Lesson #29: Interviewing for an EM role: Behavioral Interviews
Hello and thanks in advance for reading Lessons in Engineering Leadership! If you’re new here, Lessons in Engineering Leadership is a weekly newsletter covering a variety of engineering leadership topics that can be read in under 5 minutes.
If you find value in these newsletters and would like to support this publication, you can become a paid subscriber.
I’m glad you’re here!
My Maven course on Engineering Leadership has launched! You can learn more and sign up here. The first cohort kicks off on February 20.
I’m raising $5,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while training for my first marathon (2024 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October). Support my fundraiser here.
Interviewing for an EM role: Behavioral Interviews
If you missed last week’s newsletter on Technical Interviews, here it is! This week we’re talking about my favorite part of the interview process: the behavioral interviews.
Behavioral interviews for EMs aim to dig deep into your past experiences and behaviors to assess how you handled various situations. Typically you’ll have more than one of these interviews, and they’ll be focused around one of many topics:
People leadership experience
Depending who your interviewer is, you’ll approach these topics differently. For example, a Product Manager wants to know how well you two are going to work together. A VP of Engineering wants to know you’ll be able to convert business goals into tactical projects to drive the organization’s vision forward. Engineers who’d be reporting to you want to know if you’ll be a voice for them with the extended leadership team and advocate for them while also being the type of leader that can help them grow personally and professionally.
Most of these questions you’ll get will be “tell me about a time when…” or “how do you…” which means you need to be prepared for any sort of scenario. I highly recommend researching common EM interview questions, writing down answers for each of them, and practicing answering these questions out loud. Record yourself and listen back. It can be awkward at first, but it’s such a great way for you to practice being clear and concise in your answers.
Let’s break down some of my favorite questions. Feel free to answer one of the questions in a comment if you’d like some feedback!
How do you identify and source talent to build a strong candidate pool? How do you distinguish between a strong candidate and a weak one?
How do you ensure you’re hiring a diverse team? What steps do you take to ensure your hiring decisions are devoid of implicit bias?
How would you describe your management style?
How do you measure effectiveness for your team?
Tell me about a time when you had to adapt your leadership style to meet the needs of a team member. How did you adjust your approach?
What is your approach to coaching underperforming team members? OR Tell me about a time when you had to coach an underperforming team member. What was the end result?
What steps do you take to make sure your team stays engaged?
Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize competing projects or deadlines. What was your decision-making process?
How do you figure out your team’s capacity?
Can you discuss a challenging technical problem you encountered and how you resolved it?
What is your approach to conflict resolution and handling difficult conversations?
Tell me about a time when you failed to collaborate with a peer of yours. What did you learn from that experience?
Tell me about a time when you had to navigate a conflict within your team. How did you resolve it?
Tell me about a time when you received critical feedback from a peer or manager and how you responded to it.
How much time do you allocate towards eliminating tech debt in situations where you’re competing with time dedicated towards new product features?
How do you keep pushing your team to do more while not burning them out during times with tight deadlines?
How do you incorporate the company’s vision when setting goals for the team?
Who is involved in your goal-setting process? How do you get feedback for your goals?
There are SO many more questions you can answer, so I’m stressing once again to research, research, research and answer these questions on your own time, especially if you’re not a natural interviewer.
What I’m reading
Crescent City 3 (House of Flame and Shadow) by Sarah J. Maas was released this morning and I actually took the day off work to read it. If you’ve read and enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, I highly recommend you pick up Crescent City as well.
Check out the full book list for recommendations and an ever-growing reading list.
Note: Links to books in this section are affiliate links to help support the purchase of the rest of my books :)
What I’m working on
Last week of the quarter! I’m working with the Product team to put finishing touches to our Q1 plan and finalizing the IT FY25 vision and Q1 plan. Lots of deep thinking, so I’m grateful for an extra day off to disconnect.
If this email was forwarded to you, be sure to subscribe to receive weekly emails in your inbox that can be read in under 5 minutes!