Academic Program Manager Interview Questions

The world of business is like a spider’s web. Different pieces connect through a series of delicate threads. Sometimes, the pattern is logical. In other cases, it’s visual cacophony. But, regardless of how it appears, it’s the connections that matter. And those connections are what define the world of a program manager.

Program managers oversee an interconnected chunk of a business, allowing them to steer it toward a brighter future and help it achieve its goals. Without program managers, projects that share threads might not account for the efforts of another, causing everything to become disjointed. To put it simply, without a program manager’s guidance, it could be chaos.

Because of that risk, hiring managers are diligent about selecting highly skilled program managers. If you want to prove that you’re the amazing candidate you know yourself to be, nailing your program manager interview questions is a must. Otherwise, you won’t stand out from the pack; and that means missing out on the opportunity.

Sure, you could simply head to the interview and hope for the best. But is that really the best way to go?

Being prepared is what it should always be about. Luckily, making sure you can shine isn’t challenging. We have your back. So, come with us as we take a deep dive into what it takes to leave the competition in the dust.

Download our “Job Interview Questions & Answers PDF Cheat Sheet” that gives you word-for-word sample answers to some of the most common interview questions including:

What is the most common reason projects fail?

Hiring managers want to avoid failure. That means hiring a program manager that understands what can cause it, allowing them to sidestep it to the best of their ability.


How to Answer Program Manager Interview Questions

First, don’t confuse program managers with project managers or product managers. While the job titles look ridiculously similar, and the roles do have quite a bit in common, they aren’t actually the same. Technically, they all oversee projects, but the niches can vary.

Product managers focus on (surprise, surprise) products. Project managers might work in any niche, depending on their employer. But their work tends to focus on the project at hand, and not on the big strategic picture.

Program managers usually oversee a group of projects (and, potentially, a team of project managers), and each one is connected by a common element, like a single company goal. Additionally, they are responsible for guiding strategy, keeping everyone moving toward the right target.

Oh, and project and product managers earn an average of $76,683 and $83,617 a year, respectively. For program managers, the annual salary average is $134,620.

Now that’s out of the way, but before we go over the program manager interview questions, let’s pause for a moment to talk strategy. You need the right approach. That way, if the hiring manager asks you something unexpected, you can adapt.

The program manager job description is a great place to start, as it spells out what the company considers must-haves. Couple that with a look at the company’s mission and values statements, and you can find out a lot about the skills and traits the hiring manager wants to find.

When an interview question is straightforward – like, the “do you have skill X?” kind of straightforward – answering is a breeze. You assert that you do and provide a relevant example that proves it. Or, if you don’t, you admit it, but then go a little further, discussing your interest in acquiring the skill or any efforts you’re taking to improve in that area. Done.

But, when you’re facing behavioral interview questions, it’s a bit trickier. These require more than a “yes” or “no,” for one. For another, there usually isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer. Sure, some answers may be better than others, or a better fit in the eyes of the hiring manager, but it isn’t cut-and-dry.

In most cases, behavioral interview questions ask you to navigate a scenario and provide examples of what you’ve done or what you would do. While that isn’t always easy, there is a technique that works. By combining the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method, you can craft a compelling, story-driven answer that’s as relevant as possible. It’s a great way to stand out from the crowd, so make sure you really get to know those strategies as you prepare for your interview.

We also wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions along with their program manager specific questions!

Click below to get your free PDF now:

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.

Top 15 Program Manager Interview Questions and Answers for 2022

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