Engineering managers play an essential role in their organizations of engagement. They are responsible for managing people, projects, and processes to produce and maintain different products and services.
Owing to these great responsibilities, companies are always on the lookout for the best candidates. This article looks at some of the most common questions in engineering manager interviews to help you prepare well for your interview.
We will also include answers to help you come up with unique responses. Let us dive right into the questions!
1. Why Are You Interested in This Role?
I am passionate about management. I have acquired lots of leadership skills and styles in my twenty years of experience. I am also an engineer and, therefore, understand what needs to be done in this work setting. I believe that I can use my experience, knowledge, and skills to better this organization. Hopefully, this role will also present me with new challenges that will help me advance in my career.
2. What are The Roles of an Engineering Manager?
An engineering manager has several responsibilities. He/ she is in charge of talent management, which involves hiring, firing, and promoting engineers. The engineering manager also leads R &D projects, coaches engineers for better performance, connects multiple departments within the engineering firm, and takes part in product development and infrastructure management.
Other roles include budget management and project management, such as selection, prioritization, and supervision.
3. What Are the Qualities That One Needs to Be an Effective Engineering Manager?
In my experience, an engineering manager requires five essential qualities. He/ she should have technical knowledge and a background in engineering to avoid being clueless on projects. One must also possess excellent project management skills, given that engineering is all about projects.
A project manager should also be an excellent communicator to put across information effectively. The two last qualities are good decision-making and proper delegation skills.
4. What Major Challenges Did You Face During Your Last Role/ How Did You Manage It?
Before my last role, I was managing a team of only seven engineers. This changed when I assumed the(last) role as I was in charge of fifty engineers. Managing all these people seemed like a challenge since I was not used to such a significant population looking up to me.
To solve this, I decided to group the engineers into teams and allow them to elect team leaders, who then reported to me. This proved successful, and I managed to enter the company’s hall of fame in my second year.
5. Describe Your Daily Routine as an Engineering Manager
My daily routine as an engineering manager revolves around keeping track of all the projects and prioritization to ensure that the most important tasks do not lag. Part of my routine also involves planning ahead for the teams, ensuring that no individual is overworked.
I conduct team meetings when necessary, which helps me in progress tracking. I also contain emergencies and, depending on the situation, do hands-on tasks.
6. Describe Briefly About Your Engineering Management Experience
I did not become an engineering manager until my seventh year on the job. I started as a junior engineer in Jack and Bones before being promoted to a senior engineer after two years. I later did an engineering management course and became promoted to an engineering manager when the position fell vacant years later. This position helped me learn a lot about management band patience. I also developed lots of managerial skills that have seen me throughout my career.
I later worked in Bill and Gates Engineering Inc. in the same position before trying my luck here. Like Jack and Bones, Bill and Gates helped me further in my career as it presented new challenges.
7. What Kind of Strategies and Mindset is Needed for This Role?
Every engineering manager should ensure that all employees are involved, which is best achieved by teamwork. He/ she should divide the engineers into teams and allow them to have their level of management. As for the mindset, a manager needs to be open-minded to incorporate different ideas, especially for the junior workers.
8. What Is the Biggest Challenge That You Foresee in This Role?
Your company has addressed one of the biggest challenges that I have encountered in my career, which is a huge employee base. Managing several employees effectively is not easy. However, I have observed that your employees are grouped into teams, with management at the team level. Once this has been solved, I believe that any other challenge is minor and, with the help of the management, can be effectively solved.
9. How Do You Stay Motivated in Your Work?
I am a result-oriented person. I do not stop until I have achieved what I had in mind. This helps me stay focused on my work and gives me the motivation I need. I even make independent deadlines, which I strive to achieve.
I also understand that work can be pretty overwhelming at times. To deal with such scenarios, I excuse myself and shortly engage in some of the activities I love, such as listening to motivational podcasts before going back to the job.
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10. Describe a Time You Failed in This Role and The Lesson You Learned?
I was once appointed to manage a team of five engineers. I soon realized that two of them had internal wrangles that threatened teamwork. To save time, I restructured the project and ensured that they did not interact as much in regards to the project. I was sure that I had solved the problem.
However, it later turned out that these two had deep-running issues, and even with the least interactions, they were still threatening the project’s success. I had to do something and ended up doing most of their work since it was too late. This experience taught me always to address the root cause of issues instead of going for shortcuts.
11. What is Your Approach Towards Hiring Top Engineering Talent?
When hiring top engineering talents, I believe that an engineering manager should answer two main questions: finding the talent and testing its quality. When it comes to finding talent, I engage my network, referrals from engineers, internal hires and promotions, industry job boards, and different recruiters.
I use phone screening, culture fit analysis and test the candidate’s technical skills through structured interviews for testing talent.
12. Part of Your Job Involves Promoting Talents. When and How Does This Happen?
I believe that promoting an employee should be done based on his/ her previous performance on the job and the expected future performance. I therefore only promote employees who have performed well and show prospects for better future performances.
To answer the ‘how’, I use the Peter Principle, which guides that an employee should be tested on the new job before getting the position.
13. What Guides Your Firing of an Engineer? How do You Do It?
This is usually one of the hardest things to do as an engineering manager. However, not everyone meets the required standards, and we are often faced with this decision. I always ensure that I follow a formal process improvement plan that improves performance and offers an alternative career path within the company.
However, if the engineer still fails, even with the proper documentation that we did everything to help, I relieve the employee of his/ her duties.
14. What Is Your Best Coaching Style? How Do You Coach Engineers?
To coach the team of engineers that I manage, I conduct 1 on 1’s and give advice based on my experience both as an engineer and as a manager. I also offer incentives for continuous educations and help the team set their personal goals based on my overtime experience.
As for the 1 on 1’s, I perform them weekly and analyze the past week. I strive to ascertain what went wrong. I then set goals for the next week and clearly express my expectations. I, therefore, ensure that coaching and feedback are offer4d concurrently.
15. You Must Have Come Across Engineers with Performance Issues. How Do You Handle Them?
I understand that not everyone will meet the required performance standards at once. To deal with such engineers, I craft a performance improvement plan to help the engineer and bring him/ her up to speed. I also offer personal 1 on 1 coaching.
However, if there is no improvement, I look for an alternative position within the company that he/ she can fit. If there is no position and unsuccessful results from the improvement plans, I advise the company to relieve the engineer of his/ her duties.
16. What Happens Once You Realize That an Engineer is More Talented Than You?
Being in charge of other engineers does not necessarily make me better than them. I believe that we can all learn a thing or two from each other. I will keep the engineer close, learn from him/ her, and apply this knowledge to my craft.
However, I believe that such occurrences should not be rampant as an engineering manager needs to outdo other engineers when it comes to social and business skills.
17. Have You Ever Managed a Remote Team? What Was Your Experience Like?
I have been working with a remote team for quite some time ever since companies introduced the working-at-home policy. Even though I do not get the chance to supervise the employees physically, I find it quite flexible. Working with remote teams has also revealed one main thing- the importance of communication and documentation.
18. Could You Please Tell Us the Sizes of Engineering Teams that You Have Managed?
I have worked with different companies and, therefore, come into contact with teams of different sizes, as this normally follows the company’s objectives. I have worked with teams of up to 30 engineers. However, this does not limit me. I believe that I have all it takes to manage a bigger number than that, thanks to my experience and skills.
19. In Your Experience, What Do You Consider the Difference Between Managing a Small and Big Team?
The difference comes in communication and coordination. A small team can be easily managed, and therefore a manager does not have to be as thorough. However, it is usually hard to make everyone aligned towards the same goal in bigger teams, which calls for increased communication and coordination.
20. In Your Opinion, What Is the Best Way to Resolve Conflicts Within Your Team?
I have learned that the best way of going about any conflict is first to identify the source or root cause of the conflict before fixing it. Most team conflicts are caused by poor communication, unclear job roles, and unaligned objectives.
21. What Is the Difference Between Leadership and Management in Your Understanding?
I believe that leadership involves inspiring people to meet different objectives, whereas management is all about efficiently using the provided resources to achieve these objectives. Leadership is, therefore, more holistic compared to management.
22. How Do You Ensure That Your Team is Motivated?
I usually set very clear goals after considering the shared destination. I then assign responsibilities to every member of the team and establish common goals. I then celebrate and reward the team members for every success.
23. Which Criteria Do You Use Before Choosing a New Technology for a Project?
I only settle on technologies that are tried and tested and can solve the respective technical problem. My decision is made on experience, through research, use cases, and white papers. I also factor in the budget.
24. How Would You Handle a Situation Where Your Engineers Disapproves of Your Choice of Technology?
I believe in leadership that encompasses all. I will avoid such a situation by giving the engineers the upper hand when choosing the technology for a project.
25. How Do You Prioritize Projects?
I believe that projects that hold more revenues for the firm should be given more attention. All in all, I have my project prioritization framework that has always proven to be successful.
These are some of the questions that you should expect before stepping into an engineering manager interview room. We hope that they will help you land this role.