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97 Program Manager Interview Questions

        posted by , February 23, 2013

Program managers shape a program and manage its delivery to meet strategic business goals and objectives. It's a challenging role that demands a challenging interview.

The following interview questions are appropriate for a program manager role in a large organization. The questions may also be applicable to executive and management roles that include program management responsibilities.


1. What is the difference between program management and project management?

2. What are project constraints? Can you give a few examples?

3. Can you give an example of a decision that's difficult to make at the project level (a decision that requires input from a program manager)?

4. How has program management changed over the past 5 years?

5. Who is typically accountable for ensuring that program deliverables align with business goals and objectives?

6. What is your definition of project failure?

7. Are office politics a healthy thing or are they fundamentally destructive?

8. What does it mean to monitor a project?

9. What is the difference between controlling and managing a project?

10. How do you evaluate the complexity of a program?

11. What was the most complex project you've managed?

12. Why do organizations group projects under one program?

13. How many direct reports do you have now?

14. Can you tell me about the most culturally diverse team you've managed? What challenges did you face?

15. How do you manage organizational change (e.g. stakeholders coming and going)?

16. What are your professional values? Why are professional values important in the program management field?


17. Have you managed a team of project managers? What challenges did you face?

18. Can you tell me about the most difficult project manager you've worked with? How did you manage the relationship?

19. Are you a born leader or was it a skill you acquired?

20. Can you tell me about a project you managed that had a weak executive sponsor? How did you manage it?

21. Have you moderated a dispute between executives? What was your technique?

22. How do you manage a situation in which stakeholders have different visions for a product?

23. How do you ensure that all stakeholders are treated fairly?

24. What is your leadership style?

25. What do you do to support the professional development of your team?

Commercial Awareness

26. How has the _______ industry changed in the past 5 years?

27. What __________ industry trends are you keeping an eye on?

28. What percentage of revenue do you suppose a company like ours spends on IT?

29. How fast is our industry growing? What are the key areas of growth?

30. What is corporate governance? Why is it important?

31. How do you identify new program funding opportunities?

32. Can you tell me about a project you championed that drove process efficiency?

33. Can you tell me about a revenue generating project you managed? Did it launch? Was it a commercial success?

Program Management

34. How do you determine funding requirements for a program?

35. How do you manage a program when goals and objectives are unclear?

36. How do you set stakeholder expectations?

37. How do you manage stakeholders who all want something different from a program?

38. How do you ensure that program knowledge is retained?

39. How do you influence stakeholder commitment?

40. How often do you review a program business case? What's the purpose of review?

41. How do you prioritize program risks?

42. What does it mean for a program to be a socially responsible practice?

43. What infrastructure does a PMO office typically require?

44. If you could choose two software applications to help you manage a complex program what would they be?

45. Can you tell me about a time you managed a geographically distributed program or project?

46. What is your approach to managing scope at the program level?

47. Is it important to deliver a program at a sustainable pace? Why / why not?

Project Oversight

48. How do you set expectations with project managers?

49. What information goes into a program management plan?

50. Where do project managers most often go wrong?

51. What percentage of projects fail? Why?

52. Can you tell me about a project you managed that failed? What were the lessons learned?

53. How to you minimize dependencies between projects within a program portfolio?

54. Can you tell me about a time you stepped in to a troubled project to resolve issues? Did you get the project back on track?

55. When do you re-baseline a project?

56. How do you manage stakeholders who seem bent on sabotaging a project?

57. How do you monitor project resource utilization?

58. Do you track projects at the milestone or the task level? Why?

59. How do you prevent scope creep?

60. What is earned value management?

61. How do you evaluate the performance of a project?

62. What are the first 3 questions you typically ask a project manager at a project status meeting?

63. Why does it often seem that the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort? How can you prevent this from throwing off your status reports?

64. What are the most common reasons that users reject products?

65. What steps do you take to ensure that users will accept a product?

66. How do you hand-off an in-flight project from one project manager to another?

67. How do you feel about agile projects? Have you managed them in the past?

68. What is the most effective technique to compress a project schedule?

Communication & Relationship Management

69. Do projects teams need to understand the goals and objectives of the overall program? Why / Why not?

70. How do you ensure that project teams understand how they fit into a program?

71. Can you tell me about a time you mentored someone?

72. How do you ensure that your project portfolio is fully transparent to executive sponsors?

73. What project risk metrics have you used in the past?

74. How do you get stakeholders excited about program successes?

75. If your organization announced that it will make large budget cuts, what would you do to defend your program budget?

76. How does effective program communication improve user acceptance?


77. What is your approach to contract management?

78. How do you monitor contract compliance?

79. Can you tell me about a time you negotiated a contract? What techniques did you use to get the price and terms you required?

80. How do you develop a vendor short list?

81. How do you gather initial information from vendors?

82. Should contract negotiation be win-win?

83. What laws or best practices exist to ensure that procurement is fair?

Quality Assurance

84. Can you give me a few examples of quality requirements?

85. How do you ensure that project deliverables are fit for purpose?

86. Are you familiar with any quality improvement processes?


87. What is governance? What is its value?

88. What is the difference between governance and management?

89. What does a typical program governance process look like (whiteboard)?

90. How does governance help to avoid project issues?

91. Can you tell me about a time you used governance functions to arbitrate a disagreement between stakeholders?


92. How do you ensure that a program is aligned with business goals and objectives?

93. How do you manage a program when business strategy is in a state of flux?

94. Can you tell me about a time you championed a common approach with other programs or initiatives?

95. How do you encourage alignment at the project and working level?

96. How do you ensure that projects identify and leverage synergy opportunities?

97. Can collaborative alliances be counter-productive? Can you give me an example?

This article is part of the ongoing series: how to win your next job.

More interview questions can be found here.

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