Main image of article How to Become a Program Manager: Interview Tips

For project managers, the next step in their career path is often becoming a program manager who oversees several projects (and the project managers who run them). A great program manager can identify where each project team is succeeding, where they need help, and how cross-functional resources can help multiple teams.

But how do you actually become a program manager? Often, the skills you learn as a project manager just need to be “scaled up” to lead larger teams and several projects. But there may be a few things you haven’t considered!

We spoke to a few experts to get their insights on what stands out on a program manager resume, what interview questions you should expect, and more.

What are some popular program manager interview questions?

Sugandha Sahay, Program Manager for AWS (Amazon Web Services), gives Dice her top five interview questions for program managers:

1. Do you understand the difference between Waterfall and Agile methodologies?

2. Tell me about a time when you faced conflict with a colleague. How did you handle this situation?

3. Walk me through a program you have managed. What was one major challenge in the program and how did you navigate this challenge?

4. What are KPIs? How do you plan KPIs for a program?

5. Tell me about a time when your program went off track. What next steps did you take?

“As a program manager, it's important to effectively communicate your impact when presenting your work experience on your resume,” Sahay says. “The resume serves as a valuable tool to showcase your skills and abilities as a program manager. In this role, you are constantly required to make decisions that balance risk mitigation with project progress. Demonstrating your ability to analyze and measure the impact of your work in your resume can impress the interviewer and show your proficiency in this critical aspect of the job.”

Program managers must quantify their impact when highlighting their work experience on their resume. “A program manager constantly needs to perform trade-offs to mitigate risks and keep programs on track,” Sahay adds. “This requires impact analysis daily. Sharing the impact of the project in the resume shows to the interviewer that the program manager knows how to measure the impact of their work. Hence, they will be able to use this skill when hired, as well.”

Elizabeth Harrin, Senior Project Manager at Nuttfield Health and former Program Manager at Spire Healthcare Group, offers her own list of potential interview question:

  1. Can you tell us about a time where an IT program had an unforeseen impact on the business overall? (I think there are rarely tech programs that do not affect other areas of the business, and for a program to be tech-led (i.e., led by someone within the IT function), they need to have an awareness of the business outside their department to help land the change and secure the benefits.)
  2. How have you/would you make sure that program benefits are adequately tracked and realized?
  3. Tell us about a time where you have had to negotiate a change of priority within a program, or had to respond to an external requirement to change priorities.
  4. Tell us about a time where you have had to deal with resource shortages. How did you adapt the delivery schedules to balance the workload overall?
  5. What steps would you take to transition a program into business as usual/live operations? 

Ivan Novikov, CEO at API security solutions firm Wallarm, says he asks program manager candidates these questions:

  1. What have been some of your most successful program management initiatives?
  2. How do you ensure successful completion of projects?
  3. Describe a time when you had to manage multiple projects and prioritize tasks.
  4. How do you ensure timely and accurate project reporting?
  5. What strategies do you use to motivate teams?
  6. How do you handle scope, budget, and timeline changes?
  7. Describe a difficult situation you faced as a program manager and how you overcame it.

“When reviewing resumes for program managers, I look for candidates with a proven track record of successful project delivery, have a deep understanding of the project management lifecycle, and have experience working with cross-functional teams,” Novikov adds.

How can you prepare for a program manager interview?

“YouTube has tons of interview guides for program managers,” Sahay says. “Search for ‘Program Manager interview questions’ or ‘Program manager 101’ on YouTube” to find a ton of bingeable videos.” In addition, there’s “ , which has various blogs on program manager interview questions. Several interviewees post company specific program management interview questions on Glassdoor, too.”

Harrin adds: “I’d suggest looking at SFIA, Skills for the Information Age, as a competency framework… It’s a good overview of what is expected and the level at which a program manager is expected to operate.”

Ivan Lovre Marusic, CEO at Oseka Media, cites several online platforms with program manager documentation that could prove useful during interview preparation: “Glassdoor has a wealth of information on companies, including interview questions and reviews from current and former employees. Udemy offers a variety of courses and tutorials on project management and leadership, including interview preparation [for a program manager role]. Coursera provides online courses on various aspects of project management, including leadership and risk management, that are applicable for program management.”preparation


Related Program Manager Jobs Resources:

Program Manager Career Path

Program Manager Interview Questions

Program Manager Resume Template

Program Manager Salary

Program Manager Skills