Cracking the Google (PM) Interview – Hacker Noon

Starting off, the Google interview: Google prides itself on hiring only the best of the best. During my orientation, I distinctly remember the orientation leader saying, “We got on average 4 million resumes a year, but we only take about 4,000.” (While that was back in 2014, I’m fairly confident ratios have stayed around the same.) So that’s a 0.001, or 0.1% chance of getting an offer from a cold resume drop…so why do it? Well, because you’ll have the opportunity of a lifetime to work amongst the brightest, sharpest, and most down-to-earth bunch of people on the planet.

Prepping can differ greatly depending on the type of role, but for the most part (and interviews where I’ve sat on the other side of the table as an interviewer), roles at Google are divided into Engineering and Global Business Org (or GBO) (e.g., Business Analyst, Biz Ops, etc.). I won’t cover engineering here, as there are a slew of coding interview study guides out there (hint: don’t forget your Big O Notation concepts). However, as a former consultant, I will say for those going for GBO roles, remember to review your frameworks and be prepared for estimation questions (e.g., the classic, how many golf balls can fit in a Boeing 747).

  1. (Even before the interview) Get referred! Why face 1/1000 odds when you can drastically increase your chances to getting that first recruiter screen by getting a Googler (a Google employee) to refer you? So go out there, explore your network (significantly easier to do if you’re already in the Bay Area, or living in areas with Google offices, e.g., Seattle, Boston, SoCal) and find a Googler who you can connect with, and ask him/her to refer you! No guarantees, but chances are a lot higher that you’ll get that recruiter email to connect and talk about open positions.
  2. Learn about the role: This should really be a no-brainer, and I don’t want to list it here, but fact of the matter, you’d be surprised how many interviews I went through at Google where the candidate had no idea what the job entailed, or which stakeholders the role would interact with. With that said, those candidates didn’t make the cut — but also begs the question, why wouldn’t you want to learn anything and everything about the role, team, and cross-functional teams you’d be working with? Even if you got the offer, you’d still have to work with these people once you accept. So in short, read everything you can about the responsibilities of the role, the team, and especially — any updates about any recent product launches and/or releases from the team. And expect these questions to come up during the interview.
  3. Map your core competencies: When scoring our candidates (and I won’t go into detail, as Google’s scoring system is quite proprietary), we typically will score them on their intellectual abilities, their functional abilities (how well they can do the job), and their emotional intelligence (how well they handled a difficult situation or conflict with a peer/superior). What I typically tell interview candidates or hopefuls, is to make sure they have 3 solid stories they can share during the interview, and read up on the STAR method. For sake of brevity, I’ll let readers go to the link (or multitude of links about it online) and read on their own time. Going back to the 3 stories one has to prepare, the candidate should (without a doubt) choose stories that will fit the STAR method, and highlight each of the core competencies that the interviewers are looking for. If you don’t have 3 stories, that’s fine — but it better be a megastory that can walk your interviewers through how you handled all these diverse situations, but also provide new material for each question so that the conversation doesn’t get stale, which can happen if you’re re-hashing the same story.
  4. Staying cool: Though it’s no longer common practice (or maybe it is…), Google will still give a few brainteaser questions once in a while. I did it sometimes just to ensure a candidate would stay cool under uncertain situations (I promise I derived no pleasure from it, but simply to assess whether the candidate would handle pressure well). One simply cannot prepare for all the brainteasers in the world, but one can train oneself to remain calm under pressure and talk through the solution/or if you can’t get to the solution, talk through how you would solve it. Sometimes we’re not looking for the right answer; we’re just looking for 1) if this ruffles your feathers and 2) do you think logically. But here’s a bone for those wondering…’can you just give me an example brainteaser already?’

There are 3 lightbulbs upstairs, and 3 downstairs — each switch connecting to one lightbulb. If you can only go upstairs one time after flipping a switch/combination of switches, how do you figure out which switch goes to which lightbulb? (For the answer, please visit the AWIP website:, and drop me a line there!)

5. Be Googley! Be what…? Yes, the last and probably most important thing that Google looks for is that “Googliness” factor. Remember the Google motto of, “Don’t be evil”? Exactly. Now this isn’t something I can coach you through, but generally (and I’m hoping) most people will exhibit that through their demeanor or experiences throughout the interview. This means, will you stay late one night to help out a colleague with a tough problem? To something as small as, will you clean up after yourself in the cafe? I have to say, out of all the ‘large’ companies I’ve worked for, Google is hands down the best with their recruiting process (which for me, included 2 phone screens and 1 onsite consisting of 6 back-to-back interviews and 1 lunch interview), and their meticulousness shows with the quality of new hires they bring on board.

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