10 Program Manager Interview Questions to Help You Prepare

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Interviewing for a job in program management? Review these program manager interview questions as part of your interview preparation to make the best impression.

[Featured image] A male wearing a white shirt and gray tie is being interviewed for a program manager position. He is being interviewed by a female, wearing a dark jacket and having long dark hair. She is taking notes on her laptop which is sitting on her lap.

A program manager oversees a program or initiative for an organization. While project management focuses on short-term projects, program management is about leading a larger goal. As a program manager, you’ll plan, direct, document, and monitor the quality of more extensive programs that involve smaller projects. Program managers provide guidance and delegate projects to project managers. 

To ace your program manager interview, practice and study interview questions to help land your next job. Here are 10 common program manager interview questions:

1. Tell me about yourself.

Expect to talk about yourself, your work history, and any relevant skills to connect to the program manager job description. This shows the interviewer you have the required skills and that you’ve researched the company you’re interviewing with.

2. Why do you think you are a good fit for this program manager role?

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. As a program manager, you’ll need strong communication, collaboration, and multitasking skills, so it may be essential to provide examples.

Remember to mention your success as a program manager with metrics from past programs. Cost variance, resource utilization, and customer satisfaction are examples of these success measures.

3. Tell me about a successful project you have overseen.

Employers are looking for an ideal candidate who emphasizes the importance of quantitative success, is data-driven, and has intuition. Provide experiences where you’ve increased program or project performance using metrics like customer satisfaction, engagement, the program’s cost variance, etc. To set yourself up for success, you may include examples of when you’ve solved a problem, like a scope creep or a non-compliant team member.

4. Give an example of prioritizing your tasks when working on multiple projects.

The ability to simultaneously manage multiple projects is essential to a program manager’s success. The interviewer likely wants to hear about the software programs, tools or applications you use to organize your projects’ tasks and your preference. Examples of project management tools include Basecamp, Jira, Trello, Asana, and Google Suite. If you have any other tips or methods you have learned in your experience while completing successful projects; this is the time to list them.

5. How do you adapt if a company changes its goals when you are halfway through a project?

Show your resilience, professionalism, and problem-solving skills by detailing how you pivoted when a company changed its goals during a project. Talk about your experience with scope creep and how you tackled that. You can also talk about communicating and guiding team members and stakeholders about any changes to a project or program’s goals. 

6. Tell me about a time when you fell behind on a project. What did you do to pull it back?

This question touches on important program management skills, including risk management, preventing scope creep, and problem-solving skills. Provide examples of steps you’ve taken to set a delayed project back on the right course to meet milestones and deadlines for deliverables. Communication would also be key in this situation. Mention your experiences being assertive and the steps you’ve taken to control projects, prioritize tasks, and communicate with others on your team.

7. Tell me about your management style when directing a team of project managers.

Talk about the traits that make you a successful program manager. An ideal program manager can show empathy, problem solve, offer support, give constructive and respectful feedback, communicate effectively, and offer strategies and guidance to their team. Highlight your ability to communicate with various stakeholders. You can also talk about your ability to build teams, improve collaboration and promote positive change. 

8. Give me an example of a time that you identified project risks and how you mitigated them.

Risk management is a critical part of being a program manager. Talk about how you identify and evaluate potential risks. You can discuss ways to foresee potential risks and their impacts with a cause and effect diagram. You can also talk about creating a risk management plan and how you communicate and document them. Talk about times when you’ve had to avoid risks by taking action, exploring your options, transferring risks by outsourcing tasks, or accepting risks and their impacts. You can also discuss times when you had to escalate a problem to key stakeholders to make speedy decisions, reduce frustration, and offer checks and balances. 

Read more: How to Manage Project Risk: A 5-Step Guide

9. What is your approach to change management?

Companies use change management to allow adjustments throughout their organizations. According to American Society Quality, being a successful program manager means preparing and supporting employees, establishing necessary steps for change, and monitoring pre- and post-change activities for implementation. 

A successful program manager will have a plan to roll out a companywide change or process. Change may have to be implemented in steps. Ways to influence change include using personal motivation, providing social motivation or structural motivation, and giving people the ability to make changes. Talk about how you have earned buy-in from the people involved.

10. How do you measure success in your projects?

Answer this question both quantitatively and qualitatively. While you can talk about metrics such as customer satisfaction, engagement, the program’s cost variance, etc., you can also discuss other signs of success thanks to a project. Your achievements are essential so provide examples of how you’ve stayed in scope, met deliverable dates, and kept your team motivated.

How to prepare for an interview

Interview preparation can help you succeed and feel more confident for your program manager interview; here are some steps to consider before your interview. 

Read more: How to Prepare for an Interview

Research the organization.

If you aren't already familiar with the company, researching the latest news or press releases can be a helpful place to start. Read about their products and services and the organization's mission. Job review sites like Glassdoor and Comparably can provide insight into the company’s work culture. Another suggestion is to search up the potential interviewer and company on LinkedIn. 

Prepare your answers.

Write down your answers to common program manager interview questions. Writing down notes and examples can help you memorize them and recite the answers more naturally. 

Practice the interview.

After preparing your answers, practice answering the interview questions with confidence and a natural tone. Answer the questions at a moderate pace so you can communicate your answers. A mock interview with another person can help you identify gaps in your answers and think about better ways to answer questions.

Ask for feedback.

Ask a fellow program manager, instructor, mentor, or friend for feedback on your resume and interview question answers. Perhaps they can provide ideas on how to show your ability to do the program manager job. 

Prepare your questions.

Always come with your questions for the interviewer. This is your opportunity to gain clarity on the role and expectations and explore what interests you most about the company. 

Next steps

As you continue your job search, consider ways to improve your interviewing skills. On Coursera, try this Successful Interviewing course that covers how to make a positive first impression, how to answer traditional interview questions, and ways to prove that you’ve researched your potential employer.   

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