Cracking the Engineering Manager interview — Part 1 | by Srivatsan Sridharan | Srivatsan Sridharan | Medium

Cracking the Engineering Manager interview — Part 1

hardheaded steps to prepare for and ace your adjacent technology coach interviewImage credits: Nick Youngson While coding interviews have become more or less exchangeable across the industry, there is calm a big variability when it comes to hiring for Engineering Manager roles. What questions get asked in an EM interview, is a concern on many peoples ’ minds. It surely was on my mind during my recent job search a few months ago. I ended up interviewing for EM roles at respective top technical school companies and learned a bunch through the process. I ’ ve besides built EM interview loops in the past and have been a rent coach for EMs. What I ’ ve find is that while the interview loops may vary from company to company, there are a determined of broad topics that are common and reproducible. In this post, I ’ ll cover those park topics and give you an overview of what to expect. In subsequent posts, I ’ ll cover each topic in depth and how best to prepare thus that you can ace your interview !

( note that these posts only cover interviews for line-manager roles — EM roles that require you to manage a team of Individual Contributors. The loop may become more specialized for senior coach and director charge roles )

Fundamentals of an EM interview

Engineering Managers in most technical school companies are expected to play this intersectional role between People, Tech, and Product/Business. They are entrepreneurs for their own little startups ( i teams ) and are held accountable for its achiever. The veridical motion every company wants to answer is — “ Can this person drive sustainable, long-run success for this sphere of the clientele ? ” So they model the interview action to appropriate signals that can give them fair confidence about the campaigner ’ s ability to drive that sustainable, long-run success. obviously, it is impossible to flatly determine that, so companies resort to reasonable proxies. The proxies that I ’ ve seen end up falling into these categories :Venn diagram of Engineering Leadership — image credits: Sam Kolb Let ’ s search at each of these in detail and see how they manifest in diverse interview formats across different companies : Engineering Management is basically a people-leadership role. Your job is to lead ( and be accountable for ) a group a people to deliver results. To lead people to deliver results, you ’ vitamin d need to be able to hire and retain the best endowment, develop and improve your team ’ randomness skills, and in cosmopolitan be an effective and empathic communicator. Companies would much have 1 or 2 rounds diving deep into your people management feel covering topics like : managing high performers, managing low performers, hiring philosophy, building a culture of diversity and inclusion, career development, resolving conflict, building trust etc. These topics/signals are typically covered in the pursuit interview formats :

  • A situational interview — the interviewer goes through a series of questions that follow the template of “Tell me about a time when you had to do X”. What the interviewer tries to do here is to eke out honest, relevant experiences from the candidate so that they can use this information as a proxy to determine the candidate’s probability of success in the new role. As a candidate your job is to effectively convey those experiences.
  • A conversation — Many companies don’t have a structure for this round. While they may have rubrics like “how differently do they support career development of junior vs senior engineers”, the interview itself proceeds like a conversation where you get “stage time” to share your experiences.
  • A role-play interview — you are presented with a real-world situation and are expected to address that situation in a simulated role-play scenario. This could be a simulated 1:1 with an engineer where you have to coach them through a problem they have. This could be a simulated team meeting where you have to build consensus with the team or mediate conflict. What the interviewer(s) look for in this round is your practical experience dealing with realistic people challenges that may arise in a day to day setting.

As an EM, you are efficaciously the CEO of your team. You are accountable for delivering impact to your shareholders. In this case, your shareholders are your party boss ( and up the org-chain ), your customers, your cross-functional partners etc. Companies try to gauge your track record of effective partnership through the lens of prioritization, building alignment, mediating and negotiating conflict, setting a vision etc. You are expected to have strong examples from your former have vitamin a well as any patterns or guiding philosophies you follow. This interview is typically run by person with whom you ’ d likely partner with in your new role — eg. your PM spouse, your Data Science spouse, a peer Engineering Manager etc.

The consultation format typically follows a situational interview format or a conversational format, like to the ones we talked about in the People Leadership Experience polish. phonograph needle to say, an Engineering Management is role is all about driving results. Companies are bang-up to learn about your track record of delivering results a well as the serve you took to get there. There is a good total of concenter on the serve because companies want to determine how effective your border on and summons was and whether those can be adapted to deliver results in your following role. Topics such as how you manage projects, how you define goals, how you coordinate high priority issues, how you allocate people to projects, how you’ve turned around a failing project etc typically get covered in this class. The general principle of ovolo in these interviews is to start from the bigger picture and allow the interviewer to dive deep into details. alike to the above two categories, the format typically follows a situational interview or a conversational interview format .

Motivation & Values

This consultation is about you — your career travel, your motivations, and your aspirations. Engineering Managers set the culture for their teams, so companies use this consultation to determine whether your values are congruent with what the company is looking for. While value congruity is determined throughout the consultation process, many companies have a dedicated interview that allows them to dive into details. Topics such as why you moved into a management role, what values you care about, what is the next step in your career journey etc are frequently covered. Some companies besides put a set of stress on your self-reflection to ascertain whether you ’ re a leader who can adapt to change. I ’ ve seen a few different formats with which this interview is run :

  • Hiring Manager chat — Many companies have an initial hiring manager screen or a post-interview hiring manager chat that covers these topics. The flow is usually conversational. If it’s during an initial screen, expect to be asked a standard set of questions. If it’s after the interview, expect to be asked questions from areas where the interview panel didn’t get strong signals on.
  • Topgrading interview — In this format, the interviewer(s) ask you a standard set of questions for each work experience / company you’ve worked at (eg. why did you leave company X, why did you join company Y, what were your strengths and weaknesses at company X). The idea for the interviewers is to identify patterns in your values, approaches, and thought processes, as well as evaluate your growth mindset.
  • Chat with an Exec — Sometimes you’ll have a senior leader or an executive run this round. They may not have a set of questions but expect them to meander through various topics that they consider important.

Problem Solving & Coding

mastermind Managers are engineers at the end of the day. They are expected to help their teams solve technical problems using analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and code-based execution. Most companies don ’ thyroxine necessitate EMs to be writing code on a daily basis, but they do expect EMs to know how to solve problems by writing good timbre code. The assumption is that this skillset is crucial for three aspects :

  • They can roll up their sleeves and write code alongside their team if needed — this can certainly happen in smaller companies or during oncall incident remediation.
  • They can teach/mentor junior engineers on best practices when needed (eg. when the team doesn’t have enough senior engineers)
  • They can command the respect of their senior engineers on technical best practices and challenge them when needed (senior engineers often look for their EMs to be their sparring partners)

There are unlike approaches companies take to measure this :

  • A standard coding interview — you are given a problem or two, you have to reason through different approaches, pick the most efficient approach, and write code to implement the approach. Unlike in IC (Individual Contributor) interviews, coding speed is not typically measured here. You are expected to be rusty in your implementation but you are expected not to be rusty in your thought process and knowledge of best practices. So most interviewers will help you with syntax or will allow you to search online. Reasoning through different algorithms and data structures, good quality code, and thorough testing become important in this round.
  • A code review interview — you are given a block of code and are expected to review the code. The focus is on your ability to quickly understand the logic of the code, identify gaps in correctness or testing, and offer suggestions on best practices. Some companies may even make this into a role play style interview with the interviewer being the engineer whose code you are reviewing in a review session (eg. the engineer could push back on your suggestions and you may be expected to coach them through the conversation.)
  • A take-home project — you are given a take-home assignment, and are expected to implement a working solution with production-quality code. There may be a follow up interview where you walk the interviewer through your code and share your perspectives. In addition to solving the problem efficiently, good code quality and thorough testing become important in this round.

Technical Domain Experience

On smaller team, an Engineering Manager may have to play the function of an architect or a technical school run, potentially making impactful technical decisions. On larger teams, an Engineering Manager may have to guide their team to make the right technical foul decisions. Either manner, EMs are accountable for the technical decisions taken by their team. therefore, it ’ second crucial for an EM to have the relevant sphere cognition, a track record of making the right tradeoffs, and a strait system of technical decision-making. Companies try to capture these signals in a kind of interview formats :

  • An architecture or system design interview — you are given an abstract business problem and are expected to come up with an architecture to solve that business problem in a scalable, cost-effective, and future-proof way. This follows a similar structure as an IC System Design interview — companies often repurpose the same interview, with the same evaluation rubrics, for ICs and Managers. Understanding requirements, evaluating different approaches, proposing an architectural solution that works, making the solution scalable and extensible, become important in this round.
  • A project deep dive interview — you are asked to present a project you’ve lead as an EM and facilitate a Q&A with your interviewer(s). Companies may either ask you to prepare material up front (eg. slides) or use a whiteboard to demo the project. The conversation tends to be similar to that of an architecture interview, but the focus is more on the “retrospective” (how did you solve this particular business problem) as opposed to “prospective” (how would you solve this potential future business problem).

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