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5 Program Director Interview Questions and Answers

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Q:

As a program director, would you rather disappoint your most loyal customer or the head of your department?

A:

The program director will likely be working to manage many different workflows and projects. Not all objectives will be equally beneficial for all parties involved, so a candidate should be prepared to balance the needs and wants of diverse stakeholders. An interviewee's answer to this question will allow you to understand if they're more focused on building internal relations or external sales and expansion. Depending on your organization's main objectives, you probably value one type of view over the other. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to prioritize
  • Clear logic used to support their choice
  • Strong communication skills

Example:

"I wouldn't want to let either party down, but I would rather disappoint the head of my department because sales drive the bulk of our growth, and customer loyalty is key. In the end, I think the department head would agree with my choice."

Q:

Do you tend to plan ahead and hedge against possible issues, or do you prefer to tackle problems as they arise?

A:

A program director juggles several responsibilities and works to enhance an organization's traction with its target audiences. There will always be the possibility for unexpected circumstances to arise, and your candidate should have a methodology in place for dealing with these situations. Interviewees who prefer to hedge may be overly cautious and choose steadiness over growth, while those who wait until problems arise might take on too much market risk. What to look for in an answer:

  • Gives a direct answer to the question
  • Explains their preference for one approach
  • Exhibits strong logical reasoning skills

Example:

"I prefer to hedge against possible problems. Since the organizations that I worked at were all mature companies, dealing with mistakes on the fly would be more damaging to the brand. However, I can act on problems quickly when needed."

Q:

Tell me about a project you led that failed to achieve expected results. How do you ensure those mistakes aren't repeated?

A:

Even though you're hiring a program director with the goal of growing your firm's offerings and business, not all ventures will end up with positive results. A candidate should use their past experiences as learning opportunities to help support their work on future projects. The applicant's answer to this question will allow you to gain an understanding of how they deal with failures and unexpected circumstances. What to look for in an answer:

  • Cites examples of past failures
  • Explains outcomes and what was learned from past experiences
  • Stays professional under stress

Example:

"Last year, I helped my employer launch a new online learning platform that failed to gain subscribers. We realized that the marketplace was already congested before we made an entrance. To mitigate these risks in the future, I'll make sure to conduct thorough market research before selling anything."

Q:

When you're presented with two strong project ideas, how do you decide which one to prioritize for your organization?

A:

Often, a program director will need to decide between two interesting projects that can bring different benefits to your organization. A candidate should be able to correctly identify which one will be most suitable for achieving your company's goals. A potential hire's response to this question allows you to gauge their logical reasoning skills and business acumen. What to look for in an answer:

  • Demonstrates a clear process for weighing two projects against each other
  • Exhibits strong logical reasoning abilities
  • Understanding of communication skills

Example:

"When I'm deciding between two projects, I first prioritize the one that will generate more long-term profitability for the company. With strong cash flow, we'd be able to also take on the other project in due time."

Q:

When you're running several projects at the same time, how do you track which ones have healthy metrics and which ones are at risk?

A:

A program director is in charge of monitoring teams and tasks that are central to an organization's continued success. Depending on the scope of your business, the potential hire may need to juggle many responsibilities while also looking for growth opportunities. As such, it's important that a candidate is able to weed out the projects that are time-consuming with low reward in favor of better ones. What to look for in an answer:

  • Clear understanding of business fundamentals
  • Can outline a strategy for effective time management
  • Ability to evaluate success metrics

Example:

"To track the performance of my portfolio of programs, I have my financial and business analysts report to me on a monthly basis. I review their data to determine which projects are showing positive cash flows and profits, which are the metrics that I use to define success."

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