Do you get similar satisfaction from shipping great products and growing others? If so, you might thrive as an engineering manager.
This career path is great for those who are technically inclined but who also love people, processes, and project management. All of this is exciting... until you consider just how much ground an EM interview has to cover.
As with all technical/managerial roles, an engineer manager's job will vary across companies and teams.
This uncertainty adds a lot of (extra) anxiety to interview prep. As a result, we've spoken to many aspiring engineering managers, current engineering managers, and even directors/VPs of engineering about what the engineering manager interview questions to expect.
We can assure you – practice a few key question categories, and you will be able to ace this interview.
We've compiled this list of the top 30 engineering manager interview questions you'll likely run into.
Of course, a list of questions isn't necessarily helpful. So we've categorized them by type and given guidance on what's expected of you with each engineering manager interview question.
Our handy mini-guide will give you the benchmarks to test your knowledge no matter the company's questions (Technical, System Design, People Management, Recruitment, or Hiring).
But first, orient yourself. We recommend watching this video sit-down with Dave Rensin, former Google Engineering Director and Pendo VP. He talks through his thought process when hiring engineering managers and what makes a standout candidate.
When you're done, review the below list of questions to get a sense of what'll be asked. The breakdown below offers some tips on answering each question category and what's being assessed. Armed with context, example answers, and lots and lots of practice, you've got this!
If you're interviewing at Amazon, check out our guide to the most frequently asked behavioral questions at Amazon.
Note that it's relatively rare for roles like engineering management or technical program management to face coding rounds in an interview, but it can happen!
If you're actively interviewing, check with your recruiter as to what to expect.
👨💻 For more system design interview questions, click here.
As you can see from our top 30 list, engineering manager interviews fall into two broad categories: behavioral and technical. However, there are many sub-categories within these groups you should have a solid grasp on before your EM interview.
First and foremost, engineering managers are managers and team leaders. The most efficient and productive teams are highly collaborative and proactive and function well within the larger corporate culture.
Building and maintaining such groups falls upon the engineering manager position when it comes to the engineering department. There's no denying that building great engineering teams is no small feat. It takes leadership skills.
What the interview assesses
"People skills" or "leadership" are intricate qualities to define, and each company is different, but the dimensions most commonly assessed are:
While engineering managers will undoubtedly be asked behavioral questions about their team management style, they will also be asked how they manage individuals.
These questions will investigate how candidates would manage their day-to-day responsibilities as EM.
Aspiring engineering managers can ask questions such as "What is your attitude around using 1:1s with the team? or "How do you coach and develop an underperforming team member?"
The most successful answers to these questions can demonstrate a thorough knowledge of individual and team dynamics and your competency in navigating them.
At the end of the day, as is the case for every manager, as an engineering manager, you are only as good as the productivity of the team you lead.
It is the responsibility of the EM to manage the performance of their teams. This means ensuring that each member actualizes their full potential and providing proper coaching or feedback to help them get there.
Unfortunately, many managers struggle with managing their team's performance without micro-managing or other alienating managerial behavior.
Hiring managers know this, so they ask many performance management behavioral questions to evaluate your abilities. Performance management questions usually are of one of two categories:
The most successful candidates can demonstrate that they have experience monitoring and improving their team's performance over time.
However, hiring managers also want to see that candidates can proactively recognize the signs of poor performance and effectively handle them as they occur.
Engineering managers are team-builders and typically hiring managers. Therefore, expect behavioral interview questions surrounding the recruitment and hiring process.
Hiring managers often have the final say about who joins the company – a huge responsibility. Recruitment and hiring questions are designed to evaluate how you screen potential candidates, interview applicants, and present potential hires to upper management.
The most successful answers to these questions can demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the distinct steps of the hiring funnel.
No team, engineering or otherwise, is an island. Each is a single part of a grander whole. As an engineering manager, you are the face and representative of that group to the full.
It will be part of your responsibilities to interact with the product, design, and engineering teams involved in your team's day-to-day execution. This kind of communication is often referred to as cross-functional collaboration.
Because this kind of business communication can be much more complex and nuanced, EM candidates will be asked behavioral questions focused on cross-functional collaboration. Generally, you'll be assessed on:
As an engineering manager, you'll be expected to plan and deliver complex engineering projects alongside engineers, product stakeholders, and other managers.
The EM interview questions that assess these skills are project retrospectives or technical deep-dives. These are typically conversational interview questions where candidates have a deep discussion surrounding a technical project they have directly been involved with during their previous experience.
These questions can vary widely depending on the company. For instance:
While engineering management is obviously a manager role, it is still fundamentally a technical role. However, being an EM typically means your technical responsibilities will be a bigger picture than they were as a software engineer, for example.
Ultimately, your primary engineering focus will be on system design rather than coding.
For the most successful strategic decision-making, you will need to know how distributed systems operate - how each individual component processes information, communicates, and scales.
Without such an understanding of the high-level view of the system design of your team's technical project, your ability to make decisions will be reactive at best. You should expect many system design questions like the ones we included in our list during the technical rounds of your EM interviews.
We know that these questions can be very intimidating for many EM candidates. So we developed an interview prep course focused entirely on System Design. Check it out here.
Nothing beats actual practice when it comes to engineering management interview prep. Tech companies these days have an abundance of potential engineering talent to choose from. Luckily, there are dozens of resources on Exponent to help you practice for your upcoming engineering manager interviews:
💬 Get prepared with example EM interview questions
📖 Read through our Engineering Management interview guides
👯♂️ Practice your behavioral and system design skills with our interview practice tool.
👨🎓 Take our complete Engineering Management interview course.
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