Context: I’ve been a PM at Amazon for 5 years, with 12 years industry experience working on tech product development. I was looking for a London based role (my current location) with 1) higher compensation 2) move away from Retail sector 3) high technical innovation potential. After 8 months of prep, I got an offer for “Google PM – AI Innovation” and met these three aims.
I wrote this guide to address the questions I was getting from friends and colleagues and because I would have found it helpful when I was a candidate. Disclaimer that these are my personal views/experiences which do not reflect the views of Google. If you are considering applying for a job at Google, I’d recommend to review the official Google hiring materials before reading this guide: https://careers.google.com/how-we-hire/
A few key differences between Google and other tech company’s hiring processes:
- Interview loop and team match are separate processes at Google
- Leveling is generally -1 vs other tech companies
- The end to end process can take up to 12 months (I had 3 recruiters and 12 interviews throughout the process)
- There are no behavioral questions in the interview phase, the questions will test your product, technical and communication skills
Stages of hiring at Google (with my personal timeline for reference)
- Phone call with recruiter (Feb)
- First stage 2 video interviews (March)
- Second stage 3 interviews (May)
- Interview results (May)
- Team match (June)
- Offer (July)
- Start (October)
Phases of prep that I will cover in this guide:
- Finding a role & getting noticed
- Interview prep
- Team selection
1. Finding a role & getting noticed
The first step in the process is find a role and getting the Googe recruiter’s attention. According to INC, Google receives 2 million job applications per year, which makes Google more competitive than Harvard. Since I’m not in the recruiters shoes, it’s hard to know why my resume stood out from others, but I did a few things that I assume helped. In addition to these tips, make sure your resume is peer reviewed, customized to the role description and passes the 6-second test.
Tips for finding a role & getting noticed:
- Select a role with a direct fit to your experience/background. Look for a match on industry (e.g. Retail Shopping) as well as domain (e.g. Pricing, Fraud Prevention). Make sure to highlight this experience on your resume and showcase the scale at which you’ve worked. It should be very clear to the recruiter why you are applying for the role and that you can deliver at the global scale Google operates. However, keep in mind the role you apply for is likely not going to be the role you end up with! More on that below.
- Consider down-leveling. Google’s levels are typically -1 from other tech companies (Facebook, Amazon). If you ask why, your recruiter/HM will tell you the PM role is considered to be a core part of the leadership at all levels. Better to think of this less as downgrading your level and more as an opportunity to scale your experience to the global reach and influence of Google. If you are currently in a Sr PM role and you apply for a Sr PM role at Google, your chances of getting that are low because of the leveling difference. Consider applying for a PM role instead to match the scope/complexity of your current role.
- Don’t limit your search to your current city, look for roles that would be a good fit in the region you’re living in (e.g. EMEA vs London). Although Google is a huge company, their tech hubs across the world focus on different products (e.g. the EU Google Shopping team is mostly concentrated in Zurich and Mountain View) so you may not find a role that directly fits your experience in your city. Don’t worry if you aren’t planning to relocate to the city where the role is based. Most of the time, the role you apply for won’t be the role you get. After I passed the first round interviews, I was given a choice to change my hiring location to London. This worked out really well for me because I applied for a Zurich role that was a great fit for my profile, but really didn’t want to move to Zurich. Once I got to the team match stage all the roles were London eligible.
- Use your network to get a referral. Search on LinkedIn for people in your network who currently work at Google. Send them a short message about your job search and ask if they would be willing to refer you. I’m not sure how much the referral influences the recruiting process but I did it and I got the interview. Cost to you is nothing – other than hurt pride if you don’t hear back. In my experience people have always been willing to submit a referral for me, because they know I’d do the same for them. 🙂
3. Interview prep
The interview process is meant to probe your core knowledge of product management fundamentals, and explore your leadership and problem solving skills. There are no behavioral questions in the interview, the questions will test your product, technical and communication skills. Interviewers will be looking at your approach to questions as much as your answer. The key is to communicate clearly in a very structured way and give yourself time to prepare.
Tips for interview prep:
- Understand the question types. There are two stages to the google interview process. Phase 1 will focus on Product Insight & Design + Analytical. Phase 2 will focus on the other core product skillsets + Technical evaluation. How can you find out what structure to use for each question type? Your recruiter will send you some high level materials but you’ll want to supplement that with additional research. I used tryexponent.com (not an affiliate) but you can also find a lot of online materials (of varied quality). At first I was hesitant to pay $79 the Exponent monthly subscription fee (no commitment to continue after the interview process). But there is a very useful step by step program that will give you all the lessons, frameworks and practice questions for PM roles at Google (they also have Meta, Amazon and others). The interview question bank alone is worth the cost, it’s very extensive (1000+ questions) with sample responses from other candidates. In addition you’ll get access to their mock interview platform, more on that below.
- Give yourself enough time. The end to end Google interview process takes 6-8 weeks, not including team match. It’s a long process and will suck up a good deal of your free time. The good news is that if you already love what you do, you will fall in love with being in Product all over again. It was a great reminder of the range of skills we as PMs use. If you make it to the 2nd stage, your recruiter will ask you when you would like to have the next interview round. Don’t be afraid to ask for 4 weeks of time to prep. This is on the longer end of the range allowed but the extra time will really come in handy when you prep for the technical questions.
- Special note about prepping for the technical interview. This was the hardest question type to prep for for a few reasons 1) the breadth of potential technical topics and 2) lack of PM focused prep materials. Google is one of the few tech companies that asks these types of questions (e.g. How does cloud computing work, Design WhatsApp).
Although exponent was helpful with the product questions, they gave little guidance on how to prepare for the technical question type, therefore you are left to scavenge the internet for appropriate sources of study material. I went down the rabbit hole a few times which was interesting but with my 2nd phase interviews approaching I had to be careful with my time to avoid getting sucked in.
- Here are few resources I found helpful:
One useful tip a friend gave me was before the technical interview, take 30 seconds to think through how I would address these questions – tackling as many as I could just to make sure my brain could recall a good idea on a topic vs. getting caught up in an interview.
- Don’t skip the mock interviews. After all the studying, the mock interviews give you a chance to apply the answering techniques in a live environment. Through exponent there are two times per day when mock interviews are done. 5 minutes before start time you will get matched with another PM interviewing through the platform. You will take turns asking each other an interview question from the question bank and give each other feedback. I found the quality of feedback to be varied depending on the match but the live interview practice really helped me feel at ease on the day of my real interview. If you don’t sign up for Exponent’s paid service, you can always practice with a friend. Just make sure you are giving yourself practice talking out loud for each question type (even analytical).
4. Team match
If you’ve made it to this stage, congratulations! It’s no small feat. You’ve proven you have what it takes – but now you need to find a “home” at Google. You have 12 months to find a team from the time you get your interview result. Google is really interesting in that the team match happens after the interview stage. That’s because the interviews are meant to check for long term fit with the company. This is in the best interest for the candidate in the long term, because it gives you flexibility to transfer teams down the road. The downside is it extends the timeline for hiring.
Tips for team matching:
- Come prepared. This isn’t an interview but come prepared with questions as if it was, to show your interest in the team/role and that you’re a motivated PM that does their homework. If you get to speak with multiple people on the team, try to bring insightful questions that build on the information you received in the prior chat. Questions that show your enthusiasm in the domain or prior thought about the product/it’s customers will be appreciated. But remember it’s just as much a match for you as it is the team. I asked the question “describe the best PM you’ve ever worked with” and that brought a smile and lively discussion to the meeting.
- Let your experience shine. Your experience got you to the interviews but you haven’t had a chance to talk about any of the awesome stuff you’ve delivered yet! Now is the time to highlight connections about what the team is working on and the experience/skills you come with. Do a little investigating before each team match call and come with a few ideas about how your skills will directly benefit the team. Don’t go overboard but when the HM goes on a spiel about the team and where it’s going, follow up with a comment connecting that back to what you bring to the table.
I hope you found this guide helpful. If you have further questions feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katya-cox/
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