How to prepare for a Program Manager interview

Program managers oversee a wide range of projects, and manage the project managers who are in charge of those projects. They can span across many areas and functions from operational/technical program managers to people operations.

One of the most critical roles that a company can hire for is the role of Program Manager. Why? Because program managers supervise and arrange activities while making sure that the project aligns to the company’s objectives.

Program manager interviews can be tough to crack if you aren't well prepared. With this in mind, be prepared to talk about what you’ve done, where you’re going, and how you think.

Interview preparation questions:

Here are a few program manager interview preparation questions to practice

  1. What are the most common reasons why projects fail?
  2. Tell me about a time where you managed a project that didn’t go as planned. What happened? What would you do differently if given the chance?
  3. When managing multiple projects, how do you determine which are the highest priority?
  4. If you were assigned a program with a 6-month deadline, what steps would you take to plan and deliver the project successfully?
  5. What technology and tools do you find are necessary to be successful in your role?
  6. What metrics do you review to measure success?
  7. What’s your experience with program charters?
  8. Why is change management important for this role?
  9. How do you properly define/document and control the goals for each program that you execute?
  10. Describe the most recent program you managed. What was your contribution?
  11. Tell me about a time where you were asked to develop a budget and allocate resources to a past program.
  12. Tell me about the biggest challenge you’ve faced while managing a team of project managers.

* Tips on answering these questions: align your experience to the attributes listed on the job posting and/or company culture and values

Questions to ask your interviewers:

The type of questions you may want to ask will depend on who is interviewing you, or which round of interviews you are currently in.

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a program manager at this firm?
  2. What can I expect in terms of company culture? 
  3. What are some of the unexpected realities of being a program manager ? 
  4. What common characteristics have helped people at this level quickly succeed and reach an outstanding performance? 
  5. I know program management to be very dynamic. What can I expect my day-to-day to look like ?

Interview follow up:

They say small kindnesses never go unnoticed and this is particularly true when it comes to interviewing.

A simple thank you email to your interviewer goes a long way to cementing you in their minds long after your interview is over. Your email could be as simple as thanking the interviewer for their time, or mentioning a particular part of the interview you enjoyed. This would also be a good opportunity to extend your interest in connecting via Linkedin. 

Your interviewer will generally set the expectation for when you can expect to hear back from them. If nothing is set, a good timeframe for a follow up is two weeks after the interview.

Checklist for the day of your interview: 

  1. Get a good night’s sleep - This allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up, ready to ace your interview!
  2. Start your day with breakfast - You might find you feel a bit sluggish and struggle to focus if you don’t.  Breakfast positively affects your mental performance, including your attention, ability to concentrate and memory. Skipping the most important meal of the day can make some tasks feel harder than they normally would.
  3. Wear clothing you’re comfortable in - The dress code for program manager interviews can vary from business professional to business casual. With this in mind, it’s always better to overdress, rather than underdress. Comfortable clothing will also help you feel confident during your interview.
  4. Leave your house early - Proper planning will help you arrive on time for the interview and eliminate any last minute stress.  Double-check the interview location and your best route to get there. If you’re driving there yourself, it’s a good idea to consider where you might park.
  5. If you are having an online interview, remember to log on early and test your setup. You should check your connection, camera and microphone, as well as ensuring your background or environment is free from clutter and distractions.
  6. Follow in Superman’s footsteps - Try this right before you go into the room or join your call. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, place your hands on your hips and breathe deeply. This is the Superman pose, specifically developed to encourage your body to regulate breathing and allow your mind to clear and your nerves to calm. Plus, you’ll feel like you could leap tall buildings in a single bound - what better way to take your next steps to professional success?


Now that you’ve just taken your next steps towards succeeding in your career, be sure to take a look at the Wizco Blog for more insider tips and tricks and walk into every growth opportunity prepared.