Career paths

Google's APM Program from A to Z

From the application process to the actual experience - everything you wanted to know about being an APM at Google.

Google's Associate Product Manager program is arguably the most prestigious PM program available.

With the amount of responsibility they give their employees, the opportunities for growth and mentorship, and the high salary, it's no wonder the acceptance rate is staggeringly low. In this guide, we'll give you tips and resources to boost your chances of getting through the process. And, if you're not already convinced, we'll tell you more about why this program is so fantastic!

The Ideal Applicant: How to Stand Out

How many applicants do they accept?

It's estimated that 8,000 people apply to the APM program each year. About 40-45 of them get accepted, making for a ~0.55% acceptance rate.

These folks can be graduating seniors from top universities, or young professionals with just a few years of experience. 

What qualities or skills do they look for?

1. Technical and business knowledge

  • Technical: Be familiar with computer science fundamentals, including operating systems, software development, algorithms, databases, and more. Why? PMs work closely with engineers and must be able to speak their language. Additionally, the APM interview process includes a technical interview, where CS knowledge is expected. 
  • Business: Be familiar with key players in the tech world and how their businesses function (and be especially aware of Google). You should also keep up with popular business/tech-related topics. Both will give you a greater knowledge base when making product decisions.

2. A mix of analytical and creative thinking

They seek people who solve problems efficiently and in a unique way. Google values diversity of thinking, but an ability to improvise and an improvement-oriented mindset will help you. 

3. Communication and leadership skills

The APM role requires above average people skills. Google looks folks with experience leading teams, clubs, or projects. They want people who have learned to resolve conflict, persuade and inspire others, and unite a group under a common goal. 

4. An entrepreneurial spirit

Be innovative, change oriented, and driven to succeed. Google is looking for folks who are ready to come up with world changing ideas - having projects you can showcase will greatly boost your application.

5. "Googleyness"

This term is used to describe the personality Google seeks out in potential employees. In addition to the right skill set, they want fun, humble, conscientious, and interesting people on their team. Overall, they're looking for uniqueness and a positive contribution to their culture

How do I stand out?

First impressions count the most here. Tailor your resume to showcase your experiences, skills, and projects relevant to the position. When doing so, highlight aspects of your background that APM recruiters will be drawn to. In addition to the above, touch on any experience with software, data analysis, design, and research, especially if it ties back to product creation or management.

For an example of a resumes Google liked watch this video.


The Application: Easy but Competitive

What do I need to apply?

You only need 2 things to apply. The initial application consists of a resumé submission and a cover letter. Both of these need to be unique, interesting, and representative of the skills/qualities expected out of APMs. See our tips above or check out one of the resources we list later in the guide.

When and where should I apply?

Depending on your region, applications are accepted at different points throughout the year, usually for a two-week - two-month period. Apply in a country where you speak the business language.

  • For current students: Talk to your university’s career office about opportunities. For the 12 week APM internship or the 2 year program (post-graduation), look out for applications the fall beforehand (i.e. fall 2020 applications for summer 2021 program). 
  • For new grads & young professionals: Check out the Google careers website for opportunities in your region. Most will be in Silicon Valley or New York.

Bonus: If you know someone who works for Google and would be able to vouch for you professionally, ask them to refer you. It will boost your chances of making it to the first interview.


Interview Prep: Don't Skip It!

What are some tips to prep for the APM interview?

1. Do your research.

Get comfortable with the interview process, the role, and people's experiences in the program. Various forums, tech blogs, and articles written by APM grads are tremendously helpful You should also familiarize yourself with Google's product offerings and company culture-- this will be essential to answering product design questions and assessing your fit. 

2. Practice, practice, practice.

PM interviews are difficult and take a lot of trial & error before you master them. Pay attention to questions surrounding product design, business strategy, coding/technical skills, and standard behavioral responses.

To get started, look into tech and business news to build your knowledge base. Consider enrolling in PM-specific courses, and thoroughly research interview questions. Finally, of course, practice answering those questions before you make it to the interview.

3. Sharpen your communication skills.

This is one of the top things interviewers look for. Practice answering interview questions in ways that highlight these skills (it's not as easy as you think). Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  • Outline your answer's structure before you dive in. This helps the interviewer understand where you're going and keep you on track.
  • Maintain a professional yet conversational tone to keep the interviewer engaged.
  • Showcase your thought process by thinking out loud or writing things down in a clear, structured manner.

What resources should I be aware of?

There are countless resources to prepare for the associate product manager interview. Here are a few of our favorites...

Books

Podcasts

Other

The Interview Process: What You Should Know

How is it structured?

Google's Associate Product Manager program has 4 rounds:

  1. Resume + Cover Letter application
  2. Phone screen (1)
  3. Onsite interviews, held at Mountain View or New York office (3-5, same day)
  4. Final round with an executive, often Brian Rakowski (APM program lead)

As a general outline, the interviews will include some "warm up" questions and casual conversation, product management, technical, or design questions, and time at the end for your questions!

What interview questions should I prepare to answer?

Product:

These questions focus on product design, strategy, or both. If you've reviewed any PM interview resources, you've probably come across quite a few. Examples include...

  • If you tasked with building the next Google Suite feature, what would it be?
  • Design a vending machine for someone who cannot see.
  • Tell me about your favorite product and how you would improve it.
  • How would you improve the monetization of product X?

👉 See all Google APM questions + answers from last year here.

Strategy:

These questions are reminiscent of consulting cases. They often don't have a right answer, rather, interviewers want to see your thought process. They expect you to break large, abstract concepts into bite sized pieces. In the consulting world, Case in Point is the go-to resource. It might help you too! Here's what these questions might look like...

  • How many iPhones are sold in the U.S. every year?
  • How would you solve homelessness in New York City? 
  • You're the CEO of company Z. What new product would you launch first? Why?
  • Why are manhole covers round?

👉 See all Google APM questions + answers from last year here.

Technical:

These questions require an understanding of computer science and fundamental algorithms. You may be asked to explain technical concepts, write algorithms, or perform other basic CS functions. This could include questions like...

  • Write an algorithm that detects and notifies folks about scheduling conflicts.
  • Explain recursion to a child.
  • What data structures would you use to design a simple load balancer for X website?

👉 See all Google APM questions + answers from last year here.

Don't forget: Behavioral!

You should also be prepared to answer standard behavioral questions regarding your experiences and motivations (hint: always have an answer to "Why Google?").

How do I succeed during the interview?

  1. Be confident. Take pauses, ask clarifying questions, and step into the room knowing that you're as prepared as possible. Everyone has different strategies for keeping a level head. Use them.
  2. Keep track of time. Be aware of the interview structure and check with your interviewer to confirm that you're on track. Leave room for detailed answers, but avoid rambling.
  3. Improve upon your answers. When presented with a case problem, don't expect your first answer to be perfect. Move past what's "normal" or "obvious" and consider extreme circumstances or creative solutions. Acknowledge and explore alternatives to your solution, and why they may be better or worse. Find weaknesses in your solution and outline how they could be improved upon, or what their implications may be.
  4. Showcase the qualities Google is looking for and add your own, unique flair. If you're not sure what I mean, refer to the "Ideal Applicant" section above. 

The Program Itself: Have Fun!

The APM Internship: Key Facts

  • Duration: The internship is 12 weeks long
  • Team Placement: Each intern has a mentor or "host", who manages whichever product team you're assigned to. You do not have much control over which team you end up on, but the managers can look through intern resumes/list preferences, which are factored into final decisions.
  • Expectations: The projects and expectations vary greatly, depending on your team. You should discuss expectations with your host at the beginning of the program, and understand that a poor midpoint review decreases your chances of an offer.
  • Return Offers: At the end of the program, you are asked to solicit recommendations from people you have worked with. If they're strong, and Google is impressed with your performance, they may invite you back full time!

The Content

Just like the 2 year program, the internship is fast-paced, and you're expected to figure out a lot of things on your own. Throughout the program, you work on projects, sit in on meetings, communicate with tons of people, and undertake other PM duties. Your internship experience will vary greatly based on team, but expect to work hard, bond with other interns, (maybe) do a bit of traveling, and have tons of fun in the process!

The Full Time Program: How it Differs

  • Duration: The full APM program is 2 years long
  • Team Placement: You are assigned to a product team for your first year. You are able to list preferences, but the team match is ultimately not your choice.
  • Second Team: As the first year comes to a close, you get a list of teams that need APMs. You spend 1-2 months meeting with however many you'd like, then rank your top 3-4 choices. The teams submit their top choices and a committee conducts the matching process. You are expected to be on a team that's very different from your first year.
  • Return Offers: This process is fairly informal. After the second year, you can choose to stay with that team or switch again, in a much less structured process. Regardless of your decision, you are generally promoted to a Product Manager role.

The Content

You're going to be thrown right into the responsibilities of a product manager. Expect to hit the ground running each day, with plenty of emails to respond to, meetings to attend, and projects to work on. Everyone will want to hear your perspective on products and, after a while, you'll be the one making decisions and leading meetings. They expect you to adjust to a steep learning curve quickly and embrace being a self-starter!

What are the biggest perks?

  1. A high annual salary (around $130K, by many estimates) and full time work.
  2. Mentorship from APMs who are 1 year ahead in the program. Plus access to outside career coaches!
  3. Real, hands-on experience working on Google products— you won’t be sitting on the sidelines.
  4. A tight-knit community within the APM cohort.
  5. A 2 week trip to Google offices around the world, meant to develop understanding of society-technology interaction across cultures.

After the Program: What Happens Next?

The short answer: whatever you'd like!

Paths within Google...

About 20% of APMs stay on board with the company.

Some are promoted to product managers, while others may opt to apply for different roles within the company, like software engineering or product marketing. Once you're a part of Google, they will go to great lengths to make sure you find the right position.

Paths outside of Google...

The Google stamp of approval is incredibly powerful-- having such a big name on your resume opens a lot of doors.

Graduates of the APM program have their pick of top-tier organizations and roles. Some folks go on to other tech companies, like LinkedIn or Dropbox, while others harness their entrepreneurial spirit and start businesses of their own.

Quip, StoryWorth, Optimizely, and Asana are just a few companies that APM graduates have founded.

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