Google Product Management Interview process and preparation

I get this question often. What’s the Google PM interview process? How should I prepare?

First, it is a lengthy process. Below I distilled everything that I learned about the process before becoming an employee or going through the process myself.

If you’re only looking for information on how to prepare for the interviews (steps 3 and 4 below), see How to prepare for your Google PM interview.

Below we’ll go through the Google PM interview process as of 2018.

  1. Submit your application (if possible, get referred).
  2. 30-minute phone screening with a recruiter.
  3. 45-minute phone interview with a Product Manager.
  4. 5-hour on-site at Google offices.
  5. Hiring committee review
  6. Team matching process
  7. Pre-review Committee
  8. SVP review

Here are the interesting bits on each of those.

Step 1. Submit your resume / Get referred

Google receives millions of resumes a year [1], as high as 3 million in 2014 [2] and increasing.

How do you cut through the noise?

  • Ask someone who knows you and is working at Google to refer you. It’s the easiest way to ensure your application is reviewed by a recruiter.
  • Make sure your resume is sharp by following pro tips. [3]
  • One thing that I’ll stress is this tip: “If you’re applying through an ATS, keep to the standard formatting without any bells and whistles so the computer can read it effectively.”

You’d be surprised at how many resumes are never looked at just because a computer system wasn’t able to parse out the information properly.

Step 2. 30-minute phone screening with a recruiter. 

If selected as a candidate, a Google recruiter will email you to schedule a 30-minute review of your background. The recruiter tries to match you to an open position for which you may be a good fit.

Preparation for the recruiter screening

Be ready to discuss anything that’s on your resume. The recruiter may screen you out if they don’t think that you have the right skills for a position or the right attitude.

Consider this, the recruiter just wants to know if you have a shot at getting hired. They speak to about a hundred people before they come across one that will get hired. Give them a reason to bet on you and move you forward in the process.

Step 3. 45-minute phone interview with a Product Manager.

The next step is a 45-minute phone interview with a current PM.

Preparation for the PM phone interview

Since there’s a lot to the this, I wrote a more in-depth article on how to prepare: How to prepare for your Google PM interview.

Google wants to see how you think about problems. Expect to solve hypothetical problems and situations during the interview. Practice, don’t just show up. I practiced using questions from the Cracking the PM Interview* book.

Step 4. Onsite interview at a Google office.

During the onsite, you can expect to meet five people. You’ll have 4 interview, 3 with current product managers and 1 with a current engineer. You’ll have lunch with another PM.

PM interviews will be similar to the phone interview, but they’ll go deeper. You’ll solve more problems and likely go through all question types multiple times (analytics, product design, strategy, etc.)

In addition, you will have a technical interview with a Google engineer. Review computer science fundamentals for this. You must show your understanding of topics such as data structures, software design, and system architecture.

Step 5. Hiring Committee review

The hiring committee is in charge of reviewing all of the feedback from your interviews and providing a recommendation on how to proceed (Hire or No Hire). This works is as follows:

  • Each of your interviewers submits individual feedback on your interview, without discussing it with anyone else. This includes a list of questions they asked, your answers, and their evaluation on how you did.
  • Each member of the hiring committee individually reviews the feedback from all of your interviewers and gives your application a score from 1 (No Hire) to 4 (Hire).
  • Hiring committee members then meet and as a group decides what to recommend. Candidates that got 3 and 4 during independent review will move forward, those with 1 and 2 are rejected. Applications that fall in the middle (e.g., a mix of 2, 3 and 4) are discussed and decided upon as a group.

About 10-20% of people that make it to hiring committee review get a recommendation to Hire. [5] If you get a recommendation to be hired by the hiring committee, you have about a 90% chance of getting an offer.

At this point, you don’t yet have a Google offer. [6]

Step 6. Team matching process

If the hiring committee recommends that Google hires you, your recruiter will talk to you about your interests based on PM openings across Google.  The recruiter will then send managers with openings on their team your application with all of the interview feedback. The recruiter will set up a few meetings (typically a 30-minute phone conversation) with managers interested in having you on their team.

These meetings with potential managers are not considered interviews. You shouldn’t be asked to solve problems. But, you are speaking with your potential boss. Use this as an opportunity to see whether you’d like to work for that team and manager, and leave a good impression on the manager.

After those calls, the recruiter will ask both you and the managers for feedback. If there is a match, you want to work for a team and the manager wants you on their team, then you move on to the next step!

To be clear, if you don’t match to any team, you won’t get an offer.

7. Pre-review Committee

Once matched to a team, the recruiter submits a packet for approval by the pre-review committee. This includes your full application, team match notes, and proposed compensation.

There are many hiring committees, but few pre-review committees. The pre-review committee helps bring consistency across the many hiring committees. [4] In addition, the pre-review committee review your compensation.

8. SVP review

This is the final step. The Google SVP group is the final offer approver. They review every offer across the company. It is only after their approval that you would get an official Google offer.

Additional notes

Looking at the overall funnel, it seems that the odds of getting an offer are 0.3-0.5% overall. I estimated the percentage of folks that get an offer at Google by interview stage. I found it helpful to keep things in perspective as I went through the process. It was a good reminder to continue practicing and preparing. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

The process is optimized to minimize false positives, thus many people apply and interview multiple times before getting an offer. That’s both good and bad news. If you get rejected for a role, consider applying again after a year of further preparation.

Stats

  • Google gets about 3M resumes a year (as of 2014 [2])
  • Google added about 9k employees to its headcount between 2014 and 2015 [7]
  • A 0.3% to 0.5% overall hiring rate would yield between 9-15k hires out of 3M applicants. That range seems about right based on attrition and offers rescinded.

Breakdown by stage:

  • Resume screening: about 35% of applicants (~1 million) pass this step. Only about 1.3% of these will ultimately get an offer.
  • Phone interview: 10% pass this step [8], that’s about 100k per year. About 13% of those who pass the phone interview will ultimately get an offer.
  • Hiring committee approval: 10-20% of those who go to onsite interviews get approved by the hiring committee, about 15k per year. 90% of those that are recommended for hire by Hiring Committees will get an offer.
  • Pre-review and SVP review: 90% pass these steps, about 13.5k per year final offers estimated

References

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/stanphelps/2014/08/05/cracking-into-google-the-15-reasons-why-over-2-million-people-apply-each-year/

[2] About Sept 2013 to Sept 2014, “The year Bacon was there, he says that Google received about 3 million resumes.” https://www.fastcompany.com/3052371/a-former-google-recruiter-reveals-the-biggest-resume-mistakes

[3] https://www.themuse.com/advice/43-resume-tips-that-will-help-you-get-hired

[4] Cracking the PM Interview Book*

[5] https://www.quora.com/What-happens-in-the-pre-review-and-svp-review-steps-of-the-Google-software-engineering-application-processhttps://www.quora.com/What-percentage-of-applicants-that-make-it-to-Googles-hiring-committee-get-approved

[6] “…generally about 10-12% are not extended offers.” https://www.quora.com/My-Google-recruiter-has-asked-me-about-my-current-compensation-and-external-references-Whats-the-probability-of-not-getting-an-offer-from-this-point/answer/Bob-See

[7] From quarterly earnings reports, March 31 2014 headcount (46,170) vs March 31 2015 (55,419) headcount, a 9,249 increase. https://www.quora.com/How-many-employees-does-Google-have/answer/Kelvin-Ho

[8] Re: the phone interview, “About 1/10 candidates pass this step…” https://www.reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions/comments/1z97rx/from_a_googler_the_google_interview_process/

* Note: I use some affiliate links in this post, marked with an asterisk. If you click through and purchase products I earn a small referral fee at no cost to you.

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