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The Ultimate List: 49 Questions to Ask Engineering Managers

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49 Questions to Ask Engineering Managers in an Interview (& What to Listen For)

Sample questions in several categories plus – what hiring managers should listen for in candidates’ responses

What are the best questions to ask engineering managers to gauge their fit for your open role? Keep reading for questions across a variety of areas, plus what to watch out for in candidates’ answers.

Leadership and management style

  1. How would you describe your management style? How would your team describe it?
  2. What do you feel defines a strong manager? 
  3. What do you look for in your upper management? 
  4. How do you showcase your management within your work?
  5. How do you motivate your team?
  6. How do you approach delegating and prioritizing tasks? 

What to look for:

  • Depth of experience: Does the candidate have experiences that align with the company’s stage and challenges?
  • Adaptability: Are they flexible in their approach based on the situation and team needs?
  • Empathy: Do they demonstrate a people-first approach? Do they recognize the need to lead the needs of individuals as well as lead the team?

Team dynamics and culture

  1. What does a successful team look like to you?
  2. What does a strong engineering culture look like to you?
  3. Can you describe a time when you had to handle a difficult team member and how you addressed it?
  4. How do you manage misalignment between team members on a technical approach or solution? Do you have an example?
  5. Can you tell me about a time your team lacked skills, expertise, or resources to execute at the level it needed and how you resolved that?

What to look for:

  • Emotional intelligence: Do they show an understanding of human behavior and group dynamics?
  • Conflict resolution: Are their strategies proactive and constructive?
  • Cultural add: Do their values align with the company culture?

Technical acumen

  1. How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in engineering?
  2. Can you describe a time when you had to make a difficult technical decision, and how you approached it?
  3. How do you balance the need for technical excellence with delivering on time?
  4. What are the technical areas you have less expertise in and rely more on the expertise of your team?
  5. What’s your perspective on build versus buy?

What to look for:

  • Technical knowledge: While they don’t need to be the top expert, do they show enough depth to guide the team?
  • Decision making: Are their decisions well-reasoned and based on a balance of data, experience, and intuition?
  • Pragmatism: Do they balance technical debt against delivery?

Hiring and onboarding

  1. What do you look for when you’re hiring engineers?
  2. How do you onboard new team members? What is your process for onboarding new talent?
  3. How do you handle underperforming team members? Do you have any examples?
  4. How do you evaluate talent when interviewing? 
  5. What does your hiring process look like? 
  6. What are some soft skills you always look for in engineers?
  7. Can you describe a situation in which you had to decide to terminate an employee? What factors did you consider and how did you handle the process?

What to look for:

  • Talent recognition: Can they identify potential in candidates beyond just technical skills?
  • Mentorship: Does their onboarding process involve mentoring and ensuring new hires have a clear direction?
  • Performance management: Are their strategies for underperformers constructive and focused on growth?

Project management

  1. How do you prioritize projects and tasks within your team?
  2. Can you provide an example of a project that went off track and how you brought it back?
  3. What methodologies (Agile, Waterfall, etc.) do you prefer, and why? Can you speak to what you feel are the most critical components of that methodology for success?

What to look for:

  • Prioritization: Do they use objective criteria to determine what’s most important?
  • Problem-solving: How do they handle setbacks? Do they demonstrate resilience?
  • Methodology alignment: Does their preferred methodology align with the company’s? Do they demonstrate a firm understanding of that methodology or are they just using buzzwords?

Growth and development

  1. How do you ensure the continuous growth and development of your team members?
  2. What opportunities for professional development do you provide to your team?
  3. How do you handle the different career aspirations of your team members?

What to look for:

  • Personal investment: Do they take an active role in the growth of their team members?
  • Career pathing: Can they provide their team with clear development paths and opportunities?
  • Balancing aspirations: Do they show an ability to manage a team with varied career goals?

Stakeholder management

  1. How do you manage expectations with stakeholders and upper management?
  2. Can you describe a time when you had to push back against a stakeholder’s request or expectations? How did you handle it?
  3. How do you ensure clear communication between your team and other teams or departments?
  4. What’s your general philosophy on stakeholder management?

What to look for:

  • Communication skills: Are they articulate in managing expectations?
  • Boundary setting: Can they effectively push back without damaging relationships?
  • Collaborative approach: Do they foster cross-functional collaboration?

Tools and processes

  1. What tools and technologies does your team currently use, and why?
  2. How do you evaluate and decide on introducing new tools or processes?
  3. Can you think of a time when you ended up with an antiquated tech stack and had to re-evaluate?
  4. Can you give an example of a time when you needed to adjust a process to ensure it did not become an obstacle?

What to look for:

  • Efficiency: Do they introduce tools that genuinely help the team?
  • Evaluation: Is their evaluation process data-driven and thorough?
  • Simplicity: Do they favor straightforward processes to avoid bureaucracy?

Innovation and forward-thinking

  1. How do you encourage innovation within your team?
  2. Can you provide an example of an innovative idea or project that came from your team?
  3. How do you balance the need for innovation with the pressures of delivering immediate results?
  4. How do you rely on external sources such as blogs, new articles, and competitors for innovative ideas and thinking?

What to look for:

  • Encouragement: Do they create an environment where new ideas can thrive?
  • Risk management: Do they balance innovation with feasibility and business value?
  • Vision: Can they align innovation with the company’s long-term goals?

DEIB

  1. How do you promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) within your team?
  2. Can you provide an example of how you’ve addressed unconscious bias within your team or hiring process?
  3. How do you handle differing opinions and perspectives within the team?
  4. Have you ever experienced a time when a report felt there were elements of a toxic work environment, and how did you handle it? 

What to look for:

  • Commitment: Do they show a genuine commitment to DEIB beyond just buzzwords?
  • Awareness: Are they aware of common biases and actively working to mitigate them?
  • Inclusivity: Do they foster an environment where diverse opinions are heard and valued?

Personal development

  1. What is your process for direct reports to provide feedback on your management style? How do you handle feedback from your team about your management style?
  2. What’s the most significant challenge you’ve faced as an engineering manager, and how did you overcome it?
  3. How do you ensure a work-life balance for yourself and your team?
  4. Outside of direct feedback from your team, how do you work on personal management development?
  5. How do you foster open dialogue with your team to work on your personal development?

What to look for:

  • Self-awareness: Do they accept feedback and show a willingness to grow?
  • Learning: Are they constantly looking to improve and adapt?
  • Well-being: Do they value work-life balance for themselves and promote it for their team?

Remember, the goal of these questions to ask engineering managers is not just to gauge the candidate’s competency but also to get a sense of their values, how they handle challenges, and how they would add to your organization’s culture.

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