How to Become an Airbnb Product Manager

airbnb product manager

Not even two decades ago, travelers had the following option when it came to lodging: hotels, motels, or staying with friends or family. Now, however, there’s another choice: Airbnb. Through this online marketplace, visitors can book accommodations in private residences, rental spaces, vacation homes, and other locations. Millions of Airbnb hosts around the world have opened their properties to travelers and helped them discover new places and experiences. 

Want to become a Product Manager for this unique company? This guide can help! We’ll be covering everything you need to win the Airbnb interview:

Company Overview

Airbnb is an online platform that connects travelers with hosts offering accommodations in residences or other private properties (vacation homes, cabins, condos, lofts, etc). Users can search for, select, and book a stay through the Airbnb website or mobile app. Compared to hotel rooms, Airbnbs are cheaper and can provide a more “homey,” personal, and authentic vacation experience. 

Airbnb: a Brief Company History

Back in 2007, roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were struggling to make rent for their San Francisco apartment. They’d met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and got to talking about an upcoming design conference happening in the city. Gebbia came up with the idea of turning their loft into an impromptu bed and breakfast for conference attendees who were having trouble finding hotel rooms.  So they bought a few air mattresses and launched a basic website: airbedandbreakfast.com. Their first guests were three design conference participants who each spent $80 to spend the night on Gebbia and Chesky’s floor. 

Thinking they might have a big idea on their hands, the two founders got to work building out the site. However, they didn’t see real traction until the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when they received 80 bookings. This success caught the attention of Paul Graham of Y Combinator, and the company took part in the famous accelerator in early 2009. They also shortened their name to Airbnb and started expanding into full apartments, homes, etc. rather than just rooms. By 2011, they’d reached 1 million nights booked, expanded internationally, and launched a mobile version of their booking platform. 

Seeing Success Means Overcoming Challenges

However, the following year saw some major hurdles for the company. Hosts began complaining that guests had damaged their homes and thrown wild parties, leading the company to launch their $1M Host Guarantee insurance coverage policy. In addition, hosts started bumping up against local rental regulations; in some cases, hosts were evicted or fined. And cities like New York and San Francisco started to protest the effects of short-term Airbnb rentals on the housing market, even threatening to ban the company from operating within city limits. 

Despite these challenges, Airbnb continued to grow. In 2015, the Rio Olympic Games committee announced that Airbnb would be their official alternative accommodations provider.  A year later, the company launched their Experiences product, offering paid activities run by local hosts. In 2017, they announced Aibiyang, their Chinese brand, and acquired vacation rental site Luxury Retreats. While the COVID-19 pandemic hit the company and its hosts hard, Airbnb still managed to go public (NASDAQ: ABNB) in December of 2020.

Today, Airbnb headquarters are located in San Francisco, with satellite offices in New York, Dublin, and Singapore. It’s headed by co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky and employs more than 5,500 people. To date, over a billion guests have stayed in Airbnb rentals, and there are more than 4 million hosts worldwide. Over 100,000 cities have active Airbnb listings, and hosts have earned in excess of $110B since the company’s inception. 

Product Culture at Airbnb

Airbnb’s flagship product is their online accommodation booking platform, which matches travelers with hosts and lets them book a stay directly through the site or app. Hosts can create their own profiles on the platform and include detailed information about their rental, their neighborhood, and any rules and/or policies. In addition, users can search and book Airbnb Experiences (both online and in-person) through the main site. 

The company also offers the Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe versions of their booking product. Airbnb verifies their Airbnb Plus homes for quality: they are rented by experienced Hosts with exceptionally positive reviews. As its name implies, Airbnb Luxe rentals are very high-end and include amenities and personal services. 

Another product is HotelTonight, which Airbnb acquired in 2019. The site allows travelers to book last-minute hotel rooms at reasonable rates. Airbnb for Work is specifically geared toward business travelers and those who manage bookings for their employer. 

Overall Company Culture

Airbnb centers their corporate culture around the idea of belonging. Their mission is to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere,” and to that end, they’ve established four core values (with the last being a callback to one of their earliest marketing campaigns):

  1. Champion the Mission: We’re united with our community to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. 
  2. Be a Host: We’re caring, open, and encouraging to everyone we work with.
  3. Embrace the Adventure: We’re driven by curiosity, optimism, and the belief that every person can grow. 
  4. Be a Cereal Entrepreneur: We’re determined and creative in transforming our bold ambitions into reality.

As an employer, Airbnb is committed to building a positive work environment that allows for travel, time off, and education. Employee perks include paid volunteer time, opportunities for training and professional development, generous parental leave, and credits for travel and experiences. 

Product Team Culture at Airbnb

 At Airbnb, Product Managers must keep the company mission of belonging front-and-center when making product-related decisions. They need to be ready to roll up their sleeves and take a hands-on approach to collaboration and strategy. PMs should also be comfortable challenging assumptions and iterating on both guest and host experiences with the product.

What Does a Typical Airbnb Product Manager Job Posting Look Like?

The typical Airbnb product management job posting starts with a brief introductory paragraph on Airbnb and how it’s a mission-driven company. Next is one or more “About” sections, which describe the different parts of the role. For example, the Product Manager – Relevance and Personalization position includes “About Homes,” “About Relevance,” and “About the Role” sections.

After the “About” sections comes a “Responsibilities” section, which is essentially a list of job duties and includes a list of qualifications. Generally, product management roles at Airbnb require at least five years of Product Manager experience, with seven-plus years required for some positions. Airbnb Product Managers are also expected to possess the following:

  • A technical background
  • Experience building custom solutions
  • Strong analytical ability and experience working with data at scale
  • Excellent prioritization skills and the ability to work in an ambiguous environment
  • Strong communication and presentation skills
  • A willingness to lead teams toward creative solutions
  • Excellent collaboration skills, especially across team lines
  • A driven and ambitious attitude
  • Familiarity with A/B testing and experimentation
  • A bachelor’s degree 

Some of Airbnb’s Product Manager job postings also include a “preferred qualifications” section, which may include experience with specific tools. 

 

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How Do You Get an Interview at Airbnb?

Get started by browsing Airbnb’s current job openings to find the position(s) that best match your qualifications, skills, expertise, experience, and career goals. Once you’ve found one (or a more) that seems promising, now you need to create a standout application — starting with a strong resume. 

Write a Fantastic Product Manager Resume

The Airbnb Hiring Manager will most likely look at your resume first. Be sure to highlight your relevant job experience and your Product Manager skill set, along with any qualifications involving the specific responsibilities and tasks listed in the job opening. If you can demonstrate previous quantitative results around those parts of the role, now is the time to do so.

Before writing your resume, check out our free webinar on resume writing. We’ll walk you through the process of building a resume that you can use for multiple Product Manager positions. 

Craft Your Pitch and Position Yourself as a Strong Product Hire

Your next step is to demonstrate your product management skills by writing a pitch that outlines the Product Manager position’s key responsibilities. Here’s how.

Apply!

It’s time to submit your application. But don’t stop there — if you know any employees at Airbnb, see if they’d be willing to give you a referral. According to Glassdoor, 17% of interviewees got their foot in the door through an employee referral. Also, our step-by-step recruiter networking methodology can help you secure that critical first interview.

What Is the Airbnb Product Manager Interview Process and Timeline?

The hiring process at Airbnb generally follows these steps:

  1. Introductory call with the Hiring Manager 
  2. Technical and behavioral round(s) with team members and stakeholders
  3. The offer

The process typically takes between two and four weeks from end-to-end. According to Glassdoor, 47% of interviewees had a positive experience. Candidates rated the average difficulty as 3.1 out of 5.

How to Win the Introductory Call With the Hiring Manager

During this first round, your goal is to clearly show that you’re qualified enough to move on to the next stage. According to Glassdoor, you should be ready to answer the following questions during this stage:

  • Why Airbnb?
  • Have you ever been an Airbnb host?
  • Do you consider yourself a good host (in your life)?
  • What have been your biggest achievements in your current role?
  • Tell me about yourself
  • Explain a time in your role when you had to overcome a challenging situation or project.
  • Describe your day-to-day activities as a product manager in layman’s terms. 

A few Glassdoor responses mentioned multiple first-round interviews, including a meeting with a peer PM. Be prepared to go through a few conversations before progressing to the technical and behavioral stage. 

How to Win the Technical and Behavioral Round(s) With Team Members and Stakeholders

This round involves a day of interviews with multiple members of the product team. Prior to the actual interview portion, you’ll be asked to prepare a presentation on a specific topic. During the interview(s), you’ll be asked questions around your presentation, plus the following:

After this round, the hiring decision is in the hands of the Airbnb team. Best of luck!

How Did COVID-19 Change Hiring at Airbnb?

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced travelers to cancel their plans, Airbnb saw their revenues begin to plummet. The crisis hit the business hard, forcing the company to raise $1B in debt to offset these losses. In addition, the company was forced to pivot their product strategy and overall operations. Experiences became “Online Experiences,” and Airbnb began offering longer-term rentals for essential workers and quarantine accommodations for medical professionals. 

However, the company did continue to hire, and currently has more than 250 open positions, including several on the product team. Like most companies, Airbnb switched to fully virtual interviews during the pandemic, and many applicants today would likely interview remotely. As far as continued remote work goes, Airbnb recently announced that all employees could continue to work from home until September of 2022. When employees do return, they’ll be able to work remotely a few days a week.

Win the Airbnb Product Manager Interview

Want to learn more about winning the Airbnb Product Manager interview or about getting hired at a well-known company? Our career coaches are now offering free sessions: schedule yours today. We’d be glad to answer any of your questions.

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