About the APM Interview

Shreena Thakore, APM Class of 2017, Mountain View

When I started preparing for my interviews, I had no idea what to expect. Through some online research I learned that I needed to demonstrate my “product, technical, and analytical abilities,” but as a college senior with limited industry exposure I didn’t know what any of those terms meant.

I soon discovered that the Google interview process was not an impossible stress test, but an environment set up to help you shine – and maybe even have some fun! A key component of creating that environment is increasing transparency. This article is a step toward giving you the resources you need so you can do your very best, but remember, it is just my personal advice, not Google's opinion.

Interview Types

  1. Product: Product questions focus on design and strategy. You must understand your users, address their needs, analyze trade-offs, create long-term roadmaps, and be familiar with the industry landscape.
    Examples:

    • How would you improve restaurant search?

    • If you were to build the next great feature for Google Search, what would it be?

    • How would you monetize a certain product more effectively?

  2. Analytical: Building products at Google scale means dealing with enormous, ambiguous problem spaces. Analytical questions test your ability to systematically break down complex tasks with no clear right answer into smaller, solvable units.
    Examples:

    • How many queries per second does Gmail get?

    • How many Androids sell in the US each year?

    • How do you know if the product is successful?

  3. Technical: A large chunk of the role involves working closely with engineers to gauge technical feasibility, explore alternatives, and set timelines. You should review fundamental algorithms and be able to clearly convey technical concepts.
    Examples:

    • Write an algorithm that detects and alerts meeting conflicts.

    • How is a set different from an array?

My General Tips

  1. Show empathy: As an Associate Product Manager, you are the primary ambassador and advocate for your users within the company. Step in their shoes as you think about needs, constraints, and feature ideas.

  2. Communicate effectively. We’ve all heard that good communication is essential to a good interview. What does that mean? Here are some tips:

  3. Provide a roadmap: Outline the structure of your answer at the very beginning so your interviewer knows what to expect. This will also help you organize your thoughts and stay concise.

  4. Think out loud: Your interviewer is interested in your thought process and approach to the problem. Don’t wait to speak until you have the answer; show the interviewer how you got there!

  5. Write things down: Use the whiteboard or a notepad to make bullet points, diagrams, wireframes – whatever helps you get your ideas across.

  6. Conversation, not interrogation: Actively engage your interviewer – approach the situation as you would if a coworker asked you the question.

  7. Be confident: Pause for water if you need to. Take a few moments to reflect if you need to. Do whatever is necessary for you to feel comfortable, calm, and in control. Believe in your ideas, but feel empowered to point out issues with those ideas and critique them.

  8. Listen closely. Make sure you capture all the nuances of the problem before you try to solve it. Jot down any important details. Frame the problem and ask the interviewer if you missed anything. Ask questions, then ask more questions.

  9. Improve and iterate. There is always room for improvement. Your first idea may be great, but see if you can do better. Here are some ways you can polish your answer:

    • Consider edge cases: Venture beyond the normal. Account for special circumstances and extreme parameters. For a product question, this could mean thinking about internationalization, accessibility, and ethics. Don’t get distracted though — make sure to communicate your core idea before branching into offshoots.
    • Get creative: Venture beyond the obvious. Present bold, ambitious ideas. After all, Google started with two university students deciding to organize all of the world’s information and make it universally accessible! Push the boundaries of your imagination – there is no such thing as a silly idea.
    • Explore multiple alternatives: Examine other possible ways to address the problem. Discuss their relative pros and cons.
    • Evaluate your solution: Note any trade-offs, constraints, security and privacy implications. How do you prioritize what’s important? What should be part of the minimum viable product (MVP) and what’s simply nice-to-have?
  10. Manage your time. Ask your interviewer about the format of the interview and pace yourself accordingly. Check-in with your interviewer to see how you’re doing on time. Make sure you have enough room to explore details and convey your depth of thinking.

  11. Practice, practice, practice. Do mock interviews and record yourself to see how you do. Interview other people to see what it’s like on the opposite side. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Spend time thinking about products you like and dislike. Think about how to make them better.

Have fun! Your interviews are a valuable opportunity to meet passionate people and solve interesting challenges.

Resources

  • Cracking the PM Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro

  • The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman

  • Cracking the Coding Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell

  • Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

  • The Algorithm Design Manual – Steven S. Skiena

About the APM Interview

Shreena Thakore, APM Class of 2017, Mountain View

When I started preparing for my interviews, I had no idea what to expect. Through some online research I learned that I needed to demonstrate my “product, technical, and analytical abilities,” but as a college senior with limited industry exposure I didn’t know what any of those terms meant.

I soon discovered that the Google interview process was not an impossible stress test, but an environment set up to help you shine – and maybe even have some fun! A key component of creating that environment is increasing transparency. This article is a step toward giving you the resources you need so you can do your very best, but remember, it is just my personal advice, not Google's opinion.

Interview Types

  1. Product: Product questions focus on design and strategy. You must understand your users, address their needs, analyze trade-offs, create long-term roadmaps, and be familiar with the industry landscape.
    Examples:

    • How would you improve restaurant search?

    • If you were to build the next great feature for Google Search, what would it be?

    • How would you monetize a certain product more effectively?

  2. Analytical: Building products at Google scale means dealing with enormous, ambiguous problem spaces. Analytical questions test your ability to systematically break down complex tasks with no clear right answer into smaller, solvable units.
    Examples:

    • How many queries per second does Gmail get?

    • How many Androids sell in the US each year?

    • How do you know if the product is successful?

  3. Technical: A large chunk of the role involves working closely with engineers to gauge technical feasibility, explore alternatives, and set timelines. You should review fundamental algorithms and be able to clearly convey technical concepts.
    Examples:

    • Write an algorithm that detects and alerts meeting conflicts.

    • How is a set different from an array?

My General Tips

  1. Show empathy: As an Associate Product Manager, you are the primary ambassador and advocate for your users within the company. Step in their shoes as you think about needs, constraints, and feature ideas.

  2. Communicate effectively. We’ve all heard that good communication is essential to a good interview. What does that mean? Here are some tips:

  3. Provide a roadmap: Outline the structure of your answer at the very beginning so your interviewer knows what to expect. This will also help you organize your thoughts and stay concise.

  4. Think out loud: Your interviewer is interested in your thought process and approach to the problem. Don’t wait to speak until you have the answer; show the interviewer how you got there!

  5. Write things down: Use the whiteboard or a notepad to make bullet points, diagrams, wireframes – whatever helps you get your ideas across.

  6. Conversation, not interrogation: Actively engage your interviewer – approach the situation as you would if a coworker asked you the question.

  7. Be confident: Pause for water if you need to. Take a few moments to reflect if you need to. Do whatever is necessary for you to feel comfortable, calm, and in control. Believe in your ideas, but feel empowered to point out issues with those ideas and critique them.

  8. Listen closely. Make sure you capture all the nuances of the problem before you try to solve it. Jot down any important details. Frame the problem and ask the interviewer if you missed anything. Ask questions, then ask more questions.

  9. Improve and iterate. There is always room for improvement. Your first idea may be great, but see if you can do better. Here are some ways you can polish your answer:

    • Consider edge cases: Venture beyond the normal. Account for special circumstances and extreme parameters. For a product question, this could mean thinking about internationalization, accessibility, and ethics. Don’t get distracted though — make sure to communicate your core idea before branching into offshoots.
    • Get creative: Venture beyond the obvious. Present bold, ambitious ideas. After all, Google started with two university students deciding to organize all of the world’s information and make it universally accessible! Push the boundaries of your imagination – there is no such thing as a silly idea.
    • Explore multiple alternatives: Examine other possible ways to address the problem. Discuss their relative pros and cons.
    • Evaluate your solution: Note any trade-offs, constraints, security and privacy implications. How do you prioritize what’s important? What should be part of the minimum viable product (MVP) and what’s simply nice-to-have?
  10. Manage your time. Ask your interviewer about the format of the interview and pace yourself accordingly. Check-in with your interviewer to see how you’re doing on time. Make sure you have enough room to explore details and convey your depth of thinking.

  11. Practice, practice, practice. Do mock interviews and record yourself to see how you do. Interview other people to see what it’s like on the opposite side. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Spend time thinking about products you like and dislike. Think about how to make them better.

Have fun! Your interviews are a valuable opportunity to meet passionate people and solve interesting challenges.

Resources

  • Cracking the PM Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro

  • The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman

  • Cracking the Coding Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell

  • Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

  • The Algorithm Design Manual – Steven S. Skiena