Top Program Manager Interview Questions and Answers

by StarAgile

January 04, 2021
Category Project Management


Get the best program manager job with these simple interview questions.

Description 

Landing a program manager job is challenging, requiring you to show your skillset and worth to the interviewer. Do not falter, as you can nail the interview by preparing some compelling questions. Learning these program management interview questions will help you prepare to land the most suitable program manager job in the industry.

Introduction

A program manager is one of the roles that help an organization cope with the latest market needs. They are responsible for handling various business activities, and without them, the venture's productivity will nosedive.

As the position is crucial for the business' survival, you need to stand out from the crowd to be selected. That is why the blog will specify the top program manager interview questions to help you become the best candidate.

Overview 

Nowadays, businesses divert significant focus on maintaining the operational flow, so they designate multiple personnel to handle it. Roles like product managers, project managers, and program managers might sound similar, but their field of scope is distinct.

A program manager undertakes several crucial tasks, making the position pivotal in every firm. Therefore, every firm dedicates viable resources to hire the most skilled candidate. If you are about to attend a program manager interview, the blog will help you out. 

Read through to know the top program manager interview questions and answers.

Prepare these program manager interview questions to improve your chances of landing the best job:

Introductory Program Manager Interview Questions

These program management interview questions will serve as the ice-breaker between you and the interviewer. 

Q 1. Explain a bit about yourself and your reasons to become a program manager.

Answer: The project manager interview question aims to dig out your necessary details and motivations. Start by briefly explaining about yourself and share 1-2 short reasons behind your intentions to become a program manager. Refrain from mentioning factors such as money, but keep the answer accurate and straightforward. 

An ideal answer to the latter part of the program management interview question would be:

I have always been a strategy-driven person, focusing on how I can perform better at everything I do. I find the program manager role best-suited for a person as driven as me. The role is ideal for me to capitalize on my knowledge and skillset. 

I have invested several years of my career in the domain, which has helped me gain valuable insights into the industry. Plus, leading a team of esteemed and driven individuals is also a goal of mine. I believe the role can help me perform at my best while catering to my individual goals too. 

Q 2. Why do you want to get the program manager position in our organization?

Answer: The program manager interview question is the perfect opportunity to explain your willingness to choose the firm. Try to brief the interviewer about your fortes in the position, and how the organization can enhance them.

An apt answer to the program management interview question would look like this:

A program manager needs to be careful about the firm he works at. The position can serve as the perfect opportunity to seek growth, but without flexible department dynamics, the role can be rendered useless. That is why, before applying for the position, I carried out intensive research regarding the firm's administration capabilities. 

As I intend to work in the position for the long-term, I wanted to be assured about the firm I will join. Besides, your organization is renowned throughout the industry and will serve as the ideal stage to showcase my skill set. I want to partake in the firm's growth and establish my image as a reliable, competent, and productive program manager.

Knowledge-Based Program Management Interview Questions

These program manager interview questions will test your field knowledge.

Q 3. When overviewing several projects subsequently, how would you prioritize the most important one?

Answer: With this program management interview question, the interviewer is looking to understand your thought process while computing strategies. Your answer should represent how you perceive the obstacle and what helps you make the final decision. A decent answer would be:

If I am asked to set my priorities as a product manager, I would first need to assess any dependencies. Often, a project needs to reach a certain point before it can be useful for another process to start, making them crucial.

Additionally, I would look into other aspects, such as organizational goals, risk level, available resources, strategical value, and budget requirements. My next step would be to discuss with stakeholders and sponsors to get their views on the situation. My priority would be the tasks, which would help the organization benefit the most. 

Q 4. Mention the steps you would adopt to avoid the issue of scope creep?

Answer: The program management interview questions are aimed to assess your preparation in a real-life case so that the ideal answer would be something like:

In my opinion, scope creep can be managed with vigilance mixed with critical objective thinking. Slight project shifts are expected, so a project manager must differentiate scope creep from actual project needs. That is why I commence a project by outlining the parameters.

I also maintain different communication channels functioning to keep in touch with both stakeholders and colleagues. With this, I keep getting the latest information regarding any change that is outside the project's original scope. Furthermore, I can analyze every situation better to assess whether the change is needed or not. 

Q 5. What is the most common cause of a project's failure?

Answer: The primary reason for hiring a program manager is to avoid project failures. That is why the interviewer is asking the program manager interview question to see if you can identify the cause of the failure to avoid it. A reasonable answer to the questions would be:

If I am asked to name a sole reason, then I would have to go with poor communication. Communication is vital for every firm and project, so when the communication chain breaks, the entire organization fails to survive. For instance, if the departments are not on the same page, they can perform separate tasks that do not benefit either of them.

This can only result in regression, leading to additional issues. When members are not informed about any change of plan, they can waste valuable resources on unnecessary activities. It increases operational costs while depleting the organization's resources.

Establishing a firm communication chain to keep the information flowing and avoid such issues should be your answer to the program manager interview question.

Q 6. Name the points a program manager needs to consider while monitoring the project process?

Answer: As the program manager interview question aims to bring out your inept knowledge and experience of the field, you need to offer a well-articulated answer like:

Regardless of a project's scope and nature, it can only be fulfilled by setting some priorities. Program managers must prioritize activities to ensure the timely delivery of every proceeding. Even a well-planned strategy can succumb to a sudden market shift, which is why a program manager needs to be witty and intuitive.

You cannot rely on software to get you out of such scenarios, so in my opinion, these are the six steps a program manager must prioritize.

• Gathering the tasks' list

• Identifying urgency vs importance

• Comparing the assessed value

• Setting up activities as per the estimations

• Maintaining adaptability and flexibility

• Knowing when to stop

Naming these six activities should work as an apt answer for the program management interview question.

Q 7. How does a program manager differ from a project manager?

Answer: While the program manager interview question is basic, it needs to be answered meticulously. A program manager's duties seem similar to a project manager's, so you should answer like:

Despite the positions being interchanged by many, the roles' scope significantly differs. A program is created by different interlinking projects to procure esteemed business benefits. At the same time, a project is limited to achieving a specific set of goals.

Here are some crucial differences between a program and a project manager to include in your answer to the program management interview question: 

• Program managers control proceedings in different projects, while project managers stay focused on finished goods and services.

• Program managers look to achieve long-term organization goals, while project managers are concerned with short-term goals.

• A program manager emphasizes contesting while a project manager prioritizes content.

• Strategies are essential for a program manager, while a project manager prefers tactics.

Q 8. What is the role of technology in program management?

Answer: Since the program manager interview question is asked to know your market awareness, you need to prepare an answer like:

Technology's role in program management mostly revolves around establishing an effective chain of communication. Communication is a crucial ingredient for success in a functional domain (as explained in the 3rd program management interview question.)

Therefore, a program manager needs to utilize the latest IoT and cloud program management tools to enhance the firm's routine proceedings. With such tools, every team member can monitor the program's progress in real-time, allowing everyone to be on the same page.

Skill-Based Program Manager Interview Questions and Answers

These program management interview questions will assess your skill level in the field.

Q 9. If you need to wrap up a project within six months, what would your plan be?

Answer: The interviewer wishes to evaluate your readiness to undertake a time-limited task, so an apt solution for this program manager interview question would be:

I believe scheduling is critical for completing any project to start the process with it. An unplanned issue can cost valuable time, efforts, and resources, so it is better to plan for such occasions beforehand. While taking precautions for every market shift is not possible, with proper research, you can avoid the majority of them.

(Keep the answer to this program manager interview question around the schedule and continue.) A schedule states the upcoming activities' sequence so that they can be performed as expected. With a six month deadline, we need to prepare a schedule accordingly. Who will handle what duty, what resources will be needed, and what time should be consumed in what activity should be specified in the schedule.

The schedule does not have to be extraordinarily bold or precise; simple and sound planning can prepare an effective schedule. The following points can be included in your answer to the program management interview question:

• Task projection

• Covering every milestone

• Preparing provisions

• Project's scope

• Activity assignment

• Proper overviewing of the project

Q 10. What would you do if the organization changes its goals mid-way through a program?

Answer: While the situation is adverse, it will not be the first time a company has to switch strategies between a program. Your answer to the program manager interview question should go along the lines of:

In case the organization shifts its focus mid-way, the entire program management team should consider how they started it all. The initial agreement must have been undertaken based on other strategies and objectives.

Any fluctuation or shift from the new strategies should be unconsidered until the completion. Until the next program, new guidelines should be prepared and complied with. Such deviations should be done within the organization and not with the clients. Any requests made by the client should be executed while other activities can wait until the completion.

The answer you find for the program management interview question could be different, but try to keep the basics akin to this one.

Q 11. Explain how change management can help a program manager achieve his goals.

Answer: The program manager interview question is targeted to see how you deal with change, so you need to show your understanding of the situation.

As a program manager, I must establish a fully-functional change management system to keep up with the latest market advancements. My next step will be allotting the necessary resources to face the changes. I will ensure that the adjustments are made within the program's cope not to hinder the primary goals.

A program manager should also ensure that his team takes these changes as a learning process and not mere roadblocks. Here are the top practices you can enlist to enhance your answer to the program manager interview question:

• Identifying active sponsors

• Dedicating resources

• Preparing a management structure

• Encouraging the team

• Offering a discussion platform

• Gathering information

• Contacting the middle managers

Experience-Based Program Manager Interview Questions

Q 12. Explain your understanding and experience of program charters.

Answer: Possessing knowledge on program charters is a given for any veteran program manager, so your answer to this program management interview question should be:

Starting any program without a charter is not viable as they are one of the first agreements both parties formulate. A charter specifies different pieces of evidence, duties, and commitments, making it pivotal for every concerned party.

Defining any role or activity would not be possible without it, so a program manager must hold onto it preciously. A program charter can set the desired benchmark for the program, and in my experience, keeping up with it is exponentially beneficial.

By adding the last sentence in your answer to the program manager interview question, you showcase that you have previously dealt with the situation, showing your competency and experience.

Q 13. Mention some of your recent contributions surrounding program management?

Answer: The answer to this program manager interview question should be as detailed and personal as possible. You need to show how you have performed in the past and how it can help your upcoming endeavours.

While it is one of the most common program manager interview questions, there is no pre-defined answer. You need to articulate it as per your experience, but you can include activities like:

• Establishing a PMO framework

• Leading project managers

• Formulating program management practices

• Developing a functional work breakdown structure

• Constructing time and resource-saving exercises

• Synchronizing individual project goals to reach the organizational goal

Q 14. How would you deal with a problematic sponsor or stakeholder?

Answer: As the program manager interview question intends to evaluate your communication and decision-making prowess, you should state a response like:

A stakeholder or a sponsor is pivotal for the organization, so I should be flexible while negotiating with them. Explaining the entire situation can help the sponsors get a full understanding of our issues and hurdles. This way, they can know why we are facing some concerns.

Negativity and toxicity should be kept as far as possible, while our first goals should be establishing a friendly environment. Negotiating in an amiable environment is highly suggested as it can lighten up the mood while eradicating any communication barriers.

Once again, efficient communication would be the key to the program management interview question.

Q 15. Mention the metrics you believe to be the most important.

Answer: The program manager interview question is targeted to know your metrics-related knowledge, so an apt answer would look like this:

As a program manager, I use a data-driven approach to bring changes, make adjustments, and eliminate issues. While instinct is vital in every role, the modern business domain asks for a firm grip on data. 

That is why I frequently employ metrics to assess the project's progress and efficiency. Cost and schedule variance are my go-to tools to keep up with the deadline.

While I keep a keen look at the resource utilization and customer satisfaction prospects too.  

Q 16. How do you assess an organization's resource capabilities?

Answer: Planning and utilizing a firm's resources is crucial for every PMO, so your answer should hint at your experience with the subject. To answer this program manager interview question, you should explain your planning capabilities alongside a past experience.

A sample answer to the program management interview question would be:

As a program manager, I can review the past endeavours the firm has partaken in. This can brief me about the firm's capabilities and competency with the available resources. Plus I can avail of some tools to get a precise overview of the resources.

After analyzing the project's resource requirement, I will gather a functional team, correlate the resources with the needs, arrange the resources, and then allocate them appropriately. 

Additionally, try to narrate your past experience in the situation to allow the interviewer to get a better perspective of your capabilities.

Q 17. Imagine facing an unhappy customer regarding a project which was undertaken as per his requirements. How will you handle the situation?

Answer: The program management interview question is tricky, so you need to be calculative with your answer. It is aimed to evaluate your communication and client-handling skills, so you should articulate an answer like this:

The situation is an unfortunate one and requires deliberate handling. As a program manager, I try to avoid such scenarios by routinely informing the client about the project's progress. However, if such an event does occur, I will start by being understanding.

I will see if any suitable changes can be made to meet the customer's needs while staying within the budget. If yes, I will prioritize customer satisfaction and undertake the changes as soon as possible. If the changes cannot proceed, I will negotiate with the client and try to find a middle ground. 

Conclusion

Nowadays, every business is aiming for a worldwide reach, and that is why they dedicate considerable resources to streamline their proceedings. Roles like product managers, project managers, and program managers are such positions created for the cause.

Program managers are essential in every modern business, and the role is sought out by numerous candidates nowadays. As the domain attracts heavy competition, companies are forced to spend additional efforts to hire the best candidates. If you are about to conduct an interview for the position too, then the mentioned program manager interview questions and answers can be beneficial.

Asking these program manager interview questions can help you evaluate the candidate thoroughly and aptly. While the best program management interview questions can differ for organizations, the specified ones are applicable for the majority of modern ventures.