How do I get hired as a product manager at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, or other top companies? This is a question we’ve heard time and time again. Unsurprisingly, product hires at these big tech companies often enjoy some pretty big advantages over PMs at other organizations.
Considering Apple just became the first company ever to reach a trillion-dollar market capitalization, and the investment community’s forecast that Google, Amazon, and Facebook will also hit that milestone soon, a PM working at one of these tech giants can expect some unique perks. No, we’re not talking about ping-pong tables in the break room or subsidized lunches (although you can expect those, too). We’re talking about access to budget, resources, top-tier coding talent, and an envelope-pushing management team all in greater abundance than you’ll find at other companies. And of course, you’ll have the chance to influence products that just might change the world.
So how do you land a coveted PM job at Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Apple? Here are the best insights we’ve managed to glean from talking with ProductPlan’s friends in the PM community and researching the advice out there from current and ex-product professionals at these companies.
Landing a Product Manager Job at Google
Google looks for versatility, hiring primarily product management “generalists” rather than specialized PMs with deep but narrow experience. According to a 2017 article by Sujay Maheshwari, Google’s recruiters are looking more broadly for PMs who are strategic thinkers with a strong mix of both technical understanding and business knowledge.
Specific product knowledge seems relatively low on Google’s wish-list for a new PM. This is because Google likes to develop product teams that are flexible and can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to multiple products over time. In an email to PM candidates, Google explains it wants product managers who “can easily float through our evolving product lines.”
Other than versatility, what traits does Google look for in their product management hires? Here’s a snapshot of a few specific traits outlined in Google’s PM recruiting email.
What Does Google Look for in a PM?
- Design centric
- Analytical thinker
- Technically savvy
- Cultural fit (“Googley,” as they describe it)
Google Product Manager Interviews
If you manage to land yourself an interview for a product management role at Google, what might you expect? According to Google’s PM recruiting email, interviews generally don’t include those complex brain-teaser questions many people fear. Your interview may include hypothetical questions about how you’d handle specific issues related to Google products, but you probably won’t get complex math questions or abstract problem-solving questions. These challenging questions seem to be reserved for Google engineering candidates.
What It’s Like to Work on Google’s Product Team
What is it like to work as a product manager at Google? A great source of insight comes from our friend Stephen Cognetta, a former Google product manager who now helps PMs land jobs through his educational site PMLesson.com.
Stephen’s article, A Day in the Life of a Google Product Manager, gives you an inside look at what it’s really like to be part of the Google product team.
We asked Stephen, “What is one additional bit of insight about working as a product manager at Google that you won’t find anywhere online?”
Here’s what he said:
“Google lends its product managers the faith and ability to truly build products from inception to launch. While there, I launched several products that originally had no staffing or resources. Such products include delightful features such as random number generator and spin a dreidel. As a product manager, I was able to source eager Google engineers, set timelines and milestones, and drive features to completion. It’s an amazing opportunity to have such autonomy to execute on products at Google.”
Landing a Product Manager Job at Amazon
Landing a PM job at Amazon is a difficult undertaking. Dozens of hopeful candidates have reported that the interview process can be grueling and last anywhere from several weeks to several months.
An informative post on InterviewSteps, whose contributors come from companies like Google, Microsoft, and AT&T, walks you through the key areas to focus on when you prepare for an Amazon product management interview.
According to the post, Amazon might throw you a few technical questions during a product management interview, but their real interest is in finding PMs who are smart, strategic thinkers who truly understand Amazon’s customer-centric approach to everything.
What Does Amazon Look for in a PM?
- Your ability to influence and lead a cross-functional team (including engineers)
- Your ability to think big and innovate
- Your ability to deliver results
- Your ability to take total ownership of your products
- Your ability to communicate effectively and concisely
Landing a Product Manager Job at Facebook
If you want to work at Facebook, be prepared for steep competition. The tech giant recently became Glassdoor’s “Best Place to Work.”
According to the company’s Product Management Careers page, Facebook’s PM team is comprised of “visionaries who guide new product ideas from an initial concept to full-blown product launch. Along the way, we collaborate with world-class engineers and designers to maximize each product’s impact on the world.”
If you review Facebook’s open PM positions, you’ll quickly find a theme. In many of the job listings, the team calls for “extremely entrepreneurial” professionals. You’ll also see no shortage of calls for PMs prepared to “reimagine” or “innovate.”
This supports one of the major themes of a 2018 CNBC article about landing a job at Facebook—the company wants builders, makers, and people willing to learn.
According to Facebook’s VP of Human Resources, who is cited in the article, one major mistake interview candidates make is positioning themselves as an expert or, worse, a know-it-all on their job’s subject matter. Facebook wants creative thinkers. They want to hire people who have the skills to make things happen and a willingness to try new things.
So, what type of background and skills do you actually need to get hired as a PM at Facebook? Here are a few key traits, according to The Product School.
What Facebook Looks for in Product Managers
Product management experience
Sorry, Facebook isn’t hiring first-time PMs, so you’ll need to get some experience under your belt before applying here for a PM gig.
This varies according to specific PM position, but many will require a bachelor’s degree—and often in technical fields. In some cases, though, a PM role will also allow experience as a substitute for the degree.
Here again, we see that one of the traits needed to join the Facebook team will be your ability to mesh with the rest of the organization and adopt its core values. In Facebook’s case, that means a boldness, a bias for action, and an interest in building social value.
Landing a Product Manager Job at Apple
Search “Apple product management” under the jobs section of LinkedIn, and you’ll find hundreds of openings. That’s what a trillion-dollar market cap allows you to do—hire lots of product professionals. There are plenty of opportunities for ambitious and experienced PMs to find work with this world-changing organization.
But that doesn’t mean landing a job at Apple is going to be easy. Employment site Paysa even ventures to call Apple’s interview process one of the most difficult in the tech industry.
According to an article on BGR, product management candidates at Apple need to be prepared for some difficult and unexpected questions like the following:
- “How would you write the business requirements for a toaster?”
- “Sequence the following four items in order of importance: cost, design, quality, time.”
- “How would you solve an issue if you didn’t know exactly what the problem was?”
Interview Questions Asked by Apple, According to PM Candidates
Unfortunately, we don’t have a succinct list of the key traits Apple seeks in its PM candidates as we did for Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Such a list is more difficult to come by for Apple, probably because Apple prefers to keep such information secret—as it famously does with so much detail about itself and its products.
Still, we can learn a lot about what Apple is looking for in a PM from the types of interview questions that candidates report being asked in their job interviews. For example:
- Why Apple? (This seems to be one of the most commonly asked questions across all Apple job interviews.)
- What is your favorite Apple product?
- What features would you add to [Apple Product]?
- How would you design a product to innovate an entire industry?
- Describe an incident in which you had to make a decision with a lot of ambiguity.
Clearly, one of the most important areas of preparation for your Apple job interview will be to study up on the company itself—Apple’s core values, its mission, its product suite—because its interviewers appear to use Apple’s own company details in its questions for learning about job candidates.
And as one product manager who interviewed with Apple later explained, “You can’t really prepare answers for many of the questions Apple is going to ask you, so just be yourself.”
Getting a Product Management Job at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, or Other Top Company
There’s a great Business Insider article on the traits and qualifications you’ll likely need to land a job at a tech giant like Google or Apple. As the article explains, researchers (at Paysa) reviewed the resumes of employees in various departments at several of these tech firms and found some common traits among them.
Here’s what those researchers found these tech companies are looking for in product managers.
- Project management
- Customer service
- Cloud computing
- Product marketing
- Enterprise software
That’s a lot of skills to develop! And it helps explain why the competition for PM jobs is so fierce at companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (not to mention Microsoft, Netflix, LinkedIn, and the other game-changing tech firms).
If you really want to land a PM gig at one of these organizations, we hope this post gives you a better understanding of the skills and experience needed to get hired. And if you happen to find yourself in an interview at one of these companies, don’t forget to let us know how it goes!