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Google PM Interview – process and preparation

I get this question often. What’s the Google Product Manager 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 interested in how to prepare for the interviews (steps 3 and 4 below), see Google PM Interview – how to prepare.

Below we’ll go through the Google Product Manager interview process as of 2018 (it’s the same in 2020.)

  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 a recruiter reviews your application.
  • 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 often a recruiter never sees your resume just because a computer system wasn’t able to parse out the information correctly.

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 Product Manager phone interview

Since there’s a lot to this, I wrote a more in-depth article on how to prepare: Google PM Interview – how to prepare

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 four interviews, 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 more in-depth. You’ll solve more problems and likely go through all question types multiple times (analytics, product design, strategy, etc.)

Also, you will have a technical interview with a Google engineer. You must show your understanding of topics such as data structures, software design, and system architecture.

You don’t need to have been an engineer or have a technical background to pass this interview, but you do need to have studied and understood the fundamentals.

Step 5. Hiring Committee review

The hiring committee reviews the feedback from your interviews and provides a recommendation on how to proceed (Hire or No Hire). This step works as follows:

  • Each of your interviewers submits individual feedback on your interview without discussing it with anyone else. Their feedback includes a list of questions they asked, your answers, and their evaluation of 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, decide what to recommend. They typically pass candidates with 3s and 4s during the independent review and reject those with 1s and 2s.
  • 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 the hiring committee review get a recommendation to Hire. [5] If you get recommended for hire 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 opportunities 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. They shouldn’t ask you 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 asks 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.

Step 7. Pre-review Committee

Once matched to a team, the recruiter submits a packet for approval by the pre-review committee. This packet 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] Besides, the pre-review committee reviews your compensation.

Step 8. SVP review

The final step – the Google SVP group reviews 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] Over 2 Million Apply Each Year

[2] About Sept 2013 to Sept 2014, “The year Bacon was there, he says that Google received about 3 million resumes.”

[3] The Muse 43 Resume Tips

[4] Cracking the PM Interview Book*

[5] Quora Answer on Pre-Review and SVP steps, Quora answer to percentage of applicants that make it to Hiring Committee

[6] “…generally about 10-12% are not extended offers.”

[7] From quarterly earnings reports, March 31 2014 headcount (46,170) vs March 31 2015 (55,419) headcount, a 9,249 increase.

[8] Re: the phone interview, “About 1/10 candidates pass this step…”

* 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.

Last Updated on August 22, 2020 by Omar Eduardo

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