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Interviewing for Management- Answering and Then Asking

Career Path
Personal growth

21 January, 2019

Jonathan Azoff gives advice on how to productively reply to questions when interviewing for engineering leadership or management positions so that the fit of the role is determined conducive for both parties.

Problem

If you are interested in moving into a leadership or management position you will likely have to proceed through an interview process. Whether you are looking to grow internally in your current company or you are looking externally at a new company, knowing how to answer and conduct yourself in an interview are fundamental aspects of determining if the role is a right fit for you and if so, successfully landing the job that you desire. Therefore, interviews are equally as important for both the interviewer and the interviewee. Below are two example interview questions for leadership and management positions and some tips on how to effectively respond to them.

Actions taken

  • One of the most important things to understand about a lead role is focus. What are some ways in which you as a lead would help your ICs to stay focused and to hit their goals?
  • Rather than starting with a background story and getting to the point later, be sure to begin with your point and then give the interviewer leads or hooks into the background. This ensures that you efficiently answered the question and if the interviewer is interested then they will ask you to go further down that path. But don't force the interviewer to go down a path they don't want to go down.
  • If the interviewer seems interested in the anecdote to your answer then give them two or three outlets to experiences that influenced your decision and ask if they would like to hear about any of them. This shows that you care about what they think and that you are not just there to impress them.
  • Say that you have two engineers working with each other and one approaches you saying that the other doesn't communicate well. In fact, the problem is so bad that he is threatening to quit. Tell me what sort of conversation you are going to have with either of these ICs to resolve this situation.
  • Your job as a manager is to relay as little information as possible and to synthesize as much information as you can. In this situation you want to avoid having a relayed conversation- he said this or that, and instead make it about the performance of the individual ICs. Synthesize information on expectations and present them to each IC and let them know where they stand.
  • Utilize performance reviews. One of the difficult aspects of your job as a manager is to let people know where they stand. A place to do so is in performance reviews. Sit down with the two ICs separately and state some great things they're doing, state areas for growth, and then provide a message to move forward. Make the review all about your expectations of that individual and not about a conversation you had with someone else.
  • As a manager, one of the great opportunities you have is to close the feedback loop. When somebody has a problem you can recognize it, synthesize it, deliver it, and then provide feedback. The created loop helps people feel that progress is being made, because it is.

Other Tips for Interviewing:

  • Book: The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto. A very powerful rhetorical tool for talking to people in general and the premise works especially well for engineering management.
  • Answer and then ask. By asking leading questions you learn about the interviewer while they are interviewing you. What is there interviewing preference? What is the goal that they're trying to achieve? Are they interested in learning about your history and about your experience or do they just want straight and direct answers?

Lessons learned

  • Rather than trying to impress people by giving an answer to a question and then turning it into a long drawn out response that turns into character building, try as quickly as possible to understand what the interviewer is going for by replying to the enquiry and giving him/her the option to probe for more.
  • Don't be afraid to expose the answer to the question but don't come off as nonassertive also. There is a balance between not sugar-coating answers and the appearance of a delaying tactic to learn more about you. Develop your answers but offer hooks so that they can learn more if they are intrigued.
  • Part of the art of management is coming up with answers yourself. Don't anticipate that the interviewer is expecting a right or wrong answer. There is a large scope of situations so be true to what you have learned, what you know, and what you have experienced.
  • It is the interviewer's job just as much as it is your job to make sure that the role is right for you. Your best leverage is to focus on what they're trying to understand and help them understand it as quickly as possible.

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