Product Managers at Airbnb are as adventurous as their customers; tirelessly working to create belonging everywhere. Thanks to Airbnb, travelers have access to 6+ million unique travel accommodations in over 190 countries, all at the push of a button.
"Product Managers here imagine the ideal end state for our community (guests and hosts) first and work backwards from it, challenging all current assumptions. They champion a winning strategy and leverage metrics to ensure we are making progress against it. They partner with talented cross-functional team members (across engineering, design, data science, etc.) and lead teams to execute upon a shared vision. They are incredibly hands on and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves to get the right outcome for our community. We are looking for leaders who want to join us in this journey to accomplish our mission of creating belonging everywhere." - Airbnb Careers
PM roles at Airbnb tend to be domain-specific, but they recruit from a wide pool of applicants. Whether you’re a recent graduate or an industry veteran, Airbnb’s recruiters will work with you to find the right fit within the company. Jonathan Golden, Airbnb’s first PM and eventually Director of Product, believes in hiring three different PMs, all of whom are essential for the scale of innovation expected:
Pioneers: Risk-takers who love to experiment. You likely have an entrepreneurial background, and you’re driven to create. You will find yourself spending a lot of time with engineering and design groups, uncovering user needs, and obsessively developing your vision for the next five years and beyond.
Settlers: Builders, optimizers, and impact-maximizers. Settlers have natural finesse when it comes to data. You’ll work closely with data scientists to find creative ways to test features, develop metrics, and optimize processes.
Town Planners: Flexible yet methodical synthesizers who are able to maintain a product while anticipating unexpected developments. You’ll split your time between ensuring all aspects of your product run smoothly, and planning for the future.
Whether you’re a pioneer, a settler, a town planner, or something else entirely, you'll find Airbnb both fun and challenging. We spoke with a new PM hire to get the scoop on the full interview loop. Read on to get an overview.
The entire process could take months or just weeks depending on how quickly you find a specific PM role that's a good fit.
After submitting an application, you’ll begin the interview process with a call from a recruiter. Airbnb recruiters go above and beyond, so if there’s a better fit out there than the position you initially applied for, your recruiter will work hard to get you connected with the right hiring manager.
The phone screen typically lasts from 30-45 minutes and consists mainly of behavioral questions. Airbnb is fanatic about employing candidates who embody its core values:
Put your best foot forward by preparing a few examples of how you embody these values in your life (both personal and professional).
Your domain-specific knowledge will also be gently evaluated at this stage.
"Recruiters won’t go super deep with you, but if you’re interviewing for a role within the payments group for example, you may be asked to describe your experience building APIs or dealing with currency fluctuation." reports our interviewee.
Once you pass the initial recruiting phone screens, you’ll be connected with your hiring manager. This will be another 30-45 min phone screen. Expect to go more in-depth on your domain knowledge here. The hiring manager will be evaluating whether you have the skills to warrant the onsite interview loop. Have plenty of anecdotes prepared to illustrate your knowledge of both Airbnb’s business model and how your experience has set you up to be an asset. We recommend the STAR method for answering interview questions: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Next, you’ll have another 30-45 phone call with a peer - that is, another PM who will work closely with you, possibly on the same team. His or her job is to evaluate how you work within a group. You’ll again be asked to describe your previous experience, but instead of your domain expertise your soft skills are being evaluated. You’ll want to highlight your collaborative nature, your success on cross-functional teams, and your ability to work with difficult people under pressure. Always keep Airbnb’s core values in mind - anything remotely behavioral will be an opportunity for you to showcase your service orientation, your ability to work in ambiguity, and your drive to make things better for your customers.
Both screens are also opportunities to ask questions and get to know your potential future teammates, so be prepared with some questions on Airbnb’s culture, priorities, processes - anything on your mind.
Your recruiter will be in touch to provide you with a case study problem to be presented on-site to a panel of ~5. You’ll get a 2-3 page PDF seven days before your presentation is scheduled. You’ll receive a relevant domain-specific scenario and be asked to make recommendations. The document will include key points to hit as well as some tips for success, and the recruiter will give you a thorough walkthrough of what to expect from start to finish. He or she will also be available throughout the week to pass any clarifying questions on to the hiring manager and get answers back.
The onsite interview lasts roughly half a day, and follows a format you’re probably familiar with. First, you’ll give a presentation (capped at an hour) to a panel. An Airbnb PM we spoke with met with the hiring manager and peer who had previously interviewed her, as well as an engineering manager, a data scientist, and a program manager. She used Google slides in her presentation, but noted that this was a recent change possibly due to covid - be prepared to do some whiteboarding here, just in case!
Once the group presentation is over, you’ll enter breakout sessions lasting either 30 or 45 minutes depending on which panel member you’re speaking with (the decision as to who gets the longer sessions rests with the hiring manager.) You’ll be asked questions about your suggestions, as well as a mix of domain questions and behavioral questions. Be prepared to explain how you prioritize your decisions, and how you’d go about creating metrics for your proposed solutions.
The final interview is something somewhat unique to culture-obsessed Airbnb. You’ll meet with a cross-functional group who 1) don’t have anything to do with your future team, and 2) may be quite senior to you. Their sole goal is to close the loop on whether you’re ultimately a fit for Airbnb’s culture. All of your preparation around Airbnb’s core values and mission statement will come into play, but you’ll be asked to provide examples from your personal life as well as professional.
This cross-functional group wants to get to know you as a human. They want to walk away sure that you are a natural host - that you’re invested in Airbnb’s mission to make the world an open, welcoming place. To that end, they’ll ask you behavioral questions. A recent hire recalled being asked who she most admired and why. If ever there was a time to be authentic about your reasons for interviewing at Airbnb, this is it.
Throughout tech, behavioral questions are meant to gauge your ability to work well with disparate groups. But Airbnb goes one step further. They want to ensure that you're not only a team player and an effective communicator, but that you're a fit for their mission and core values.
Have a “60 seconds to wow” elevator pitch and be prepared to provide clear and in-depth explanations of experiences that embody the core values. Make sure to cover not only what you’ve achieved, but also what you learned, the challenges you faced, and your overarching thought process.
Why do you want to work here? Why this role and team? Think carefully about why you are applying for this role, and why this team specifically. It helps to know as much about the role and team that you’re applying for. If you can, watch tech talks or conference keynote speeches from the team online. You've likely used Airbnb, so ensure you can speak thoughtfully to your experience. At that point, the interviewer will likely probe you for feedback on the product. Use this opportunity to show how you would converse and work with your interviewer as if you are already a member of the team.
For more practice, check out our interview question bank for recently-asked behavioral questions at Airbnb.
Technical questions are going to be quite domain-specific at Airbnb, so if can speak well to your experience there's no need to cram information about technologies you've never used.
However, you should understand the broad principles of software engineering. Be familiar with high-level system design and tradeoffs for the popular data structures and algorithms (including time and space complexity). Solutions should be scalable, reliable, and efficient. Always consider reality and the laws of physics.
For more practice, try a few recent technical questions asked at Airbnb in our interview question bank.
You'll run into most analytical questions during your case study presentation. Here, your panel of interviewers want to see how you reason with metrics and how you can think critically about user feedback and bugs.
You'll have a week to complete the case study assignment, so take it slow. You'll surely face pushback on assumptions you make. Have a structure. Successful candidates consider all variables and scenarios and weigh options before diving into the nitty-gritty details.
For more practice, try a few recent analytical questions asked at Airbnb in our interview question bank.
The case study presentation is the most important part of the interview, so it's important to shine here. Here are some tips to ensure your success:
Make full use of the week you're given to prepare. Your prompt will be intentionally vague, and you're expected to ask the right questions in order to proceed. Making unfounded assumptions will not help you. Luckily, you won't have to. Recruiters at Airbnb are extraordinarily responsive; be sure to ask clarifying questions and you'll get answers back quickly.
When in doubt, focus on hospitality. If you've asked clarifying questions and you're still not sure how to proceed, it's a safe bet to anchor to Airbnb's core values. Being unsure doesn't necessarily work against you. If you can show that you'll work to support Airbnb's mission, you're positioning yourself well.
Give your interviewers the right ammunition. Your breakout session will represent your second meeting with your hiring manager and your peer PM. If you find yourself having a conversation rather than an interview (which is a good sign!) be sure to proactively provide anecdotes that your interviewer can use in supporting his or her recommendation to hire you later in review. Give them all the evidence they would need to solidly back you.