The business world is like a spider web. Different parts are connected by a series of delicate threads. Sometimes the pattern is logical. In other cases, it is visual cacophony. But no matter what it looks like, it's the connections that count. And these connections make up the world of a program manager.
Program managers oversee a connected part of an organization, enabling them to lead it into a brighter future and helping it achieve its goals.Without a program manager, projects that share threads might not consider each other's efforts, which would result in everything becoming disjointed.Put simply, without the guidance of a program manager, chaos could ensue.
Because of this risk, human resource managers place a high priority on selecting highly qualified program managers. If you want to prove that you're the great candidate you think you are, answering the program manager interview questions is a must. Otherwise, you won't stand out from the crowd; and that means missing the opportunity.
Sure, you could just go to the interview and hope for the best. But is that really the best way?
No of course not.
It should always come down to being prepared. Luckily, making sure you shine isn't a challenge. We are here to help. Come with us and learn what it takes to outperform the competition.
How to Answer Program Manager Interview Questions
First, don't confuse program managers withproject managerorproduct manager. While the job titles look ridiculously similar and the roles have a few things in common, they're not really the same.Technically they oversee all projects, but the niches can be different.
Product managers focus on (surprise) products. Depending on the employer, project managers can work in any niche. But their work mostly focuses on the respective project and not on the big strategic whole.
Program managers typically oversee a group of projects (and possibly a team of project managers), and each project is linked by a common element, such as a single business goal. In addition, they are responsible for steering the strategy and making sure that everyone is heading towards the right goal.
MIKES TIPP:You're probably wondering why it matters if you answer your program manager's interview questions like a project or product manager?Although some tasks are the same, each role has differences.If you treat them like they're the same, the hiring manager might think you don't understand the differences. This makes them doubt whether you are suitable for the job as a program manager. And when doubts creep in, your chances of getting the job go down the toilet. That's why it's crucial to show them you know the difference.
That's settled now, but before we get into the program manager interview questions, let's pause for a moment and talk about strategy. You need the right approach. That way, if the hiring manager asks you something unexpected, you can adapt.
Start with a research.
The program manager job description is a good place to start because it outlines what the company considers essential. Combine this with a look at the company's mission and value statements, and you can find out a lot about the skills and traits the hiring manager aspires to.
When an interview question is straightforward—say, “Do you have skill X?” Kind of straightforward—it's a no-brainer to answer. You claim that you do and provide a relevant example to prove it. If you don't, admit it, but then go one step further and discuss your interest in acquiring the skill or any efforts you are making to improve in the area. Completed.
But if you stand in front of youBehavioral Interview Questions, it's a little harder. On the one hand, these require more than a “yes” or “no”. On the other hand, there is usually no “right” or “wrong” answer. Sure, some answers may be better than others, or more appropriate in the hiring manager's eyes, but it's ambiguous.
In most cases, behavioral interview questions will ask you to navigate through a scenario and provide examples of what you have done or would do. While it's not always easy, there is a technique that works. By combining theSTAR Methodand thetailoring methodyou can craft a compelling, story-based response that is as relevant as possible. It's a great way to stand out from the crowd. So make sure you really know these strategies as you prepare for your interview.
We also wanted to let you know that we have created something amazingfree cheat sheetthat will give youWord-for-word answersfor some of the toughest interview questions you'll face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more general interview questions in addition to their program manager's specific questions!
Click Below To Get Your Free PDF Now:
Get our interview questions and answers cheat sheet!
FREE BONUS PDF Cheat Sheet:Get our "Job Interview Questions and Answers PDF Cheat Sheet"that gives you"Sample word-to-word answers to the most common interview questions you'll be faced with at your next job interview.
Top 3 most common program manager interview questions
As with all job interviews, the exact questions you will be faced with will vary depending on the exact role. Every employer is different, so their needs, priorities, and preferences don't exactly align with those of their competitors. However, certain are fairly common. Here's a look at the three most common program manager interview questions, along with some sample answers.
1. How do you determine which project has priority when you oversee multiple projects?
Since program managers are responsible for several projects at the same time, they have to set priorities. This allows them to allocate funds appropriately and direct their energies in the best possible way.
The hiring manager wants insight into your strategy. You need to let them know how you think, so provide details of your assessment when making a decision.
“If I need to set a priority, my first step is to look at any dependencies. In some cases, certain projects need to reach a certain stage before another can move forward, making this a crucial factor. In addition, I examine various project aspects including goals, budget requirements, risk level, resource constraints and potential strategic value. In addition, I will be speaking to the various sponsors and stakeholders to get their perspectives. Typically, this process allows me to prioritize projects to bring the greatest value to the business.”
2. What measures do you take to avoid scope creep?
In the world of projects, Scope Creep is like the axe-wielding lunatic lurking in the shadows in horror movies; It can attack you quickly and completely destroy everything. Because program managers handle multiple projects at the same time, it's important to keep scope growth under control. Otherwise, a project can spiral out of control.
Hiring managers want to know that you are actively preventing scope creep. That way, there's a good chance you'll finish on time and on budget.
“Alertness is key to managing scope creep. However, it also requires critical thinking. After all, every project changes a bit over time, so being able to separate creeping project scope from really necessary adjustments is crucial. With every project I make sure that all parameters are clearly defined before moving forward. In addition, I keep communication open with both team members and stakeholders and establish myself as the main contact for questions and change requests. This keeps me informed of any requests that fall outside of the original remit and allows me to intervene and assess the situation as quickly as possible. Then together we can determine if a change is appropriate or necessary, and if not, I can address the situation appropriately.”(Video) Senior Program Manager Interview Questions with Answer Examples
3. What is the most common reason for project failure?
Personnel managers want to avoid failure. That means hiring a program manager who understands what the cause may be and allows them to work around it as best they can.
“If I had to name a single reason, it would have to be poor communication. When lines of communication break down, it creates a situation prone to failure. For example, team members may not be on the same page, resulting in one group prioritizing one aspect while others focus in a different direction. Details of changes may not be propagated properly, slowing progress and potentially causing some to redo work simply because they weren't notified that they need to take a new direction. All of this increases costs, lengthens the time frame, and increases the likelihood of failure. But with solid communication, a lot of that can be avoided.”
27 more program manager interview questions
Here are 27 more program manager interview questions the hiring manager might ask during your meeting:
- How is a program manager different from a project manager?
- What is the value of consolidating multiple projects into a single program?
- What was the biggest challenge you've ever faced while leading a team of project managers? How did you overcome it?
- If you're working on a project and the company changes its goals, how do you adapt?
- Tell me about a time when one of your projects fell behind schedule. What did you do to recover?
- What steps are you taking to ensure you can meet strict deadlines?
- How do you prevent communication breakdowns between team members?
- Tell me about a time when you and a project manager you oversee disagreed. how did you deal with it
- What metrics do you use to measure success?
- How do you use technology to keep a program on track?
- Describe your experience with program charters.
- Do you think change management is critical for program managers? Why or why not?
- What resources do you use to keep up with industry trends?
- Describe your risk analysis process.
- Tell me about your greatest project success. What about your biggest project failure?
- Have you ever had to negotiate with a difficult stakeholder? how did you deal with it
- Can you tell me something about your management style?
- Tell me about your delegation strategy.
- Do you approach small programs differently than large ones? Why or why not?
- What steps do you take to determine how a program's budget is allocated?
- If you get the chance to build your own team, how do you put it together?
- If you identify project risks, how can you mitigate them?
- If two team members disagree on how to proceed, how do you get them on the same page?
- What steps do you take to get the best deal from a key vendor?
- How do you ensure the quality of program results?
- When two stakeholders give you conflicting requirements, how do you determine how to proceed?
- In your opinion, which of your characteristics are the best prerequisites for working as a manager?
5 good questions to ask at the end of a program manager interview
When the sun goes down on your program manager interview, chances are you'll make itAsk the hiring manager a few questions yourself.This is a crucial opportunity not to be missed. Not only does this increase your interest in the position, it also allows you to learn more about the role and company culture.
Sometimes you can spontaneously select a few questions. If you don't learn anything important during the interview, you should consider asking about it. But if that doesn't happen, we're here for you. Here are five good questions to always have with you.
- Does your organization use a specific approach, toolset, or methodology for project management?
- How many projects typically take place at the same time?
- Can you describe the typical day of a program manager here?
- What is the biggest challenge this position solves for the company?
- What do your most successful program managers have in common?
Put everything together
Ultimately, you can show program manager interview questions who's boss by following the tips above. Just make sure to practice your answers ahead of time to ensure you can discuss your skills easily. This way you present yourself as the great candidate you know you are, increasing the chances that you will end up getting the offer.
Download ourJob Interview Questions and Answers PDF Cheat Sheet"That gives youSample word-for-word answers to some of the most common job interview questionsincluding:
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What is your greatest strength?
- Tell me about yourself
- Why should we hire you?
- And more!
Mike Simpson(Co-founder and CEO)
co-founderAndCEOfrom TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is an interviewing and careers expert and senior writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.
His advice and insights have been shared and featured in publications such asForbes,entrepreneur,CNBCand more as well as educational institutions like theUniversity of Michigan,Penn State,Northeastand other.
Find out more about The Interview Guys on ourAbout Us page..
Start by showing that you know the difference between a project manager and a program manager. Provide some reasons why you're fit for the role, including experience leading project managers. Program managers are adept at assessing and mitigating risks; mention your experience with risk management in previous projects.What are the 5 hardest interview questions and answers? ›
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Why should we hire you?
- What's something that you didn't like about your last job?
- Why do you want this job?
- How do you deal with conflict with a co-worker?
- Here's an answer for you.
- What does a program manager do that project managers don't?
- What's the role of technology in program management?
- Which metrics do you use most frequently?
- What's your experience with program charters?
- Are you familiar with the PMI code of ethics?
- What would you use six sigma for?
Try not to get flustered, and keep in mind that interviewers are likely more interested in how you respond, rather than your precise answer. Be strategic in your response to tricky questions—and any interview questions—and aim to give replies that paint you in a positive way as a candidate.How to answer interview questions about program management? ›
When you answer this question, emphasize your leadership, communication and problem-solving skills. You should also highlight your ability to work as part of a team. Example: "Not only am I a strong communicator, but I also have plenty of experience working in a team environment.What is a good answer to greatest weakness? ›
Example: “My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have a hard time letting go of a project. I'm the biggest critic of my work. I can always find something that needs to be improved or changed. To help myself improve in this area, I give myself deadlines for revisions.How do you answer how do you handle conflict? ›
The key to answering workplace conflict interview questions is to be honest and emphasize communication and conflict resolution skills. If you realized during the conflict that your opinion was wrong, be honest about it! Show the interviewer that you're willing to learn and are open to constructive criticism.What is the star technique in interviews? ›
The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.Why program manager role interview questions? ›
Program manager interview questions about their responsibilities: How do your responsibilities differ from those of your project managers? What technology and tools do you find are necessary to be successful in your role? What metrics do you review to measure success?What questions should I ask a senior program manager? ›
- What project management software have you used?
- What is Agile methodology and what are its pros and cons?
- What is the most important stage in the project management cycle? ...
- How do you keep track of everyone's work?
- What performance appraisal methods do you use for your team?
The best colors to wear to an interview are ones that are neutral such as black, navy, gray and brown. White is also an appropriate neutral color for a shirt or blouse. Depending on your preference, you can also add a pop of color to an interview outfit to introduce your own personality.Can I give short answers in an interview? ›
During your interview, you shouldn't give too-short answers - you should hit the right length for your answers so you give your interviewer the right amount of information, show your strengths, and prove you have good communication skills.What do you say in Tell me about yourself? ›
Your answer to the "tell me about yourself" question should describe your current situation, your past job experience, the reason you're a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company values. Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent big accomplishment or positive feedback you received.What are the core skills for program manager? ›
Top skills that a strong program manager should have include organization, planning, scheduling, program strategy, reporting, proposal writing, and budget planning. This will ultimately depend on the duties your organization is looking for and how they'll work with any existing team members.What is the most important role of a program manager? ›
The programme manager is responsible for the overall integrity and coherence of the programme. They will develop and maintain the programme environment to support each individual project within it - often through an effective programme management office.What is program manager in simple words? ›
Definition: A program manager is a strategic project-management professional whose job is to help oversee and coordinate the various projects, products, and other strategic initiatives across an organization.What motivates you as a program manager? ›
Seeing a project through to completion especially when you have gone through all the phase of a project is a motivation factor in itself and project managers have a mentality of not going to beaten and of not wanting to fail on a project and the risk of failure is a motivational factor for a project manager.What makes you the best candidate for this management position? ›
Compare the related skills to the job responsibilities, experience requirements or characteristics, and explain how they correspond to the job role. Convince the hiring team that your industry experience, education or skills, as noted in your resume, make you the best candidate for the position.What is an example of tell me a time you failed? ›
For example: Three years ago, we were doing A, but realized the result fell short of the goal. Things were just not working. Many saw it as a failure, but we also saw it as an opportunity to improve, so we did a thorough analysis and realized that B was a better tactic.How do you handle stress? ›
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. ...
- Take care of yourself. ...
- Take care of your body. ...
- Make time to unwind. ...
- Talk to others. ...
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
Albert Einstein had the label "mentally slow" put on his permanent school record. Henry Ford's first two automobile companies failed. Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early job as a television news anchor. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance.What are your 3 strengths? ›
- Curiosity and eagerness to learn new things.
- Ability to adapt and adjust to changing situations.
- Good time-management skills.
- Strong work ethic and determination to succeed.
- Creativity and innovative thinking.
- Good communication skills and ability to work in teams.
Correct Example: My greatest weakness is time management. I have always been very detail-oriented, so it sometimes takes me longer to finish a project than I initially think it will. This is why I started using time-tracking software in my last job.How do you handle conflict or difficult situations? ›
- Accept conflict. Remember that conflict is natural and happens in every ongoing relationship. ...
- Be a calming agent. ...
- Listen actively. ...
- Analyze the conflict. ...
- Model neutral language. ...
- Separate the person from the problem. ...
- Work together. ...
- Agree to disagree.
- Talk with the other person. ...
- Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities. ...
- Listen carefully. ...
- Identify points of agreement and disagreement. ...
- Prioritize the areas of conflict. ...
- Develop a plan to work on each conflict. ...
- Follow through on your plan. ...
- Build on your success.
Interview answers should be 30 seconds to four minutes, depending on the context of the questions. Your response may be short (30 seconds to two minutes) if the question is simple. For example, if the hiring manager asks you to describe your strengths, you might speak for 90 seconds to explain where you're proficient.What do program managers care about? ›
Key responsibilities of program managers
A program manager's role will change depending on the organization's objectives, but they usually oversee tasks like: Taking the C-suite's goals and creating programs to achieve them. Reviewing projects and providing advice. Auditing and quality control.
|Program Manager Years||Percentages|
- How can we grow our department? ...
- Which goals should I work toward? ...
- How can I improve the team? ...
- How can I work toward a promotion? ...
- How can I better meet your expectations? ...
- How have you measured my progress? ...
- Which skills should I work on?
- Speak in a confident tone. ...
- Define an ambiguous situation you dealt with at a previous job. ...
- Explain the information or lack of information available. ...
- Describe how you organized the situation. ...
- Share the outcome. ...
- Connect your answer to your prospective job.
- Brown: makes people think you're reliable and dependable but also old-fashioned.
- Orange: unfortunately, orange has been voted the worst color to wear in a job interview.
- Red: associated with power, energy, excitement, and courage, but also hostility and defiance.
- Your conversation used the allotted amount of time. ...
- You met other team members. ...
- They tried to sell you on the role. ...
- They asked for your preferred start date. ...
- Your interviewers responded positively. ...
- They gave you a follow-up date. ...
- They asked about other positions. ...
- You have a good feeling.
Brown is a neutral color that evokes feelings of calm. It is a great solid, neutral color for any interview. This earthy color means warmth, safety, reliability, and dependability. Brown doesn't have negative connotations, you'll send the message of being comforting and reliable.Is it OK if you can't answer an interview question? ›
If you're stumped, you can ask to come back to the question later. The interviewer may forget to ask again, and that will allow you to follow up with your answer in your thank you email. Say something like: "That question has stumped me! Can I think about it and come back to it at the end of our conversation?Is it OK to lie a little in an interview? ›
Ask any hiring manager, recruiter, human resource executive or career coach, and they'll all say the same thing: Never lie in an interview.How do you stand out in a short interview? ›
- 1) Avoid talking about what you're not.
- 2) Tell a story about yourself.
- 3) Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
- 4) Don't hide who you are.
- 5) Pose thoughtful questions to your hiring manager.
“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”How do you respond to why should I hire you? ›
The first thing you should do when answering “why should we hire you?” is to highlight any skills and professional experience that are relevant to the position you're applying for. To make your answer all the more valid, make sure to always back up everything you say with examples, experiences, and achievements.What can you bring to the company? ›
- your enthusiasm for the profession and the employer and your desire to make your mark.
- your personal qualities, such as your drive and willingness to learn.
- the skills the employer seeks and how you have demonstrated them in the past – your answer should show why you would be competent in the job.
"I want to be a project manager because it's the best way for me to use my skills as a leader and organizer to contribute to a company, which I find very fulfilling. I have always been detail-oriented and methodical.How do I prepare myself for a manager interview? ›
- Research the company. ...
- Write a list of questions. ...
- Prepare examples. ...
- Practice your responses. ...
- Draft your closing statement. ...
- Focus on leadership abilities. ...
- Prove your interest. ...
- Tailor your qualifications for the role.
- Study the Job Description. ...
- Start With a Super-Sharp Elevator Pitch. ...
- Research the Company. ...
- Get Familiar With the Hiring Manager's Profile. ...
- Practice and Practice Some More. ...
- Detail Your Technical Skills. ...
- Highlight Your Soft Skills. ...
- Present Your Results.
For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.Why should we hire you? ›
“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”How do you handle stress and pressure? ›
- Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. ...
- Develop healthy responses. ...
- Establish boundaries. ...
- Take time to recharge. ...
- Learn how to relax. ...
- Talk to your supervisor. ...
- Get some support.
Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.How do I become a program manager with no experience? ›
- Highlight your core skills. ...
- Find a mentor. ...
- Network with other project managers. ...
- Explore professional development options. ...
- Get a professional membership.
To become a program manager, you need a bachelor's degree and some experience in project management. Ideally, 2 to 3 years of experience is sufficient. Take a course to upskill yourself and start applying for program manager jobs.What is the general description of a program manager? ›
What Is a Program Manager? Program managers oversee the fulfillment of larger organizational goals. They coordinate activities between multiple projects without directly managing them. Instead, they manage the main program, giving detailed attention to program strategy, project delegation, and program implementation.
- Collect a list of all your tasks. ...
- Identify urgent vs. ...
- Assess the value of your tasks. ...
- Order tasks by estimated effort. ...
- Be flexible and adaptable. ...
- Know when to cut.
Answer for “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” “In five years, I see myself as an integral part of the company who has helped contribute to the growth and success of the organization. I would like to continue developing my skills and knowledge in order to be able to take on more responsibility within the company.