Interview Questions and Answers
This a a sample of standard interview questions that I have encountered. It makes sense for me to copy the crib-notes that I use during an interview and put them out here so that they are easily available to me, to potential interviewers, and as it may be useful to others for their own interview practice. I have specifically chosen questions that do not need specific work experience examples (or have omitted them) out of respect to those I have worked with in the past.
How do you motivate your team?
- (Cribbing from Primed to Perform, and Creativity by Ed Catmull)
- Positive: Play (enjoy the work, fit), Purpose (value generation), Potential (future capability, growth)
- Negative: Inertia, Economics, Emotion
- Set the bar (expectation), agree on goals - and clearly demonstrate trust that they will achieve it (Trust)
- Clearly and authentically invest in their growth and improvement (EQ)
- Connect the tactical work being done, to impact and business strategy (value generation)
- Be available and support as needed
What motivates you?
- Seeing others develop and grow to be successful, in part due to my interventions and support.
What are your personal strengths?
- Flex between high-minded conceptual conceptual thinking and pragmatic execution mindsets
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
Most difficult feedback?
- It challenges your self-image. I always work to convert this into a learning moment.
- For example, I had feedback that people felt intimidated by me in group situations (design brainstorming sessions for example). I always saw myself as “one of the team”. However, that was not how the team felt. I learned to hold back and let the team always go first prior to providing feedback.
What are your blind spots?
- My communication (or argument style) tends towards the analytical and away from the intuitive or emotional based. This is an area that I have to be aware, and work with others to make sure that everyone is validated and we have mechanisms to hear and listen to everyone’s communication style.
How do you deal with conflict?
- Situational - the desire is to strive for a win-win, which requires listening to and understanding the other point of view.
- Need to have a backbone, and stand up for your team.
- Need to accept an opposing decision and be able to move on as well.
- In terms of specific steps, taking a step back and giving people time to cool down. Look at the communication, and see what type of communications gaps may be present (or assumptions made).
Describe a few of your peers at your company and what type of relationship you have with each of them.
Initially, I would describe peers in three groups: reporting peers (sharing the same manager), role peers (people in the same role and level), and project peers (people with similar responsibility/accountability on a project). In the reporting space, my relationship was very much a consulting and inform role. I had regular 1:1s with all of them (monthly) to discuss business issues, changes to tech strategy, emergent issues outside of the team, internal sentiment of the tech team, technical goals, etc. role and project peers tend to be more of a responsible role - sharing of effort to achieve a goal.
What do office politics mean to you, and do you see politics as your job?
Office politics to me is a vague term with a negative connotation that is used in many situations to associate blame for a road block or failure. The primary drivers are natural outcomes of (1) the necessary human interaction and communication between teams (2) limited resources in the organization and a need to achieve a goal for which teams have different priorities (3) intentional bias of a team to optimize for the benefit of team’s perceived value (local optimization) rather than globally. The first two is natural and requires coaching to help improve outcomes. The third needs investigation as it is the corrosive (and truly negative) form of this phrase.
My job is to engage and negotiate with teams to always strive for win-win situations.
How do you manage a low performer
- Provide (or make sure direct manager is) consistent critical feedback and clarify expectations
- Check for externalities (personal, work fit, struggles)
- Does the person need support (person), training (improvement)
- Is the issue a bad fit - reposition in team or org, PIP and Term
How do you manage someone with high potential
- More engagement (invest the most in HIPO)
- Provide growth opportunities and challenges
- Actively work on growth plan and execution.
How do you grow and develop you team membrs.
- The plan is a collaboration between myself and the report. Understand their goals.
- Compare ladder: gap plan, strength plan.
- Look to coach (self-actualization) and mentor.
- Want to see people challenge their comfort zone.
What is the structure of your 1:1s?
- Review any notes made between the last 1:1 and the current 1:1 prior to the start of the meeting (in some cases).
- Start with a short synopsis of the last 1:1.
- Address any tasks that were made to either of us as a result of the last 1:1
- Mentoring and coaching - bring me one thing you struggled with within the last period.
- Discussion of an architecture approach and issues with it. etc.
- With low performers, this will be the bulk of the meeting, for example reviewing the state of their PIP etc.
- Career Plan.
- Team issues and development.
- Process issues.
- Unstructured Time (bulk for HIPO). Usually encourage questions about the bigger picture, strategy, things happening outside of the organization. Also a great opportunity for feedback for myself as well.
What have you learned as a manager?
- Managing and synthesizing information for executives
- Work with team leads on ways to validate OE (tech-debt) - long term vs short term influencing
- Autonomy and not abdication
What do you look for when hiring an engineer.
- Strong fundamentals, willingness to learn, desire to grow and learn, humility, behaviours and principles