I have a post on this site, Interview Questions for Program Managers. There are a number of comments. Some ask how to answer the questions. Some want more information. Maybe you also read Six Tips for Answering Project and Program Manager Interview Questions or Interview Questions for Project Managers and want more detail. This is the detail.
If you are a project or program manager and you want to know how to answer these questions, do this:
- Think about your most recent project or program. Ground yourself in recent reality.
- Define the value you provided to your organization. Use Four Tips to Defining Your Value.
- Now, practice the way you will explain your value in an interview. This is a story, one of many of your career. As part of this story, use data to explain your value.
- Did you save the company money?
- Did you solve a gnarly problem that kept managers awake at night?
- Did you do something to help the company retain or acquire customers?
- Did you help the project meet or beat the desired schedule date?
- Something else you can quantify?
- Make sure you tell the story in a way that can relate to your interviewer’s context. You can’t memorize your story. You can emphasize different pieces of it to make a specific point. If you are not sure what your interviewer wants to know, answer the questions in a way that explains your value.
Here’s why there is no right or wrong way to answer questions. I did a PMWar with a colleague on projectmanagement.com. I only answered about 8 questions. I think I got 4 of them “wrong.” The reason I put wrong in quotes is that one of the questions was something like, “How many tools do you have to resolve conflict?” The answers were 6, 7, 8, 9. I answered 9 because I know of at least 9 ways to resolve conflict. (I would argue there are an infinite number of ways to resolve conflict.)
My answer, 9, was wrong. There are some number of ways according to some authority to resolve conflict. Bah! I don’t buy it. And, I have the stories to prove it.
That is why you can’t win with, “this is the right answer for a given question.”
On the other hand, you might like to know some ways to answer questions about metrics, specifically. I’ll address that in another post.
To summarize the four tips:
- Think about a recent project or program.
- Define your value.
- Practice how you will explain your value.
- Decide which pieces of the story you will emphasize in different contexts, so you answer your interviewer’s question.
There are no “right” answers for the questions you will encounter in a project manager or program manager interview. You need to answer questions truthfully based on your experience. When you prepare for your interview, you will have more success.