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28 Director of Engineering Interview Questions + How to Prepare

Learn 3 quick tips for a director of engineering interview, plus see 28 directors of engineering interview questions here.

By Fellow.app  •   December 16, 2022  •   9 min read

Even if you’re high up in your organization and super confident in your work, you might occasionally still feel nervous. For example, maybe you’re interviewing for an even bigger new role like director of engineering – getting jitters before and during your interviews is totally understandable. You can quell your anxiety if you practice answering these common director of engineering interview questions beforehand.

3 quick tips for a director of engineering interview

Before, during, and after you’re in the hot seat, you should take the below steps.

1Do your research and ask questions

Hiring managers are typically more likely to hire someone who’s actually interested in their organization. To show that this is you, look into the organization before your interview, and don’t stop there. During your interview, ask questions based on the organization’s past work and mission and vision statements. This can show that you’re really paying attention.

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2Practice, practice, practice

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking even if you’ve gone through them plenty of times before. Practicing your answers to some common director of engineering interview questions beforehand can make all the difference. In your most anxious moments, take a quick moment to think back on what you practiced – your answer will be right there.

3Send a thank-you email

It’s common courtesy to send a thank-you email after a job interview. That’s especially important if you’re going for a director of engineering role – a good manager always shows common courtesy on the job. So go ahead and send that thank-you email – it might show hiring managers that you’re a true professional.

The 11 most commonly asked director of engineering interview questions + answers 

When you practice for your director of engineering interview, start with the following questions. You should mold your answers on the below but not say exactly what’s here – instead, tweak these answers based on your experience.

1How do you communicate effectively with your team?

Example answer: “I use a task management system with Gantt charts to assign tasks and track my team members’ progress. I also build meaningful relationships with everyone on my team so that they feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns. Project management and showing that I care about my team’s thoughts are equally important to me.” 

2What is your approach to conflict resolution?

Example answer: “My approach to conflict resolution is to find learning opportunities in any conflict that isn’t hostile. When people disagree, they often shed light on important issues, and when we solve these problems, we do better work. This is why I listen to everyone involved in the conflict and really get to know their concerns. From there, I find solutions that work for the whole team.”

3How do you address poor performance?

Example answer: “When team members don’t hit their performance marks, I set aside time for a one-on-one meeting. I kindly explain my concerns while giving the team member space to share their side of the story. I then figure out a plan for us both to work on improving the team member’s performance. If nothing changes after several meetings and the team is struggling as a result, I may need to bring in someone else.”

4What’s a mistake you’ve made in your engineering or management work?

Example answer: “In a prior role, I set aside less time than we wound up needing for a project. I had already set deadlines with stakeholders, so I took two steps. I asked if anyone on my team would be willing to put in extra hours in return for extra days off. I also asked the stakeholders how much deadline flexibility they had. 

The stakeholders gave us three extra business days, and two team members worked overtime. I learned my lesson and made sure to slightly overestimate project timelines moving forward.”

5Tell me about your management style

Example answer: “I always appreciate all my team members and regularly go out of my way to recognize their hard work. That means celebrating even the smallest wins. I’ve noticed that team members typically perform better in these morale-boosting work environments, and they stick around longer too. 

Of course, some team members might not meet expectations. In that case, I lean on one-on-one meetings and performance plans to effectively manage this team member.”

6How do you keep up with the latest engineering news and developments?

Example answer: “I subscribe to leading engineering publications, and every morning, I read an article relevant to my team’s work. I also go to engineering conferences roughly every few months. I try to bring along at least one team member whose professional development goals align with the conference. I carry the ideas and technologies these opportunities teach me about into all my project planning and execution.”

7Can you tell me about your project management experience?

Example answer: “In my previous engineering roles, I managed three projects’ timelines, budgets, and scope all at once. I guided all planning sessions, brainstorming meetings, and twice-weekly meetings to keep the projects on track. This required supreme time management, – managing three projects takes lots of work – and our clients were always thrilled. My team was always grateful for how I worked with them too.”

8What makes you the best pick for our director of engineering opening?

Example answer: “I’m your ideal candidate given all my experience. I’ve brought my engineering and management talents to industries including software, lab research, and automotive manufacturing. Through it all, I’ve learned how to manage teams and plan projects for the best possible results. I’m also an excellent communicator, so as your director of engineering, I would clearly explain even the most complex topics to everyone.”

9What’s the single most important thing engineering teams can do to create a healthy work environment?

Example answer: “The single most important thing I do to create healthy work environments for my engineering teams is to hold regular meetings. That means weekly team meetings and one-on-ones. It’s just two meetings per week per team member, but it makes such a difference. It’s how team members feel heard, seen, acknowledged, recognized, and motivated, all while doing better work.”

10What qualities do you look for in engineers?

Example answer: “Great engineers have great problem-solving skills. They should also be detail-oriented people who can follow and give directions. Engineering teams should also communicate effectively and regularly hit all their quality marks. I also seek out innovative minds – the kind of people who can face any challenge.”

11How often do you go over and adjust your personal development goals?

Example answer: “Every few months, I look at whether I’m meeting my personal development goals. If not, I figure out how to start meeting them, or I come up with new goals that make more sense. 

For example, in my previous role, I had set a goal to be clearer about project expectations with my team. To measure this, I noted how often there were gaps between the quality I hoped for and my team’s actual work quality. Big gaps happened more often than I hoped for, so I took a manager communication course, and after that, this problem became less prevalent.”

Additional director of engineering interview questions

In addition to the above common director of engineering interview questions, here are some others you might hear. You can use the quick advice next to each question to come up with your own answer.

1General director of engineering interview questions

  • Which three of your strengths could bring you success as a director of engineering? Name broad qualities that guide your work – patience, organization, attention to detail. You can also bring up a weakness as long as you show how you’ve worked on improving it – and how you’re still doing so.
  • Tell me about yourself. Your answer should be a top-level summary of your relevant experience. You can end with a few super quick facts about what you like to do for fun outside work.
  • Why do you want to work here? This is where the research you did before the interview comes into play. Explain what about the company’s projects and mission excite you.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Tie this into the work you’d do for the organization. Find a way to say that you have higher ambitions in the long run, but that you’ll also enjoy the director role while it’s yours. 
  • What do you think of when you think of our organization? Talk about the vision you have of working at the organization and how you think customers probably feel about the organization.
  • Can you describe yourself in three words? State the words, then explain why they describe you.
  • Why do you want this role? Talk about why you want to be a director of engineering and how your career path has led you to this moment. Then, talk about why you want to be this organization’s director of engineering.

2Additional in-depth questions

  • Can you walk me through a typical workday in your most recent role? Give a brief overview of how your day starts, continues, and ends. No need to go through every little task – staying surface-level will do.
  • If a member of your team neglects their work, how would you handle it? Talk about how you know it’s time for disciplinary actions and how you go about them.
  • How do you prioritize tasks? Go through how you figure out all your tasks and their urgency levels, then talk about how you delegate and check on tasks.
  • How do you define “director of engineering”? Give a one- or two-sentence overview of everything you think the job is and does.
  • How have you managed your most successful engineering projectors? Walk your interviewer through one or two successful projects you oversaw from start to finish and how your work directly led to success.

3Additional experience and background questions 

  • Why did you become an engineer? Tell your interviewer how you figured out engineering was for you and what you did to act on that.
  • What do you enjoy most and least about working in engineering? Name two or three things you love, then name one you aren’t as fond of and how you handle it.
  • What’s been your biggest professional achievement? Name and explain what you’re most proud of in your career.
  • What concerns do you have about being our director of engineering? It’s totally possible you’ll have none, and that’s okay. Just say you have no worries yet, but you’ll speak up if concerns come up on the job. If you do have concerns, name at most two, and explain how you’ll work with others to address them if the organization hires you.
  • What management tools do you use? Name a few and explain why. For example, you can tell your interviewer that you use Fellow to run, plan, and follow up on all your engineering team meetings.

Direct your engineering team with Fellow

Once you start your new director of engineering role, you can use Fellow to master the team meetings key to managing engineers. Fellow comes with tools for collaborating on meeting agendas, taking meeting notes, and assigning meeting action items. You can also use Fellow to give and get peer feedback and manage all your objectives and key results (OKRs). It’s your key to breaking down silos, minimizing micromanagement, and maximizing productivity.

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