I recently completed a loop of interviews for a software engineering manager position. Below is a collection of 50+ mostly behavioral questions I was asked by panels at a variety of companies in the SF Bay Area. No one asked all these. I didn’t write notes in the interviews so these are taken from memory.
I was also asked a variety of technical questions in my field e.g. most often system design but also sometimes algorithms, reviewing code or documentation and commenting on it, and even some whiteboard coding. This varied by the company as to how important it was for an engineering manager to be technical and close to the code, or more a people manager.
Hopefully, if you are interviewing these questions will help you prepare, or if you are hiring give you ideas as to what you might ask an engineering management candidate yourself.
- What is the role of an engineering manager?
- What was your purpose in moving into management?
- What are you looking for in your next role?
- Why are you leaving your current role?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What is the difference between leadership and management?
- What is the largest team you have ever managed?
- What size team are u looking to manage?
- How big a team are you comfortable to manage?
- What are the differences and tradeoffs between managing a small team and a large team?
- What is the composition of your current (or last) team, and how is your team organized?
- Have you managed other managers?
- How is managing other managers different from managing individual contributors?
- How would your current (or last) team describe you?
- How hands-on are you with the team? Are you involved in coding, design reviews, architecture, etc.?
- Do you have experience managing remote teams or individuals? What is different about that?
- What kinds of meetings do you hold to run your team?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Feedback and Performance Management
- What was some difficult feedback you had to give recently? and why was it hard to deliver?
- What was some difficult feedback that you received? and why was it hard to receive?
- How you do coaching and career development?
- Tell me about a few people on your team and the career development plans you created with them.
- How do you coach engineers on your team that are smarter and better engineers than you?
- Have you ever promoted anyone?
- How have you managed low performers?
- Tell me about a time you turned around a low performer.
- How do you deal with difficult team members?
- Have you ever had to fire someone?
- How often do you do 1 on 1s?
- What is the structure of your 1 on 1s?
- What do you look for when hiring?
- Tell me about the diversity of your team.
- What do you do ensure you have diversity?
- How do you recruit and hire in SF Bay Area (because it is so hard and competitive)?
- How much time do you spend hiring and sourcing candidates? What do you do?
- How do you work with your recruiters?
Working with Tech Leads and Technology
- What is the role of a tech lead?
- What is the relationship between the engineering manager and tech lead?
- What if all your team is new and junior and you don’t have a tech lead? What if no one on your team wants to be a tech lead, or do the things tech leads do?
- How do you grow and develop tech leads?
- Have you ever disagreed with one of your tech leads?
- What do you do, or say, if one of your engineers is really pushing hard for a new sexy technology (assume: you don’t agree it is the right choice)?
- How do you ensure (code) quality and keep a lid on tech debt?
- How do you establish ownership in your teams?
Prioritization and Execution
- How do you manage multiple requests to your team? How do you deal with competing priorities?
- Did you ever disagree with your product manager about the priority of tasks or if something needed to be done at all?
- How do you see the tradeoffs between scope, quality, and schedule?
- How do you work with product managers, UX team, etc.?
- Tell me about a project you are most proud of.
- Tell me about a time you exceeded expectations and went above and beyond.
- Tell me a time when a project you were responsible for was late or not meeting expectations. What did you do?
- Tell me a mistake you made that hurt the business.
- What was your biggest failure?
- What are you not good at?
- Explain to me the roles and responsibilities in a Scrum team. (This company was very into Agile and Scrum.)
- Tell me a time you had a conflict with another manager and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about a time you did not see eye to eye with your manager and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about a time there was a conflict between members of your team and how you resolved it.
If you have any other recommended questions, please share in the comments.
For me, the behavioral questions were the most challenging. I found this book Kindle ebook helpful, “How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions“