This is the part of the interview where you want to demonstrate your creative and structured ability.
The questions you'll be asked are usually open-ended and feel more like a conversation. To illustrate your answers, you'll use a whiteboard (or an online equivalent).
We recommend using Whimsical for your whiteboarding.
Interviewers want to see how you approach ambiguous problems and guide them through your thought process.
Know what the app is for. TikTok's primary goal should be to give users a place to share and discover short videos.
Define the architecture. Design a scalable and reliable architecture to support the purpose of the app. Consider scalability, performance, and cost.
Build the backend services. Design and build the backend services that will power the application, render videos, store new uploads, and make recommendations for content.
Question 2: Tell me about yourself.
Make your response specific to the company you're interviewing with. Include your work history and explain why you're interested in the type of work you'd be doing in the position you're interviewing for.
Include any volunteer work you've done, conferences you've attended, or other activities that demonstrate your desire to be involved in the space and stay up to date on developments.
For example, if you were to interview for an engineering management position at a mental health startup, you would say:
"Hello, I'm a former Google engineering manager who worked on Google Search and Android Wear.
I've spent the last few years as the CTO of a startup, a company dedicated to assisting people in breaking into tech career fields such as Product Management and Software Engineering.
I've grown the company to partner with top-tier MBA schools such as Stanford and Yale.
One aspect of managing teams that I enjoy is when an EM takes on a "therapist-like" role. Whether it's volunteering with Suicide Hotline or pursuing my broad interests in the field of mental health by organizing Hack Mental Health, I've realized that I want to use my engineering skills to make an actual difference in this space, which is what brought me here today."
Mention your direct experience. Have you worked in this role before or in a similar capacity?
Align with their mission. Highlight your skills and passions that align with the company's broader vision.
Question 3: How do you manage team performance?
Engineering managers lead teams, so interviewers want to know if you can handle team performance's inevitable ups and downs when solving complex problems.
"Let me tell you about a time when a website I managed experienced unexpectedly slow performance, which went unnoticed until a user reported the problem to management.
As the engineering manager, I accepted full responsibility for the situation and worked with my engineering team to quickly resolve it. This error taught me the importance of focusing on and monitoring non-functional requirements in addition to new feature development/adoption, which was where I spent most of my time.
After deploying the fix on the weekend, I ensured that such an error didn't happen again by installing a good application monitoring tool and creating a company-wide dashboard with alerts when website behavior exceeded thresholds.
I tried to learn the tool myself to further analyze previous issues and identify optimization areas for engineering.
In a lunch and learn session, I also shared my learnings with the other EMs in my org so that they could benefit as well."
Demonstrate ownership. Show your willingness to own a mistake and learn from it in the future.
Describe the solution. Explain how your solution fixed the problem and prevented it from happening again.
Share your learnings. Institutional knowledge among engineers is a common problem. Share your findings with others to level up your entire team.
More engineering manager interview questions for 2023
System design interviews are a key part of the EM interview process and require a different type of preparation than the people management interviews.
These interviews often are in the format of "Design X." You'll be asked to discuss a technical implementation for a software product and consider trade-offs in building it.
For each system you design in the interview, consider how it affects the following aspects:
Scalability: a system is scalable if designed to handle the additional load and operate efficiently.
Reliability: a system is reliable if it can perform the function as expected, it can tolerate user mistakes, is good enough for the required use case, and it also prevents unauthorized access or abuse.
Availability: a system is available if it can perform its functionality (uptime/total time). Note reliability and availability are related but not the same. Reliability implies availability, but availability does not imply reliability.
Efficiency: a system is efficient if it can perform its functionality quickly. Latency, response time, and bandwidth are all relevant metrics to measuring system efficiency.
Maintainability: a system is maintainable if it easy to make operate smoothly, simple for new engineers to understand, and easy to modify for unanticipated use cases.
If you're designing Instagram, your interviewer may ask how your design might hold up when Instagram is scaled to 1 billion users.
Lastly, practice getting comfortable answering questions and smoothing out your responses.
As you practice, remember to actively listen. Effective engineering managers know how to actively listen to their team — it's no different in the interview process.
After you hear an interview question, take the time to truly listen to what the interviewer is asking. This means asking follow-up questions and repeating what you hear back to ensure you and your interviewer are on the same page.
After each practice session, reflect on what you think you did well and where you could improve. As you practice, list out common weaknesses, so you can notice patterns. As you practice more, you'll know which areas to focus your preparation on.
Learn everything you need to ace your engineering interviews.
Exponent is the fastest-growing tech interview prep platform. Get free interview guides, insider tips, and courses.