What I learnt after bombing my Google APM Interview!
My dream of becoming a Product Manager was first born when I attended the Grace Hopper Conference in 2018. Although product management can mean different things within different teams and across roles, I loved the idea of bringing together tech, business and design responsibilities into a single role.
And in December 2019, I received the opportunity to interview at Google for their esteemed Associate Product Management internship position. I’ve always wanted to write this down but I have been so scared of how people would react to this post.
But now I realise that failures must be talked about as often as success stories are, if not more.
My first ever PM interview was with the company that had launched the APM program. In hindsight, this opportunity was a blessing and a curse!
But let’s take a step back and start at the beginning. Having signed an NDA, I can’t specify the questions but I would like to give you an overview of the process. Hope you find it helpful.
Step 0: Preparing your Application
I tried to customise my resume but didn’t want to overdo it. I went with my gut and made sure I had a good mix of tech and leadership positions on my resume. I then proof-read it a million times before sending it in. I also wrote a customized cover letter — which Google really doesn't encourage but I didn't want to take any chances!
Step 1: Getting a Referral
Google APM positions are highly competitive and to send in your application without a referral would be a big no-no. Thankfully, I got in touch with a Columbia Alum who referred me.
I will say that I was shocked to the core when I received an email from a Google recruiter informing me that I was shortlisted for the internship program. I’m sure the referral had a huge role to play so please do reach out to your connections when you wish to apply!
Step 2: Phone Interview
Considering the volume of applications that come in, it’s safe to say that once they shortlist — it might be a while before you have your first phone interview. But that should not be an excuse to wait until the end to start preparing.
The phone interview was a pretty chill 45 min interview process where the interviewer focuses on your resume and asks you a couple of behavioural and product design questions. I received 2 product design questions which I was able to answer pretty well — I used the frameworks I had learnt while reading the Cracking the PM interview and Decode and Conquer. And I was almost certain, I would make it to the next round and I did!
So if you have been doing mock interviews, this should be a walk in the park.
If you aren’t, what are you waiting for? Start now!
It is now easier than ever to find buddies to do mock interviews with — you can find slack channels like Lewis C Lin’s Slack Channel or Product Buds
Step 3: Take-home Assignment
Once you pass the phone interview, you will find that you need to complete a take-home assignment before your onsite interview.
I was so busy trying to prepare for the interview process that I might have not paid as much attention to the take-home assignment as I had initially intended to. Juggling the internship hunt with a heavy course load can be daunting and overwhelming. Maybe the outcome would have been different if the timing was different but I am content with the fact that I put in as much effort as I could at the time!
Looking back now, if there is one thingy that I would like to share with respect to take home assignments is that your answer doesn’t have to be a crazy moonshot idea that will blow away your interviewer’s mind. It can be a simple solution that is universal or one which already exists. How you structure your answer and organize it is what will break or make your answer. Creativity is cool but it’s not the only criteria.
Step 4: Onsite Interview
And voila, the final step is the onsite interview. I flew to San Jose 4 days before my first final exam — I was a nervous wreck. But it was my first time to the west coast so I was excited nonetheless. Google paid for my flight, transport and other expenses.
I had 3 interview rounds — two product design/strategy and a technical round. And before you ask, I didn’t have to code for the technical round. I had to explain technical concepts and my proficiency in them. Between these rounds, I had lunch with a current APM who also showed me around the bustling Google campus.
I was feeling quite nervous before my interview and I faltered during my first interview as I didn’t have enough time to answer all the questions. I had not paid much attention to timing when I was preparing and I think that was a huge mistake on my part. I felt time fly during the interviews and I felt very self-conscious after that.
After all my rounds, I met with the Google employee who had referred me, we had a pleasant conversation and then I made my way to the Google store to gift myself a souvenir.
Step 5: The Result
After waiting for a week, I received the phone call I was dreading. I might not have made it, but I sure am grateful for the opportunity. It really helped me boost my confidence and I understood what I lacked in my preparation techniques. Things have been even crazier since then but I had fun preparing for the interviews as I read through a multitude of PM books and blog posts. Maybe I should have a blog post detailing those soon!
Coming to the present day — my next PM interview was at Tesla where I’m currently interning this summer! You can find an article on this sooon!
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