Interview Guide Nov 05
Nov 053-4 rounds
Detailed, specific guidance on the Google Engineering Manager interview process - with a breakdown of different stages and interview questions asked at each stage of the Google EM loop, including Google-specific interview types such as the "Code review" round
Engineering Managers at Google are responsible for leading a team of software engineers in the development and delivery of high-quality products and services. They also hire, mentor, and develop high-performing engineers, create and maintain a positive and productive work environment, and represent the team to senior management and other teams within Google.
Google EMs play a critical role in the success of Google's products and services. They are responsible for ensuring that Google's products are developed and delivered on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards. They also play a key role in attracting and retaining top talent, and in creating a positive and productive work environment.
How to Apply for an Engineering Manager Job at Google?
Check the job openings on Google’s careers page or on LinkedIn. Apply for the one which feels relevant for your background. If you can get a referral - this meaningfully increases your chances of getting an interview call. Make sure it's a "relevant" referral though; in Google in particular if you're applying for an EM role - you ideally want another EM; or at the very least someone with an Engineering background to refer you; for the referral to be valued properly. Also please definitely make sure your resume has the basics sorted. Concise, impact focused overviews of your past roles - in particular those focusing on people leadership and craft excellence. Ideally past experience of Engineering Management (Google practically never hires people who have purely held IC roles in the past for an EM role). If you want specific targeted advice on whether your resume is making the cut; or whether it needs changes, Prepfully has several Google recruiters who actively hire EMs, and who can give you this sort of advice.
As a part of the Google EM interview, you’ll will need to go through multiple interview rounds:
1. Recruiter Screening - This round is taken by a recruiter for a basic background check. You can also expect typical behavioral and resume-related questions.
2. Technical Screening - This round includes data structures and algorithms related questions. You will be asked to present answers in the algorithm method and to optimize the code.
3. Onsite Interview - In this final round, you will typically face the following interviews: Leadership Interviews, System Design Interview and Coding/Code Review Interview (Google gives you a choice between Coding and Code Review).
Check out video guide that delves into the interview process and provides valuable tips tailored to each round of the interview.
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During the recruiter screening, the focus is typically on assessing if your abilities align with the position being applied for. This may include informal queries about your experiences and qualifications. Here you will need to present basic background information, answering why you are fit for the EM role at Google. There will be behavioral and resume-related questions.
- Why do you want to join Google?
- Why do you think you will be a good fit for the role?
- What responsibilities do you expect to have from your job at Google?
- Tell me about your current day-to-day as an Engineering Manager.
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In this round, You'll be tested on your knowledge of data structures and algorithms over the phone or via video chat. You will face questions on topics related to graphs, strings, recursion, geometry, and algebra. Additionally, you will face questions about your work experience and projects you worked on.
- Design a system in a graph to view the latest stock prices from the global stock market.
- Design a software system for our photo-sharing website to store and retrieve photos and thumbnails.
- Convert the data into workable code or explain it in the algorithm.
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The final stage of the interview process consists of multiple different interview rounds. These are the rounds you can expect to face:
1. Leadership Interviews: This interview is divided into two parts: People Management Interview and Project Management Interview. You can expect to face both of these interview types in this round.
1A. People Management Interview: You will be asked situational questions about team leadership in which the interviewer will evaluate your people leadership skills. This round also evaluates your cultural fit within the company - or what Google typically refers to as “Googleyness”, ensuring that you align with Google's values and collaborative work environment - to check if you will be a good fit for the company. A very common expectation from candidates who join Google is to be compatible with the culture and environment at Google. All aspects of people leadership are tested - from how you approach hiring, to how you think of development and retention. How you manage high performers vs low performers. How you create the right sort of opportunities and drive growth, but also how you protect your team from things that are less relevant or distractions. To show next level thinking, also give some space to explore topics like how you think of the org as a whole, where your team fits into the larger mission. Think about how to effectively lead in a non-hierarchical team environment and what your personal leadership style and people management philosophy is. You should expect both situational and experiential questions - so “how would you achieve X” and “how did you handle Y” sorts. In both, you should ideally have a bit of a framework explaining how you approach such scenarios at a high level before fleshing this out either with a past example or a theoretical situation.
Some sample interview questions for this round:
- How did you ensure you dealt with team challenges in a balanced way?
- How would you take ownership and stay creative while moving quickly?
- How would you address a skills gap or personality conflict?
- How would you ensure your team is diverse and inclusive?
- How could you spot burn out?
- How would you organize day to day work activities?
- How would you convince a team to adopt a new technology?
1B. Project Management Interview: You will be asked hypothetical and experiential questions on project management. You should be able to talk end to end about a project (ideally a very technical one) which you drove. How you evaluated and chose between different project management methodologies and their relative merits (or example - tradeoffs between flexibility and process in an agile environment). Technical dependencies you identified and how you mitigated risks. How you drove the team forward when there was potential lack of clarity or uncertainty in approach. The goal of this is to flesh out how well you can simply drive topics forward, in a way that achieves max impact / velocity while ensuring the team is healthy.
Some sample interview questions for this round:
- What’s your personal Project Management philosophy? How do you apply your framework to projects you manage? (Check out some of the questions asked in the Google Program Manager Interview as well, can give you a lot of insights)
- How do you handle projects without defined end dates? How would you prioritize multiple projects of varying complexity?
- Can you give examples of projects where you demonstrated leadership even if you weren't a formal manager?
- How do you evaluate the success or failure of a project?
2. System Design Interview: In this round, you’re basically being evaluated for your ability to design a system which solves for a specific problem – always eventually at scale. You’re expected to know all major components that go into the architecture of a high performing technical system - and the tradeoffs involved in each of the options within. I have 4 tips specifically for this section:
First -> really make sure you’re understanding the problem. I can’t stress this enough, one of the most common mistakes which candidates make is to jump straight into solution mode. Make sure you clarify stuff, define a scope and articulate it, explain what your goals are and how you’re going to attack the problem. This also lets the interviewer drive you into the direction they want.
Which brings me to my second point -> Listen very carefully for feedback from your interviewer. They know the scope is infinite. They’ve got a list of themes they’d really like to cover in the interview, so they can assess you across a range of topics. You’ll regularly get hints such as “alright, let’s assume xyz isn’t a constraint” -> this is your cue to move on to the next theme since they’re not interested in whatever direction you were about to take. Or for instance you might be asked specifically “how about if this is going to be accessed multiple times daily, by our global pool of users” -> this is then your cue to go into the tangent of how you might scale your product up geographically, maybe through CDNs - and how you might drive performance through designing a cache since it’ll be accessed multiple times - these are just examples
Which then brings me neatly to my third point -> You’ll constantly be coming up with multiple ideas, or at least - you should be, for the constraints you’re presented with. That’s a good thing. Make sure you succinctly mention them, explain the tradeoffs, but then make a deliberate decision and pick one.
Finally -> there will also be times where you get stuck, or don’t know what the interviewer wants from you. That’s alright and it happens to everyone. The only right action here is to admit that you don’t know. Offer the interviewer if they want you to spend time exploring through guesswork, but don’t try to bluff your way through.
Here’s a quick and easy way to start getting some practice. Just pick a major product that you interact with, and spend some time thinking about how you’d design it - so for instance, How would you design Facebook’s News Feed? How would you design the architecture of a photo sharing app? What about a new website for booking hotels? … and so on. And think about the end-to-end aspects of this design, from user touchpoints, to scaling this geographically and driving performance through caching, to the backend architecture and your choice of databases, how you’d speed up reads and writes through indexing and partitioning or sharding, how you’d ensure redundancy, and so on.
Some sample interview questions for this round:
- Can you explain the concepts of processes, threads, and concurrency issues? How do they interact with each other?
- What are deadlock and livelock? How can they be avoided in a system design? Provide examples.
- How does scheduling work in an operating system? What are some common scheduling algorithms you are familiar with?
- Explain your understanding of the various components that make up the internet, such as routers, domain name servers, load balancers, and firewalls. How do they interact with each other in a system design?
- How would you design a distributed system to handle high traffic and ensure robustness? What trade offs would you make in such a design?
- Can you discuss your knowledge and experience with parallel computing and distributed systems? Provide an example where you utilized these concepts to improve system performance.
- How would you design a system to monitor the performance of a machine learning model in real-time?
- How would you design a system to process a large amount of unstructured data from multiple sources?
3. For this interview round, Google gives you a choice between Coding & Algorithms Interview OR Code Review Interview. We will talk about both of these interviews so that you can prepare for them accordingly.
3A. Coding & Algorithms Round: In this round, you will be evaluated based on your proficiency in at least one programming language such as C++, Java, Python, Go, or C. It is important to have a strong understanding of APIs, object-oriented design and programming. You will be required to approach problems using both bottom-up and top-down algorithms. Sorting, searching, divide-and-conquer, dynamic programming, recursion, and algorithms related to specific data structures are commonly used to solve Google problems. Familiarity with Big-O notations, runtime analysis, and complex algorithms like Dijkstra and A* will be beneficial.
Furthermore, expect questions related to data structures, such as arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues, hashing, dictionaries, trees (including binary trees), heaps, and graphs. You can also expect some basic discrete math questions. For graph-related problems, consider applying graph algorithms for distance, search, connectivity, and cycle-detection and knowledge of fundamental graph traversal algorithms like BFS and DFS will be helpful. Lastly, recursion plays a significant role in problem-solving.
Some sample interview questions for this round:
- Implement a binary search algorithm in your preferred programming language.
- Given a binary tree, find the maximum path sum. The path may start and end at any node in the tree.
- Given an encoded string, return its decoded string.
- 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).
3B. Code Review: In this round, the interviewer will ask you to treat the given code as a real code review and leave comments as you walk through the code. This will mostly take place in a Google document. You should look for variable naming, errors in the code and suggest better algorithms. You should also check for boundary conditions - improvement of the time complexity of the algorithm. The coding areas that you can brush up on for this round include: recursion, DFS and BFS.
Some sample interview questions for this round:
- Given a piece of code, review it for any potential errors or bugs and suggest improvements in terms of algorithmic efficiency. Identify any potential boundary conditions that are not handled in the code and propose modifications to handle them.
- Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using recursion in the given code. Can you suggest any alternative approaches?
- Explain the difference between depth-first search (DFS) and breadth-first search (BFS) and discuss their potential applications in the given code.
Take a mock interview to get an experience of the Google Engineering Manager interview from Google recruiters.→ Schedule Now
The interview guide we’ve put together is broadly focused on the Engineering Manager interview (L6) at Google; but if you’re interviewing for a different seniority level – you can expect a few additional rounds.
The seniority levels for EMs at Google are - EM, Senior EM and Director of Engineering. Senior EM maps to L7, and Director of Engineering maps to L8.
In terms of people management expectations, as a Senior EM (L7) at Google - you will be managing other EMs, as well as a few ICs (usually Staff level, whom you’d need to execute on cross-team initiatives). The increased level means you either get a broader scope (in terms of breadth of topics covered); or a deeper complex scope (in terms of either the complexity of the space, or the impact you’re expected to drive home). Finally, the expectation is that with increased seniority you abstract out your work through scalable mechanisms - it’s increasingly important that you know how and when to delegate, and create structures that allow you to scale your impact through guiding principles rather than individual participation. This necessarily translates to a difference in how you’re evaluated in interviews - which I’ve covered in a bit more depth in the next section.
Before getting into that though, it’s also worth understanding what the Director of Engineering role at Google looks like, and how it's distinct from an EM or Senior EM role.
In terms of the main scope - an Engineering Director basically establishes the long term backbone of the company. In terms of people management expectations - as a Director of Engineering (L8) at Google, you’ll be managing mostly Sr EMs, occasionally some EMs, and a few ICs - usually at the Staff or Senior Staff level. You’d be accountable for the engineering success of a full org. To get a semblance of scale, a Director of Engineering at Google would manage something like the implementation of the AI models in search. Or potentially the ranking of the “Hotel Ads” ecosystem on Maps. Or the entire UX of Gmail. And so on. It’s a large scope, it’s always business critical - so you live or die by the execution of your directs, and it’s crucial to be able to set an Engineering strategy that enables the growth of your space, alongside guiding principles and mechanisms that empower people to drive value in a way that aligns with this. And you’re empowered to achieve this – you would typically have a broad network within the company, and the ability and authority to resolve most issues with little or no escalation. Naturally, skills such as delegation, influencing power stakeholders and leadership, farsightedness and vision, and effective organizational design become incredibly important in such a role, and Google’s interviews adapt to assess this. I’ve covered this in a deep-dive section further down.
If you’re interviewing for a Senior Engineering Manager role at Google, you will face an additional question type (sometimes integrated within the people management interview), focused on “Manager of Manager” interviews. The questions in this “manager of managers” type interview test how well you approach the challenge of managing a mix of ICs and People Managers, where you no longer directly influence what each person in your team / org is working on. You’re expected to surface how you drive influence through leadership, develop leaders through scalable mechanisms, resolve inevitable conflict in a constructive way, and set priorities for your space in a way that is aligned with the broader organization’s goals.
In addition, there’s also an expectation that you demonstrate “next level” skills within the traditional scope of Engineering managers. For instance - if the default expectation is to align technical strategy - you’ll now be expected to do that for a greater or more complex scope; or with more challenging stakeholders, or in a way that is future proof. If the default expectation of an EM is to grow their reports - as a Sr. EM you’d be expected to show how you’ve coached ICs into managerial or specialized roles, the sort of guidance you provided but also how you leverage your influence to create opportunities aligning with these goals. From a prioritization standpoint, can you think beyond the scope of a team - but to a collection of teams - and can you make hard calls to sunset teams or initiatives, or merge them when you see synergies.
A couple of questions that try to discern whether you have the skills to cut it at this level, to give you an idea:
- How do your 1-1s change when you’re talking to one of your people manager reports vs an IC report?
- Your direct report is having a challenge with one of their direct reports. How are you going to react?
- Your skip level has reached out to you to discuss feedback regarding their manager (who reports into you). What would you do next?
- Tell me about a time you felt your direct report didn’t correctly assess the performance of one of their reports.
- You have to deploy a team to design and build a replacement for an existing service, while a team maintains the current one. How would you go about this?
- You’re seeing disintegrating dynamics between two teams, how would you go about figuring an approach?
There are four additional interview types you can expect to face for Director of Engineering roles at Google, in addition to what you’d normally see for Google EM candidates.
The first is the Manager of Manager interviews – which is something you’d also encounter in Sr. EM roles. I’ve covered it in depth in the section above, so I won’t repeat the advice here – but the important thing to note is that in this context you’d be expected to field scenarios for managing Sr. EMs. How you’d create opportunities for them to grow beyond their current roles. How you’d coach them in their own strategic thinking and technical vision. And so on.
The second is the Organizational Design interview. This is often called For Director of Engineering, you can expect to face Manager of Manager Interviews and Organization Design Interview as additional interviews. The Manager of Manager Interview is similar to the one for Senior EM Interview. Let’s talk about Organization Design Interviews.
Organization Design Interview: In this round, you can expect questions and scenarios that evaluate your experience in scaling a team and its capacity. You should be prepared to discuss your approach to team growth, including hiring strategies, onboarding processes, and ensuring the team's ability to meet increasing demands.
Creating a leadership structure for different situations is another key aspect of this interview. You may be asked about how you design and implement leadership roles within your team or organization. Consider how you define roles and responsibilities, distribute decision-making authority, and foster collaboration among leaders. You may be expected to share examples of how you have successfully led or participated in reorganizations.
You can also expect questions about your experience in leading capacity planning initiatives, including determining resource needs, forecasting future requirements, and making data-driven decisions to optimize team efficiency and productivity. Be prepared to share examples of how you have identified weaknesses within your organization and implemented strategies to address them. Consider your approaches to process improvements, skill gaps, communication breakdowns, or any other organizational challenges you have encountered.
In addition to the core topics, there may be a bonus question or discussion on succession planning. Succession planning involves identifying and developing potential leaders within your team or organization. Be prepared to discuss your approach to identifying high-potential individuals, providing them with growth opportunities, and building a pipeline of future leaders.
During the Team Matching phase, the focus is on assessing the fit between you and the rest of the team. This is an opportunity for the EM to evaluate whether you have the potential to be successful within the team dynamic. Be clear and communicate the type of work that excites you. The interviewer will highly value you if you have genuine interest and curiosity about learning new things. By showing enthusiasm and a willingness to explore new areas, you can highlight your adaptability and openness to growth. Additionally, it is important to approach the Team Matching process with a positive and respectful attitude, as being collaborative and supportive of others is crucial for team success.
The team matching process varies depending on the role you are applying for. In some cases, team matching interviews take place before the phone interview or onsite rounds to ensure the candidate is a good fit. This process was introduced in 2022; previously all team matching used to be done post-onsite interviews; and once the HC had already evaluated your application. In some cases, team matching continues to occur after the hiring committee has completed their evaluation.
Having a clear idea about Google interview questions for the engineering manager post will help pass through interview rounds. EM interview covers testing your leadership, previous track record, and technical skills. Below are a few more interview tips to follow are-
- Google recruiters would want to know your thought process and decision-making process. So ensure to explain it clearly throughout the interview.
- Recruiters would ask open-ended questions to see how you engage with a problem and what method you choose for solving it. Ask for clarification, if needed with such questions.
- Google prefers employees who continuously improve on existing products. So feel free to think out loud about improving the proposed solution.
- Practice writing your code on paper or a whiteboard. Prepare well in advance and try your codes to deliver it bug-free.
Get more tips on How to Approach Coding Problems Successfully
Responsibilities of an Engineering Manager at Google
The responsibilities of an EM at Google across roles can broadly be seen as-
- Set and communicate team priorities that support the broader organization's goals. Prioritize feature development that aligns with the company's strategic objectives.
- Set clear expectations with individuals based on their level and role and aligned to the broader organization's goals. For example, meet regularly with individuals to discuss performance and development and provide feedback and coaching.
- Develop the mid-term technical vision and roadmap within the scope of your (often multiple) team(s). Evolve the roadmap to meet anticipated future requirements and infrastructure needs.
- Design, guide and vet systems designs within the scope of the broader area, and write product or system development code to solve ambiguous problems. For instance, lead architectural discussions and provide guidance to ensure scalable and robust system designs.
- Review code developed by other engineers and provide feedback to ensure best practices (e.g., style guidelines, checking code in, accuracy, testability, and efficiency).
- Lead a team of Engineers and tech leads to transform the technical vision to reality.
It's important to note that the responsibilities may vary depending on the level of seniority, the specific practice area, the specific industry, and the specific project.
Skills and Qualifications needed for EMs at Google
Here are some skills and qualifications that will help you excel in your EM interviews at Google.
- Showcase your experience in a technical leadership role, overseeing strategic projects, and having at least 2 years of experience in a people management or team leadership role. Provide examples of how you effectively navigated challenges and motivated your team to achieve goals.
- Demonstrate your experience with Google-scale infrastructure, Google Cloud Platform, and open-source systems.
Recently, Google was looking for an EM for their Smart Home Services team, for which they were specifically seeking someone familiar with IoT and home automation. You can be on the lookout for preferred qualifications like these.
Review Google interview questions for the engineering manager post to gain insights. The best you can do is undergo mock interviews, which are available on the Prepfully website. This will further help you practice and prepare for the interview.
What can I do to stand out as a candidate during the Engineering Manager interview process at Google?
Emphasize your technical and leadership expertise, highlight your track record in leading successful engineering projects, and provide examples of how your leadership has driven innovation and collaboration.
How long does the entire interview process for an Engineering Manager role at Google typically take?
The duration can vary but usually takes several weeks to complete, including phone screens and on-site or remote interviews. The timeline may depend on the specific role and team.
What should I know about Google's company culture and engineering philosophy during the interview process?
Research Google's culture, engineering practices, and leadership principles. Be prepared to demonstrate how your leadership style aligns with these values.
Are there behavioral or situational interview questions in the process?
Google may ask behavioral questions to assess your leadership style, how you've managed engineering projects, and your ability to handle complex team dynamics.
How can I prepare for the interviews in the Engineering Manager interview process at Google?
Brush up on leadership principles, practice case studies, and be ready to discuss your past experiences in leading engineering teams and achieving technical goals.