65 Technical program manager interview questions (& answers)

Today we’re going to go over 65 technical program manager interview questions, including sample answers to the top 5 most commonly asked questions.

We made this list based on an analysis of over 500 real TPM interview questions collected from Amazon, Meta, and Google interview reports on Glassdoor. 

In fact, once you’re prepared to answer the top 5 questions alone, you’ll already be prepared for nearly half of all questions reported.

Let’s get started.

1. 5 most common TPM interview questions

You may be surprised to learn that 47% of the 500+ questions we collected from TPM interview reports can be boiled down to the five questions below. We’ve listed them in order of frequency, starting with the question that came up the most. 

If you’re ready for these, you’ll be well on your way to acing your TPM interviews.

1.1 Explain X technical concept

Technical explanation questions like this one test the depth of your technical knowledge and your ability to communicate that knowledge in a simple way. Questions like “explain how the internet works” made up nearly 15% of all the questions we studied, so it’s important that you know how to answer them.

Below is an abbreviated sample answer to this question, to help you with your preparation. We’ve organized it using our own 3-step answer framework: clarify, explain step-by-step, and conclude and discuss.

Sample answer: Explain how the internet works

Clarify

To reduce the scope of the explanation, you can start with, “The internet is composed of many complex elements. I could talk about network connections, blockchain technology, specific web services, etc. But the most fundamental feature of the Internet is probably that websites can be accessed by typing a URL in a browser, so this is what I suggest we focus on. Does that sound ok to you?”

Explain step by step

Take some time to write out your thoughts, then walk the interviewer through the steps:

  1. The Client browser uses the URL (e.g. example.com) to find the website’s IP address, which is either stored in local memory or found with a DNS lookup. Here’s a metaphor to help explain: a DNS resolver is like a big phone book matching URLs and IP addresses. If you wanted to call “John Smith” on the phone, first you would need to find his number in the phone book.
  2. Next, the browser uses the IP address and queries the Internet for the website’s data. This is like if you dialed John Smith’s number, then the phone company would make a connection between your phone lines.
  3. Then the website’s Server sends appropriate data (e.g. an index.html file) back across the Internet. To continue the metaphor, when John Smith answers and says hello, his voice is translated into an electronic signal that’s passed through the phone lines.
  4. Finally, the website’s data reaches the browser, which then displays a visual interpretation of that data. This is like your phone’s speaker turning the electronic signal into John Smith’s voice again.

Conclude and discuss

After going over the above, you could conclude by saying, “So, typing a URL into the address bar of a browser works a lot like making a phone call. Information is transferred back and forth between two connection points, and the transferred information needs to be interpreted by the receiver.”

For the full version of the answer above and an explanation of the framework, take a look at our guide to technical interview questions. While this guide targets primarily product managers, the answer framework for technical explanation questions can be used for TPMs as well.

1.2 Tell me about X project or program you’ve managed

A classic behavioral question targeting your past experience in program management, this question and others like it made up nearly 11% of the 500+ questions we collected. Here, interviewers are looking for an idea of your working style as what impact you’ve made in past positions.

Below is a high-level example of how a candidate could answer this question, using our signature framework for answering behavioral questions (Situation, Problem, Solution, Impact, Lessons). 

Sample answer: Tell me about a past project you’ve managed

Situation

“In my past position, I was the lead TPM working on a new feature for a ride-share app, with which users would be able to share the profile and license plate number of their driver, as well as their live location, with a friend for safety.

Problem

This was a key feature, as we had begun to receive reports of some users feeling unsafe using the app. We needed to act fast, both to make sure our users were safe and to get ahead of any PR issues.

Solution

Our goal was to roll out the feature in a month and a half. We had never developed a feature that quickly before. So I put together four teams (IOS, Android, back-end, and editorial/design) and briefed them on the urgency.

I implemented an agile methodology to move things along, encouraging the engineering teams to shorten their development cycles down from 2-week sprints to 1-week sprints, continuously checking in and giving feedback.

I also aimed to motivate the teams by constantly passing along the user reports we were receiving, appealing to their concern for and attention to the customer in order to encourage their best and fastest work.

Impact 

We ended up rolling out the feature in 45 working days. Our customer complaints went down by 20%, and the feature was actually lauded in a popular tech magazine as an important step toward rideshare safety. After the article, our signups went up by about 15% month over month.

Lessons

This experience really cemented for me that just because something hasn’t been done before at a company (like a 1.5 month release), that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It also helped me understand Agile and implement it better in the future.”

For a full framework to use when answering behavioral interview questions, consult our guide to behavioral interview questions. This guide targets Google, but the method can be used at any company.

1.3 Design x system

System design questions like “Design Twitter” are a key part of TPM interviews, as interviewers need to know if you are capable of discussing architecture concepts in a clear and structured way.

Because system design answers are complex and typically develop over an entire 30-45 minute interview round, we opted not to give you an abbreviated answer for this example. Instead, we’ve listed points of consideration to keep in mind when designing this system, divided into a framework you can use to answer any system design question.

Points of consideration: Design a social media app

Ask clarifying questions

  • Is the interviewer looking for a design of the core features, or a high-level overview of the whole service?
  • What are the constraints of the system?
  • What are your assumptions? (traffic distribution, number of active users and tweets, read vs write-heavy)

Design high-level

  • Back-of-the-envelope calculations: average KBs per tweet, size of new tweet content per month, read requests and tweets per second, etc.
  • High-level components: write, read, and search APIs; types of databases; SQL vs NoSQL; etc

Drill down on your design

  • Potential bottlenecks: adding a load balancer with multiple web servers, scalability issues, fanout service slowing down tweets and @replies, etc.
  • Components that you could dive into: how a user views the home timeline or posts a tweet, the intricacies of the database design, etc.

Bring it all together

  • Consider: does the final design address the bottlenecks you’ve identified? Does it meet the goals you discussed at the beginning of the interview? Do you have any questions for the interviewer?

To learn more about what framework we’re using above and a complete system design interview answer, check out our guide to answering system design interview questions.

1.4 Tell me about a conflict or challenge you’ve faced

Another revealing behavioral interview question, “tell me about a time you handled a conflict,” and others like it are used to test your interpersonal skills and ability to work in cross-functional teams. Managing projects and programs requires working with diverse groups of stakeholders, and interviewers want to be sure you’re capable.

Below is a shortened sample answer to this question, using the SPSIL framework we mentioned above. 

Sample answer: Tell me about a past conflict you faced

Situation

"In my past job, I was on a product team composed of coworkers from various functional areas of our company. I frequently jumped in with ideas and volunteered to lend a hand in many tasks.

Problem

I noticed that one of my coworkers was cutting me off when I presented ideas. When I volunteered to help with a task in his functional area, he neglected to give me the information and resources I needed in order to contribute. This behavior continued, causing a conflict that slowed down our progress on important tasks.

Solution

I met with my coworker. I politely expressed how his behavior was affecting work and asked if I had overstepped boundaries. He explained that my initial eagerness had taken up too much time in the meetings, giving him and others less of an opportunity to contribute. When I helped in his functional area, it slowed him down to have to explain the processes to me.

I then presented a plan to avoid further conflict: I would be more attentive to the time I spent speaking in meetings and would only volunteer for tasks when I was confident I was well equipped to contribute. In exchange, I requested that he approach me in case further issues arise, instead of closing me off from discussions or projects. 

Impact / Lessons

We each adjusted our behavior and avoided further conflict. We were able to catch up on the delays we were beginning to incur with our communication issues, finishing the project on time and meeting our initial goals.”

For the full version of the answer above and an explanation of the repeatable answer framework, study our guide to behavioral interview questions in tech interviews.

1.5 Why do you want to work at this company?

A classic used in pre-onsite screening rounds and as an icebreaker in final interview rounds, this question tests how well you did your research about the company you’re interviewing for.

Below is a brief sample answer to this question, targeted to Amazon. Note how it takes less than one minute to recite and aligns the candidate’s experience with Amazon’s company culture.

Sample answer: Why do you want to work at Amazon?

"I want to work at Amazon for two reasons.

First, I admire Amazon’s customer obsession leadership principle. This is something I've experienced first-hand when dealing with Amazon’s customer support, and it's also a principle I've been pushing at my current company. I was able to spearhead an initiative to update our support ticket system based on customer feedback, which decreased complaints by 20%.

Second, I've spent the last five years of my career in the streaming space, producing videos on my own as a hobby and working for a content production startup. I greatly admire the Amazon Video product and how it is positioned in the market, and I’d be excited to bring my experience to the Amazon Video team."

For instructions on crafting your own perfect answer, follow the steps in our guides to the "why do you want to work here" interview question at Amazon, Meta, and Google.

2. 60 more TPM interview questions from FAANG interviews

Now that we’ve gone through the five most common technical program manager interview questions, let’s get into a longer list of questions that have been asked in real TPM interviews, according to data from Glassdoor.

We’ve separated out the questions into three categories, in order of the most frequently asked question type to the least frequently asked: behavioral, technical, and program management.

categories of interview questions asked in technical program manager interviews

Let’s take a look at each of these categories in more detail.

2.1 Behavioral interview questions (44%)

TPMs work in cross-functional teams and are the glue between product, design, engineering and QA. They need to be able to communicate clearly and demonstrate a track record of delivering projects flawlessly.

This is the part of the interview process where you really want to show that you are good at working with others and anticipating potential issues before they arise. Be prepared to talk about situations where you've troubleshot program bottlenecks, negotiated design components with engineers, adapted your program when requirements changed, etc.

Below are common examples that you can expect in this interview according to data from Glassdoor.com. 

Example behavioral questions asked in TPM interviews

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What do you consider to be the traits of a good leader?
  • How would you deal with a “superstar” in your team?
  • How do you handle work across global teams?
  • Tell me about a time you failed
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with an underperforming team and how you responded
  • Tell me about a time when you failed
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with difficult clients and how you overcame it
  • Tell me about a time when your boss declined your idea or request and how you reacted to it
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make personal sacrifices to make a project work
  • Tell me about a time when you took a risk
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult team member
  • Tell me about a time when you had to convince a team of your point of view
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work under a tight deadline
  • Tell me about a time when you received tough feedback and how you handled it
  • Tell me about a challenge you overcame

2.2 Technical interview questions (34%)

There are three types of technical questions in TPM interviews: technical explanation, system design, and coding.

Technical explanation questions test the depth of your technical knowledge and your ability to communicate that knowledge in a simple way. A typical example would be: "What happens when you enter a URL in your browser?" These will typically be based on technologies on your resume or related to the role you’re applying to. 

System design questions assess whether you have thorough technical knowledge and can discuss architecture concepts in a clear and structured way. These questions are usually either about diving deep into the design of a system you've previously worked on, or about designing a new system from scratch.

Finally, coding questions are rare but still sometimes mentioned in interview reports. If you're currently an engineer then you'll probably be asked to write working code; otherwise you can likely get away with pseudocode. Also, notice that the questions asked are easier than the typical Leetcode questions you can expect in software engineering interviews at Meta, Amazon or Google.

Here are some examples of the three types of technical questions you can expect in TPM interviews:

Example technical questions asked in TPM interviews: Technical explanation

  • Explain what happens when you enter a URL in a browser
  • Describe raids on disk arrays
  • What is Ethernet?
  • What is the difference between TCP and UDP?
  • What are threads?
  • What is Young’s modulus?
  • Describe TCP protocol
  • What is a struct, enum, and union in C?
  • What happens when a file is deleted?
  • What is a container?

Example technical questions asked in TPM interviews: System design

  • Design a product recommendation feature based on a user’s purchase history
  • How would you design Twitter now, if you had never used it?
  • Design Google Maps
  • Design a key pair system that can handle 3,000 keys per second
  • How would you design a messaging platform?
  • How would you build a weight-loss app?
  • How would you design a live streaming service that is able to serve large traffic when a celebrity or popular user streams?
  • Design a generic onboarding platform
  • How would you develop the backend of a parking app?

Example technical questions asked in TPM interviews: Coding

  • Write a program that reverts a string (no built-in functions can be used)
  • Write a program to find if an integer is a palindrome
  • Write a program to find common items between two linked lists
  • Write a program that traverses a linked list
  • Write a program to identify all the equal elements between two arrays
  • Write a program to select two numbers which sum is lower than a target number

2.3 Program management interview questions (23%)

TPMs design and execute programs from end-to-end. It's therefore important that they have a strong ability to plan, prioritize and deliver projects. This is the part of the interview process where you need to show you think about programs in a comprehensive way (e.g. resources, risks, stakeholders, schedule, cost, etc.) and have a track record of executing flawlessly.

We've listed typical program management questions you can expect below and organized them in seven categories to make your preparation easier. Notice that the majority of the questions in the list are hypothetical questions (e.g. How do you manage programs from end-to-end?), rather than behavioral questions (e.g. “Tell me about a time…”).

That means that for this type of question, you’ll want to talk about your future actions (e.g. “I would do X, Y, Z.”) instead of your past experiences, as you would for behavioral questions.

Give it a try using the questions below.

Example program management questions asked in TPM interviews

General / End-to-end

  • Tell me about a program or project that you managed end-to-end
  • How would you manage hypothetical project XYZ (e.g. replace discs in a data center)?
  • How do you structure and roll out a new service to a market?
  • What are the tradeoffs of agile development?
  • How do you handle a failing project?
  • What are the top three elements of supply chain management?
  • What’s your process to kick off and sunset programs?

Prioritization

  • What is your prioritization process?
  • How do you deliver programs on a tight timeline and with limited resources?
  • How do you prioritize and allocate resources when your team is too small?

Delivery

  • If the distribution center collapsed, what would you do to match demand supply?
  • How do you identify problems on data throughput rate and resolve them?
  • Your team can only handle 60 queries, and one month you receive 100 queries. How do you handle it?
  • How do you make sure you deliver quality outcomes in your projects?
  • Imagine you find a critical bug in software the day before the release date. How do you handle the situation?

Planning

  • How do you plan resources in your work?
  • What project management methodology do you use?
  • How do you build a forecasting tool / document?
  • How do you forecast a project with no history?

3. How to prepare for technical program manager interviews

Now that you know what questions to expect, let's focus on how to prepare. Here are the three most important things you can do to prepare for your technical program manager interviews.

3.1 Practice by yourself

As mentioned above, you'll have to answer three types of questions in your TPM interviews: behavioral, technical, and program management. The first step of your preparation should be to brush up on these different types of questions and to practice answering them by yourself.

3.1.1 Behavioral questions preparation

For behavioral interviews, we recommend consulting our leadership and people management primers, as well as learning our step-by-step behavioral interview method. Create a bank of 10+ personal stories where you've showed you can lead and collaborate with a cross-functional team. You'll find this method in our Facebook behavioral guide, but it is applicable to any company. 

Once you've got a bank of stories you can practice using them to answer the behavioral questions we've listed above. You should emphasize different aspects of your story depending on the exact question asked.

3.1.2 Technical questions preparation

For system design questions, we recommend getting used to the step-by-step approach hinted at by Amazon in the video below.

 

Here is a summary of the approach:

  • Step 1: Ask clarification questions
    • Understand the goal of the system (e.g. sell ebooks)
    • Establish the scope of the exercise (e.g. end-to-end experience, or just API?)
    • Gather scale and performance requirements (e.g. 500 transactions per second)
    • Mention any assumptions you're making out loud
  • Step 2: Design at a high level then drill down
    • Lay out the high level components (e.g. front-end, web servers, database)
    • Drill down and design each component (e.g. front-end first)
    • Start with the components you're most comfortable with (e.g. front-end if you're a front-end engineer)
    • Work with your interviewer to provide the right level of detail
  • Step 3: Bring it all together
    • Refer back to the requirements to make sure your approach meets them
    • Discuss any tradeoffs in the decisions you've made
    • Summarize how the system would work end-to-end

We'd also recommend studying our system design interview prep guide, which digs into this method in more detail. It also provides several example questions with solutions. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save time and access everything you need in one place, we recommend taking The System Design Strong Hire Course. The course includes detailed lessons on system design fundamentals and how to answer system design interview questions, plus mock interview videos with FAANG ex-interviewers and more than 100 practice questions.

For technical explanation and coding questions, we recommend learning the step-by-step method we've developed. To practice, you can use that method to craft answers to the technical questions listed in the previous section.

3.1.3 Program management questions

For program management questions, we recommend starting by brushing up on the basics with our program management primer. Another efficient way to do this is to take a free course designed to prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam such as this course on LinkedIn Learning.

This will give you an opportunity to refresh your memory on all key aspects of project management including: scope, schedule, resources, cost, quality, communication, risk, stakeholders, etc.

In addition, if you're interviewing for a TPM role in software development, you should make sure you're on top of common concepts used in Agile project management. A great resource here is Atlassian's Agile project management guide. In particular, we recommend brushing up on the difference between Kanban and Scrum, and the common structures used in Agile projects (e.g. epics, stories, themes, etc.).

Similarly, if you're applying for a hardaware TPM role then you'll want to be on top of the different engineering validation stages (EVT, DVT, PVT).

Once you've refreshed your memory on project management best practices you should go through the list of program management questions we've listed in the previous section and draft answers for those.

Finally, a great way to practice behavioral, technical, and program management questions is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate your answers during an interview.

Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview.

3.2 Practice with peers

Practicing by yourself will only take you so far. One of the main challenges of TPM interviews is to communicate your different stories in a way that's easy to understand. As a result, we strongly recommend practicing TPM interviews with a peer interviewing you. A great place to start is to practice with friends if you can. This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with TPM interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. You can also find peers to practice with on our TPM mock interview platform.

3.3 Practice with ex-interviewers

Practicing with peers can be a great help, and it's usually free. But at some point, you'll start noticing that the feedback you are getting from peers isn't helping you that much anymore. Once you reach that stage, we recommend practicing with ex-interviewers from top tech companies.

If you know a TPM or a software engineer who has experience running interviews at Facebook, Google, Amazon or another big tech company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

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Any questions about Technical Program Manager interviews?

If you have any questions about TPM interviews, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!