews.

        For more information, check out our articles on how to answer product design questionsproduct improvement questions, and favorite product questions in PM interviews.

        Example design questions

        • What's a product you love / hate and why? How would you improve it?
        • How would you improve [Chrome / GMap / Android / etc]?
        • How would you improve [Dropbox / Netflix / Facebook / etc]?
        • How would you design X product for Y people? (e.g. a phone for deaf people)

        3.2 Strategy questions 

        PMs are also responsible for setting the product vision and the roadmap to deliver it. In other words, they're in charge of product strategy. 

        Strategy questions assess your ability to analyze the wide range of factors that PMs need to consider when making product decisions. This includes competition, pricing, marketing, time to market, etc.

        There are a few examples of strategy questions below, and you can also learn more in our article on how to answer strategy interview questions.

        Example strategy questions

        • How would you solve homelessness in downtown San Francisco?
        • Why does Starbucks sometimes have coffee shops on both sides of the road?
        • Google has invented a technology that makes air travel 4x cheaper and 4x faster. What do you do with it?
        • You are the CEO of company X. What new products would you launch and why?
        • Tell me about a competitive move by a company in the past six months and what you think about it

        3.3 Estimation questions 

        Making product decisions often requires estimating market sizes, revenue potential, number of customers, etc. Estimation questions test your ability to work with numbers and to break down problems.

        In estimation questions, interviewers don't care so much about whether you get to the right number or not. What they are really interested in is how you think through the problem and how comfortable you are making assumptions and simple calculations.

        Below are a few examples of estimation questions asked in Google's PM interviews. For more information, check our article on how to answer estimation questions in PM interviews.

        Example estimation questions

        • How much money is spent on gas in the US every year?
        • What is the market size for driverless cars in 2025?
        • How much storage space is required for all the images in Google Street view?
        • How much does it cost to run Youtube for a day? How much revenue does it make in a day?
        • What Internet bandwidth is required for an average US college campus?

        3.4 Behavioral questions

        As in most interview processes, you'll also need to answer behavioral interview questions. These questions tend to fall into three categories:

        • your motivation to work at Google and as a PM
        • your past experiences, mainly around managing conflict and working with a diverse group of stakeholders
        • your understanding of what good PMs do and don't do

        These questions aren't particularly hard compared to some of the other ones we are listing in this article and are sometimes overlooked by candidates. So, it's worth spending some time to prepare answers for them to build a small edge against other applicants.

        For more information, check out our articles on how to answer behavioral interview questions and the "Why Google?" question.

        Example behavioral questions

        • Why Google?
        • Why this PM position (or why APM)?
        • Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership / solved a difficult team conflict / cracked a tough problem / etc.
        • What's a good PM? A bad PM?
        • How do you make product decisions? How do you run your product lifecycle?

        3.5 Technical questions 

        Google was founded by PhD students and has retained a tradition of hiring particularly technical candidates. This applies to product management too, and Google PMs tend to be more technical than average.

        As a result, you'll likely need to answer technical questions during the interview process. As you can see below, these questions often don't include coding. They are centered on whether or not you understand certain technical concepts and can explain them simply.

        For more information, check out our article on how to answer technical interview questions.

        Example technical questions

        • Explain the concept of "protocol" to a four-year-old child using an "ice cream store" as an analogy
        • Explain the concept of "recursion" to my grandma
        • Describe a typical page load time distribution on desktop? What about on mobile?
        • Design a simple load balancer for Google.com. What data structures would you use?
        • How would you write an algorithm to do X?

        3.6 Data analysis questions 

        Finally, each Google product has a set of hero and secondary metrics that are used by PMs to assess if the product is successful and to decide what their team should work on next.

        So, during your interviews, you may face questions about what metrics you would track for a given situation, or how you would investigate the changes in a given metric. 

        For more information, check out our article on how to answer metric interview questions.

        Example data analysis questions

        • How would you measure the success of Apple's WWDC event?
        • What are things Netflix should measure and analyze on a daily basis? 
        • YouTube traffic went down 5% yesterday. How would you report this issue to Larry Page?
        • You are the PM for YouTube analytics. What are your three most important metrics?
        • You launch a new feed algorithm for Facebook and the average time per session goes down by 20%. What do you do?

        4. Preparation tips

        Now that you know the types of questions to expect, let's focus on how to prepare. Here are the five most important things you can do to get an offer as a Google APM.

        4.1 Deep dive into the product / organization

        As you've probably figured out from the example questions listed above, it's important to be familiar with Google's products and its organization. You'll therefore need to do some homework before your interviews.

        Here are some resources to help you get started:

        4.2 Brush up on product fundamentals

        If you're applying to Google's APM program, then you're likely new to the product management field. As a result, it's worth spending some time to become familiar with basic product management concepts.

        Here is a list of free resources to give you a starting point:

        4.3 Learn a consistent method for answering PM interview questions

        As mentioned previously, Google will ask you questions that fall into certain categories (e.g. design, strategy, estimation, behavioral, technical, and data analysis). Approaching each question with a predefined method will enable you to build strong interview habits.

        Then, when it comes time for your interviews, these habits will reduce your stress and help you to make a great impression. Here is a list of our free guides on different types of PM interview questions to help you prepare: 

        BUT, having a method for solving PM interview questions isn’t enough by itself. You also need to be able to communicate your answers clearly, under the pressure of interview conditions. That’s where practice comes into play. 

        4.4 Practice by yourself or with peers

        In our experience, practicing by yourself is a great way to prepare for PM interviews. You can ask and answer questions out loud, to help you get a feel for the different types of PM interview questions. Practicing by yourself will help you perfect your step-by-step approach for each question type. It also gives you time to correct your early mistakes. 

        If you have friends or peers who can do mock interviews with you, that's a great option too. This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with PM interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. You can also find peers to practice with on websites like Pramp.

        4.5 Practice with experienced PM interviewers

        Finally, you should also try to practice with experienced PM interviewers as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers. If you know a Product Manager who can help you, that's fantastic! But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

        Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies like Google. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today

        PM Interview Coaching

        Any questions about Google APM interviews?

        If you have any questions about Google APM interviews, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

        Keep reading: product manager interview articles