Ability to adapt and change is essential in IT. Technologies evolve with a speed of light, and competitors do not sleep. Unless we manage to reflect these changes, as well as changes in customer behavior and expectations, in regular releases of updates of our applications and products, we’ll be soon out of business.
Exactly this is the reason for a rapid growth of Release Manager job title–a job that has barely existed ten years ago. In this article we will look at some technical and non-technical questions they may ask you in this interview, and how you should answer them. Enjoy!
You won’t face many competitors
Before analyzing the questions, I want you to realize something important. You won’t compete with many other job seekers for this position. In reality, companies will compete for you.
If you have decent background in software engineering, and posses strong management skills, you can choose. There will be offers on your table, and unless you give them really bad answers, they will hire you for the job. And they will be licking their lips while doing so…
Having said that, certain companies are an exception to the rule. When you want to work for Google, or Apple, you will always compete with dozens other engineers and technicians, regardless of the position you try to get with one of the tech giants… (check Google interview questions article if you consider applying with one of the top players).
Behavioral questions will prevail
A common misconception engineers and technicians have about job interviews is that their technical skills will be heavily tested. This isn’t true at all, especially when there is little competition.
Once you have a degree from software engineering or testing, and some experience under your belt, they won’t question your technical abilities in an interview.
They may test them, and they often do it, but this will happen before you meet the employer. You will complete an online test. They will simply send you the link to the test, and the interface will take care of the rest. Once you pass this hurdle (you will typically have to score at least 80% in the test), they won’t doubt your technical skills anymore.
* To understand how such testing platforms work, you can have a look at Technically Compatible.
Let’s have a look at some questions you will get while meeting the employer in person.
Please tell us something about your previous working experience
Try to focus on relevant roles, either in engineering or in management. You can either describe a typical day/month in your past jobs, or list your principal duties and achievements.
Try to speak nicely about your former colleagues and projects, and try to show the value you brought onboard with your input.
If the prospective employer applies agile methodology in their development (many companies who look for release managers do so), speak about your experience either with agile development, or managing a team of people that followed agile methodology in their work.
* May also interest you: Operations manager interview questions.
What do you want to accomplish as a Release Manager in our company?
Common mistake job seekers do is showing that they do not exactly understand the role of a Release Manager. They speak about accomplishment that belong more to a position of a developer, or a programmer.
Your goal, and main accomplishment, will be to ensure that all releases of an app/program happen at a right time, and that everyone in the team works to meet the deadline, and that there are plans for releases and certain goals each release follows, and that everything flows according to the plan.
You probably know our core application/program ABC. How often do you think we should release a new update?
If you do your homework, it will be much easier to come up with a good answer. Learn more about their app, and check how often they did the updates in the past. Check the competing applications, how often the companies behind them updated them, and what was included in the updates.
Obviously the right answer differs from one case to another. Remember though that unless the company wanted to make new releases often, they would not look for a Release Manager. If you are not sure, say that you prefer to make an update every time there’s an improvement to the app, even a minor one.
How would you ensure continuous integration and flow of development, testing, deployment, and support?
This will be your main duty. I would focus on having proper plans in place, and ensuring that every team member understands exactly their role in the process, things they respond for, and time they should deliver them. Proper planning, execution and control is essential for a good manager.
Micromanagement is also crucial in this case. Say that you would have regular one-on-one meetings with all important team members (or perhaps with everyone), to ensure that work is on schedule, and people do not struggle.
How would you ensure that your team members are motivated, and respect your leadership?
Motivation of other people is not a typical strengths of an IT employee. That’s exactly the reason why a great tester or developer may struggle enormously in any managerial role.
What I suggest is focusing on one-on-one meetings again, trying to identify problems of motivation early, and addressing them on the go.
Building the right atmosphere in the team, helping people to feel as a part of something big and important, giving them a chance to realize their IT skills on difficult designs and code, helping them to understand how the goals of the company relate to their personal goals, etc, all of that typically helps with motivation.
* Check also leadership interview questions to understand how they test your leadership skills.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Everything is highly volatile in IT. To be honest, unless we speak about the biggest players, it is not common to see a quality engineer working for the same IT company for more than two years, let alone five. At least not at the same position.
Employers are aware of that, and they would not believe if you tried to convince them that you’d be happy as a Release Manager in five years time.
On the other hand, however, they do not want to hear that you will probably work for one of their competitors in five years, or that, according to your opinion, their company will be out of business by that time :).
In my experience what works fine is saying that you do not think about your future work, that IT evolves way to fast to predict anything, and that you focus on the task at hand, your present goal. Which is, obviously, getting a job of a Release Manager.
Behavioral questions for a Release Manager
You will work with people. Just like any other management job, position of a release manager presents a lot of challenges that are connected to working with people.
Hiring managers will try to understand your approach to these challenges. They will ask you what you did in a particular situation before, or what you would do in it. To most common behavioral questions belong:
- Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work.
- Tell us about an obstacle you overcame.
- Describe a situation when you showed initiative at work.
- Describe a situation when you reached a goal and tell us how you achieved it.
- Tell us about a crisis of motivation you experienced in the past.
- Describe a time when you used logic to solve a problem.
- Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
- Tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed with work.
- Describe a time when you experienced a conflict of your personal and professional interests. How did you get over it?
- Describe the most difficult decision you had to make in your professional career.
* Special Tip: If you struggle with answers to behavioral questions (nothing to be ashamed of since many IT guys struggle with them), have a look at my Interview Success Package. Fantastic answers to all behavioral interview questions will make your life much easier in your release manager interview. Thank you for checking it out!
Summary and next steps
Everything is a question of supply and demand. You, as a skilled IT professional, find yourself in a great position today. If you can prove your skills with decent interview answers, you will not only get a job, but you will get more offers, you will have a chance to choose the best one, and your negotiating power in an interview will be excellent.
Prepare for the behavioral questions, and ensure that you manage to pass the technical test. Once you do this, your success is almost guaranteed. I wish you good luck!
P.S. You can also download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, before the start of your job interview:
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