Interviewing for an Engineering Manager Role? 15 Questions You Should be Prepared to Answer

We break Engineering Manager interview questions down to work history, the open role, and behavioral situations

Congratulations! You have an interview to become an engineering manager. That’s great news. There’s just one problem – interviewing to become an engineering manager is probably going to be quite a bit different from your previous interviews.

Here are 15 common engineering manager interview questions every candidate should prepare for. If you thoughtfully consider them and have good answers for each, you’ll be well on your way to nailing the interview.

Basic history questions

These questions are among the most basic, but can still be very hard to answer if you’re not prepared for them. Be sure to know your resume and cover letter inside and out. I find it helps to think of your career as a series of short “stories.”

In addition, this is a golden opportunity to really put your best foot forward. Take control of the interview, delving into what you think is most relevant to the job. Take this opportunity to connect them to your strengths.

If you think of your interview as a movie, this is the trailer meant to get people excited about going to see the movie.

Example questions for Engineering Manager Roles on work history:

  1. Tell us about yourself
  2. What was your role with your previous employer?
  3. Why did you leave your last role?
  4. How many direct reports have you managed in the past?
  5. What’s the largest budget you’ve ever managed?

Questions about the open role

These questions probe how interested you are in the role and how hard you worked to learn more about it. It’s also an indirect gauge for how your previous experience has helped you to understand what the role requires. If you’re able to glean interesting insights from the job posting that others can’t, interviewers will notice that.

When I interview someone for a position, I want to know how invested they are in getting the job. I want someone who’s eager. A good way to parse that out is to determine whether they’ve done their homework or not, and it’s these kinds of questions that I use to determine just that.

Example questions for Engineering Manager candidates on the open role:

  1. What can you tell us about the role you’re applying for?
  2. Which aspects of the role do you anticipate are the most challenging?
  3. What can you tell us about this company?
  4. How do you think your skills match our needs?

Behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are very common for engineering management interviews. These questions demand that you be quick on your feet. Again, it’s important to remember your stories and to be able to draw from them to apply them to the question at hand.

If you know your stories, you likely don’t need to imagine what you would do in a given situation, you can discuss what you really did do and how you might do things differently in the future given what you’ve learned from your experience.

One useful framework that I’ve learned for answering questions like these is called STAR:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

When answering behavioral questions, try hard to:

  1. Cover what exactly happened (Situation),
  2. What you had to do in that situation (Task),
  3. What you did as an individual (Action), and
  4. How things played out as a result (Result).

Related: What is the Star Method and How to Incorporate it into Interviews

With this approach, you clearly define what happened and how you personally contributed to its resolution.

Example behavioral questions for Engineering Manager candidates:

  1. Tell us about a time you made a mistake. What happened and what did you learn from it?
  2. Share an example of when you faced a conflict.
  3. Tell us about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma.
  4. How do you handle it when a project was coming down to the wire – what did you do?

Related: 30 Behavioral Interview Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer.

Closing questions for Engineering Manager candidates

When going into an interview, it’s important to consider what you want to learn from the employer and the things you want them to learn about you.

In the past, I’ve gone as far as bringing lists of things to learn and communicate into an interview and crossing things off as they were discussed. This is important, because at the end you’ll get a critical opportunity to deal with any items you haven’t yet crossed off.

  1. Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
  2. Do you have any questions for us?

If you’re interviewing to become an engineering manager, it’s likely that the questions you face will be different from anything else you’ve experienced before. If you go in to your interview prepared to answer these questions, you’ll be well on your way to taking the next big step in your career.

--

Finally, before starting salary negotiations in an engineering manager interview, be sure to check out:

Strategies for Negotiating Up Your Salary as Software Engineer

Why Your Last Salary Negotiation Failed

Hired's New Salary Calculator

Revised 11/13/2021

About the Author

Patrick Sweet

Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, ASEP is a recognized expert in engineering management and leadership with expertise in systems engineering, project management and product management. You can read more from Pat at the Engineering & Leadership blog.