Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions - InterviewHelp
The software engineering manager position is a great career opportunity if you’re technically inclined and enjoy people, process, and project management. A software engineering manager is responsible for budgets, talent, project management, and product or service development; hence companies want to ensure they hire the right fit for the position.
Due to stiff competition and stringent hiring norms, software engineering manager interviews at FAANG, MANG, or top tech companies are significantly challenging, even for experienced engineers. You will most likely need to go through a multi-stage process, interviewing with multiple teams.
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If you’re a software engineer, developer, or tech lead preparing for a software engineering manager interview, we have prepared a list of important questions asked at FAANG or MANG interviews by researching Glassdoor and speaking to current managers and senior directors/VPs of engineering. We’ll share the essential aspects you need to focus on in your system engineering manager interviews, including top interview questions and answers, interview rounds, notable tips, and FAQs on cracking the engineering manager interviews.
We have broken down the questions into sections so you can directly visit them:
- Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions on Coding
- Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions on Systems Design
- Software Engineering Manager Behavioral Interview Questions
- Cultural Fit Interview Questions for Engineering Managers
- Closing interview questions for engineering managers
- Crucial Skills for Software Engineering Manager
Software engineering managers work on various projects and products while supervising and mentoring employees in their teams. They possess sound technical knowledge and the ability to build strong relationships with their team, internal customers, and clients to ensure that all the key projects, goals, and engineering duties are delivered on time. The role requires excellent foresight, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills to help the team find the best solutions to overcome the roadblocks.
Soft Skills required for a Software Engineering Manager
- Attention to Detail
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Ownership and accountability
- People Management
- Problem Solving
- Strategic Thinking
Technical Skills Needed for Software Engineering Managers
- Agile Methodologies
- Business Intelligence
- Data Structures
- Project Management
- Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
- Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
Software Engineering Manager Interview Stages
Interviews for software engineering managers are centered around data structures, systems design, and behavioral psychology. The interview process for engineering managers is similar to that for software engineers; however, given the seniority of the position, there is a greater emphasis on design and behavioral rounds. Let’s briefly examine the different rounds of engineering manager interviews at FAANG and MANG companies:
1. Recruiter screen:
A recruiter will get in touch with you and will ask basic screening questions about your resume, qualification, experience, skill-set, and expectations from the role. Try to be authentic and genuine while showing that you’ve done research on the company and are genuinely excited to work there.
2. Technical screen:
This round will be conducted by the hiring manager generally over the phone, focusing on your technical skills, domain knowledge and may include coding problems to understand your problem-solving approach. The hiring manager might also want to hear your thoughts on an ongoing project or a challenging situation you previously solved.
The on-site interview for engineering managers usually comprises 3-4 rounds, each lasting for 30 - 60 minutes. A typical on-site interview structure comprises:
Technical screen or coding challenge: You will be asked 1-2 coding questions on algorithms and data structures.
Systems Design Round: You may be asked to build an arbitrary system per the pre-set specifications.
Behavioral or Leadership Round: You will be asked questions on team management, conflict resolution, challenging past projects, and leadership.
Project Retrospective: Sometimes, there may be a separate round for a project retrospective where candidates have a deep discussion surrounding a technical project they have directly been involved with during their previous experience.
While this is a general structure of the interview process, interview stages can vary across different companies. It is ideal for gathering as much information as possible about the exact interview structure from your recruiter. Additionally, we recommend researching interview stages at popular tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon.
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Software Engineering Management Interview questions on Background and Experience
The interviewer may want to know your qualifications, experience, and how you will fit the role. These questions are sometimes open-ended and give you a chance to put your best foot forward. Use them to take control of the interview, delving into what you think is most relevant to the job and connecting them to your strengths.
Tell me about yourself/Walk through Your Resume
Interviewers frequently ask questions like these as ice-breakers to learn more about you. The interviewer will likely follow up on one or more of the details you share in your answer, so be prepared to dive deeper into specific points of your experience.
How many direct reports have you managed in the past?
What is your experience with budget management?
What’s the largest budget you’ve ever managed?
How long have you worked in a management role?
Have you worked with product managers?
How would you describe your management style?
Have you ever managed other managers? How different is it from managing a team?
Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions on Coding
While coding is not the core focus area for the software engineering management role (in fact, Amazon doesn’t have a coding round for this role), candidates are expected to have robust coding experience and be well-versed in at least one programming language. These questions range from easy to medium difficulty to evaluate your understanding of coding concepts, different types of programming language, and best practices on how to write clean and readable code. You may be given a few problems to solve by writing code on a sheet or board. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in coding and knowledge of different algorithms and data structures. Sometimes you may also be given a block of code to review. The hiring manager wants to assess your ability to understand the code logic quickly, identify the errors, and offer suggestions.
You can prepare the following topics for software engineering manager interview questions on coding:
- Binary trees
- Bit manipulation
- Arrays, strings, and linked lists
- Trees and graphs
- Sorting algorithms
- Dynamic programming
- Graph algorithms
Some of the coding-related questions that you can practice for your interview are mentioned below:
For a given rotated array that is sorted, write a code to find a particular element in the array.
Write a program to check if a binary tree is a valid binary search tree.
Write a program to correct the binary search tree for a given binary search tree where two tree nodes are swapped.
How do you reverse a string in Java?
How do you determine if a string is a palindrome?
For a given array of integers, the items correspond to stock prices, and the array indexes correspond to sequential days. Write a function to calculate your maximum earning by buying and selling once
How to find out if the given two strings are anagrams or not?
Write a program to validate an IP address.
What types of coding languages have you worked with?
What do you think is the best programming language to work with and why?
Give an example of how you resolve coding errors in an application?
If you still have doubts on the coding round, please read our blog on coding interview.
Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions on Systems Design
Systems design is a crucial component of the software engineering management role and focuses on seeing the bigger picture. System design interview questions combine foundational knowledge with skill application, strategic decision-making, and in-depth understanding of the distributed system. Through system design interviews, the companies want to assess your problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and ability to make strategic decisions and tradeoffs based on the use case and demands of the system.
Some of the topics you should focus on your software engineering manager system design interview:
- API modeling
- CAP Theorem
- Client-Server Connection
- Consistent Hashing and Modified Consistent Hashing
- Database management
- Data Structures
- Load balancing and Caching
- Network Protocols
- Partition tolerance
- Scalable systems
- Sharding Techniques
- Storage, databases, core systems
- Servers and maintenance
- Systems design case studies
Below are some engineering manager interview questions on systems design:
1. How would you design a system X?
Interviewers want to know that you can tackle ambiguous problems in a structured way, assess your decision-making in the face of uncertainty, your confidence in tackling risks, your capacity to pivot in light of new information, etc.
Hiring managers don’t expect you to create an elaborate system, as building a web crawler or Netflix is incredibly complex. However, they want to assess your understanding of system design concepts, logical decision-making, and a clear-cut approach to building a complex and scalable system.
It’s critical not to get intimated by the unambiguous questions and methodically proceed. Start by gathering the requirements and asking questions to your interviewer. Accordingly, decide which of these are most important and take priority in your design.
Outline your problem space and relate it to well-established or familiar architectures appropriate for the requirements. For example, you can outline the system design questions using a client-server pattern that includes a user-facing client and middle-tier services alongside a database.
Create a high-level outline of the chosen architecture pattern chosen with all the necessary components to implement your design
Elaborate on each component, describing how they’re connected and communicate and how to tradeoff between components and algorithms. Be ready to provide an explanation of your thought process on a design decision or given component if the hiring manager wants to deep-dive.
It’s ideal to start with the component closest to the user and move backward from there. This will help show your hiring manager that your design process and delivery are methodical and user-centric
Always explain your design decisions as you answer the question, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your interviewer wants to know how you think through problems for real-world systems.
What are some important metrics to measure system performance?
Interviewers may ask you this question to determine your knowledge about different system performance measures, the importance of these monitoring techniques, and how they help ensure a fast and efficient system when you answer.
Example Answer: The three most common metrics used to measure a system’s performance are throughput, average response time, and latency. They help system designers measure the speed of a user’s experience while interacting with a system. Throughput measures the amount of data that successfully travels through a system to a user in a specified period and also plays a major role in calculating little law. Average response time helps gauge how one’s application performs and whether a new deployment has increased average load times for all users. Finally, latency refers to the speed at which a message is delivered in milliseconds.
What are the security aspects to consider while building an e-commerce application?
Ecommerce security refers to the measures taken to protect your business and customers against cyber threats. The hiring manager wants to understand whether you understand the importance of deploying security measures and protocols to safeguard e-commerce applications from unauthorized access, use, alteration, or destruction attacks.
Some other questions related to distributed system design may include:
- How would you design a tinyURL system?
- How would you design a proximity server?
- Design a chatbot service that provides users with notifications while interacting with the AI unit.
- What is load balancing, and why is it useful?
- How would you design a platform like Uber?
- Share an example about setting up security for multiple servers?
- How would you perform API modeling while handling multiple remote servers and systems?
- How do you design a shared drive on the cloud?
- How do you design a search engine? What are things to consider while designing the search engine algorithm?
- How would you design a relational schema for a calendar application?
- Design a reservation and payment system for a parking garage.
- How would you design end-to-end user onboarding for an app?
- How does Alexa process voice commands?
- What frameworks do you have experience designing in?
- How do you coach team members who are new to the design applications used in your team?
If you don’t have extensive experience building a large-scale system, it is alright to be apprehensive about the open-ended nature of the system design round. Worry Not! We’re here to Help.
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Software Engineering Manager Interview Questions in Behavioral Psychology
Performance Management: A software engineering manager ensures each member achieves their full potential by providing proper coaching or feedback. Performance management questions usually focus on your experience handling challenging performance scenarios, including managing conflicts, proactively recognizing the signs of poor performance, and effectively handling them.
Tell me a situation where you anticipated potential challenges and developed preventive solutions.
The interviewer wants to assess how you apply problem-solving and critical thinking skills to overcome challenges and achieve successful outcomes. You can use an example from experience that highlights your strategies, how you solved the problem and what the outcome was. You can consider explaining the situation through the STAR methodology.
How do you break down complex projects for your team?
Software development projects carry a broader scope; the interviewer wants to assess how you break down large complex projects and direct your team to completion. You can describe your process for delegating tasks, scheduling timelines, and budgeting costs for development projects. Explain how you analyze the project outline and assess the resources and tools their team will require to complete the project. After assessing the budget, break down large tasks into smaller, weekly objectives you delegate to the team to start working on.
You can also ask questions about techniques they use in project management, such as agile methodology, Kanban system, waterfall system, etc. After all, assessing projects and associated deliverables is critical and ensuring that the right team members work on those deliverables aligned with their skill set and workload.
How would you prioritize the following sample work?
One of the critical responsibilities of a software engineering manager is to prioritize and schedule the tasks needed to build a product or service, including feature development, bug fixes, and refactoring technical debt or legacy code. A software engineering manager needs to understand how to prioritize tasks based on business objectives, time, effort, and cost.
Sometimes you may be given a list of 2-3 sample features, bug fixes, and other supporting tasks and asked to prioritize them. They may also ask follow-up questions based on this.
Have you disagreed with task prioritization when working with product or project managers? How did you resolve this?
This question aims to dig into your experience and understand your communication skills, including how to deal with challenges and obstacles and handle constantly shifting priorities.
While a software engineering manager gives a high-level estimate for how long tasks will take, they should consider whatever prioritization the product or project manager has in mind. They should then communicate this to their team and assign appropriate resources (developers, DevOps, front-end engineers, machine learning engineers, etc.).
How do you organize project tasks within your team?
How do you create reports of the projects you’re working on?
Can you describe a time when one of your projects didn’t go as planned?
Can you share an experience when you disagreed with your superiors?
How do you coach and develop your engineering team?
How do you collaborate with other managers, UX team members, and colleagues?
How do you assess risk when initiating a new project?
How do you ensure the quality of projects you work on while staying within budget?
What strategies do you use to streamline processes and produce effective results?
How do you check for accuracy in the projects you work on?
What’s your process for organizing your technology resources?
How hands-on do you prefer to be as a software engineering manager?
How do you encourage professional growth and continuous development in your teams?
What do you do if you have a program with a component that fails one week before launch?
How do you handle a request to add extra features from management when you don’t have extra time and resources?
What would you do if your team member shares that they cannot deliver the promised output near the deadline?
The most efficient and productive teams are highly collaborative, proactive, and function well within the larger corporate culture. A software engineering manager is not only in charge of their own team, but they are also responsible for managing the expectations of the company leadership, cross-functional partners, etc. You need to communicate effectively with diverse audiences and also be able to represent your team’s interests. The interviewers want to assess your knowledge, management style, and how you prepare your team for success.
Suppose you’ve a team of five developers. How would you divide tasks among them?
The hiring team wants to understand how you determine the optimal division of tasks. Software engineering managers understand not overloading developers and divide tasks based on skill level and domain knowledge. You can start by asking about the skill levels and domain knowledge of the team you’ll be leading and try to pair developers or talk about work commonly done to accomplish those tasks. This is an excellent opportunity to bring up your experience in leading teams and give insights into your thought process.
Describe a difficult decision you had to make in your past role?
A software engineering manager works in a high-pressure environment and needs to take difficult decisions. The interviewer will likely want to know how you approach the decision-making process and your ability to evaluate information, form conclusions, and make choices.
How do you plan to integrate team-building into the workplace?
Successful teams often participate in frequent team building or collaboration activities, and the hiring manager may want to know if you have experience developing and hosting similar events. Share examples of how you implemented employee improvement plans, scheduled team events, or made team collaboration a regular part of your work schedule.
Have you ever managed remote engineers?
As remote work goes mainstream, many companies require engineering managers to manage staff remotely. They want to know how you can motivate them despite not physically present in the office. Stress the importance of communication and clearly defined goals to optimize the outputs.
How to resolve conflict within your team?
Conflict management is an essential part of a software engineering manager role. Mention that most of the time, disputes between members are caused by poor communication, unaligned objectives, or unclear job roles. And how would you identify and fix the source of conflict and proactively avoid disputes before they arise.
When and how do you promote an engineer?
A great software engineer manager appraises his team members’ skills and gives them positions where they are likely to perform at their best. They promote based on team members’ performance in their current roles and potential to take on the responsibility of the higher position.
What do you think about micromanaging?
Describe how you plan and execute employee training programs.
What kinds of meetings do you hold to run your team?
What, according to you, are essential aspects of maintaining productivity in the workplace?
How would you avoid distractions at work?
Tell us about when you had an uncooperative coworker and how you dealt with the situation.
How would you handle poor performers on your team?
How do you structure 1:1s?
How do you build credibility with new team members?
How do you set goals for your team?
How do you manage difficult conversations?
Do you have experience organizing and managing a Scrum team?
Cultural Fit Interview Questions for Software Engineering Managers
Remember, a bad software engineering manager can be expensive to a company; hence they want to assess a candidate from all aspects. The goal is to get a candidate who aligns with your company’s values. The alignment with values is critical to ensure that they fit into your culture.
Does this person enjoy their job? Does the candidate like working at the company? What is the primary factor behind his motivation? Do they enjoy teaching and training others? Are they laid back or demanding? How do they view the company’s future prospects?
What made you decide to join the company?
This question will help you know the candidate’s level of interest in the job. Interviewers ask this question to test your motivation; they’ll want to hear that your choice to interview with this company aligns with your skills and experience. They also want to know whether you’ll go the extra mile as an employee.
What do you like about working for this company?
In what type of work environment are you most productive and happy?
What’s the last book you read?
What’s your favorite podcast?
What is your leadership style?
Do you do any charitable work?
Questions related to Hiring talent
Software engineering managers are typically hiring managers responsible for hiring new talent for your team and often have the final say about who joins the company. Recruitment and hiring questions are designed to evaluate how you screen potential candidates, interview applicants, and present potential hires to upper management.
Here are some questions about hiring you may be asked:
Where do you find the talent, and how do you test its quality?
How would you describe your approach to the hiring process?
How do you hire top engineering talent?
What are your thoughts about diversity in your team? What do you do to ensure you have diversity?
What aspects of software development do you consider when hiring new talent?
How do you structure orientation and onboarding practices for new joiners?
How do you work with recruiters?
What do you look for when hiring a new developer, QA analyst, or data engineer for your team?
Closing interview questions for Software Engineering Managers
It is essential to close the interview strongly. Sincerely thank the interviewers for the opportunity. Ask a few questions to set yourself apart from other candidates and better understand the company’s culture and where the company is headed in the future. Practice your handshake, confirm your interest in the position and restate why you’re the perfect candidate. Some of the closing questions that you can ask in the end:
What is a general career path for someone in this role?
How does this position contribute to the company’s short-term and long-term goals?
What are your expectations for someone joining this role in the next 30-60-90 days?
How long has the position been open?
What’s the range of experience of the team’s members?
How soon are you looking to get someone started?
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