3 Ways to Interview Better as a Program Manager

A role as a Program Manager is a very career gratifying challenge. They function as some of the most versatile generalists. These days, there’s a renaissance of the skilled generalist at many interesting companies. Interviewing for PgM positions at these well-known companies doesn’t have to be daunting. Below are some of the Unblocker’s favorite methods of interviewing better.

Create an Experience Log

Updating your resume is usually the first thing people do when they begin their job search. We here at the Unblockers don’t like that idea. We prefer to create or update our “Experience Log,” then proceed to update our resume. Why? Because the experience log provides much more benefit than your resume during the interview process. Allow us to explain.

Your Experience Log is a Resume

That’s right; it’s basically a long-form resume. If you create your Experience Log first, updating your resume becomes easier. Your stories in your log form the support structure for your resume. Your resume may list out high-level details, but your log has the supporting story that allows you to justify to recruiters the details of your resume.

Your experience log should list stories of challenges, accomplishments, and observations about your current and previous positions. Everyday you’re on the job, if you feel like you learn something new or overcame a particularly challenging problem, make sure to write that down. Then, afterward, flesh out that accomplishment into a full fledged story. Format these stories in the widely accepted STAR or PARADE style question formats. If you’re looking to add more stories to your Experience Log, look back at your old resume. Think back to many of the one-liners in your resume and attempt to craft a story from those resume details. In this

It prepares you for almost any question

Have you ever bombed an interview and stumbled around a question because you couldn’t elaborate on a coherent answer? An Experience Log fixes that. Writing a log gives you the opportunity to pre-meditate answers to nearly any question a interviews can ask.

Craft an elevator pitch

Ever observe a salesperson try to sell something? They will always have a well-rehearsed elevator pitch. You need one of these as well. Interviews will almost always start with some variation of “tell me about yourself.” Having a carefully curated, elegant elevator pitch sets the tone for the rest of the interview. The tone, delivery, and content of the pitch sets precedent for how the inteviewer should percieve you. It also allows you to address any of their followup questions all at once. Any time saved gives you additional opportunity at the end of the interviewer for your own questions. Take a look at the sample elevator pitch below for inspiration.

"My name is Rion. I’ve been a Technical Program Manager for the past two years at Cobalt Robotics. I started off as employee number three and scaled them up, all the way to nearly 100 employees. As a TPM I mainly built around refining and developing processes, growing teams to inherit those processes, and liaising with various teams to ensure progress. Before that, I was an individual contributor at various startups and larger companies functioning as a solutions engineer/consultant interfacing with different stakeholders and customers and delivering solutions."

Treat the Interviewer as a Stakeholder

Treating the interviewer as stakeholder is a great way to build empathy. It switches the perspective of the interviewer by allowing them to view you as a PgM and not as a candidate. In addition, exploring their challenges gives you an opportunity to learn more about the nuances of the position, culture, and organization. Who knows, maybe after learning more, you might even come to the conclusion that this company is not the right fit for you. When it comes time to ask your own questions make sure to ask questions as though you already had the job. Doing so gives the interviewer a perception you actually know what you’re doing. Ask questions like:

“Can you run me through some of the problems they encounter now?”

“How has the current team managed through the current challenges?”

"Can you elaborate on how it was started?"

Basically, ask the same questions you would when breaking down problems. Remember, PgMs drive progress. They do this by learning more about the current state from stakeholders.

What Matters

The role of Program Manager is incredibly rewarding but interviews can be tricky. Luckily, the Unblockers has got you covered. We’ve developed an in-depth interview guide. To learn more and get the free guide subscribe now!