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Interview Questions for a Software Engineering Manager

by Debra Kraft

A software engineering manager must keep teams of developers and project managers focused on immediate and short-term goals while working with business leaders to prioritize projects and address long-term goals. If you're getting ready to interview candidates for this position, prepare a list of questions designed to reveal candidates' leadership and technical strengths. It is also important to explore how well their experiences and approaches match the company's organizational structure and culture.

Ability to Manage

Before hiring someone to any manager role, explore each candidate's experience with leading employees at both an individual and a team level. Ask candidates how many employees they've led, and in what locations. Depending on the geographic footprint of the company, It might also be important to find out if candidates have experience leading multicultural teams or virtual employees. Finally, ask candidates to describe their management styles, with the goal of looking for a fit with the company's current or planned approach.

Software Engineering Know-How

In addition to general management skills, a software engineering manager should have a keen understanding of the software development process. Ask candidates to describe their software engineering backgrounds. Find out what software development languages and protocols they've used. Progress into questions on software testing experience, including security testing. Software engineering managers must establish testing procedures as part of the development process, to include using tools to test software for vulnerabilities and security risks.

Project Management Success Factors

Software engineering managers should be well versed in project management principles. Ask candidates to describe their experiences with and approaches to developing project plans, budget management, resource scheduling and monitoring multiple projects. Next, find out how they communicate project status to stakeholders to ensure ongoing support and collaboration. From a team development standpoint, ask for approaches on leveraging project activities to challenge professional growth without negatively impacting project schedules, cost and risk.

Employee Productivity and Development

Every manager is responsible for the productivity of their teams. Ask candidates to describe their experiences hiring and on-boarding employees to ensure a successful start. Also find out how they communicate information to team members on a regular basis. They might use regular team meetings, one-on-one interactions, emails or instant messages. The best approach will likely be a combination, and will need to fit with employees' needs and expectations. To complete this series of questions ask candidates to describe their approaches to motivating employees and challenging them to build upon their existing skills for career development.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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