Marissa Mayer, Google’s “De Niro,” Reveals What She Asks Job Candidates

Marissa Mayer, perhaps the most famous Googler after Larry and Sergey, took the stage for the fourth time today at LeWeb to talk about well, Google. Starting off the conversation, Crunchfund Partner MG Siegler asked Mayer, whose own title went from Google’s Vice President of Search Products to Vice President of Product Management within the past year, whether titles mattered very much at Google.

Siegler wondered if Mayer was like Robert De Niro’s “Ace” Rothstein character in Casino, someone who is always switching roles technically but still in charge behind the scenes.

Mayer did not comment specifically on the De Niro comparison, but responded with,”I don’t think the titles do matter so much.” She then confirmed that she now is now heading “Local” at Google, which encompasses deals and maps.

Later in the talk, Mayer was asked about some of the functions of her new role by an audience member, “So what makes a great Product Manager?” Mayer responded that a great Product Manager basically hires great people which means filtering out the less than great.

Mayer said that she asks potential job candidates (who are mostly computer scientists who have passed technical interview requirements ) personal questions to filter for qualities like enthusiasm, creativity and vision. Questions that reveal what delights a potential candidate like, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in last six months?” show what a candidate is exposed to and influenced by, Mayer explained.

Responses to questions like, “What do you own that you love?” reveal what a candidate gets emotional/excited about — something that will be crucial when a team is working on product direction. You need to understand emotion when designing products that will resonate with users.

Other than pre-emptive hiring practices, knowing your limitations and listening to your team (and user concerns) are key to Product Management success according to Mayer, “You don’t know all the answers, but have to work with people who do.”

Image via: @francois_tancre