The Most Effective Interview Questions for an Engineering Manager

It is recommended that organisations with multiple software engineers employ an Engineer Manager. To ensure the best candidate is selected for this role, it is essential to ask comprehensive questions during the recruitment process.

Candidates may be confident that they have the necessary skills to succeed in the role, however, it is essential that they possess the ability to manage teams. We require an individual who is not only highly skilled in software development, but who also has an impressive background.

It is advisable to seek a candidate who has demonstrated success in this role, both in terms of their management style and personal qualities, and who is capable of fulfilling the duties associated with the position.

Twenty-Two Questions to Ask a Potential Engineer Manager

1. Tell me why you’re interested in working for our firm.

By posing this question, it is possible to gain an insight into the applicant’s level of enthusiasm for the role. As well as enabling you to assess the prospect, the answers provided can provide an indication of the candidate’s views on the key aspects of the company.

It is of paramount importance to recruit a candidate who holds the same core values as your organisation. This will ensure a seamless transition into the workforce.

2. How did you get here, and what keeps you here, in a managerial role?

Rather than asking “Tell me about yourself”, consider asking this question to gain an understanding of the candidate’s career path and primary drivers. This will usually provide a detailed account of their career history leading up to their current interest in management.

3. Let’s say you have an imaginary scenario in which you need to create a new user interface for a web application; how would you go about doing so?

In essence, this case scenario inquiry is trying to find out, in a covert manner, how a candidate sets priorities.

Naturally, you can substitute the scenario for a different one, but the aim is to gain an insight into the candidate’s thought process as they strive to achieve a solution.

Managers in the engineering department need to be able to effectively allocate tasks and utilize the team’s time, in order to bring the web app’s user interface to fruition. Simply assigning jobs without any consideration or strategy will not result in a successful outcome.

A procedure is necessary. Furthermore, they should be cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. After devising a strategy on how to achieve their objective, they can proceed with working towards it.

4. How would you manage a group of 10 developers, keeping track of their progress and dividing up their tasks?

An effective engineering manager is mindful of their team’s capabilities and limitations. They are cognizant of each developer’s skills and shortcomings, and would rather delegate a single, crucial task than have them overextend themselves.

This question can help you to determine if applicants adhere to a specific process when completing their tasks. Many technical managers prefer using the Agile approach when working with their teams, but there are many who prefer Kanban or another type of software development lifecycle.

5. What are your thoughts on micromanagement?

It is essential that the engineer manager is not a micromanager, as a lack of trust in employees and stressful working conditions can be the result of micromanaging, which can stifle drive and innovation, as well as leading to a high rate of staff turnover. Thus, it is crucial to ask the applicant whether they are aware of the drawbacks of micromanaging and if they are willing to address them. Furthermore, a query on how they stay away from micromanaging may also be necessary.

6. I’m curious to hear how your former teammates would characterize you.

The purpose of this inquiry is to gain an understanding of the candidate’s self-assessment of their performance in their former role. Their response to this question can provide an indication of their perception of their own capabilities. It may be necessary to ask further questions based on this. Additionally, it is advisable to seek further information from a former colleague or supervisor, either in the form of a reference or an informal discussion, to gain a better insight into the candidate’s management approach.

7. Have you ever had trouble talking to a programmer before? What methods did you use to address these issues?

It’s not easy to find qualified IT workers; the process might seem fruitless after hundreds of interviews yield no suitable prospects.

Following a lengthy search, we have managed to identify the ideal programmer for our project. Surprisingly, they are offering their services at a rate considerably lower than what one would expect for their level of expertise in Silicon Valley. We have since employed them; however, it has since come to our attention that they may possess substandard interpersonal skills.

This inquiry seeks to gain insight from a former engineering manager’s approach to a similar issue. It is likely that the manager chose to terminate the developer immediately and continue the search, rather than providing resources to help improve their communication skills.

8. When and how should an engineer be promoted?

Engineer managers are responsible for evaluating their staff and placing them in areas that will maximize their strengths.

This inquiry aims to ascertain whether the applicant has the necessary skills to fulfil the duties of the position. An experienced engineering manager will consider promoting an employee who has demonstrated they are capable of performing the responsibilities associated with this role.

9. How do you encourage growth in your coworkers?

As an engineering manager, it is essential to lead and motivate the team to improve performance and efficiency. This inquiry aims to understand if the applicant has any proven strategies to enhance the performance of their engineers in their daily work. It is important to ensure that the suggested methods are compatible with the current operations of the business.

10. Give an example from your past work experience that demonstrates how you overcame a problem by taking preventative measures.

Applicants’ creativity and aptitude for problem-solving will be assessed through this evaluation. An accomplished engineering manager will anticipate potential issues and devise strategies to resolve them.

11. In your former position, what was the hardest choice you had to make?

By asking the candidate to elaborate on their response to this question, you can gain insight into their analytical abilities and decision-making approach. Engineering managers need to be able to make difficult decisions when there is no obvious solution. Assess their ability to accurately define the problem, any constraints, and the factors they considered before making a difficult decision. The most suitable applicants will also explain the outcomes of the decision and the lessons that were learnt from the experience.

12. Don’t be shy; I want to hear about the most contentious issue you’ve ever had to resolve in a prior assignment.

Disagreements are commonplace in the workplace. In fact, it’s beneficial to have arguments, since this may spark discussion and new ideas.

By posing this question, it is possible to gain an insight into a candidate’s approach to conflicts. This can include determining if they are capable of responding in a logical manner, welcoming constructive confrontation, or if they attempt to avoid it altogether.

The primary objective of this investigation is to gain insight into the applicant’s prior experience in utilising communication and problem-solving skills when dealing with conflicts.

13. How can you divide large projects into manageable chunks?

The Engineering Team Manager must be able to break down large projects into manageable tasks before assigning them to team members. To ascertain their capability to take on challenging duties, it is advisable to ask about their project management approach, such as Agile, Kanban or Waterfall. It is essential that they are able to assess projects and their related deliverables, and assign team members, accordingly, making use of their individual strengths, while also reducing their overall workload.

14. Can you name any of the software programs used for managing projects?

Managers of engineering departments can make use of a range of project management applications, such as Basecamp or Asana, to ensure their company’s multiple projects remain on schedule.

It is possible to assess a candidate’s understanding of the instruments in question by posing a relevant question. Although it would be advantageous for them to be familiar with the project management software in use, it is not essential. If they do have prior knowledge of the software, this is a bonus.

15. What should be done about engineers that aren’t doing their weight?

Companies may have employees who are not performing to the expected standard of the rest of the team. As such, it is the responsibility of the manager to devise strategies to support such team members in developing their skills. This question aims to assess the candidate’s potential to guide their team in improving their performance, should it fall below the required standards of the company.

16. When working with teammates that are more skilled than you, how do you respond?

As the leader of an engineering team, it can be challenging to manage those who are more technically proficient than you. During the interview process, it is important to assess the applicant’s experience in dealing with similar situations and the strategies they used to manage them. It is also important to consider the applicant’s charm and interpersonal skills, as these can be essential in leading a team of individuals with varied expertise.

17. Asking: “How do you best manage remote engineers?”

If your organization employs remote engineers, it is advisable to enquire of any prospective manager as to how they intend to keep those employees motivated. Their response to this question could indicate whether or not they possess the necessary abilities to lead a distributed team.

18. When two members of your team are at odds with one another, how can you mediate their disagreement?

In the event of a crisis, it is important for the Engineering Manager to be aware of the potential sources of friction between team members. It is advisable to ask them if they are aware of the most common causes of team conflict, such as poor communication, misaligned goals and ambiguous responsibilities. It is also important to ensure that the candidate you select has an understanding of what might lead to disputes, and how to take preventative measures to ensure that they do not become escalated.

19. In what ways may the most appropriate technological means of solving a certain issue be determined?

The Engineer Manager and their team at your company will need to determine the most suitable technology to employ in the management of projects. To ascertain if the applicant has ever had to make a technical decision, this question should be posed.

20. How do you coordinate many urgent tasks?

Is it possible that they will attempt to multitask? Is there a method through which they prioritize projects?

Engineering teams, particularly those with a large number of personnel, often face the need to work on multiple projects concurrently. Without a project management system and a leader who is able to keep a close eye on all activities, it can be challenging to ensure successful completion of all tasks.

Enquiring about a candidate’s approach to effectively prioritizing and managing multiple projects, both by task and overall objective, will provide valuable insight.

21. How do you go about recruiting software engineers?

In other words, you’re being asked what qualities in workers are most important to you.

Hiring managers tend to place great importance on a candidate’s ability to fit in with the existing culture of the organisation, as much as their technical and soft skills. This is essential for creating an atmosphere where employees feel invested in the company and are motivated to contribute to its success, as well as for building an understanding of their role within the organisation.

It is essential that your new Engineering Manager is aligned with your values when recruiting new staff, demonstrating the importance you place on creating a positive culture.

22. What do you think are the most essential abilities for this position?

Asking a range of questions can be beneficial when assessing a potential Lead Developer, as it can provide insight into the candidate’s thought process and performance in the role. This simple approach can help to give an understanding of the individual’s view of their duties and responsibilities.

This position requires a range of skills, with particular emphasis on those highlighted in their response. These may include both soft and hard skills, or just the latter. It is important to assess whether applicants possess the abilities that are most pertinent to the position.

To what extent do engineering managers make decisions?

As an Engineering Manager, it is paramount to ensure that all engineering projects and activities are completed in a timely and efficient manner, in line with organizational objectives. This includes organizing the workload of the team and delegating tasks to the engineers under the remit of management. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the Engineering Manager to ensure that the team is equipped with everything they need to carry out their duties.

Qualities Employers Look for in an Engineering Manager

A Manager in the Engineering field is responsible for the coordination and management of activities undertaken by a group of Engineers. They monitor the progress of major initiatives, objectives and engineering responsibilities, as well as providing assistance in determining the most effective strategies to resolve arising issues.

When interviewing prospective engineering managers, these are the primary hard talents you should be looking for:

  • Knowledge of Python and Bash code bases
  • Strong, hands-on familiarity with using cloud services and other products from Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or Amazon Web Services.
  • Proven record of developing, deploying, and supporting cloud-based apps (e.g., EC2 + S3 + DynamoDB)
  • The ability to build up continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines using tools like Jenkins, CircleCL, Github, and AzureDevOps.
  • Expertise managing Linux or Ubuntu/Debian systems.
  • Gained practical knowledge of using one of the main cloud platforms’ software development kits (SDKs) for robotic process automation.

It is important to take into account that the ideal set of skills for an engineering manager could differ depending on the role and the particular technologies used by the organization.

Find a Manager of Engineering Who Gets Things Done!

When recruiting for an Engineering Manager, it is essential to identify a candidate who has the requisite technical skillset as well as the managerial acumen to successfully fulfil the role.

Once the recruiter has identified a suitable candidate and organised a remote interview, it is the role of the hiring manager to assess whether they are a suitable fit for the position of Engineering Team Manager.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the recruitment process, don’t worry. We’re here to help. As remote tech recruiters, we can swiftly find the right engineering manager to join your team at Works. Contact us today and we’ll source the best talent from around the world for you.

Engineering job seekers are encouraged to get in touch with us through the Jobs page to discuss potential openings.

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