15 min read
Software Engineering Manager Interview: Questions to Hire a Rock Star
Hiring a software development manager is even more challenging than a developer. The expert should have rather a wide knowledge in a variety of fields:
– Project management: software project planning, delivery on time, risk management, etc.
– People management: communication skills within the team, interpersonal problem-solving skills, team motivation, etc.
– Remote team management experience.
– Technical skills.
Compared with the developer’s interview, the role of open-ended questions here is much higher. That’s why during the software engineering manager interviews, it’s crucial to ask also about previous experience and listen carefully to what candidates say.
Below, we’ve gathered some typical software development manager technical interview questions you can ask. Each question is followed whether by a typical answer or by an explanation of what’s to expect. So, meet our selection of the software development manager interview questions and answers (PDF isn’t available, by the way).
Software Development Manager Interview Questions About Project Management
1. How Do You Ensure That Your Team Is meeting Deadlines and Delivering High-quality Software?
The candidate will likely name 3–4 things from the list below. Don’t worry if the answers are different: the idea is to evaluate the candidate’s way of thinking and experience.
|Set clear goals and deadlines for team|
|2||Regularly review the state of a code delivered to monitor progress and address any issues|
|3||Provide necessary resources and support to help them be successful|
|4||Establish proxy metrics to measure the team’s performance|
|5||Communicate effectively with stakeholders to ensure they are informed of progress and any potential delays|
|6||Continuously evaluate and improve your development process to increase efficiency and quality|
|7||Recognize and reward good performance|
|8||Provide feedback and coaching to team members|
2. What Team Meeting Structure Do You Consider the Most Efficient?
Generally, the structure always depends on the specific team and project and can be adapted accordingly. But the right candidate can also offer to adhere to any known methodology, and surely should argue for their position. For example, Scrum as one of the most popular methodologies offers the next meeting structure:
- Daily stand-up meetings — once a day.
- Sprint planning meetings — once per sprint at the beginning (the most often — each second week).
- Sprint review meetings — once per spring at the end or at the beginning of the next sprint.
- Retrospective meetings — once per sprint or two.
- Bug triage meetings — usually, two or three times a week.
3. How Do You Balance Technical Debt vs. Feature Development?
These two scopes of work are highly important but have different priorities. Here are common approaches to balancing them.
- A compromise-based approach. For example, a team may decide to focus on addressing technical debt within 1-2 weeks per 3 or 6 months of development.
- Setting a regular budget for addressing technical debt. The team dedicates a certain percentage of each sprint to addressing technical debt. This allows teams to address technical debt on a regular basis and not let it accumulate to a point where it becomes a major issue.
- Track and address. This approach is the most flexible yet challenging. The team must always keep tracking the level of technical debt and allocate enough resources for preventing uncontrollable growth.
- The technical debt quadrant. This approach is offered by Martin Fowler in 2009 and based on the division of debt into reckless/prudent and deliberate/inadvertent. You can read about it on the author’s page.
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4. How Do You Handle and Mitigate Risks in Software Development Projects?
Below are the common steps for mitigating risks. The proper answer must be somewhere across these points.
- Identify potential risks by reviewing project requirements, previous projects, and industry best practices.
- Assess the likelihood and impact of risks to prioritize which risks need to be addressed first.
- Develop a risk management plan to mitigate or avoid the identified risks, and assign responsibilities for implementing the plan.
- Implement risk mitigation strategies to mitigate or avoid identified risks, such as adding additional testing or quality assurance.
- Continuously monitor the project for new risks and update the risk management plan as necessary.
- Regularly communicate with stakeholders and collaborate with team members to identify and address potential risks.
- Have a contingency plan in place in case a risk materializes.
5. What Are the Best Practices for Maintaining Proper Documentation for Software Development Projects?
- Create a documentation plan including the types of documentation that will be created, who will be responsible for creating it, how it should be stored and who is going to use it.
- Use consistent formatting and names for all documentation to make it easy to find and understand.
- Adhere to proven notations like BPMN, UML, Lean Startup, etc.
- Regularly update documentation as the project progresses to ensure that it is accurate and relevant.
- Ensure that documentation is easily accessible to all relevant stakeholders, such as team members, managers, and clients.
- Use version control software to keep track of changes made to the documentation and maintain a history of all versions.
- Use automation and templates to ensure consistency and reduce the time required to create and maintain documents.
- Always allow time for review and feedback before finalizing documentation, this will help to catch errors and ensure the completeness of the documentation.
People Management Questions for Software Development Managers
6. How Do You Foster a Positive and Productive Team Environment?
There are several ways you can create a productive working environment for your development team.
- Encourage open and transparent communication between team members.
- Acknowledge and reward team members fairly, according to their contributions and hard work.
- Encourage team members to work together, share knowledge, and help each other.
- Provide opportunities for team members to learn new skills, take on new challenges, and grow in their roles.
- Create an environment that values diversity and promotes inclusivity.
- Avoid micromanaging and give your team members the freedom to take ownership of their work and make decisions.
- Encourage team members to give and receive feedback.
- Have fun from time to time.
7. How Do You Handle Conflicts or Disagreements Within Your Team?
Below are the main options SDMs have to overcome any conflicts within the team they manage:
- Encourage open communication: make sure that team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns, and actively listen to all sides of the argument.
- Identify the root cause by trying to understand the underlying reasons behind the conflict, rather than just addressing surface-level issues.
- Facilitate a discussion: bring the conflicting parties together, discuss the issue, and come to a mutually beneficial outcome.
- Focus on the goal. The manager should remind the team that the common goal is to deliver high-quality software and that conflicts should be resolved in a way that aligns with that goal.
- Sending follow-ups helps ensure that any conflict-solving agreements are followed through on and that any issues are addressed immediately.
- Conflict escalation to the upper management should be the last resort.
8. How Do You Onboard People to the Remote Team?
To onboard people to a remote team efficiently, follow the next steps:
- Communicate all expectations and guidelines for working remotely.
- Set up a system for communication and collaboration, such as a team chat or video conferencing platform.
- Establish regular check-ins and virtual meetings to ensure everyone stays connected and on track.
- Provide instructions and training for remote work tools.
- Encourage team building and social interaction through virtual team events or activities.
- Make sure new team members have all the necessary equipment and resources to work efficiently from home.
- Assign a mentor to provide support and answer any questions.
- Continuously check in with new team members to ensure they are adjusting well and address any concerns.
Remote Team Challenges
9. What Is the Difference Between the Management of On-site and Remote Team Members?
Let’s compare on-site and remote teams management shortly in a form of a table.
Concluding the differences, the on-site work seems convenient for arranging team meetings, establishing good relationships, and communicating occasionally. What’s to remote work, it allows employees to spend their time more efficiently, and focus on particular project tasks faster and easier, etc.
10. How Do You Handle and Manage Team Members from Different Time Zones?
The best practices for managing team members from different time zones:
- Schedule regular meetings at a time that fits well for all members.
- Arrange at least a 3–4 hour time zone overlap for ad-hoc texts and calls.
- Clearly communicate when work should be completed and reviewed. Adjust deadlines and communication to accommodate different time zones.
- Use a shared project management tool, such as Asana or Trello, to align different team members and keep them updated on project progress.
- Use asynchronous communication channels like chats, e-mail, or messengers, for non-urgent issues.
11. How Do You Stay on Top of New Technologies and Trends in Software Development?
The purpose of the question is to get an understanding of whether the candidate is a passionate learner or not. The answer close to the ideal should look like the following:
- Attending industry conferences & workshops.
- Reading technology blogs to stay informed about the latest trends and advancements in software development.
- Networking with other professionals in the field to learn about new approaches to solving common tech problems.
- Playing with new frameworks in order to gain hands-on experience and understanding.
- Participating in hackathons.
- Joining online and offline communities to learn from experienced software manager.
- Being open to learning new tools and technologies and continuously learning to adapt to changing trends.
12. How to Approach Moving the Legacy Project to a New Tech Stack?
In a nutshell, the steps for moving a legacy project to a new tech stack are:
- Assess the current state of the project and identify any potential roadblocks or challenges.
- Establish a clear plan for the migration, including a timeline and milestones.
- Assemble the right team with the right skillsets, and attract former project software developers for a knowledge transfer.
- Consider any potential impacts on the project’s users or stakeholders.
- Establish a good testing strategy and test early and often.
- Communicate the progress and any potential issues to the stakeholders.
- Control the progress and optimize what is possible.
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13. From Your Experience, What Are the Hardest and Easiest Parts of Every Engineering Manager?
This is an open-ended question related to a unique personal experience of an interviewed person. The answer will be completely different for each candidate.
Listen carefully to what the interviewed person is about to say. When a candidate doesn’t come up with vivid examples right away, it’s a clear sign of insufficient experience. Ask clarifying questions unexpectedly — it makes it easier to take the candidate by surprise.
Again, interview questions for software development manager about their previous experience help form a judgment of the candidate’s soft skills. For example, if the candidate blames their previous employers during the interview, this is often a bad sign.
14. Remember the Last Time When You Had to Make a Difficult Decision as a Manager? What Was It?
This open-ended question will tell you things like whether the candidate makes decisions on their own, takes responsibility, the level and quality of the decisions, etc. When you’re interviewing for a software development manager role, it’s important to get some real examples out of the candidate. As in many previous cases, pay attention to candidate’s behavior and how they handle themselves.
Hiring the right software development manager is not as straightforward as it may seem. Part of the problem is creating a proper candidate funnel, and then screening, which requires hands-on experience in the field.
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