Management a focus on people skills

Engineering Management Interview Questions

A former employee recently asked, “What are questions you ask software engineering management candidates?”

These questions really focus on the people-skills for managers. If you’re looking for technical questions, I highly recommend techInterview or stumbling around on Stack Overflow.

Lead Off Questions:

These are vanilla, boring questions which I use to begin to assess a candidate. I usually base follow-up questions on the answers to these questions. One word or short answers to any of these questions, in my opinion, are significant red flags.

  • How do you lead?
  • How do you communicate information to your team?
  • How many people have you Hired/Fire/Laid Off/Promoted? How do you go about it?
  • Have you had a position with budgeting responsibilities? What was the size of your operating budget?

Follow-up Advanced:

Here we start to get into some meat. We’re looking for meaty answers here:

  • Compare your role (as an engineering manager) to that of the individual contributor.
  • Compare your role (as an engineering manager) to that of your manager (Sr. Manager, Director, VP of Engineering)
  • Other than your direct reports, who in your organization do you depend upon most to get your job done?
  • Describe your best hire. Why were they your best hire?
  • Describe your worst hire. How did you manage him/her?
  • How do you prepare for your staff meeting?
  • Do you have a to do list? How do you manage it?

Follow-up Even More Advanced:

The serious meat. Tough questions which reveal much about the management style of individuals:

  • Have you developed a product without a marketing requirements document? If so, how?
  • Have you developed a consumer product without a user interface specification? If so, how?
  • How have you improved as a manger over the years?
  • Describe a situation where you had to deliver really bad news to a team/person. How do you approach the team/people?
  • Describe a situation where you were suggesting a course of action which you did not necessarily support.
  • What event made you least proud to be a leader?
  • Describe a situation where you were given conflicting priorities. How did you resolve that situation?
  • What was your most recent big mistake? Why did it occur and how do you repair the situation?

3 Responses

  1. Hey, this and your Las Vegas posts are actually useful when compared to the other ones. How about you start up another category called “Useful” that will merely cross-reference useful posts. I like to read through the mindless babble every once in a while but it’s nice to be able to go back to the “meat” (as you put it) from time to time (T ALL YOU REGULAR JERKCITY JERKERS NO THAT IS NOT A HOMOSECKS REFERENCE K PLZ THX).

  2. rands 22 years ago

    I used to ask technical questions, but don’t any more because I’M AN ELITE MANAGEMENT DORK.

    Quick thought:

    People are nervous when they are interviewing and nervous people just don’t think that logically. I once had a former employee (who was a confirmed PROGRAMMING ROCK STAR) interview at a new company and he just blew chunks on the technical aspects. It was not that he didn’t know his stuff, he just did perform well under a spotlight. This makes me suspect of all technical interviews results.

  3. “do you ever get someone who tries to hide behind buzzwords and then at the end you get to tell them you “DON’T HIRE LYING SACKS OF SHIT”? Comedy gold.”

    Yay some poof read and stole a punchline.

    Pure comedy gold…