Every year, Google hires a 40–50 person cohort of new-grad product managers in the Associate Product Manager (APM) program. Originally created by Marissa Mayer, many think of the program as a “graduate school” or “apprenticeship” for product management. The Google APM is generally viewed as the most prestigious of new grad product management programs. It's competitive, but the rewards are unmatched.
Matthew Kulick (APM class of 2007) writes: "Being an APM is like being a regular Google PM, with a couple of extra super-powers. You start out with an amazing built-in professional network of other APMs working across the company.”
Google views the APM program as an opportunity to build the next generation of product leaders. Per the APM program page, you can expect to:
The Google APM interview consists of potentially five steps:
(Optional) Screening Call. At first, you may receive an initial 45-minute call with a Google recruiter. The purpose of this call is to ensure that you’re a good fit for the role. There’s not much prep work to be done here, as it’s a fairly straightforward call about your background and fit for the role, but APM candidates have been asked a few "light" behavioral questions ("Why Google?") and generic product design questions.
Phone Interview. The Google APM phone interview will generally consist of product, analytical, strategy, or estimation questions. The phone interview questions are generally lighter than the in-person interview.
Take-home Assignment. After the phone interview, you’ll be sent a prompt over email and be given a set period of time to answer the prompt. The deliverable usually consists of 2-5 pages of written content in response to the prompt.
In-person Interview. Next, you will be invited for an on-site interview where you’ll meet face-to-face with Google PMs. At this stage, you will also be asked to answer technical interview questions. You'll also get the chance to have lunch with at least one of your interviewers, and have a tour of the bustling Google campus.
(Optional) Final Interview. Often, as a final stage of the interview, there will be one last virtual interview session with a former Google APM.
Product questions test your ability to design a new product or improve an existing one. Be user-focused. The key is to ensure you're organized with your thoughts and have a clear goal in mind that will solve the user's problem(s).
One of the best frameworks is to go "broad then deep". First, "go broad" by listing all the ideas and solutions that come to mind. Then, pick one to "go deep" on and explain why that is the solution you chose.
Another approach we see candidates have success with is The Triangle Method. This framework will help you articulate your thoughts and help nail your points into the interviewer's mind. To accomplish this, first list three points. Then, dive into each point. Finally, summarize your three points at the end. This will help you articulate your points and subpoints.
As a product manager, you will be expected to make decisions that will impact the business. Analytical questions test your ability to understand the product strategy and the data. You will want to demonstrate competency in defining metrics as well as understanding what to do when metrics change. Be methodical and show that you make data-driven decisions.
The key to success in these interviews is starting at a high-level with the goals of the product, and then drilling deeper into actions and metrics. We recommend employing the GAME framework for key metrics questions, as demonstrated in this PM lesson.
With estimation questions, interviewers want to see the logic behind your estimations. These can also test your ability to size a potential market. While these questions may at first seem insane, the interviewer isn't really looking to see if your answer is right. Rather, the interviewer wants to see how you are approaching the question. Ask clarifying questions. Break down the problem and make reasonable assumptions if needed.
Technical questions are most often asked by engineers at Google (so if an engineer shows up to your interview, expect a technical question). While you do not need to know how to do Leetcode medium/hard questions, you should at least be able to write pseudocode.
Also 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.
Junior product managers are more likely to be placed in teams that are a little understaffed. You will be working closely with engineering day-to-day. The higher the job level (L5 and above), the less technical the job will be.
This also varies depending on the team. But in general most PMs do not have to write any code, except for SQL or python scripts. For example, a PM on the Search team may be running experiments by moving UI components around (fonts, colors, boxes) to see which experiment will result in the most optimal metrics. But there certainly are teams that are more technical, if that is your preference.
An engineering background is required for junior product manager roles (L4 and below). Most who are hired will have a computer science or electrical engineering background, but you will find some with other degrees like mechanical engineering. There does not exist non-technical junior PMs.
For experienced hires, Google cares more about your previous roles. For example, there exist many senior product managers at Google, who were former Facebook PMs with non-technical backgrounds. Google continues to do technical interviews at higher levels, but the CS degree is not a strict requirement.
Google wants to know if you have "Googleyness", a value the company uses to describe those who fit in well with the culture. Though the term has various definitions, including being able to work despite ambiguity and being able to work well in a team, the general takeaway is to not come off as a jerk. You should also focus on communicating well: enunciate, speak slowly, and speak with meaning.
Here are some tips former APMs gave on giving your best performance during the interview.