Google Engineering Manager Interview Questions and Preparation

Getting a job as a Google Engineering Manager is no small feat. That said, strong fundamentals and directed practice can really boost your chances.

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In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Engineering Manager interview process at Google:

  • What Are the Expectations From a Google Engineering Manager?
  • What Does Google Look for in an Engineering Manager?
  • Google Engineering Manager Interview Process and Structure
  • Google Engineering Manager Interview Questions
  • Questions to Ask the Interviewer
  • Google Engineering Manager Interview FAQ

What Are the Expectations From a Google Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers at Google are expected to know and understand the coding and engineering aspects of products. But that’s not all. They also need to manage teams of some of the smartest engineers on the planet and are called for help in unique, challenging situations. As a candidate, you need to show you can do all of the above to have a shot at clearing Google’s Engineering Manager interview.

Skills Required for the Google Engineering Manager Role 

Candidates for the role of Google engineering manager need to have the ability to:

  • Lead a team of world-class software engineers to create and deliver products.
  • Optimize their own code and make sure Engineers are able to optimize their code.
  • Come up with a product strategy.
  • Drive architecture decisions.
  • Manage project goals.
  • Design internet-scale solutions.
  • Resolve challenging tech problems for customers and develop their own team.
  • Manage engineers across multiple teams and locations.
  • Manage a large product budget and oversee large-scale deployment.

Technical knowledge and skills required to clear Google Engineering Manager interview include:

Google doesn’t have too many Engineering Managers, given the size of the company. It’s not uncommon to find a manager at Google with 30 direct reports. This structure is, by design, to avoid micromanagement and encourage managers to focus on creating the best environment for engineers to create things. Candidates who can show that temperament may be at an advantage.

What Does Google Look for in an Engineering Manager?

Google is mainly looking for engineering managers who show:

  1. General Cognitive Ability: This refers to the ability to learn new things and adapt to changes. How you try to solve tough problems and how you learn will also be evaluated in this category.
  2. Role-Related Knowledge and Experience: This covers your domain knowledge, experience, and expertise relevant to the role you’re interviewing for.
  3. Leadership: Here, Google evaluates your ability to work in cross-functional teams and emergent leadership. Emergent leadership means that you weren’t appointed a leader but stepped up over time with group interactions. At Google, different members may be expected to lead at different points during a project’s life cycle, based on when their skills are most needed. 
  4. Googleyness: This parameter assesses cultural fit. Do you naturally fit with google’s culture and values- and is google the right fit for you. Are you collaborative? Do you take ownership of your work? Do you have a bias to action? Are you comfortable with ambiguity? These are some questions they might be interested in finding answers to.

Google Engineering Manager Interview Process and Structure

The complete interview process for Google Engineering Managers takes about 1-3 months. 

Recruiter Phone Screen

This will involve explaining your background, telling them about yourself, answering why you’re a good fit for Google, why Google is a fit for you, how your typical workday looks, etc. 

Expect behavioral and temperamental questions along with work experience related questions from your resume. Expect general, people, and product management questions as well. 

Check out our page on Google Product Manager Interview Questions for some product management and general management interview questions by Google.

Technical Interview

This will likely be over video chat/phone and will test your skills on data structures and algorithms. Expect one main question to take most of the time. Most often, questions involve graphs, trees, arrays, strings, dynamic programming, recursion, geometry, and math. The topic frequency for Google tech interviews is in that order.

The problem-solving would be interactive. Here are some tips: 

  • Validate any assumptions you make and ask clarifying questions to ensure you’ve correctly understood the problem and are starting on the right track. 
  • Instead of directly attempting coding, take a moment to think about the possible solutions and tradeoffs you make in choosing each of them. 
  • Express your thought process clearly to the interviewer. Then, go on to plan your solution and write the implementation in the language of your choice. 
  • Test for various cases, with a focus on testing for all relevant edge cases and corner cases. 

Onsite Interview 

There’ll be five to six onsite interviews. These will include two leadership interviews, one-two system design interviews, and one-two coding interviews. 

Leadership Interviews (2 Rounds)

Expect questions about your history of managing people, projects, and behavioral questions that assess your methods. These include questions about how you would grow your team, your approach to developing and retaining members, your ability to lead in complex, ambiguous, difficult situations, and your ability to lead a project end to end and deliver. For more on this, check out our page on Google Leadership Interview Questions

System Design Interviews 

These interviews are designed to assess your thought process and technical knowledge regarding architecture and scaling. Your process should be to:

1. Ask clarification questions: What’s the goal of the system? Is the scope of the exercise end-to-end experience or limited to API? What are the scaling and performance requirements? State the assumptions you’re making out loud and verify if they are okay with you making those assumptions.

2. Design on a high level first, then design specific components: Start with taking stock of high-level components like front-end, web servers, database, etc. Then drill down and design individual components in preferred order. You can interact with your interviewer to make sure you've provided the desired level of details.

3. Summarize and present: Finally, check with the given requirements to make sure your solution meets them. Explain how the system would work in its full scope and elaborate on the tradeoffs made while making decisions.

Check out System Design Interview Preparation Tips for more.

Coding Interviews

Even when applying for the role of an engineering manager, you need to be able to think in a structured way and code well in at least one programming language. For the coding interviews, get used to writing code without an editor helping you with syntax. Write on a whiteboard or a piece of paper, as you’ll likely be coding on a whiteboard. Be great at least one language and try to use that during the interview. The problem-solving tips for coding interviews remain the same as stated above. Questions on Data Structures and Algorithms often include topics like:

  • Binary trees 
  • Strings and arrays
  • Linked list
  • Recursion
  • Bit manipulation
  • Small programs (string, memory functions, etc.)
  • Math and probability

You will also have lunch with an interviewer or an engineer during onsite, which is your time to ask questions. It’s not formally evaluated, but behaving appropriately is, of course, important, like in any workplace interaction.

Google Engineering Manager Interview Questions

Google Engineering Manager Interview Questions can be broadly divided into three parts: behavioral and leadership, system design, and coding interview questions. Let us look at some Google EM questions from each of these categories.

Behavioral and Leadership Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself. (Our video FAANG Engineering Manager Mock Interview does an excellent job of explaining how to approach this question as well as other behavioral and leadership questions.)
  2. How do you deal with low performers?
  3. What makes you an effective leader?
  4. How would you handle people who aren't team players?
  5. What would be your approach towards high performers? 
  6. Talk about a time when you developed and retained team members.
  7. Tell me about a project in the past that was behind schedule. Also, talk about some concrete steps that you took to remedy the situation.
  8. How do you approach tradeoffs as a manager?
  9. Describe how you deal with change management.
  10. How would you balance engineering limitations with customer requirements?
  11. Why Google?
  12. How do you handle conflicts?
  13. Describe in detail a project that failed.

System Design Interview Questions 

How would you design: 

  1. Google Docs
  2. Google Home
  3. A ticketing platform
  4. Google's database for web indexing
  5. A webpage to show the status of millions of users: including name, photo, badge, and points
  6. A system to count the number of clicks on YouTube videos
  7. A boggle server
  8. An in-memory cache for webpages
  9. A distributed ID generation system

Coding Interview Questions 

Graphs and Trees:

  1. Given: A dictionary's word list and two words beginWord and endWord. Task: Find the length of the shortest transformation sequence from beginWord to endWord. Also: 1) Only one letter can be changed at a time, and 2) Each transformed word must exist in the word list.
  2. Given: A N x M matrix of N rows and M columns. From m[i][j], you may move to m[i+1][j], if m[i+1][j] > m[i][j], or you may move to to m[i][j+1] if m[i][j+1] > m[i][j]. Task: Print the longest path length if we start from (0, 0).
  3. Given: A binary tree. Task: Find the maximum path sum where the path may start and end at any node in the tree.
  4. Given: An encoded string. Task: Return its decoded string.
  5. Given: A robot cleaner is in a room, and the room has been modeled as a grid. In the grid, each cell may be blocked, or it may be empty. The robot cleaner has four given APIs and can move forward, turn left, or turn right. Each turn it makes is 90 degrees. When the robot cleaner tries to move into a blocked cell, its bumper sensor detects the obstacle present and stays on the current cell. Task: Design an algorithm to clean the entire room using only the 4 given APIs shown below.

Arrays and Strings:

  1. Given: A row of dominoes, where for the i-th domino, A[i], B[i] stand for the i-th domino's top and bottom halves, respectively. We can rotate the i-th domino so that A[i] and B[i] swap values. Task: Return the minimum number of rotations such that all the values in A or all the values in B are the same. If it cannot be done, return -1.
  2. Given: Two strings S and T. Task: Find the minimum window in the string S, which will contain all the characters in the string T in complexity O(n).
  3. Given: A width maxWidth and an array of words. Task: Format the text such that each line has exactly maxWidth characters and is fully (left and right) justified.
  4. Given: Your friend is typing his name on a computer. When typing a character c, the keyboard key may sometimes get long pressed, and the character will be typed 1 or more times. You examine the typed characters of the keyboard.  Task: Return True if it is possible that it was your friend's name, with some characters (possibly none) being long pressed.

Dynamic Programming: 

  1. Given: A "rows" x "cols" binary matrix filled with 0's and 1's. Task: Find the largest rectangle containing only 1's and return its area.
  2. Given: On an infinite number line, a car starts at position 0 and speed +1. (The car can have negative position values.) The car drives automatically according to a sequence of instructions A (accelerate) and R (reverse). Task: Now, for some target position, find the length of the shortest sequence of instructions to get there.
  3. Given: Strings S and T. Task: Find the minimum contiguous substring M of S so that T is a subsequence of M. If there is no such window in S that covers all the characters in T, return an empty string. Also, if there are multiple such minimum-length windows, return the one with the left-most starting index.
  4. Given: A matrix and a target. Task: Return the number of non-empty submatrices that sum to the target.

Recursion:

  1. Given: A strobogrammatic number is a number that looks the same when rotated 180 degrees (looked upside down). Task: Find all strobogrammatic numbers that are of length = n.
  2. Given: A binary tree. Task: Find the length of the longest path, such that each node in that path stores the same value. This path may or may not involve the root. The length of the path between two nodes is represented by the number of edges between them.

Geometry and Math:

  1. Task: A group of two or more people wants to meet and minimize the total travel distance. Given: A two-dimensional grid of values zero or one, where each one marks someone's home in the group. The distance is calculated using what's called Manhattan Distance, where distance(p1, p2) = |p2.x - p1.x| + |p2.y - p1.y|.
  2. Given: Two non-empty linked lists that represent two integers greater than or equal to zero. The digits of the two integers are stored in reverse order, and each of their nodes contains a single digit. Task: Add the two numbers and return the result as a linked list.

Here are some solved problems that can help you prepare and solve the problems given here.

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

It’s a good idea to be prepared with a few questions of your own for when the interviewer asks, “do you have any questions for us?” There are a number of things you may be curious about and can ask the interviewer, such as:

  1. What is the overall purpose of this position?
  2. How do you evaluate the performance of someone in this role?
  3. What is the reason this position is being created?
  4. What is the culture of the company?
  5. What do you enjoy most about working here?
  6. What happened to the person who previously worked here?

Google Engineering Manager Interview FAQs

1. Can I become a Google Engineering Manager if I am not an expert in data structures and algorithms?

Yes, but with multiple conditions that must be fulfilled. Firstly, you need to know the basic data structures and algorithms exceptionally well. Secondly, you need to have a high-level idea of advanced, complex data structures and should be able to implement them using libraries. Lastly, you should be able to think on your feet because the problems you get will not be cardboard cutout problems and will actually test your thought process and understanding of data structures and algorithms.

2. How to stand out in Google interviews? 

There’s a lot that happens in each candidate’s career, and not all of it is relevant or of interest to the company for the role they’re hiring for. Knowing their values and goals, being clear on fundamentals, practicing with a directed and smart approach will help your chances of getting selected. It is one thing to not get selected because you didn’t have the relevant experience or skills; it’s a completely different thing to be rejected because you didn’t focus on, and hence failed to communicate, all the things in your experience and skill set, that showed you’d have been a good fit for the role.

3. How to Prepare for a Google Engineering Manager Interview?

Visiting Google's career page, their tech dev guide would be a good start. For a directed and smart approach to technical interview prep, it would help to have a structured course designed for interview prep. At Interview Kickstart, we provide mock interviews and courses that can significantly boost your prep. You can check them out and see if they are a good fit for you.

If you are preparing for a tech interview, check out our interview questions page and salary negotiation ebook to get interview-ready! Also, read Google Systems Design Interview Questions for Software Developers, Google Coding Interview Questions, and Google Interview Questions for specific insights and guidance on Google tech interviews.

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