The 9 most-asked engineering manager interview questions (+ answers)

Cracking engineering manager interview guide

We’ve put together the below list of 65 engineering manager interview questions, based on our analysis of 100+ Glassdoor interview reports from real engineering manager candidates at GoogleFacebookAmazon, and Microsoft.

And one of the first things you'll want to know is that the top 9 most common questions accounted for nearly 40% of all questions reported!

So, you'll want to make sure you're thoroughly prepared for those.

Let's get into it!

Click here to practice mock interviews with top engineering manager interview coaches

Top 9 engineering manager interview questions

Since these are the 9 most common engineering manager interview questions, we've also provided sample answers for each of them. Now here's the first one:

1. How would you design X system?

System design questions like this one made up over 15% of the interview questions that we collected from Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Interviewers want to know that you can tackle ambiguous problems in a structured way, while leading them smoothly through your thought process.

Below, we’ve given you the shortened version of a longer sample answer to the question, “How would you design a database for a tiny URL implementation?”.

Click here for the full answer and a framework you can use to answer system design questions.

“To clarify, I’m going to design the data schema, database architecture, and choose a database technology to use for the tiny URL implementation, assuming a simple in memory or local store file would not be suitable for this system.

Given a network with about 300 million daily active users, let’s say 20% (60 million) are frequent original posters who post roughly 1 URL a day, meaning we’d need to create about 60 million URLs a day, or 695 URLs a second. A single server won’t meet this requirement, so let’s go for a distributed system, with a caching layer for the links that get the most traffic.

Here’s an idea of what the system could look like:

system design interview question

A potential problem with this is that the whole system relies on the central ID generator being up all the time, which is a risk if it fails, and it may slow down the system. We could fix this by making a few more ID generators, which the API servers could go ‘round robin’ through to find a new number.”

Remember that the answer above is the shortened version of a realistic sample answer. For a deeper dive into how a hypothetical candidate would design the system above, as well as examples of follow-up questions by the interviewer, consult our guide on how to answer system design interview questions. 

2. Tell me about a time when you've handled a conflict

This question made up 9% of the reported engineering manager interview questions that we studied. As engineering managers must lead teams, interviewers want to know that you’d be able to effectively manage the conflicts that inevitably arise when people are solving complex problems.

Below is a concise example of how you could answer this question.

“The first time I ever had to lead a team, I was a lead software engineer at a fintech startup. It was growing rapidly, so we ended up adding five new engineers to my team over the course of a few months.

One of my new engineers, Rob, told me during a one-on-one that he had a hard time working with another engineer, Ben. He explained that Ben was consistently rude and demeaning to him, to the extent that Rob was ready to change teams or even leave the company if it continued.

With Rob’s permission, I brought this up with Ben in our next one-on-one. Ben admitted that he likes to joke around and tease his coworkers, but that none of it was ill-intended. I encouraged him to speak to Rob directly and apologize for the misunderstanding, and to discuss what kinds of jokes Rob would and would not be comfortable with in the future. 

I offered to be present as a mediator, but Ben elected to initiate the conversation himself. I checked in with Rob in our subsequent one-on-ones, and he reported that his working relationship with Ben had greatly improved. Rob stayed at the company and eventually took my place as lead software engineer after I was promoted to engineering manager.”

Note that the answer above is well structured, focuses on the candidate’s actions (meeting with Ben, offering to mediate), and highlights the lasting effect of their intervention (no further conflict, Rob progressing at the company).

Click here to dive deeper, with our guide: 5 ways to answer "Tell me about a time you had a conflict"

3. Tell me about yourself

Interviewers frequently use questions like this one to break the ice and to get to know a little bit about you. These questions set the tone for the interview as a whole. 

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 certain points of your past experience. Here’s a sample answer to this question to give you an idea of what to aim for:

“I’ve just left my role as an engineering manager at Thanus, an online gaming service, where I hired and developed my own team of 6 engineers from scratch. During my time there, I’ve revamped the product backlog by classifying work items into Epics, and I built the architecture to overhaul our risk and fraud services.

Before Thanus, I was a lead software engineer at Sweep, an online travel booking company. That’s where I got to try my hand at project planning with management teams for the first time, and where I built out the new service-oriented-architecture for our lodging services. 

Now, I’m looking to leverage these experiences to transition into a position like this one on the Chrome OS Platform, where I can play more of a part in big-picture strategy and provide technical guidance to top-notch teams, designing systems that affect millions of users.”

Notice how the answer above is concise, covering the major points without taking up too much time in the interview. The candidate highlights the past experience that is relevant to the position and leaves space for the interviewer to ask follow-up questions.

4. Tell me about a time when you failed or made a mistake

Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are looking for engineering managers who take risks and are constantly learning. So interviewers will want to know about the risks you’ve taken in the past, and the lessons you’ve learned from when they didn’t work out.

Here is an example answer to get you started. Again, this is a shorter version of a complete example answer that we’ve used to illustrate a behavioral answer framework.

“In my last position, my team was working with a lead PM to build out a key feature of a new product that was about to be launched. I told the PM that my team would be finished a week ahead of schedule, as we had beat every deadline leading up to that moment. She rearranged the launch date of the product accordingly.

However, I soon realized that my team would not be finished testing the feature by the new deadline that I had imposed. I had allowed myself to get swept up in our previous progress without considering the intricacies of the last tests and details that would be necessary to finalize it.

As it was my mistake to move up the deadline, I took full responsibility for the mistake. I reported the issue to the lead PM and took it upon myself to speed up the process, so that the updated launch date could be met. I worked overtime every night for two weeks, alongside a few members of my team who elected to help. 

Ultimately, we were able to meet the updated launch date, and the feature we built ended up being a cornerstone of the product once it was launched.

This experience reminded me to make decisions based on data and observation, rather than based on emotion. I should have checked in with the team and looked deeper into the final testing before committing us to a deadline a week earlier than the team anticipated. Since then, I have been meticulous about deadlines and haven’t missed any.”

The key to the answer above is that the candidate emphasized what they have learned, to show that they are constantly evolving and that the mistake in question won’t happen again.

For more tips on how to answer this question, plus five different example answers, see 5 ways to answer "Tell me about a time you failed".

5. Why this company?

Interviewers ask this question for two reasons: to analyze your skills and to test your motivation. First, they’ll want to hear that your choice to interview with this company aligns with your skills and experience. Second, they want to know that you are interested enough in the company to go the extra mile as an employee, even in high-pressure situations.

Below, you’ll find an example answer for a hypothetical candidate interviewing at Amazon.

“I want to work at Amazon for two reasons.

First, I admire Amazon’s leadership principles, particularly the first one: customer obsession. This is something I've experienced first-hand when dealing with Amazon customer support myself, and it's a principle I’ve followed in the past when I took the lead on revamping my company’s technical support ticket architecture based on customer feedback.

Second, one of my co-workers used to be a software development manager at Amazon in Seattle. He has really great things to say about the company and often talks about how much he learned about development there. I look forward to being immersed in that environment.”

Take note that the answer above is concise and structured, showing that the candidate did their research on the company ahead of time and aligns with their company culture.

Click here for more information about how to answer the "Why do you want to work here?" question (the guide targets Amazon but includes tips that apply to any company).

6. How do you manage your team’s career growth?

Interviewers will want to see that you can implement strategies that help the engineers in your team develop and grow. So you'll want to give concrete examples of people management processes that you've put in place.

Some of the things you could mention might be; individual development plans, ongoing feedback and performance discussions, recognition and rewards, promoting internal mobility, fostering a culture of innovation and constant development, supporting work-life balance.

"There are three main strategies I use to support my team's professional development

Firstly, I collaborate closely with each team member to create individualized development plans. By understanding their career aspirations, strengths, and areas for improvement, I can identify relevant training opportunities, mentorship, or stretch assignments that align with their goals.

I build on this with regular feedback and performance discussions where I provide constructive feedback, highlighting their achievements and areas where they can further develop their skills. These discussions help us set clear expectations and create action plans for their professional advancement.

Lastly, I conduct bi-yearly skill assessments to identify areas for growth and determine the specific training needs of my team members. By offering access to relevant training programs, workshops, or online learning platforms, I empower them to acquire new skills and stay updated with industry trends, thus fostering their career growth."

Click here to learn how to answer people management questions.

7. As a manager, how do you handle trade-offs?

Handling trade-offs and prioritizing effectively is a crucial part of an engineering manager's job. In fact, it's a pretty much constant part of your job: Short term gain vs long term benefit? Make it simple or make it scalable?

Trade-offs are a constant part of your job at a top tech company. Your interviewer will want to see that you're confident in making difficult decisions in a logical and structured way, and keeping your team aligned and on board.

Let's see an example answer.

"Of course, dealing with trade-offs is a big part of the job and so I have a clearly outlined process that I follow, which I'll explain for you now.

First I consider the objectives that we're trying to achieve and our priorities. By understanding the goals and priorities, I can evaluate the potential trade-offs in light of these objectives.

I'll then aim to increase my understanding the consequences, risks, and benefits associated with different choices. I assess the short-term and long-term implications on the team, project, resources, timeline, and overall business objectives.

If the trade-off decision is an important one that will affect people from outside the team, the next step is to involve key stakeholders, such as team members, project managers, product owners, or other relevant parties, in the decision-making process.

With input from the other key stakeholders, I'll evaluate the trade-offs by weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Once the decision is made, I communicate the trade-offs and the rationale behind the chosen decision to the team and other stakeholders. By explaining the reasons behind the decision and the trade-offs involved, I encourage understanding and alignment among the team members.

Finally, once a decision is made and implemented, I continuously monitor the outcomes and adjust as necessary. This allows me to assess the effectiveness of the chosen approach, identify any unintended consequences, and make adjustments to minimize negative impacts or seize new opportunities that may arise."

Click here to learn more about how to answer tech project/program management questions.

8. Tell me about a time you scaled a system

Engineering managers at top tech companies need to create products that can be used by billions of users. Your interviewer will want to see that you know how to make systems that will work reliably on a vast scale, maintaining performance under heavy loads and being as cost-efficient as possible.

Below is an example answer to the question.

"In my previous role our team was tasked with scaling a customer-facing web application to accommodate a rapidly growing user base. Here's how we approached the situation:

First, we conducted a thorough performance analysis of the existing system to identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement. We examined various aspects such as response times, database queries, server resource utilization, and network latency.

Based on the performance analysis, we then developed a scalability plan that outlined the necessary steps to scale the system effectively. We identified the key areas that required attention, including database optimization, horizontal scaling, and caching mechanisms.

Let me dive into these three areas a bit more. To improve database performance, we identified and optimized slow-performing queries, added appropriate indexes, and optimized data retrieval operations. We also implemented database caching strategies to reduce the load on the database server.

For horizontal scaling, we added more servers to the infrastructure and used load balancers to distribute incoming traffic across multiple server instances, ensuring efficient resource utilization and improved response times.

And we also implemented caching mechanisms to reduce the load on the application servers. We utilized both client-side caching and server-side caching techniques, such as Redis, to cache frequently accessed data and static content.

Once these optimizations were made, we conducted comprehensive performance testing to simulate high load scenarios and identify any performance bottlenecks. Through load testing, stress testing, and performance profiling, we iteratively optimized the system to handle increased volumes of user traffic.

We also implemented robust monitoring tools to track system performance and resource utilization in real-time. This allowed us to identify thresholds and triggers for automatic scaling. We set up auto-scaling configurations that would dynamically adjust the number of server instances based on traffic patterns and resource usage.

By implementing these strategies, we successfully scaled the system to accommodate the growing user base. This resulted in improved performance, reduced response times, and enhanced overall user satisfaction."

9. How do you deal with an engineer who isn't being a team player?

This is another common people management question that we've seen come up many times in interviews for companies such as Google, Meta, etc. Occasionally it takes the form "How would you deal with too much competitiveness within your team?".

You'll want to demonstrate that you're empathetic and capable of understanding different people's different perspectives and ways of working, but that you also set clear expectations, give honest feedback and hold people accountable.

Someone who really isn't being a team player can have a very adverse affect on other people's performance, so you'll want to show in this answer that you're not afraid of making tough decisions and removing someone from your team once you've exhausted other possibilities.

Let's see an example answer.

"Sure, this happens from time to time at any company. My approach to handling this situation would be as follows.

First, I'd want to be sure that I was communicating the importance of teamwork and collaboration to the entire team. So I'd double down on defining and communicating clear expectations regarding mutual support and shared success.

I would then hold a meeting with the individual to provide feedback, highlighting specific instances where their behavior or actions have negatively impacted teamwork. I'd want to understand their perspective as there could be many very understandable root causes for their behavior (cultural differences, trying to impress, etc).

I would seek to frame the conversation as positively as possible and offer some specific guidance on how they can improve their collaboration skills and emphasize the benefits of being a team player.

I'd also show some flexibility - there are some people who perhaps find it hard to connect with other people and prefer to work on their own - and I would be willing to tweak some of our ways of working, within reason, to accommodate the team member's needs.

After this meeting I would hope to see some improvement in the individual's approach to what we have discussed, and I would seek to reinforce any improvements with positive feedback and acknowledgement.

If, however, improvement was not forthcoming, I would need to draw up an action plan with specific objectives around collaboration and positive cooperation. I would explain that if the individual fails to meet these behavioral targets over the next 3 to 6 months, they may lose their position on the team.

In this case I would assess with the HR team whether there were any opportunities for this team member elsewhere in the company.

If not, I would need to work with HR to start an off-boarding process. I would be reluctant to lose a good engineer but my team always comes first and anything that negatively affects their performance and motivation must be dealt with."

Click here to learn how to answer people management questions.

Now that we’ve seen the 9 most common questions asked in engineering manager interviews, we’re going to explore the three types of questions that engineering managers face across companies: behavioral, system design, and coding.

In the next three sections, you’ll find an overview of each question type, preparation resources, and lists of sample questions from real EM candidates on Glassdoor.

Behavioral engineering manager interview questions

Engineering managers need to have excellent soft skills to coordinate teams and lead projects. For that reason, tech companies ask behavioral interview questions, which broadly fit into these three sub-categories:

  • Culture fit questions, which test whether your personality aligns with the company's way of doing things. 
  • People management questions, which dive into how you will lead your team.
  • Project management questions, which explore how you would deal with complex and ambiguous situations in order to deliver results.

Let’s take a look at some example questions.

When was the last time you did something innovative?

Example behavioral questions asked in engineering manager interviews

Culture fit

  • Tell me about yourself (Video tips)
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why /Google/Amazon/Facebook etc?
  • Tell me about a mistake you made and the lesson you learned from it
  • How do you handle conflicts?
  • Describe a time when a customer asked you for one thing, but you knew that they needed something else
  • When was the last time you did something innovative?
People management
  • How do you deal with low performers?
  • How do you deal with high performers? 
  • Tell me about a time you developed and retained team members
  • How do you manage your team’s career growth?
  • How would you grow a team x 10?
  • Tell me about a difficult employee situation that you handled well/not so well
  • What would you do with someone that had stayed at the same level for too long?
  • How do you recruit good engineers?
  • Give an example of how you helped another employee
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your supervisor and how you resolved it
Project management
  • Tell me about what you've been working on over the last year
  • As a manager, how do you handle trade-offs?
  • Describe how you deal with change management
  • Describe in detail a project that failed
  • Describe a project in the past that was behind schedule and provide concrete steps that you took to remedy the situation
  • Tell me how you would balance engineering limitations with customer requirements
  • What was the largest project you've executed?
  • Tell me about a time you needed to deliver a project on a deadline but there were multiple roadblocks and constraints to deliver. How did you manage that situation?
  • Tell me about a project, product or system you worked upon. What were the design and technical problems you faced? How did you solve them?

When you’re preparing for this part of the interview, we recommend the following two guides to learn how to ace these types of questions.

We also recommend the Practically leading engineering management page as a great resource if you want to read up on what various great minds say about management and leadership ahead of your interview.

Let’s move on to the next type of question you’ll face.

System design engineering manager interview questions

Meta, Google, and Amazon products have millions of monthly active users. Their engineering managers therefore need to be able to design systems that are highly scalable.

This is the part of the interview where you want to show that you can both be creative and structured at the same time. The questions you'll be asked are typically quite open-ended and feel more like a discussion. You'll be using a whiteboard (or an online equivalent) to illustrate your answers.

Here are some example system design questions asked by Meta, Google, and Amazon.

Example system design questions asked in engineering manager interviews

  • Design the next Twitter (Written solution)
  • Design WhatsApp (Written solution)
  • Design TikTok (Video solution)
  • How would you design a system that reads book reviews from other sources and displays them on your online bookstore?
  • How do you handle calls between clients and REST API services with increased volumes?
  • Tell me in detail about the architecture of a project you've been involved with
  • Design a short URL system (Written solution)
  • Design a real-time comment system to go under a Facebook post which may have millions of concurrent active users
  • How would you design the Facebook newsfeed? (Written solution)
  • How would you use a load balancer for memcache servers?
  • How would you design Google Docs? (Written solution)
  • How would you design a ticketing platform?
  • Design an in memory cache for webpages
  • Design a boggle solver
  • Design a distributed ID generation system
  • How would you design Google's database for web indexing?
  • How would you design a webpage that can show the status of 10M+ users including: name, photo, badge and points?
  • How would you design a system that counts the number of clicks on YouTube videos?

We recommend watching the video below, where an ex-Google engineering manager answers a typical system design question, in this case 'Design Spotify".

To help you go deeper into how to ace this part of your engineering manager interview, make sure you read our in-depth guide on how to answer system design questions.

Let's move on to the final question type.

Coding engineering manager interview questions

Amazon typically doesn’t ask many coding questions in engineering manager interviews. But at other companies like Meta and Google, you’ll need to show that you can write well in at least one programming language, think in a structured way, and apply good understanding to a range of coding and algorithm challenges.

We’ve analyzed Glassdoor data to provide you with a list of questions asked by Meta and Google in engineering interviews. The list includes questions asked in regular (non-management) interviews, but you can expect the types of coding questions asked at the engineering manager level to be very similar.

To make these questions easier to study, we've divided them into the following categories, with the most frequent first.

  1. Graphs / Trees (34% of questions, most frequent)
  2. Arrays / Strings (32%)
  3. Dynamic Programming (15%)
  4. Recursion (6%)
  5. Search / Sort (5%)
  6. Geometry / Maths (5%)
  7. Linked lists (2%)
  8. Stacks / Queues (1%)

We've also modified the phrasing to match the closest problem on Leetcode or another resource, and we've linked to a free solution.

Example coding questions asked at engineering manager interviews

1. Graphs / Trees (34%)

  • "Given the root node of a binary search tree, return the sum of values of all nodes with value between L and R (inclusive)." (Solution)
  • "Given a Binary Tree, convert it to a Circular Doubly Linked List (In-Place)." (Solution)
  • "Given a binary tree, find the maximum path sum. The path may start and end at any node in the tree." (Solution)
  • "Given an encoded string, return its decoded string." (Solution)
  • "Given two words (beginWord and endWord), and a dictionary's word list, find the length of shortest transformation sequence from beginWord to endWord, such that: 1) Only one letter can be changed at a time and, 2) Each transformed word must exist in the word list." (Solution)
  • "Implement an iterator over a binary search tree (BST). Your iterator will be initialized with the root node of a BST." (Solution)
2. Arrays / Strings (32%)
  • Implement a SnapshotArray that supports pre-defined interfaces (note: see link for more details). (Solution)
  • "In a row of dominoes, A[i] and B[i] represent the top and bottom halves of the i-th domino.  (A domino is a tile with two numbers from 1 to 6 - one on each half of the tile.) We may rotate the i-th domino, so that A[i] and B[i] swap values. Return the minimum number of rotations so that all the values in A are the same, or all the values in B are the same. If it cannot be done, return -1." (Solution)
  • "Your friend is typing his name into a keyboard.  Sometimes, when typing a character c, the key might get long pressed, and the character will be typed 1 or more times. You examine the typed characters of the keyboard.  Return True if it is possible that it was your friends name, with some characters (possibly none) being long pressed." (Solution)
  • "Given an array nums of n integers where n > 1,  return an array output such that output[i] is equal to the product of all the elements of nums except nums[i]." (Solution)
  • "Given a non-empty string s, you may delete at most one character. Judge whether you can make it a palindrome." (Solution)
  • "Implement next permutation, which rearranges numbers into the lexicographically next greater permutation of numbers." (Solution)
3. Dynamic Programming (15%)
  • "Given a matrix and a target, return the number of non-empty submatrices that sum to target." (Solution)
  • "Given a list of non-negative numbers and a target integer k, write a function to check if the array has a continuous subarray of size at least 2 that sums up to the multiple of k, that is, sums up to n*k where n is also an integer." (Solution)
  • "Say you have an array for which the ith element is the price of a given stock on day i. If you were only permitted to complete at most one transaction (i.e., buy one and sell one share of the stock), design an algorithm to find the maximum profit." (Solution)
4. Recursion (6%)
  • "A strobogrammatic number is a number that looks the same when rotated 180 degrees (looked at upside down). Find all strobogrammatic numbers that are of length = n." (Solution)
  • "Given a binary tree, find the length of the longest path where each node in the path has the same value. This path may or may not pass through the root. The length of path between two nodes is represented by the number of edges between them." (Solution)
5. Search/ Sort (5%)
  • "We have a list of points on the plane.  Find the K closest points to the origin (0, 0)." (Solution)
  • "Given two arrays, write a function to compute their intersection." (Solution)
6. Geometry/ Maths (5%)
  • "A group of two or more people wants to meet and minimize the total travel distance. You are given a 2D grid of values 0 or 1, where each 1 marks the home of someone in the group. The distance is calculated using Manhattan Distance, where distance(p1, p2) = |p2.x - p1.x| + |p2.y - p1.y|." (Solution)
  • "You are given two non-empty linked lists representing two non-negative integers. The digits are stored in reverse order and each of their nodes contain a single digit. Add the two numbers and return it as a linked list." (Solution)
7. Linked lists (2%)
  • "A linked list is given such that each node contains an additional random pointer which could point to any node in the list or null. Return a deep copy of the list." (Solution)
8. Stacks / Queues (1%)
  • "Implement the following operations of a queue using stacks." Note: see more details at the following link. (Solution)

Finally, we recommend reading our different coding interview guides as a launchpad for your preparation:

If your interview was today, would you get an offer?

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