Top Engineering Manager Interview Questions (And Answers)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated July 7, 2022 | Published December 7, 2020
Updated July 7, 2022
Published December 7, 2020
Related: Top 6 Common Interview Questions and Answers
Jenn, an Indeed Career Coach, breaks down the intentions behind employer's questions and shares strategies for crafting strong responses.
A software engineering manager is a tech professional who has worked as a software engineer and advanced to a management role. If you're interviewing for this technical role, there are a variety of interview questions you may encounter, including questions about your management style and technical experience.
In this article, we cover the top engineering manager interview questions with several example answers to help you prepare so you have the best chances of succeeding in your interview.
6 engineering manager interview questions with example answers
Use the following software engineering manager interview questions and example answers to help you get ready for your interview:
1. Give an example of a situation where you anticipated potential challenges and developed preventive solutions.
This question can show the interviewer how you apply your problem-solving and critical thinking skills to overcome challenges and achieve success. Use an example from a past experience that highlights your strategies, how you solved the problem and what the outcome was.
Example: "At the start of my most recent development project, I found potential compatibility issues between the company's OS and the application I was working on. Before I started initiating project tasks, though, I was able to identify ways to bypass the incompatibility features between the OS and the application."
2. What was a difficult decision you had to make in your past role?
Managers in any industry must sometimes make difficult decisions, and the interviewer will likely want to know how you approach the decision-making process. Demonstrate your ability to evaluate information, form conclusions and make choices.
Example: "In my last role, I had to make the choice of whether to keep a gifted engineer on my team or to let them go. They continuously demonstrated negativity on the team, even though their work was exceptional. Ultimately, I kept them on the team by compromising with them to work independently most of the time. This was a difficult, but necessary decision as this particular team member continued to produce amazing outcomes for the company."
3. How do you break down large, complex projects for your team?
Software development projects can be very large in scope, and the interviewer will want to get an idea of how you start projects and direct your team to completion. Describe your process for delegating tasks, scheduling timelines and budgeting costs for development projects.
Example: "I first analyze the project outline, which tells me what the customer wants at completion. Then I assess what resources and tools my team will need to complete the project. After assessing the budget, I break down large tasks into smaller, weekly objectives that I then delegate to the team to start working on. During each phase, I check in with my team to measure our progress, check for ongoing quality and eliminate potential problems."
4. Have you ever coached an engineer into a management role?
The interviewer may want to know if you have ever spent time mentoring a team member to advance into management later. Describe how you approach supporting strong leaders on your team and how you ensure the recognition of quality talent.
Example: "I haven't had the opportunity to officially promote anyone on my past team, however, I coached one team member who was a high performer and produced exceptional work. Throughout my last several months at the company, I continued to mentor and coach them in preparation for filling my role when I moved."
5. How do you plan to integrate team-building into the workplace?
Successful teams often participate in frequent team building or collaboration activities, and the interviewer may want to know if you have experience developing and hosting similar events. Give examples of how you implemented employee improvement plans, scheduled team events or made team collaboration a regular part of your work schedule.
Example: "A strong connection within my team is highly important to me, and I frequently plan fun team-building events and engaging training programs to help my team advance. One team-building event I organized in my last role was a zip line obstacle course where we competed in pairs. Throughout the course, though, we would switch partners, giving everyone the opportunity to get to know each other and learn about each other's strengths."
6. How do you describe the technical aspects of a project to individuals who don't have technical backgrounds?
Engineer managers work with diverse people across many teams and departments, including clients. Highlight your communication skills by describing how you break down complex topics and explain them to non-technical individuals.
Example: "I try to give examples of the design and engineering elements in a software project in terms that are easy to relate to. For instance, if I'm speaking with a client who requests an e-commerce application, I try to describe the development process in terms of a sales funnel or a transaction to help them understand the complex aspects that go into a feature of the application.”
More questions to expect
Here’s a list of more than 70 questions you may be asked in an interview for an engineering manager:
Background and experience
The interviewer may want to know about your qualifications, management experience and how you will fit the role. These examples can give you an idea of what the interviewer will ask you about your background:
Describe your education and technical training.
What is the role of an engineering manager?
Why do you want to become an engineering manager?
What interested you in pursuing a career in software engineering?
How long have you worked in a management role?
What is the difference between leadership and management?
What is the composition of your current (or last) team, and how is your team organized?
What size team are you comfortable managing?
What are the benefits and drawbacks of managing a small team versus a large team?
Have you worked with product managers?
Describe how you plan, develop and execute employee training programs.
How would you describe your management style?
How would the past teams you've managed describe you?
What kinds of projects did you work on in your last job?
How did you organize and hold meetings with your last team?
How do you organize project tasks within your team?
Do you have experience managing an entire technology department?
What is your experience with budget management?
Have you ever managed other managers? How is this different than managing a team?
How hands-on are you with the team? Are you involved in coding, design reviews, architecture, etc.?
How do you organize your teams and your workflow?
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?
What makes you a strong manager?
Conflict and challenges
Questions about your background and experience will often lead to a conversation that gives the hiring manager an idea of how you handle yourself and challenges in the workplace. Here are some examples:
Describe a time when you had to correct a team member's error. How did you approach the problem?
Have you ever had a disagreement with another manager? How did you handle it?
Can you describe a situation where you had to deliver difficult feedback to an employee?
Have you ever received difficult feedback from your employer?
What is your approach to improving performance and coaching your team?
Why and how would you fire an engineer?
How do you resolve conflict within your team?
What do you do if your engineers disagree with your choice of technology?
How do you approach improvement plans for low-performing employees?
Have you ever had to work with a difficult team member? How did you resolve the conflict?
As a manager, it's important to hold one-on-one meetings with your team. How often do you do this?
How would you structure a one-on-one feedback session with a team member?
What's your approach to employee performance reviews? How often do you feel these evaluations are needed?
How do you establish ownership and accountability on your teams?
How do you manage multiple tasks and projects within a team?
Can you describe a time when a project you were working on was not meeting expectations? What did you do?
As an engineering manager, you'll be responsible for hiring new talent for your team. Here are some questions about hiring you may be asked:
Describe your approach to the hiring process.
How do you hire top engineering talent?
Tell me about the diversity of your team. What do you do to ensure you have diversity?
What aspects of software development do you consider when hiring new talent?
How do you structure new employee orientation and onboarding practices?
How do you work with recruiters?
These types of questions can give the interviewer a better understanding of how you work with your colleagues, how you coach members on your team, how you manage large projects and additional in-depth aspects of your work ethic and experience:
How do you collaborate with other managers, UX team members and other colleagues?
How do you assess risk when initiating a new project?
How do you manage multiple priority tasks across your team?
How do you ensure the quality of projects you work on while ensuring you stay within budget?
Do you have experience organizing and managing a Scrum team?
How do you collaborate with your tech leads?
How do you create reports of the projects you're working on?
What's your experience with processes in product development?
Do you feel that your team members should take individual ownership of the code they write? Why?
Can you describe a time when you had to give a presentation about a product to a client?
How do you develop strategies to streamline processes and produce effective results?
Can you describe a time when one of your projects didn't go as planned?
What types of coding languages do you work with?
Describe some of the projects you've completed using Agile.
What other frameworks do you have experience designing in?
How do you coach team members who are new to the design applications you use on your team?
Describe a project you completed using the Selenium framework.
What do you feel are important factors to consider when delegating technical tasks?
Give an example of how you corrected coding errors in an application.
How do you check for accuracy in the projects you work on?
What's your process for organizing your technology resources?
What kinds of tools do you use with your team to complete tasks and deliver results?
What was your involvement in developing features and technical specifications?
What kinds of projects would you implement Java for?
How do you ensure you and your team are up-to-date on IT policies?
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