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

PM interviews are really challenging. The questions are difficult, specific to Google, and cover a wide range of topics.

The good news is that the right preparation can make a big difference and help you land a Product Manager job at Google. We have put together the ultimate guide to help you maximize your chances of success.

Here's an overview of what we will cover:

  1. Interview process and timeline
  2. Example questions
  3. Preparation tips

1. Interview process and timeline

Google PM interview process overview

What's the Google PM interview process and timeline? The process takes four to eight weeks on average and follows these steps:

  1. Resume, cover letter, referrals
  2. Phone screens (one to two interviews)
  3. On-site interviews (four to six interviews)
  4. Hiring committee recommendation
  5. Senior leader review
  6. Compensation committee recommendation
  7. Senior executive review
  8. You get an offer!

Note that these steps are similar, but not identical, to the process for Google APM interviews

1.1 What interviews to expect?

First, it's important that you understand the different stages of your PM interview process with Google. In most cases, here are the steps you'll go through:

  • Resume and cover letter screening
  • Phone screen with recruiter: one interview
  • Phone screen with PMs: one to two interviews
  • On-site: four to six interviews

Phone screens last about 30 minutes and are typically carried out first by a recruiter and then by one or two PMs. The aim of the call is to check that you meet the basic requirements for the position and stand a chance of getting hired. Recruiters tend to ask more behavioral and resume questions, while PMs tend to jump straight into product design, estimation, and strategy questions (more on that below). If Google is really excited about your profile they might send you on-site straight away and skip this screening step.

On-site interviews are the real test. You'll typically spend a full day at a Google office and do two interviews in the morning, then have lunch with a fellow PM and do three interviews in the afternoon. Each interview will last 30 to 45 minutes. Most of the interviewers you meet will be product managers, but occasionally you might also interview with an engineer who will assess your technical skills and ability to communicate with developers.

The interviews are very structured. Each of your interviewers will evaluate you, take copious notes and then file a detailed report. The lunch interview is meant to be your time to ask your questions. Google won't be evaluating you during this time, but we recommend that you behave like if they were.

1.2 What happens behind the scenes

If things go well at your on-site interviews here is what the final steps of the process look like:

  • Interviewers submit feedback
  • Hiring committee recommendation
  • Senior leader review
  • Compensation committee recommendation
  • Final executive review
  • You get an offer

After your on-site, your interviewers will all submit their feedback and grade your answers to their questions. This feedback is then reviewed by a hiring committee, along with your resume, internal referrals, and any past work you have submitted.

At this stage, the hiring committee makes a recommendation on whether Google should hire you or not. That recommendation is reviewed and validated by a Senior manager before your candidate packet is sent to a compensation committee which will decide how much money you are offered. Finally, a Senior Google executive reviews a summary of your candidacy and compensation before the offer is sent to you.

As you've probably gathered by now, Google goes to great lengths to avoid hiring the wrong candidates. This hiring process with multiple levels of validations helps them scale their teams while maintaining a high caliber of employees. But it also means that the typical process lasts four to eight weeks and sometimes much more.

1.3 How many PMs does Google hire every year?

At this point you might be wondering what your chances are. The good news is that Google is growing quickly and needs an increasing number of engineers and PMs every year.

We estimate that the number of PMs at Google grew from about 800 to 5,000 between 2007 and the end of 2018. At the time of writing this article Google hires about 500 to 800 new PMs per year.

Here are the steps we took to get to these estimates if you are interested in more details:

  1. Number of employees: Google reports their number of employees every year in their annual report.
  2. Number of engineers: At the time of writing, 40% of job ads for Google are for engineering positions. For each year we therefore multiplied the number of employees by 40% to get to the number of engineers.
  3. Number of PMs: The typical ratio of PMs to Engineers at tech companies is between one to eight and one to ten. We've assumed one to eight here to convert the number of engineers into a number of PMs.

Number of PMs hired by Google

Note: the total number of employees at Google decreased between 2012 and 2013 which explains the dip you can see in the number of PMs at the company for these years.

Google needs more and more PMs every year which might lead you to believe that getting hired isn't that hard. But this actually isn't the case. Google hires less than 1% of applicants and is therefore one of the toughest employers to break into in the world. (Interestingly, this number grows to 5% if you are referred by a current employee.)

However, the good news is that cracking PM interviews is actually really manageable once you know what to prepare for. So let's take a look at the different types of questions Google will ask you.

2. Example questions

The main difficulty with PM interviews at Google is that you will be asked a wide range of questions. We've grouped them in six buckets and analyzed how frequently they were asked by Google using questions reported by former candidates on Glassdoor.com.

Google Product Manager interview questions

Here are the results:

  1. Design questions (32%)
  2. Strategy questions (18%)
  3. Estimation questions (15%)
  4. Behavioral questions (14%)
  5. Technical questions (13%)
  6. Data analysis questions (8%)

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

2.1 Design questions (32%)

One of the PM's core tasks is to help design new product features and improve existing ones. It's therefore not surprising that design questions make up about a third of the questions Google interviewers ask.

These questions assess your customer empathy, creativity, and ability to use a structured approach to design products. Here are a few questions Google has asked in the past.

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

Example design questions asked by Google
  • 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)

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

2.2 Strategy questions (18%)

PMs are responsible for setting the product vision and the roadmap to deliver it. In other words, they're in charge of product strategy. In your interviews you'll therefore be given strategic questions to discuss with your interviewer.

These questions assess if you're comfortable thinking about the wide range of aspects good PMs need to take into account when making product decisions. This includes competition, pricing, marketing, time to market, etc.

Thinking through all these aspects requires creativity and a structured approach. For more information, check out our article on how to answer strategy interview questions.

Example strategy questions asked by Google
  • 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

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

2.3 Estimation questions (15%)

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.

For more information, check our article on how to answer estimation questions in PM interviews.

Example estimation questions asked by Google
  • 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?

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

2.4 Behavioral questions (14%)

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 article on how to answer behavioral interview questions and the "Why google?" question.

Example behavioral questions asked by Google
  • Why Google?
  • Why this PM position?
  • 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?

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

2.5 Technical questions (13%)

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 consequence, you'll typically need to answer one or two technical questions during your interview process. As you can see below these questions don't tend to include coding or pseudo-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 asked by Google
  • 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?

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

2.6 Data analysis questions (8%)

Finally, each Google product has a set of hero and secondary metrics which are used by PMs to assess if their product is successful and to decide what their team should work on next. Your interviewers will therefore ask you one or two questions about what metrics you would track for a given situation, or how you would investigate the changes in a given metric. If you already know what product team you'll interviewing for, it's worth thinking about these metrics in advance.

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

Example data analytics questions asked by Google
  • 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?

Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comments section below, without looking at other people's answers. This is a great opportunity to gain some practice for your PM interviews.

3. Preparation tips

Now that you know what 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 product manager.

3.1 Deep dive into the product / organization

As you've probably figured out from the example questions listed above, you can't become a PM at Google without being 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 with this:

3.2 Brush up on product fundamentals

If you're already an experienced PM then this step doesn't apply to you. But if you're more junior or if you're trying to break into product management then it's worth spending some time on refreshing your memory about basic product management concepts.

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

3.3 Learn a consistent method for answering PM interview questions

As mentioned previously, Google will ask you questions that fall into certain categories: 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. 

3.4 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.

3.5 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 PM interviews?

If you have any questions about Google PM 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