When it comes to conceptualizing, launching, and scaling revolutionary products, no other tech company does it better than Google. From Gmail to Google cloud, all of their products have found their way into our lives. And behind each of those brilliant ideas, there’s a Google product manager empowering it.
The product managers at Google work day and night to ensure the swift execution of tasks needed to keep those ideas alive (and new ones coming). While the role is definitely challenging, it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
For that reason, the candidates have to face grueling competition from their peers.
If you’re an aspiring product management professional or just someone conducting personal research, keep reading. In this article, we’ll break down the job description of a Google product manager and also share what the recruiters at this Silicon Valley giant look for in candidates.
Let’s get started.
The Typical Roles and Responsibilities of a Google Product Manager
A Google PM has a job description that, on the surface, is pretty much the same as any other product manager job.
However, despite being one of the largest tech companies in the world, Google has a culture that’s akin to a startup, in the sense that product managers have greater control over both strategic and day-to-day decisions.
Furthermore, like most companies with several products, Google has different positions for this particular role, including that of group product manager, senior product manager, junior product manager, etc.
Some product managers only manage specific products (such as this post on Glassdoor seeking PM for Google Cloud), whereas others are required to contribute to different products.
Typically, the openings are for Mountain View, CA, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and Cambridge, MA, among others.
If you’re about to apply for an open position, you need to understand exactly what the role entails. Google product manager interview questions can be really confusing, and even the most experienced candidates tend to mess up under pressure.
Here’s everything that a Google product manager is expected to do:
1. Conceptualize New Products and Create Product Roadmaps
The primary responsibility of a typical Google PM is to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and come up with ideas for new products.
This is a major responsibility that entails having a firm command over various product development methodologies and knowledge of the market (more on that later).
The product manager, after identifying potential opportunities, pitches ideas. And if said ideas are approved, they work on developing an in-depth product strategy.
This strategy includes the product vision, product requirements (budget, teams, and other resources), and other crucial details.
The product manager then flattens out that strategy into a product roadmap, which provides a step-by-step visual representation of what needs to be done to develop, launch, and test the product.
At first glance, all of that might seem overwhelming to some people, but for Google PMs – some of the most talented people in the industry – it’s just another day.
Of course, PMs don’t have to conceptualize and pitch new ideas every other day. But constant brainstorming is a part of the job.
2. Keep a Finger on the Pulse of the Market
Apart from consistently figure out ways to expand Google’s diverse product portfolio, the product PM is supposed to conduct extensive market research.
In fact, in almost every Google product manager job posting, you’ll notice that understanding the different markets, competitors, and requirements of the users is the first thing mentioned under responsibilities.
A great product manager spends most of their time understanding what the end-user wants, and every decision they take should be driven by those requirements.
This entails aligning the product vision, features, and design with the preferences of the user.
Additionally, they also need to be well-aware of what Google competitors – Bing, Microsoft, and Apple, to name a few – are up to at all times.
Furthermore, the PM is also responsible for analyzing trends in different markets, getting insights, and taking strategic decisions accordingly to keep their product(s) relevant.
3. Collaborate with Different Teams to Execute Strategy
The role of a product manager at Google (or any other tech company, for that matter) involves a lot of collaboration.
There’s no other way to put it – if you’re not a team player, you’re not cut out for being a PM.
It is the responsibility of the product manager to rally the different product teams, including the product design/engineering team, sales, marketing, and finance, and work towards achieving the product vision.
This is especially true for a large enterprise like Google, where several teams integrate into a single unit. As a Google product manager, those teams will look up to you to rally them and guide them to success.
4. Test Features of New Products
Prior to the product launch, the product manager is responsible for testing out the proposed/developed features.
Google invites volunteers from all over the world to take their developing products for test runs. And who better to test them than actual users who fall within the personas?
After gathering feedback about the functionality and user experience, the product manager works with the concerned team(s) to fix any bugs and/or make improvements.
Typically, testing continues until the product team receives ample feedback. Testing may also continue for a certain period of time even after the product has been launched.
5. Develop and Execute Go-to-Market Strategies
Another major responsibility of all Google PMs is to develop, own, and execute go-to-market strategies for new products.
This entails identifying the current market trends (economic, social, and political), figuring out a way to introduce the product in the market, and developing a complete marketing engine.
Of course, the product manager collaborates with the product marketer to execute all of the above.
Keep in mind that one does not have any authority over the other. However, the product marketer typically reports back to the product manager as it’s important for the overall strategy of the product.
6. Gather Feedback and Consistently Improve
Last but not least, as a Google product manager, you’re responsible for consistently gathering feedback, analyzing trends, and using all that data to improve your products.
This is done by leveraging certain pre-determined metrics, some of which may vary from product to product.
Regardless, collecting feedback on a consistent basis – both from internal and external sources – is a vital part of the job.
What Does Google Seek in Candidates?
Before worrying about the job interview, you should perform a self-assessment and see if you’re even cut out for a job at Google.
Generally speaking, Google looks for candidates with certain levels of intelligence, a can-do attitude, and practical hands-on experience. All of these are crucial to getting your dream job at Google.
To be more specific, here are the boxes that you should tick:
A Bachelor’s Degree or Practical Experience
Google won’t hire you based solely on the fact that you have a college degree.
But education in a field such as computer science/software engineering, business, marketing, etc. can certainly give you a competitive edge.
Alternatively, if you have a few years of practical experience in different product areas (development, design, the business side of things, etc.) you don’t need a degree.
All in all, the ideal candidate should have a technical background with hands-on experience.
Experience Managing Technical Products
As mentioned above, Google prefers candidates with a certain level of experience managing products.
But to be more specific, they give more priority to candidates who have experience with technical product management.
Considering that, if you have worked with a tech product in any capacity, make sure to highlight that in your resume.
A Level of Familiarity with Different Areas
Another important quality that all Google product manager candidates should have is a certain level of knowledge/familiarity with different areas.
This includes experience or basic knowledge of marketing, product development/coding, UX, design, and sales.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to find a candidate who specializes in all of the above. That’s not what they require..
What Google needs is a candidate who, at the very least, has basic knowledge of all these areas, and specializes in any one of them.
A Diverse Skillset
As with everything else, when it comes to skillsets, a candidate with a diverse skill-set will have an upper-hand over their peers.
This means that you should work on developing solid business acumen, and couple that with a few technical skills, such as machine learning, development, design, etc.
In addition to the above, certain soft skills, such as leadership, communication, problem-solving/critical thinking, and organizational skills are prerequisites.
A Google product manager’s job isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
They spend most of their time thinking of new strategies, communicating with different stakeholders, keeping the product teams together, and reporting everything to the board to justify their roles.
All of this naturally entails leading/attending multiple meetings a day, number-crunching, potentially traveling to other locations, and of course, maxing out on that caffeine.
But all of that effort is worth it, as it gives you the chance to own world-class products that are changing the way we live our day-to-day lives.