Ever wondered how product management at an international tech giant like Google works? Have you ever dreamt of working as a Google PM (product manager)? Well, look no further; we have all the answers you need.
Have you ever wondered how global technology giants like Google can deliver a wide range of successful products that are sure to do well on the market?
Well, the driving force behind Google’s staggering success, which has cemented its position among the primary U.S search engine providers, is its brilliant product management. With headquarters in Mountain View, California, Google has expanded its operations to major cities around the world, including New York and San Francisco. These vibrant tech hubs are home to talented product managers who contribute to the development and success of Google’s innovative products and services.
With a well-structured product management system being the backbone of Google’s business operations, the importance of the PM role cannot be overstated.
Working in product management at Google is a dream job for many product management leaders because you get the opportunity to conceptualize and bring to life ideas, all while sitting in the hub of innovation, business, and cutting-edge technology.
Behind all of Google’s greatest products, such as Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Cloud, Google Maps, and Google Docs, to name a few, is the day-to-day work of a product manager.
Working as a product manager for Google can be demanding, but it’s also one of the most rewarding trajectories you could take your product management career on.
Being selected as a product manager at Google is no small feat. Aside from the rigorous recruitment process and tough competition, you will have to work harder to hone your product management skillset to make sure that you can keep up with your peers.
This is why, in this article, we have broken product management at Google for you, so you know the work you are expected to put in. We will also discuss what the hiring process looks like and add some tips on what you can do to be selected as a Google product manager.
What does product management at Google look like?
One of the first things to understand about product management at Google is the difference between the jobs of a product manager and a program manager.
Despite the job descriptions sounding so similar to each other on LinkedIn, Google has clearly demarcated the roles of product manager and program manager, with the former holding more relevance to product management.
Product managers at Google oversee the company’s product management and are in charge of coming up with new ideas and a roadmap to bring products to life. In short, the job of a product manager encompasses managerial roles that are responsible for the development of new products.
A product manager would be allocated the task of creating a team composed of different specialists, like data scientists, engineers, software developers, and finance and marketing advisors. The product manager, in collaboration with stakeholders, would make sure that the team members operate smoothly and that consumer preferences are prioritized throughout the production process.
A product manager at Google has a wide range of influence over every aspect of the production process. This is because Google, despite being one of the world’s leading tech companies, has business operations that are run similarly to a startup. This structure helps to make the work environment as flexible as possible and creates a space that nurtures innovation and creativity.
In comparison to this, a program manager at Google has a more administrative role. Program managers are in charge of overseeing the communication between the managerial and technical teams involved in a project.
In essence, a program manager would supervise the internal workings of programs at Google, while a product manager would be responsible for the development and success of a product.
Seniority levels for Product Managers at Google
Google offers a structured hierarchy of seniority levels for Product Managers, reflecting increasing levels of experience, responsibility, and leadership. These levels provide a framework for career progression within the product management field at Google. While specific titles may vary, the commonly recognized seniority levels at Google include:
- Associate Product Manager (APM)
- Product Manager (PM)
- Senior Product Manager (SPM)
- Group Product Manager (GPM)
- Director of Product Management
The roles and responsibilities of a Google product manager
Now that you have a general idea of the tasks a product manager at Google is expected to oversee and how they differ from those of a program manager, it is time to focus on the roles and responsibilities of a Google product manager in detail.
1. Coming up with new product ideas and a strategy to execute each idea
One of the biggest responsibilities of a Google PM is to come up with new ideas for products. Google product managers are supposed to be well-versed in conducting market research that enables them to gather data about consumer preferences, which can then be used to develop a product that is sure to be loved by customers.
After coming up with ideas, product managers at Google then focus on getting their ideas approved and working on creating the perfect product strategy. The product strategy addresses all the components of the production process, from a product roadmap to a development team, up to resource and budget allocation.
Product managers then develop their roadmap further to lay out a complete guide to the production process, which includes the development and testing phases of a product.
Because of the wide range of responsibilities a Google product manager has to undertake, they are expected to come from backgrounds that incorporate diverse experiences. For example, a Google product manager should be well-versed in design so that they are capable of collaborating with the product design team and analyzing the final product design.
Along with this, product managers are expected to have excellent management and organizational skills, with the ability to develop a product vision and roadmap for the entire production process and pick out the most suitable product management framework, such as machine learning, to use during production.
A Google product manager also needs to have the ability to determine the importance of each component in the production process and allocate resources accordingly.
2. Being aware of market dynamics
As mentioned above, Google product managers need to be well-versed in conducting market research that identifies current trends and highlights consumer preferences.
This research is then used to design a product that is in line with what customers want. Being equipped with this knowledge increases the product’s chances of doing well on the market.
In addition to this, product managers at Google are also expected to be aware of the progress of their competitors, such as Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.
3. Assembling and overseeing a team
Once a product manager has an idea approved, the next step is recruiting a team that can work on manufacturing and selling that product.
Product managers at Google are in charge of selecting, training, and guiding members to form a single cohesive team that works efficiently to bring the product to life.
A product manager is supposed to put together a team that incorporates specialists from engineering, design, finance, and marketing to ensure that the team is well-rounded and capable of functioning as a unit.
4. Testing new products
One of the most important steps in Google’s product launch and production process is testing out new products. Google invites volunteers from across the globe to test out a new product or the latest feature by participating as beta testers.
This entire process is organized and overseen by product managers, who then collect feedback generated by the testers to make adjustments to the product. They navigate through various trade-offs to ensure that the final product meets the desired objectives and user expectations.
5. Working with customer feedback to make improvements in the product
A final step that is imperative in product management at Google is using data collected from researching market trends, customer preferences, and volunteer testing sessions to make improvements to new products. This data-driven approach is a key aspect of effective product and project management at Google.
A product manager at Google also needs to have a strong grip on performance metrics. These are essential to measuring the success of the product and recognizing any weaknesses in product design. Along with this, performance metrics are often a reflection of how customers respond to a new product and can be used to make adjustments to the final product design.
What is the salary of a product manager at Google?
With all of the work a Google PM puts into bringing a new product to the market, the product manager’s salary at Google is often a point of great curiosity.
Google does not have a fixed salary for its product managers. Instead, the pay depends on the details of your job in product management. Since Google features a diverse range of products, it can be safe to assume that the work put into the development of each product is unique. Thus, product managers are paid according to the product they are designing.
Generally, the average salary of a Google product manager in the U.S. is 159,493 USD. This is coupled with bonuses and commissions that amount to approximately 39,985 USD. Product managers at Google who work outside of its Silicon Valley office are generally paid more than their counterparts who are situated in Silicon Valley.
The salary of product managers at Google also depends on their work experience before joining the tech giant. Product managers who are working in the industry for the first time are generally paid 82,000 to 251,000 USD. Product managers who have had four to nine years of experience before joining Google are estimated to be earning around 102,000 to 249,000 USD.
What are the prerequisites required to work as a product manager at Google?
Now that you have a clear idea of what product management at Google looks like and already know the details about the roles and responsibilities of a Google product manager, you are ready to learn about the prerequisites required to work as a product manager at Google.
1. A bachelor’s degree with relevant practical experience
Google does not require a bachelor’s degree to consider hiring you as a product manager, but having a degree in computer science, software engineering, data engineering, economics, or marketing is an advantage, especially during the preliminary stages of the selection process.
It is also useful to remember that Google is a tech company, and product managers who have a technical background in engineering or software development are considered to be strong candidates.
Although a college degree certainly helps, it is not a mandatory prerequisite. Candidates who have a couple of years of hands-on experience in production areas like development, design, and marketing do not need a bachelor’s degree.
2. Experience in technical product management
Ideal product management candidates at Google are those who have hands-on experience in the tech field.
Candidates who have worked in developing a tech product or have ample know-how in managing tech production should emphasize that on their resume because it is highly lauded by Google.
Google is especially interested in candidates who have run their startups or were part of the early group of employees recruited for a new startup.
3. Basic knowledge of different fields
Google also wants its aspiring product managers to have basic knowledge or experience in marketing, finance, product development, advertising, user experience (UX), and product design. A day in the life of a product manager is akin to navigating a complex maze, where they must strategize, prioritize, and problem-solve to drive innovation and deliver exceptional user experiences across Google’s diverse product portfolio.
Product managers are not expected to be fully proficient in all these fields, but they are supposed to have some degree of familiarity with these areas and a specialization in at least one.
4. A wide-ranging skillset
Google is well-known for leaning towards candidates who offer a wide-ranging skillset.
Product managers are expected to be “generalists” who boast diverse skills that feature leadership qualities, strategic and critical thinking, organizational skills, technical capabilities, people skills, and communication skills.
This is why, if you want to be considered seriously for a position in product management at Google, it is imperative that you hone your technical skills and your soft skills side by side to present yourself as a well-rounded individual.
What is the hiring process for product management at Google?
The hiring process for product management at Google consists of different stages. These can be divided as follows:
- Screening the candidates’ resume
- Phone screens (up to two interviews)
- In-person interviews (up to six interviews)
- Recommendation from the hiring committee
- Review from senior leaders
- Recommendation from the compensation committee
- Review from senior executives
- Job offer
In essence, the hiring process starts with the screening of the candidate’s resume for prerequisites that we have discussed above and then interviewing the candidates who have cleared the preliminary screening phase.
The interviewing stage at Google is long and intensive and involves several interviews with many different people. These interviews range from initial phone screenings or video call interviews to in-person interviews that take place at Google’s office.
Between the different PM interview stages, it is normal to not hear from Google for a while, but if the silence prolongs for longer than a month, you can take that as a sign that you were not selected to proceed to the next stage.
Google product manager interview questions
Google PM interviews can be intimidating, especially because Google is notorious for testing candidates on a wide range of subjects. The single best thing you can do for your interview process is to gather as much information as possible on the topics and questions that may be asked so that you can study effectively.
To help you with this, we have compiled a range of questions that you can expect to show up during your interviews.
Questions that focus on product design
As a product manager, around 34% of your Google interview questions will be design questions. Product design is the primary topic that will be asked about.
These questions are aimed at gauging your creativity and critical thinking skills so that Google can decide whether you will be capable of designing the products it wants.
Here are some examples of product design questions:
- List products that you love/hate and explain why
- What improvements would you make to Google products like Gmail, Google Chrome, Google Maps, etc.?
- How would you design a particular product that caters to people with specific needs?
Questions that focus on product strategy
Product strategy questions focus on testing the candidate’s ability to come up with a sound product roadmap that factors in competitor products, finances, and pricing.
You can expect around 18% of your Google interview questions to be product strategy. Here are some of the examples:
- How would solve homelessness in a particular (given) area?
- Why does Starbucks have shops on both sides of the same road at times?
- Name a competitive move that a company recently made, and tell us what you think about it
Questions that focus on estimation
Estimation skills are crucial for a product manager job, as they involve making accurate assessments of market size, customer numbers, and product costs and revenues. That’s why approximately 15% of the interview questions at Google specifically target evaluating your proficiency in estimation.
Here are some examples of estimation questions:
- What is the size of the market for driverless cars in 2030?
- How much money does the U.S. spend on gas each year?
- What is the internet bandwidth required for an average-sized U.S. college?
Around 14% of Google’s interview questions will focus on assessing your drive, motivation, passion for working for Google, people skills, and ability to resolve conflict and function as a team player.
These questions can include the following:
- What skills are required to be an effective product manager?
- Talk about the best product manager you have worked with
- How much technical information should a product manager have about a product they are in charge of developing?
Approximately 13% of Google’s questions focus on assessing the candidates’ technical skills. These amount to around one or two questions, and you are not required to know complicated code to answer these. Instead, these questions aim to determine whether the candidate will be able to guide the development of a tech product and interact with engineering and design teams.
These questions can include the following:
- Explain how the internet works.
- Explain an API to someone with no coding background
- Write an algorithm to perform X function
How can you be an efficient product manager at Google?
With enough effort and a stroke of good luck, you are sure to make it to Google as a product manager. But once you have been recruited as a member of Google’s product management team, you have to continue to hone your skills as a product manager so that you do not fall behind your peers.
Here are some of the skills you need to master to be an efficient product manager at Google.
1. Do not leave room for errors in your product
As a product manager, you need to be certain that your product does not have flaws or glitches. This means focusing on testing your product regularly, gathering data from volunteer testing, and running risk assessments on your product.
2. Make sure your product roadmap is clear and understandable
To create a successful product, you need to have a clear roadmap that is easily understood. A clear roadmap addresses any confusion in the production process and affirms that all members involved in the production process are on the same page.
3. Listen to your marketing and sales team
As a product manager, you need to pay special importance to your marketing and sales teams because they can provide valuable insights into consumer preferences and can help guide you toward developing a product that is sure to be successful.
4. Know your customer base well
Your primary aim as a product manager is to develop a product that consumers will love. To do this, you need to know the ins and outs of your customer base. Being informed about what appeals to your target audience is the key to designing a successful product.
5. Work to grow as a Google PM
One of Google’s key policies is focusing on growth. So, as a product manager, you need to make sure that your products help expand the company in some aspect.
Being hired as a product manager at Google is not exactly easy, and working as a part of Google’s product management team can be challenging and demanding.
Despite this, it is one of the most fulfilling jobs because it allows you to work with one of the leading tech firms in the world to bring to life products that are shaping the future. So, if you are motivated and want to be at the center of innovation and change, this might just be the job for you.
In this article, we have described product management at Google, how Google hires its product managers, and what you can do to excel as a product manager at Google. By reading this article, you have taken the first step toward preparing to be a part of Google’s product management team.