Interviewing at Calm as an Engineering Manager
At Calm, we're committed to creating an environment where every day we feel like we're doing our best work, and we want to ensure folks interviewing with us have the chance to give their best interview. When you interview with us, we want you to know “everything except the questions.” If you join Calm, you won't spend your days answering trick questions or giving surprise presentations, and we don't want our interviews to work that way either.
This page explains our interview process for Engineering Manager roles. If you have any questions that aren’t covered in this guide, please reach to your recruiter or hiring manager at any point during the process.
At a high-level our process is:
- Resume review. You apply to an Engineering job at Calm. Calm's recruiting team will review your application and update you via email
- Recruiter screen. We schedule a phone call between you and an engineering recruiter
- Manager screen. We schedule a Zoom call between you and the hiring manager for the role
- Interview loop. You participate in our interviews, getting to know the team and company while we get to know you
- Hiring decision. After you interview, we submit written feedback independently, and then discuss that feedback collectively. This discussion usually happens the same day you interview, and from that discussion we decide on whether to move forward with a job offer
- References. You'll introduce us to three folks who've previously worked with you, and we'll talk with them
- Offer. We'll extend you an offer to join Calm, you sign it, and off we go!
Going beyond this overview, we want to give you as much information as possible to help you succeed in our interview process. Towards that end, we've written up what each interview focuses on and how we evaluate success within them.
Our process starts with phone screens, so we'll start there too, followed by more about our longer interview formats.
Our recruiter phone screen is usually thirty minutes long. It focuses on explaining our process to you, and ensuring that there's a good match between what you're looking for and our current opportunities at Calm. If there are multiple opportunities you're considering at Calm, apply to the one you're initially most interested in and then use this phone screen to narrow in on the right one.
Manager Phone/Zoom Screen
Our manager phone screen is forty-five minutes long, and asks you a number of scenario questions in the format, "Tell me about a time when you..." We'll also explain our interview process, and provide time for you to ask questions about the role and Calm. We always appreciate folks who come with thoughtful questions, and particularly value folks who are motivated by Calm's mission to make the world a happier and healthier place.
The rubric for the Manager Phone Screen focuses on:
- Interest in Calm. Has the candidate prepared for the phone screen by getting familiar with Calm's product and mission?
- Communication. Does the candidate answer questions directly with relevant examples? Are they a concise speakers?
- High EQ. Is the candidate self-aware? Do they demonstrate learning from misteps? Do they take responsibility for mistakes or do they shift blame to others? Do they acknowledge contributions by other members of their team?
- Pragmatic and flexible thinker. Does the candidate adapt their thinking and approach to new circumstances? Are they thoughtful about balancing between technology and business needs? Do they have a clear point of view while remaining open to alternatives?
Once you've gone through our phone screens, the next step is conducting our interview loop. You'll participate in six interviews, most of which are 45 minutes long (one might be 60 minutes). We generally do most of them in one day and the Meet Senior Leadership on a following day, but we're flexible and glad to accomodate your schedule.
You'll need to decide between taking the System Design interview which is a non-programing architecture interview (work out the "big boxes on a whiteboard" approach for a system we might use at Calm), or the Technical Skills interview which is a non-algorithmic coding interview (read some data from a file, manipulate the contents in a few different ways). If you're not semi-regularly writing code, you'll probably prefer the former.
While we don’t have an explicit break scheduled between interviews, we’re always glad to pause and let you take a few minutes to take a break, gather your thoughts, or get a coffee. As mentioned above, we're glad to distribute these interviews across multiple days: Let your recruiter know how we can best set you up for success.
We’d like to hear about the most complex, challenging or impactful project that you’ve taken a leadership role in. That might mean you were the project’s tech lead, or maybe that you were the engineering manager responsible for the project’s execution.
You’ll give a twenty minute presentation to three engineers or engineering managers, followed by fifteen minutes of them asking you questions about your presentation, and ten minutes for you to ask them questions about Calm. You’re encouraged to present in the format of your choosing. Most folks create some slides to present, but you’re equally welcome to write a preread for folks to read quietly for ten minutes. Whatever you’ve found most effective for you.
Regardless of format, we recommend covering:
- Why the project was taken on and its intended contribution to the business.
- Enough context around the business and technology for a group of software engineers to follow along.
- A narrative of how the project was designed, started, implemented and finished. If the project is ongoing, that is fine.
- Retrospective of how the project went, how you addressed challenges that popped up along the way, what went well, what could be improved.
Your topic might be a technical project like Tyler’s post on Moving Calm to Microservices. It could also be moving your company’s product to a unified design framework. Or it might be about identifying a new product your company needed and getting it from concept to major revenue driver. Please reach out if you’d like feedback on your suggested topic, along with any questions you have about the presentation!
You will present to three engineers or engineering managers.
The rubric for the Project Presentation interview focuses on:
- Clear communication. We want to understand the project and your role in it.
- Aligning business and engineering priorities. Software can always be better, products can always add or remove features, and business pressure can force complex tradeoffs. We want to understand why the project mattered, the constraints that came up during the project, and how you made deliberate trade offs along the way.
- Working with a team. Few important projects are the byproduct of a single mind or single pair of hands. We want to understand your role in the project, how you delegated or shared work with others, and how you evolved this approach along the way.
- How you executed the plan. Having a good plan is important, but it’s even more important to implement the plan effectively. How did you take the plan from paper to reality?
You'll be asked a series of scenario-style questions about challenging management situations you've encountered in your career. The topics shouldn't be too surprising: supporting folks who are thriving and those who are struggling, managing conflict, and growing a gelled, collaborative team.
You will be interviewed by one or two engineering managers that you'll work with in the role.
The rubric for the People Management interview focuses on:
- Communication. How clearly and directly do you answer questions?
- Career development. How do you support the growth of your team?
- Feedback. How do you deliver effective feedback?
- Conflict resolution. How do you deescalate situations while still holding individuals accountable for their behavior?
Sprint Planning & Execution
We'll tell you about how our current sprint planning process works (like many teams, we follow our process looks a bit like Agile), and then walk through a series of questions about planning and adapting to changes throughout a sprint.
You will generally be interviewed by a Product Manager and an engineering manager.
The rubric for the Sprint Planning & Execution interview focuses on:
- Balancing Product and Engineering tradeoffs. How do you handle conflicting priorities? How do you rank priorities?
- Partnering with stakeholders. How do you understand your partners needs? How do prioritize between stakeholders with independent priorities?
- Filling gaps. How do you keep velocity up by identify execution risks and addressing them throughout a sprint?
- Adapting approach. How do you make a process work for the team, rather than forcing the team to fit the process?
You will discuss your experience working with peers and partner teams. How have you handled various situations that have arisen in the past?
You will be interviewed by a cross-functional partner (usually a Product Manager) and engineering manager that you'll work with in the role.
The rubric for the Partnering interview focuses on:
- Communication. Does the candidate set clear expectations in their partnerships? Do they proactively communicate schedule changes? Do they provide context around why the changes are happening?
- Business orientation. Does the candidate ground their cross-team and cross-org commitments in business outcomes? Do they adapt commitments to fulfill business needs while accounting for new challenges?
- Managing commitments. Does the candidate take responsibility for their commitments? Do they shift blame to other members of their team or organization?
You will pick one of either this interview or Technical Skills below.
You will discuss the requirements for a mid to large size project, and then you will be asked to come up with a system design for the project and discuss implementation details, options, and tradeoffs. This is not a programming interview.
You will be interviewed by one or two engineers who you'd work with in the role.
The rubric for the System Design interview focuses on:
- Communication. Did the candidate ask clarifying questions? Did they understand the challenge before solving it? Was the design communicated clearly?
- Structured approach. Does the candidate uncover the key requirements for the project? Did they have a structured approach to uncovering them?
- Tradeoffs. Does it address tradeoffs? Does it balance business and technical requirements effectively?
You will pick one of either this interview or System Design above.
This will NOT be an algorithm memorization type of problem, so no need practice memorizing sorting algorithms. We won’t ask you to write code on a whiteboard or Google document. You're welcome to search for any questions that come up during the interview.
You will be interviewed by one or two engineers who you'd work with in the role.
The rubric for the Technical Skills interview focuses on:
- Completeness. Does the solution address the problem at hand? Does it account for edge cases? Does it address tradeoffs like cost, performance, scalability?
- Readability. Is the code easy to understand? Does it have a consistent structure?
- Testability. Does the approach support testing? How feasible is the test plan?
Meet Senior Leadership
After you've met with the engineering team, if there's interest from you and us, you'll meet at least one member of senior leadership - usually our founders, Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith. They'll tell you more about the company and ask you some higher-level questions about your interest in Calm and how you work with the team. You'll have the chance to ask them any questions you have about Calm.
Interested? Apply to an Engineering job at Calm!