5 Common Program Manager Interview Questions & Answers

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Congratulations, you did it. Thanks to your hard work in authoring a knockout cover letter and resume, you received an invitation to interview. You’re closer than ever to getting the job of your dreams, but the chase isn’t quite over yet. While you’re likely thinking about common interview questions and how you might respond, have you considered some of the specific program manager interview questions that are likely to come up?

While there’s no way to know exactly what questions will be asked of you, that isn’t a reason not to be prepared. Besides planning to wear your best outfit and arriving a little early in case anything comes up, now’s the time to think about the position, its requirements and some of the tough program manager interview questions that you’ll need to answer. The following is a list of five questions with a sample answer provided for each one.

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5 Program Manager Interview Questions & Answers

1. Can you give us an example of how you improved or streamlined a process in the past?

I was working on a team where we were doing an additional process that I knew could be eliminated, but no one else gave it a second thought. I quickly added up the number of hours per project this process took and multiplied it by the number of projects we completed over the last month. I challenged my boss by saying, “let me set aside just half of these hours over the following month and I’ll pilot a workflow that doesn’t include that portion.” I was given the go-ahead and took on several projects using a different tool, one that included an automated, error-free version of the process we were doing by hand. The results were well-received by my boss, and thanks to the effects of the new tool, our clients were happier than ever. We then started using the updated workflow on some 90 percent of our projects.

2. Can you tell us what qualities make you an effective leader?

For me, it’s about having a goal, understanding the steps to reach it and knowing who you need to get there. It’s also about never giving up when roadblocks appear. It’s not so much about being a boss either, it’s more about being a facilitator, a person who empowers others to get behind a project or program who will push it forward until it has its own inertia. It’s about being accessible to others rather than being someone who people fear. It’s about working in the trenches with everyone rather than standing outside uninvolved.

3. What experience do you have with the presentation of metrics?

Ever since my college days I’ve used charts and graphs to understand trends and present my findings. While working as a freelance marketing professional, I would research keywords associated with web searches and present opportunities to the client for optimizing their site copy to attract users searching for particular terms. Later in my career, I headed up a department that had quite a few performance indicators. I honed in on the most important ones, created a dashboard and regularly shared those figures with management.

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4. How will you gather the needed program participants?

I find that many of today’s workers don’t have a good handle on their email inbox or social media feeds, so I don’t limit it to those channels. Some of my old standbys are posting flyers and planning fun kick-off events. I try to make an intriguing headline to build interest. I find that if I can get the message out there in at least three ways, hopefully each employee will hear about it at least once without feeling bombarded. Finally, I get key managers to solicit participation from their direct reports. In this way employees can get involved with an important program and not feel guilty about the time they spend on it.

5. The average automobile has some 30,000 individual components. Do you mind telling us, at a high level, how you would manage its assembly?

Planning for something complex requires breaking it down into manageable pieces. I’m not much of a gearhead, but I would say first I would build a few teams to handle distinct areas of production, such as interior, body, engine, chassis, frame, suspension and transmission. I’d figure out the most efficient order of manufacturing, and have the work done accordingly. Then I’d have a separate quality team look over the work, perform test drives and recommend process improvements.

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