The Top Engineering Leadership Interview Questions and Answers

Based on our study of 100 Glassdoor interview reports from real engineering manager candidates at Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, we’ve put together this list of 65 interview questions for engineering managers.

One of the first things you should know is that the top 9% most common questions made up almost 40% of all the questions that were reported!

Interviewing for an engineering leadership role can be intimidating. You need to demonstrate both your technical expertise and your leadership abilities. Preparing answers to common engineering leadership interview questions is key to acing the interview.

In this article, we provide the top engineering leadership interview questions you’re likely to face. We also give sample answers to help you craft your own winning responses.

Core Engineering Leadership Interview Questions

Engineering leadership roles require a blend of technical knowledge and people skills. Expect interviewers to ask questions that probe both areas.

Why Do You Want to Become an Engineering Manager?

This question tests your motivation for moving into management. The interviewer wants to know you’re driven by more than just a promotion.

Good responses show your passion for leadership, For example

“I’m excited by the chance to develop our engineering teams. I want to mentor junior engineers and help them reach their potential. I also enjoy the process of organizing complex projects and helping drive product success.”

What Makes a Good Engineering Manager?

With this question, the interviewer evaluates your understanding of the engineering manager role. They want to see you appreciate the need for both technical expertise and leadership skills.

In your answer cover the key attributes of successful engineering managers

  • Technical knowledge to understand engineering challenges and guide technical decisions
  • People skills to motivate and develop team members
  • Organization to coordinate complex projects and deadlines
  • Communication skills to collaborate across departments
  • Strategic thinking to align projects with company goals

Back up your answer with examples of how you demonstrate these qualities.

How Do You Handle Conflict on Your Team?

Conflict is inevitable in any team. This question tests your conflict resolution skills.

Respond by walking through your approach to resolving team disagreements. For example:

“I start by meeting individually with each person to understand their perspective. I then hold a team discussion to find common ground. If needed I mediate one-on-one to arrive at a resolution that works for all parties.”

Provide a real example that highlights your impartial approach and focus on win-win solutions.

Describe Your Technical Background for This Role

The interviewer is evaluating if you have the proper engineering foundation to lead teams and guide technical decisions.

Tailor your answer to the specific skills needed for the role. But be sure to cover:

  • Formal education like engineering degrees and certifications
  • Programming languages and technical skills you possess
  • Specific experience leading engineering initiatives and projects

How Do You Improve Team Performance?

Here the focus is on your ability to manage and motivate a team. The interviewer wants to understand your leadership style.

In your response, explain your philosophy for improving team performance through:

  • Regular one-on-one meetings to provide feedback and coaching
  • Team-building activities to improve collaboration
  • Setting clear goals and tracking progress
  • Providing opportunities for training and development

Share examples of when you successfully applied these techniques.

Leadership Style Questions

Engineering managers need to adjust their approach to fit their team. Expect questions that reveal your leadership style.

How Do You Prioritize Tasks and Projects?

This question tests your organizational skills. The interviewer wants to see you have a systematic method for prioritizing competing demands.

In your answer, explain factors you consider when prioritizing, like:

  • Impact on business goals and OKRs
  • Timing and deadlines
  • Team bandwidth and capabilities
  • Dependencies between projects

Describe your process for making trade-offs when everything is high priority. Share examples of successful prioritization.

Tell Us About a Time You Scaled an Engineering Team or System

Scaling requires engineering leaders to balance team growth with stability. This question reveals how you approach scaling challenges.

Start by providing context on the situation – growing team size, system demand, new product launch, etc. Describe specific steps you took, like:

  • Ramping up hiring with a structured onboarding process
  • Implementing knowledge sharing practices
  • Automating processes to improve efficiency
  • Rearchitecting systems for increased capacity

Emphasize measures you took to enable stable growth. Outline the successful results achieved.

How Do You Approach Team Building?

This asks about your commitment to team cohesion and collaboration. Strong leaders continually cultivate team bonding.

Share examples of techniques you use for team building:

  • Establishing shared goals and values
  • Organizing offsite events and social activities
  • Promoting collaboration through pairing and mentoring
  • Fostering open communication and transparency

Demonstrate that team building is an ongoing endeavor, not just a one-time activity.

Technical Leadership Questions

You’ll need to prove you have the technical acumen to lead engineering teams. Use these questions to highlight your tech skills.

How Do You Translate Technical Concepts for Non-Technical Audiences?

Engineering leaders must communicate concepts across departments with varying technical skill. This question tests that ability.

Describe techniques you’ve used successfully to explain technical details to non-technical stakeholders:

  • Leveraging analogies and metaphors
  • Creating visual aids like diagrams and flowcharts
  • Using non-technical terms to convey core concepts
  • Inviting questions and feedback

Provide examples of simplifying complex technical information for executives or customers.

Walk Us Through Your Experience Developing Technical Specifications

Here the interviewer wants to understand your skills around defining technical requirements and architectures.

Respond by outlining your approach to gathering requirements, detailing specifications, and finalizing technical designs. Highlight relevant expertise like:

  • Functional specs and API definitions
  • System architecture diagrams
  • Data modeling and schema design
  • UML and other technical design diagrams

Provide examples of specifications you authored and the engineering initiatives they supported.

How Would You Mentor an Engineer into a Technical Leadership Role?

This question tests your commitment to developing technical leaders. Great managers grow leaders from within their team.

Describe how you would provide stretch assignments, coaching, and visibility to prepare a promising engineer for technical leadership:

  • Assign them to lead key engineering initiatives and review their work
  • Provide feedback to improve their designs, documentation, and mentoring skills
  • Involve them in technical decision-making and architecture reviews
  • Encourage them to share knowledge through talks and mentoring new hires

Share any specific examples of helping engineers advance their careers.

With preparation and practice, you can master the engineering leadership interview. Use these common questions to guide your preparation. Draft compelling stories that highlight your technical expertise, leadership experience, and commitment to building strong engineering teams. You’ll ace the engineering leadership interview in no time.

How would you design X system?

System design questions like this one were made up over 2015 from interview questions we got from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, on Amazon, and Facebook. Interviewers want to see that you can approach unclear issues in a structured way and walk them through your thought process.

We’ve cut down a longer example answer to the question “How would you design a database for a tiny URL implementation?” and put it below.

“To be clear, I’m going to plan the data schema, database architecture, and database technology for the tiny URL implementation. I don’t think an in-memory or local store file would work for this system.”

Given a network with about 300 million daily active users, let’s say that 60% of those users are frequent original poster who post about 1% URL a day. This means that we need to make about 1.6 billion URLs a day, or 695 URLs every second. This can’t be done with just one server, so let’s use a distributed system with a layer of caching for the most-used links.

Here’s an idea of what the system could look like:

The whole system depends on the central ID generator being up all the time, which could be a problem if it goes down. It could also slow down the system. We could fix this by making a few more ID generators. The API servers could then “round robin” through them to come up with a new number. ”.

Remember that the answer above is the shortened version of a realistic sample answer. Read our guide on how to answer system design interview questions to learn more about how a made-up candidate would design the system above and to see examples of follow-up questions that the interviewer might ask.

As a manager, how do you handle trade-offs?

Handling trade-offs and prioritizing effectively is a crucial part of an engineering managers job. You have to think about this question all the time: short-term gain vs. long-term benefit? Make it simple or make it scalable?

Trade-offs are a constant part of your job at a top tech company. Your interviewer will want to know that you are sure of yourself when it comes to making tough choices in a structured and logical way and keeping your team on track.

Lets see an example answer.

“Of course, weighing trade-offs is a big part of my job. That’s why I have a clear process that I follow, which I’ll explain to you now.”

First I consider the objectives that were trying to achieve and our priorities. By understanding the goals and priorities, I can evaluate the potential trade-offs in light of these objectives.

Ill then aim to increase my understanding the consequences, risks, and benefits associated with different choices. I assess the short-term and long-term implications on the team, project, resources, timeline, and overall business objectives.

If the trade-off choice is big and will affect people outside the team, the next step is to include key stakeholders in the process. These could be team members, project managers, product owners, or other important people.

With help from the other important people involved, I will weigh the pros and cons of each option to figure out the trade-offs. Once a choice has been made, I tell the team and other important people about the trade-offs and why the choice was made. By going over the reasons for the decision and the trade-offs, I help everyone on the team understand and agree with it.

Finally, once a decision is made and implemented, I continuously monitor the outcomes and adjust as necessary. This lets me figure out how well the chosen approach is working, see if there are any unintended consequences, and make changes to lessen the bad effects or take advantage of new opportunities that may come up. “.

Engineering Manager Mock Interview: What is your leadership style? (with eBay EM)


How to prepare for an engineering director interview?

How to Prepare for a Director of Engineering Interview. Research the Company’s Engineering Practices: Understand the company’s technology stack, engineering culture, and any recent projects or innovations. This shows your genuine interest in their work and your ability to integrate quickly into their processes.

What is your greatest weakness as an engineering manager?

Instead, choose a weakness that is related to your role as an engineering manager, but not a deal-breaker. For example, you might say that you struggle with delegating tasks, managing your time, or giving feedback.

How to prepare for an engineering manager role?

For engineering managers, prioritising tasks and delegating them to their team members are necessary skills. Interviewers are looking for an answer that demonstrates your abilities to prioritise, assign tasks to the right individuals and monitor their progress.

How do you answer a leadership interview question?

They may answer this question by presenting the interviewer with physical plans they designed in previous years or by describing the steps necessary to create an instructional program. Candidates can convey leadership values by mentioning specific program options, analysis systems, survey follow-ups, mentorship opportunities, and more. 46.

Why do engineers ask a question in a job interview?

This question allows the interviewer to gauge how you evaluate and select the right tools and technologies for the job, as well as how you communicate with the engineering team and other stakeholders. It also shows the interviewer how well you understand the engineering process and how efficiently you can manage the team.

What are common engineering director interview questions?

In this article, we’ll delve into common engineering director interview questions, along with valuable insights and sample answers to help you demonstrate your competencies, commitment, and vision in the world of engineering management. 1. What is your experience in managing engineering teams, and how do you ensure their success?

What interview questions do engineering managers ask?

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.

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