So you have decided to apply for a Program Manager role on a product team and you’ve been invited to an interview. Well Done! Now let’s make sure you do your very best!!
The logistics of the interview day will differ somewhat depending on the company, the team, and the remit of the role, but you will usually have a series of interviews.
- One or more assessing your technical ability
- usually this will be run by the development lead you’ll be working with or a member of their team
- One or more assessing your ability to manage projects
- generally another program manager would interview you; either a peer or somebody who works closely with the team you are applying to
- One to get to know your hiring manager
- And possible another to get to know their manager and talk about how your job fits into the wider program
In person interviews usually also include a lunch slot which you’ll get to spend with at least one team member and which is ‘totally not an interview’. If you are having food, I’d personally recommend getting something light that is easy to eat. You don’t want to ruin what you wearing and you also don’t want to feel super full during your afternoon session.
A lot of the general interview advice applies:
- Try to learn as much as you can about the target team
- Read about what the product is that they are building and how that fits into the wider company strategy
- Once your recruiter tells you about your interviewers, feel free to check them out on LinkedIn
Having ran a few interviews myself, the only caveat that I would put on ‘do your research’ is that there is definitely a line you can overstep.
For example: Do not message interviewers individually to ask for feedback if you haven’t heard back yet. It’s awkward and rarely lands well. Instead thank them for the opportunity if you want to get in touch and had a good time.
For your program management interview(s) you should prepare to speak about previous programs that you were responsible for. This is easy if you’ve already been in a PM role previously; it’s more difficult if you haven’t.
To help your interviewer put your achievements into context you should spend some time in your prep thinking about what bigger programs your current work fits into. Be sure to identify what you did specifically to move things forward. Be ready to talk about what positive changes you made, but also what went wrong and how you learned from it.
In your manager interview you are going to do much of the same but you’ll talk on a more personal level. Your hiring manager might try and give you scenarios to talk through, ask about personal challenges that you’re working on, and will try and get to the person underneath the perfect interviewee in front of them.
These types of interviews can often feel a little difficult. To prepare you may find it helpful to practice with a friend or close colleague who will be able to give you very direct feedback.
Preferably you want to carefully walk the line between being too colloquial and letting your guard down while also being personable. You want to find opportunities to talk about how you will grow and learn in this role and what your manager will be able to do for you.
No interview is designed to catch you out and if something feels difficult for you it’s possibly as difficult for the interviewer. The overwhelming majority of interviewers do not enjoy failing candidates and really just want them to do well.
The technical part of your interview day will somewhat depend on how technical your role is and what product or services you will be responsible for.
You may be expected to do some pseudo coding or draw architecture diagrams. Additionally you may get some product design questions asking you to name features of the product you are interviewing for and how to advertise/measure or improve them.
Across all interviews people will want to assess your general interest for the subject area, your drive, and your communication skills. Be sure to bring your best self, smile, and have fun.