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What Does a Google Product Manager Do?

Last updated on: 
September 6, 2023
Swaminathan Iyer
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About The Author!
Swaminathan Iyer
Swaminathan Iyer
Product Manager at Interview Kickstart. The intriguing mind brainstorming ideas day and night for the creation of projects from simple “Hello World” to building strategies and frameworks.

The product manager role is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding roles at Google. It gives you a chance to be involved right from conceptualizing an idea to its launch while sitting at the intersection of technology and business. As a Google product manager, you get to identify what the customers need, brainstorm new product ideas, and make strategic product decisions. 

It’s not surprising that landing a job as a product manager at Google is no cakewalk. You’ll need to crack multiple rounds of grueling interviews before you can get your foot in the door. If you plan to apply for the product manager role at Google and wonder what it takes to be a product manager, we have you covered. 

Here’s a quick overview of what this article will tell you:

Google Product Manager vs. Program Manager: What’s the Difference?

People often confuse the product manager and program manager roles and assume that these similar-sounding titles are the same. However, that’s far from the truth.

At Google, a product manager is responsible for planning a new product for the consumers after analyzing various aspects associated with it. As a product manager, you’d be expected to conduct in-depth research and come up with a vision for the product, communicate it to the various stakeholders of your team such as software engineers and marketers, formulate a roadmap for execution and oversee the launch. 

Given the need for a highly analytical mindset, Google prefers having product managers from a wide range of backgrounds.  

In contrast, the job of a program manager is to oversee various teams at Google. Such roles are more administrative or marketing-oriented as the program manager serves as a bridge between the management and the technical teams in the organization. In other words, such managers are more concerned with the internal program performance than the performance of the final products.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Manager at Google

The roles and responsibilities of a product manager at Google vary. While some may be only responsible for managing specific Google products such as Google Cloud, others may be in charge of various products. Typically, the list of responsibilities includes:

Setting the strategy:  For every product manager, strategy plays a key role as they have to decide the product’s vision and think about the critical features that they want to highlight. Product managers are expected to develop, own, and execute ready-to-be-launched strategies for new products.

Without a solid strategy in place, product managers may find it difficult to communicate their vision to the other stakeholders in the team. In fact, executing a holistic strategy to help achieve strategic business goals is one responsibility listed under the job posting. 

Knowing what’s going on in the market: Having a pulse on what the competitors are doing and what users are drawn to is crucial for product managers at Google. This helps them make the right decisions about the features and design of an upcoming product. It is also helpful in analyzing the new trends in the market and using strategic insights for shaping the roadmap of new launches at Google. 

Managing the team: A product manager is also responsible for steering the team in the right direction and ensuring that the various stakeholders seamlessly collaborate. 

Testing out new products: Testing the features of a new product is essential before it is launched in the market. Google invites volunteers across the world to try out these products as beta testers. The product manager is responsible for managing this process, gathering feedback from the users, and implementing changes in the product based on the feedback. 

What Does Google Look for in Product Managers?

Do you have what it takes to crack the Google product manager interview? Here’s what Google is looking for in potential product managers:

Anyone aspiring to work as a product manager at Google should have strong people skills to bring together teams from different departments and guide them with a clear goal. An ideal candidate can communicate cross-functionally and facilitate the entire life cycle of the product launch process, right from conceptualizing the design to execution. 

You should also possess a diverse skill set that includes leadership skills, critical thinking, and top-notch organizational skills. Machine learning, development, and design are some of the other desired technical skills in product managers.

Google has a reputation for hiring “generalists” who can work on different product lines such as platform, consumer, and mobile. Google looks for candidates who are strategic thinkers and can understand technical and business concepts. 

Qualifications for Google Product Manager

When it comes to minimum qualifications, you don’t need a computer science degree to be considered for the product manager role. Google welcomes degrees in related technical fields or equivalent practical experience. 

A degree in product design or management or marketing, along with experience in managing a team that has developed internet or media products, is a bonus. In the past, Google has given preference to those candidates who demonstrated experience with technical product management.

Some of the other preferred qualifications of a product manager from an opening posted on the Google job board include:

  • Knowledge of the internet, search engines, and online advertising spaces.
  • Knowledge of multiple functional areas, such as Product Management, Engineering, UX/UI, Sales, Customer Support, Finance, or Marketing.
  • Understanding of user experience (UX) and business/commercial challenges.
  • Understanding of go-to-market commerce enablers (e.g., payments, subscriptions, etc.).

That said, Google is a tech company and definitely appreciates those product managers who come from an engineering background and have experience in software development

What Is the Average Salary of a Product Manager at Google?

Google product manager salary has always been a topic of interest for every candidate preparing for tech interviews. Since Google deals with a wide range of products, the salary range of product managers is also extremely extensive depending on the demands of individual products. 

Average salary: While the exact figures may vary, the average base salary of a product manager working in the US is approximately $159,493. Google also offers additional cash compensation of roughly $39,985, including cash bonuses, stock bonuses, commission sharing, etc. 

Based on the location: Product managers working out of the Silicon Valley office of Google get paid more than their peers working in similar roles in Palo Alto, Seattle, Boston, and New York. 

Based on experience: Entry-level product managers can expect the salary to range between $82,000 to $251,000. In contrast, product managers with four to nine years of experience can draw a salary anywhere between $102,000 to $249,000.

The offer you receive from companies like Google also heavily depends on how well you negotiate. To hone your salary negotiation skills, read The Ultimate Guide to Salary Negotiation at FAANG for Software Engineers.

A Day in the Life of a Product Manager at Google

If you have ever wondered what does a product manager do at Google, here’s a sneak peek:

A typical day would involve multiple one-on-one meetings with various members of the team. From discussing the features of a new product to soliciting feedback about an existing product — there can be various reasons behind such meetings. 

A product manager is also involved in conducting various testing sessions, known as usability testing sessions, throughout the day to obtain real-time feedback about a product. This provides them with the necessary insights to improvise the product and fix the bugs. 

Another key aspect of a product manager’s life is sitting down with the engineers and designers to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the product. These sit-downs also help the product managers identify any technical loopholes that need to be fixed and also allow the entire team to build their capabilities to function as an autonomous unit.

You can also expect several meetings with the legal team to ensure that the product you have envisaged also meets the compliance requirements of various markets where you plan to launch it. This is a crucial part of a product manager’s life to minimize the risks associated with developing and launching a product. 

Tips to Be an Efficient Product Manager at Google

Not all product managers are created equal. There are certain things you can do better to outrank your peers:

Don’t leave any room for risky assumptions: An efficient product manager runs multiple user tests to find bugs and eliminate features that don’t serve the intended purpose. They make sure to obtain valuable feedback on the designs and gather as much quantitative data as possible to avoid making any risky assumptions about the product. 

Always provide clarity: Your product can be a successful one only when you have a clear vision and clarity. You are responsible for guiding the team members right till the finish line -- so make sure that you don’t leave any room for confusion. Use results from previous product launches and keep the roadmap updated so that everyone on your team is on the same page.

Listen closely to your sales team: Your sales team can provide valuable information about what makes your customers happy. They can also tell you why customers don’t like a particular product. You can use the information to improve the features of your product and meet the specific needs of the customers. 

Keep an eye on the market: Market research for product managers cannot be sheer guesswork. You need to get your hands dirty to know what’s going on the ground level. Instead of trying to fit the customer’s demands through various stereotypes, understand what they are really interested in. Keep a tab on your competitor’s activities to learn how they are grabbing customers. 

Know your customers well: Empathy is a key strength of successful product managers to help them get to know the real pain points of the customers. Instead of working in a silo, adopt a multidisciplinary approach and work with your sales team to gather information and feedback about your products in real-time. Be curious about how you can make your customers’ lives easier and use the knowledge to improve your product. 

Always work with a growth mindset: This tip is especially important for those who do not have a technical background but aspire to work as a product manager. Don’t get too intimated by technical concepts. Unpack the jargon and approach each product with the belief that it can only get better and easier. 

How to Land a Product Manager Role at Google 

Performing well in a Google product manager interview is no walk in the park. Remember that you are competing with some of your smartest peers across the globe. That’s why you need to bring your A-game to the table and get an edge over them. 

A product manager interview has multiple stages, including phone screenings and on-site interviews. Your performance during these rounds will determine whether the hiring committee will recommend you for further rounds. Typically, the hiring managers at Google are keen to:

  • Test your design abilities
  • Assess your decision-making ability related to the product
  • Ask you behavioral questions to evaluate your personality
  • Pose questions to test your ability to work with numbers, data, and technical skills concepts

If you want to make a solid impression, your preparation needs to be focused and consistent. You need to brush up on basic product management concepts such as:

  • Customer experience
  • User segmentation
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Feature adoption
  • Feedback
  • Road-mapping

Just learning these concepts will hardly be helpful. A good way to prepare is scouring the internet to pick up relevant Google Product Manager Interview Questions and practicing mock interviews with your friends. Or you can practice with experienced PM interviewers and former hiring managers who can help you identify your shortcomings early on and correct your mistakes. Not sure how to get access to such mock interviews? 

Enroll in an interview prep course at Interview Kickstart designed and taught by FAANG tech leads and seasoned hiring managers

Thousands of software engineers have benefitted from our curriculum and cracked the most challenging interviews at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and several other tech giants. 

If you feel ready to apply for a product manager role at Google, join our free webinar to learn how Interview Kickstart can be a trusted companion on your journey and help you get closer to your dream job.

Posted on 
August 9, 2021

Swaminathan Iyer

Product @ Interview Kickstart | Ex | Business Management - XLRI Jamshedpur. Loves building things and burning pizzas!

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