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Program Manager Interview Questions

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  1. When you’re overseeing a large portfolio of projects, how do you determine if a project is healthy or at risk? See answer
  2. How does a program manager differ from a project manager? See answer
  3. What metrics do you believe are most important? See answer
  4. How important is change management for program managers? See answer
  5. How do you control the scope of projects? See answer
  6. What’s your process for meeting tight deadlines and staying on track with your program goals?
  7. If you’re in charge of multiple projects and programs, what’s your process for prioritizing each one?
  8. What’s your process for avoiding scope creep?
  9. Tell me about a time when you attempted to launch a program, but it failed. What did you learn from this experience?
  10. Has your project ever fallen behind schedule? What did you do to get it back on track?
  11. Do you use any time management or organizational tools to prioritize your responsibilities?
  12. What’s the most recent plan you’ve managed?
  13. Describe your experience using program charters.
  14. Tell me about any challenges you faced leading a team of project managers.
  15. Do you have a process for regularly keeping up with industry trends?
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6 Program Manager Interview Questions and Answers


When you’re overseeing a large portfolio of projects, how do you determine if a project is healthy or at risk?


Program managers must monitor numerous projects at once. This question asks applicants to explain their management style, how to identify project risk and what steps to take to ensure projects are completed successfully.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Applicant’s management style and communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills and ability to identify and mitigate risk
  • Leadership capabilities


“I consistently analyze project health, looking at timeliness, budget, staffing and client satisfaction. I utilize project and program dashboards to give me a unified, real-time view. I simplify reporting processes and regularly interact with project managers and leads. Additionally, I build trusting relationships with project managers and teams in order to increase transparency and improve communication.”


How does a program manager differ from a project manager?


Program managers are expected to organize and coordinate programs. Their work goes beyond just managing projects. Program managers must provide strategic guidance to project managers and ensure the company is working towards its larger goals. Applicants should understand this role necessitates big-picture thinking.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Applicant’s ability to multitask and coordinate cross-project activities
  • High-level understanding of program management
  • How the applicant oversees progress of operations


“Project managers plan, develop and execute projects, and are the first point of contact for program managers when there are issues. While project managers focus on the success of a function or task, program managers establish strategies, formulate a group of inter-connected projects and then monitor progress. Achieving company goals depends on productive collaboration and communication among project managers and the program manager.”


What metrics do you believe are most important?


While it’s important to have a confident leader, great program managers utilize a data-driven approach to eliminate defects, implement changes and make improvements. This question enables you to see how an applicant values metrics and uses them.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Applicant’s knowledge of program management metrics and measurement-based strategies
  • Commitment to efficiency and continuous improvement
  • Opinion of data-driven methods


“Some people make the mistake of always trusting their instincts, but we have to listen to the data in today’s business landscape if we want to stay competitive. I consistently employ metrics to measure efficiency and progress. I use schedule variance and cost variance to see if projects are on time and within budget. To measure productivity, I examine resource utilization. I look at customer satisfaction and the quality of deliverables. Also, I calculate gross margins to ensure our projects are bringing the value we need for the company.”


How important is change management for program managers?


Change management is a systematic approach to handling shifts in strategy, process or tools. For program managers, change must be navigated correctly to produce desired outcomes. This includes getting teams to adapt to new processes and technologies, as well as, reducing project disruption. Great program managers encourage teams to embrace new ways of working by selling the benefits and making change simple and easy.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to lead in spite of resistance
  • Understanding of change management and its implementation
  • Importance of company culture when introducing change


“Change management is crucial to making certain a company moves forward in positive ways. As a program manager, we must see that all our project managers are on the same page and understand how to enact change. I believe we should execute in a phased manner. First, I share data-driven research to show the benefits of adopting new technologies and processes. This can help lessen resistance or hesitation. Then, I implement in a pilot environment, perhaps choosing one or two project teams to start. Throughout implementation, I maintain a mentor-like relationship with project managers and teams, rather than dictate orders. I believe this facilitates productive improvements across the organizations.”


How do you control the scope of projects?


Scope creep, or additions to a project after it begins, can sneak up quickly and undermine success. Since program managers are overseeing multiple projects, it’s vital that they clearly define, document and control project specifications. This prevents one project from morphing into something bigger or something else entirely. Great program managers keep everyone working towards the same goal.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to communicate expectations to project managers and stakeholders
  • Ability to analyze requirements of a project and manage its scope successfully
  • Understanding of the importance of company vision, goals and priorities


“The tricky thing can be that projects are often fluid in nature. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t manage scope effectively. I start by having a clear understanding of the program’s goals. For each project, I work with leads to define parameters. We break projects into minor and major milestones. Throughout the project, I assess and communicate progress with the team. We decide on appropriate changes as needed. Communication is key to guaranteeing each project is taking us towards our bigger goals.”


What's your process for meeting tight deadlines and staying on track with your program goals?


Program managers are typically in charge of several projects at once and are expected to follow strict timelines to implement these programs. This answer should assure interviewers that the candidate follows a set process for meeting deadlines. It should also demonstrate their task prioritization process to ensure they're putting the correct amount of energy into the necessary projects at the right times.

The candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Process for prioritizing tasks
  • Ability to meet tight deadlines
  • Organizational and time-management skills

An answer to this question could look like this:


"When I'm assigned several projects at once, I'll typically examine each one and their deadlines to determine how long they'll take and which to prioritize first. I'll break down smaller tasks to complete for each project and will assign deadlines to each task to ensure I complete the overall project on time. To do this, I'll review several different factors that go into a project, like goals budgets, risk levels and strategic values. I'll then decide how long it'll take to complete each factor and will build a flexible schedule to finish each task."

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    Last updated: Apr 21, 2021