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Dropbox Engineering Manager (EM) Interview Guide

Learn how to prepare for the Dropbox Engineering Manager interview and get a job at Dropbox with this in-depth guide.

Dropbox believes that in order to build for the future of work, it needs to embody the future of work. Now a virtual-first employer, the company is famous for its empowering and supportive approach to management. Check out Dropbox's Life Inside Dropbox to get a sense of the company's incredible culture.

Already convinced and ready to join up? Read on to learn how to ace the Dropbox engineering managment (EM) interview.

Interview Process

Interview Stages

A typical Dropbox EM loop includes three interviews: phone screenings with a recruiter and the hiring manager, and an on-site.

Recruiter Screen

As with virtually all screening interviews, you'll run through your resume and get a few behavioral questions: why you want to work at Dropbox, and why engineering management.

No need to prepare much for this one! The recruiter just wants to make sure you are who you say you are. Review your resume to remind yourself of the details, and be sure to research a bit more about Dropbox, like their company mission.

Hiring Manager Screen

Next, the hiring manager will give you a call. You'll start with behavioral questions, but the hiring manager will probe deeper into your experience and technical abilities. To prepare, practice speaking in depth about big projects you worked on, and try to anticipate follow-up questions. What would you ask if you were the hiring manager? This is also a great opporuntity to ask a few questions about organizational structure, culture, and the role itself.

Tip: Ask your recruiter for the hiring manager's name prior to your call. Look him or her up on LinkedIn to get a better sense of who they are. Bonus points if you two share something in common. Connecting personally will make you more memorable.


The on-site at Dropbox typically contains 4 rounds: people, execution, a manager deep-dive, and a technical deep-dive.

The people round is quite broad. You'll be asked questions about how you recruit, retain, and develop top talent, how you deal with underperformers, and how you create collaborative teams.

The execution round assesses how you prioritize, assign work, and deliver complex projects.

The manager and technical deep-dives assess your people management and raw technical skills through an in-depth conversation around complex project you've worked on. You'll be asked about both people and technical decisions and tradeoffs as well as cross-functional communication.

Read on to get a more specific idea about what to expect during each round, including sample questions recently asked during real Dropbox EM interviews.

Sample Interview Questions

Dropbox EM candidates are assessed on people management skills (including recruitment, people, and teams) as well as execution and technical skills. Overlap between groups is heavy, so we recommend you think about people management and technical considerations whenever you review past projects. Both contexts are relevant.

People: Recruiting

Dropbox is looking for EMs who can create high-performing teams. This starts with recruiting high-performing individuals, and empowering them with the tools they need to succeed in their own aspirations. Recruiting is a large part of your job as an EM, so expect a good number of questions on your recruitment philosophy.

You'll be asked questions like:

  • How would you build up a pipeline of high-performing candidates?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work hard to recruit someone to you team. What did you have to do? How did it work out?
  • What are you looking for when you screen resumes?

While there are no right or wrong answers, Dropbox is looking for you to display an eye for talent and communication skills that allow you to get a sense of who candidates are and what they bring to the table. If it's a good fit, you should be able to "sell" a candidate on joining your team.

People: Career Growth

Great leaders are highly focused on helping their team members grow in their careers. Professional growth drives company growth. Can you win the trust of your team? Are you able to help them develop and execute growth plans in accordance with their goals?

People management rounds will also include questions around performance management. You'll want to practice summarizing your management philosophy including how you structure 1:1s, how you deal with underperformers and how you manage super stars.

You'll be asked questions like:

  • How do you approach your 1:1s with your reports? How do you structure them? What are your objectives and what do you think are your reports’ expectations?
  • Tell me about a case where you’ve had a highly effective engineer want to switch tracks but wasn't necessarily a great fit. How did you handle the situation?
  • How do you deal with poor performers? How do you identify them and how do you rectify the situation? What if they spike in certain areas but fall short in others?

Questions like these can be tough as people management situations are nuanced. Ultimately, your interviewers want to see evidence that you can navigate tricky management responsibilities with grace. We recommend creating your personal story bank so that you come prepared with clear examples you can speak from.

People: Teams and Execution

We interviewed a Dropbox engineering manager who told us "people management is a means to execution management. The real goal is getting the most out of your team."

At Dropbox, team and execution managent are tightly linked. Interviewers are looking for candidates who understand that engineers who feel supported and challenged will be the most productive.

You'll be asked questions like:

  • Tell me about your ideal team composition in terms of mix of skills and experience levels.
  • How do you prioritize requests?
  • Tell me about your best-performing and worst-performing teams, and why.

Surface-level answers are not going to cut it. Be thoughtful and nuanced in your responses. Our Dropbox EM advises "Don't have ready answers to every problem. People are incredible complex! You have to dig into things and really identify the details."

When prepping for this round, spend some extra time working on your story bank. You've probably got succinct stories that convey your contributions. Take a step back and think about all the stakeholders of your project and what their motivations were. Focus in on your team, and how you organized and executed through them to deliver the project. Think through the people issues - confusion, conflict, etc. Make sure you can speak to the more difficult times. And don't forget to summarize what you learned.

Deep-Dives: Management and Technical

You'll go through both management deep-dive and technical deep-dives toward the end of the loop. Deep-dives (sometimes known as project retrospectives) focus on one particular project. The purpose is to get to know you and your capabilities at a very granular level.

The structure will be the same for both deep-dives. Your interviews are exploring your experience. At a high level, these characteristics are assessed:

  • Technical understanding of projects you own (technical)
  • Technical decision-making (technical and management)
  • Working relationships with engineers (management)
  • Clarity of communication (technical and management)

As you can see, there's a lot of overlap. As an EM, you'll spend less time coding but it's critical you have a deep understanding of the technology you own. Dependencies and business objectives are also deeply important.

Here are some questions you might see:

  • Describe the architecture of the current system. What are its dependencies?
  • Describe a difficult decision you made. How did you work with your engineering team to arrive at a solution? What alternatives were explored? What were the pros/cons of each?
  • What makes this project complex?
  • Which external groups did you partner with? How did you communicate with them to ensure you delivered the best project possible?

To prep for these rounds, we recommend reviewing tech fundamentals relevant to your domain -- if needed -- and browsing through our system design course. Once you feel ready to talk through details, return to your story bank and choose a technically complex project. Add technical detail. Include trade-offs and edge cases, and write down logically sound argments for any tech decisions you made. Then, think through the management aspects. How did you work with your group to arrive at solutions? What outside stakeholders did you collaborate with? Did you have to persuade others to change direction? If so, how did it go?

Finally, take this summary and translate details into the STAR Framework. This will help you communicate succinctly during the interview.

Learn everything you need to ace your Engineering Manager interviews.

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