Introduction to People Management Interviews

Get an overview of the people management interviews and what companies expect from people managers.

People management interviews are largely scenario-based interactive discussions about various aspects of managing people. It is vital to remain focused and stay on course while answering these questions. Irrelevant and long answers will make the answers boring and will also waste time. Remember that there is a time limit for your interview.

It is important to make the interview conversational and avoid too long answers. This will ensure that the interviewer is engaged and focused throughout the interview. Providing concise answers also keeps the conversation flowing and allows the interviewer to ask follow-up questions. Since the interviewer has to collect signals around many areas to make an accurate assessment, short and precise answers benefit both the interviewer and the candidate.

The goal of the interview

The goal of people management interviews is to evaluate the following:

  • Whether the candidate is technically sound enough to support an engineering team.

  • Whether they are qualified to operate in the company's management framework.

  • Whether they will be meeting the expectations in the people management axis of the company.

Note: In addition to a hire/no-hire decision, the interviewer also tries to determine the appropriate level for the candidate (EM1 or EM2) during this interview.

What makes a good manager?

Who is considered a "good" manager depends on the company's management framework. They can be described in a single line as follows: "A good people manager has a happy team with good growth and continues to deliver business results."

Generally, a good people manager:

  • Ensures that the team delivers results on time most of the time: They can keep their team focused on achieving its goals in terms of business deliverables.

  • Ensures that team members are happy and fulfilled by the work they do: Sometimes, engineers have to work on critical business deliverables that are not motivating enough. Team members might be looking for different kinds of tasks that align more with their interests or challenge them more. The manager should try their best to keep a balance in such cases. Understanding that engineering management isn't all about delivering business results is important.

  • Invests in the growth of team members: Effective managers should assess their reports' abilities and identify growth areas. With an accurate assessment, they should be able to develop a plan needed for team members' career growth.

  • Has good retention numbers for their team: A good retention number is a reflection of team health. It's not healthy for the team if too many people are leaving in a short duration.

Note: Retention rate is only a relative measure. There may be cases where retention is low due to reasons beyond the manager's control, such as a company's poor financial performance. At other times, good retention numbers are not true indicators of team health, e.g., during a recession, no one wants to leave their job.

  • Provides transparent and actionable feedback: This is one of the most important aspects of being an effective manager. The trust between the manager and their team members should be such that the manager can provide transparent feedback to the team members and vice versa. Feedback should not be withheld till the formal performance review cycle. Timely feedback allows team members to cover deficient areas instead of getting a lower performance rating during the formal reviews.

  • Has empathy and builds trust in relationships with their team members: This serves as the backbone for everything else a manager does. Trust in relationships fosters a safe environment of growth, fulfillment, and productivity.