Strategizing, coordinating project teams, and ensuring that all projects taken on are in line with an organization’s business goals are just some of the responsibilities of a program manager.

“A program manager can be seen as the visionary leader for the overall program.” according to Brianna Hansen. (Click To Tweet)

25 Program Manager Interview Questions to Get You Your Dream Job

With such responsibilities, it is only natural that companies would be on the lookout for a program manager with considerable skills. Here’s a list of program manager interview questions that will make your preparations that much easier.

  1. What Are The Causes Of Project Failure?

You should be able to talk about common mistakes made by project managers, like a lack of direction, flexibility, or communication.

As Tim Parkin says, “Communication is the most important factor of successful project management”. (Click To Tweet)

If this isn’t a sentiment you agree with, then you’re probably not going to be a good fit for this role.

  1. What Is Your Risk Strategy?

Talk about your risk analysis process and how you implement solutions before, and during the implementation of your program.

  1. What Are Your Problem Solving Techniques?

 

Here, interviewers are looking for you to talk about concrete methodologies like the deBono thinking hats and fishbone diagrams that systematize your problem solving process.

  1. How Do You Deal With Ethical Dilemmas?

This question is an opening for you to discuss past projects and the PMI code of ethics. This helps the hiring manager gauge if you’ll fit with the company’s culture.

  1. What Were Your Contributions To The Management Process At Your Current Firm?

Put forward potential snags like aggressive timelines or a lack of specificity in the programs you were managing and how you believe they could be resolved. You could lay out how you define the scope of every project to make sure your program is working towards an end-goal.

  1. What Are The Advantages Of Grouping Projects Under A Program?

You should answer this question by talking about how a program ensures that all projects undertaken fall in line with an organization’s business strategies.

  1. How Do You Group Projects Into A Program?

When you’re asked this, you discuss your work methods, either a top down method starting from the business outcome, or the more organic method of tying up similar projects together.

  1. Discuss How You Deal With Stakeholders

As Bonnie Cooper says, successfully managing your stakeholders helps you “mitigate issues that would otherwise delay the project.” (Click To Tweet)

Talk about how you would identify, analyze, and communicate with your stakeholders to ensure that you achieve your program goals.

  1. How Do You Evaluate The Complexity Of A Program?

Talk about the components of a program, how much organization it needs, the number of people that are involved, and how all of this contributes to the program’s complexity.

  1. Control Vs. Management, What Is Your Strategy?

Program managers should not be control freaks. As Michael Beck says, “Don’t babysit,”.

So talk to your interviewer about the advantages of regular communication over policing project teams.

  1. What Management Metrics Do You Use?

If you don’t measure something, you can’t change it.”, according to Mitt Romney, and this is true for program management as well. (Click To Tweet)

 

Here, discuss the difference between schedule and effort, the distribution of resources, and what qualifies as a completed project. If you cannot quantify your work, you won’t be able to set and achieve program goals.

  1. Is The Process Similar For Small And Large Programs?

The answer is obviously no, but you should also discuss how the demands of both are different and why the practices for small programs don’t translate for large ones.

  1. Do You Typically Write Program Charters?

The answer to this should be yes, because a charter is what authorizes you to implement your program and bring your team together.

  1. How Do You Manage Your Sponsors?

The executive who signs your program charter is your sponsor and the official head of the program.

You should have a plan that ensures their involvement and commitment because, “When [a program] has no clear head, things tend to fall apart.”, as Casey Halloran says.

  1. How Do You Budget For A Program?

Talk about program parameters, how you evaluate resources utilized, and what value you place on each contributing factor to arrive at your budget.

  1. What Is Your Risk Prioritization Process?

Project or product risk is top priority in any program. You can talk about risks to the process, the resources, and the stakeholders.

  1. Discuss Multitasking With Projects

Talk about the negative effects of too many projects being implemented at the same time, and what kind of projects can be put into production at once, if necessary, that won’t negatively affect your productivity.

  1. What Is Program Governance?

Talk about how program governance gives structure and guidance to the program and aligns it with the organization’s goals.

 

Give an examples of a governance structure that assigns each decision making role to specific authorities, and demonstrate how that contributes to better program management.

  1. How Do You Put A Team Together?

Talk about methodologies like Six Sigma, and how they inform your choices for a project team.

  1. How Do You Pace A Program?

Here you should discuss the importance of sustainable pacing and the issues with aggressive deadlines that don’t allow for a buffer of time and resources.

  1. What Makes For A Good Project Manager?

Choosing the right person to manage the projects you’re coordinating is extremely important. List out skills like time management and decision-making that you’d look for in a project manager.

  1. How Do You Minimize Dependencies Between Projects?

When entirely self-sufficient teams are not possible, collaborate with the project managers and use management tools effectively in order to reduce dependencies across project teams.

  1. What Management Tools Do You Use?

What the interviewer wants you to demonstrate is your proficiency with your preferred management tool, and how dependant you are on it.

  1. How Do You Compress Project Schedules?

Talk about compression techniques like fast tracking and crashing, and the pros and cons of both when trying to reduce the time taken to complete a project.

  1. What Do You Do If Business Strategy Changes?

Every program manager needs to have a good change management strategy. Describe how you’ll reallocate resources, and repurpose projects, so that everything is in line with the new business strategy.

Now that you know about these common program manager interview questions, you can make sure your skills are up to task, and land just about any program manager job you apply for this year. Good luck!

References:

  • http://www.cio.com/article/2391872/project-management/12-common-project-management-mistakes–and-how-to-avoid-them.html
  • http://www.aditistaffing.com/job-search/program-manager-jobs/
  • http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Ethics/ap_pmicodeofethics.ashx
  • http://www.themerlyngroup.com/2009/03/06/the-art-and-science-of-grouping-projects-into-programs/
  • http://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-six-sigma/getting-started/what-six-sigma/
  • http://www.liquidplanner.com/blog/10-killer-interview-questions-hiring-project-managers/
  • http://www.aditistaffing.com/8-tips-to-improve-your-project-management-skills/
  • http://www.cio.com/article/2391872/project-management/12-common-project-management-mistakes–and-how-to-avoid-them.html
  • http://careers.simplicable.com/careers/new/97-program-manager-interview-questions

Image References:

  • https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/52/Ishikawa_Fishbone_Diagram.svg/2000px-Ishikawa_Fishbone_Diagram.svg.png
  • http://i0.wp.com/oorjabizops.com/resources/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/effort-distribution.jpg?resize=300%2C197
  • http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/library/content/RationalEdge/may04/4751_fig1.jpg