Have you been intrigued by the position of Technical Program Manager? Between the unique, stimulating job descriptions and the lucrative salaries that come alongside them, we wouldn't blame you for wanting to jump into the role!
Nevertheless, the TPM interview feels daunting for many. This shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise, considering the role occupies a special place across several different fields.
But this doesn't mean you can't prepare for and ace your upcoming technical program manager interview. The best way to get ready is by reviewing some real TPM interview questions from some of the top tech companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and more. We've compiled a list of the top 50 most commonly asked questions and answers below.
Table of Contents:
- Types of TPM Interview Questions
- Top System Design Interview Questions
- Top Program Sense Interview Questions
- Top Cross-Functional Partnerships and Teamwork Interview Questions
- Top Behavioral Interview Questions
- How to Answer TPM Interview Questions
TPM interview questions can be grouped in the following ways:
Types of TPM Interview Questions
System Design: These interview questions evaluate the 'technical' in technical program management. The responsibilities of a technical program manager are a little more big picture than that of a software engineer. For example, these questions are typically focused on system design. In many instances, TPM candidates are asked to think through and design a product's system architecture.
- Program Sense: As the title suggests, another critical piece of the TPM role is managing programs. These kinds of questions evaluate your ability to think and work through technical dependencies, product context, execution strategy, and impact on a team.
- Cross-functional Partnership: As we mentioned, technical program managers sit at a crossroads between many different teams and departments. Cross-functional partnership questions, then seek to discover your capability at managing these cross-functional relationships.
- Behavioral: Behavioral questions are common in many interviews. Chances are, you've been asked plenty of them interviewing for your previous roles. Nevertheless, behavioral interview questions are meant to get to know you better based on how you performed in past roles and situations.
Below, you'll find several sample questions for each category. We recommend practicing one type of question at a time. That way, you'll get a better idea of your particular strengths and weaknesses.
For help answering these types of questions and to get help nailing your interview, check out our Technical Program Management Interview Course here.
Let's take a look!
System Design Interview Questions
- Design Instagram. Watch our co-founder, Jacob, answer this system design question here.
- Design TikTok. Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Design Twitter. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- Design Facebook Messenger. Watch our co-founder, Jacob, answer this question here.
- How would you build TinyURL? Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Design a reservation and payment system for a parking garage. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- How would you design an AI data product? Watch an answer to this LinkedIn technical program manager interview question here.
- If you visit a Bitly URL in your web browser, what happens behind the scene? Watch Jacob sketch out the answer to this TPM interview question here.
- How would you design a relational schema for a calendar application? Watch our sample answer to this question here.
- Design a typeahead box for a search engine. Watch our sample answer to this question here.
- Design a service that supports uploading and tagging images to a travel site.
- How would you design end-to-end user onboarding for an app?
Program Sense Interview Questions
- How would you start a new program from scratch? Watch an expert answer this question here.
- Walk me through an example of end-to-end program management you've run. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- How do you sunset a project? Watch an expert answer this question here.
- How have you managed risk in a project?
- How would you decide on a KPI in building a system, and how do you improve it?
- Describe a situation where you changed the process to make it better and more productive.
- Build a solution for Facebook employee travel.
- If you run over budget for a project what do you do?
- A resource from another team indicates they do not have the time to work on an important project. How will you resolve the situation?
- How would you handle a performance decline in a program?
Cross-Functional Partnerships and Teamwork Interview Questions
- Tell me about a time you faced technical and people challenges at the same time. Watch our sample answer to this question here.
- Tell me about a time when one of your team members had difficulty performing a task. Watch our co-founder, Stephen, answer this question here.
- Tell me about a time when you had an idea you proposed that was not agreed on. Listen to Stephen answer this question here.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and how you resolved it. Watch a TPM at Amazon answer this question here.
- Describe a situation where you negotiated a win-win situation
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with a co-worker who had trouble keeping up.
- Tell me about a time you dealt with a conflict with engineers.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a very difficult customer.
- How do you earn the trust of your team members?
- Give an example of how you negotiated between two teams.
- You have a coworker who is not comfortable working on the team. What steps would you take to make the person more comfortable?
- Describe a situation when you had conflicting responsibilities and how you handled it.
Behavioral Interview Questions
- Tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical. Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Tell me about a time you improved a complex process. Watch an answer to this TPM question frequently asked at Amazon here.
- Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with a tight deadline. Watch a TPM at Cruise answer this question here.
- Tell me about a time when you raised the bar. Watch our co-founder, Stephen, go through this question here.
- Tell me about a time you made a bold and difficult decision. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
- Describe a time when your project failed. Watch a Startup founder answer this question here.
- What's the project you're most proud of? Watch Stephen explain this question here.
- Tell me about a skill you recently learned. Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Tell me about a time you had a problem and had to discover the real cause. Listen to our sample answer to this TPM interview question here.
- Tell me about a time you turned down more resources to complete a project. Watch Stephen answer this question here.
- Tell me about a time when you solved a problem innovatively.
- Give an example of a tough or critical piece of feedback you received.
- Tell me about a time when you were able to make a decision without having many data metrics in hand.
A Closer Look at the TPM Interview
How to Answer System Design Interview Questions
TPMs start their careers from many different roles. Many begin as software engineers.
Nevertheless, as these engineers rise through the ranks to become technical program managers, chances are they won't be coding anymore, or not nearly as much.
TPM is a big-picture role. But it's undeniably a technical one, of course. Therefore, in the TPM interview, system design questions are emphasized over other types of technical interview questions.
The term 'system design' refers to the technical design of the interfaces, modules, data, and system architecture according to some given requirements or specifications of a product.
The TPM role requires candidates that deeply understand how distributed systems work, how every component of that system functions, communicates, and scales. Otherwise, TPMs would not have the necessary knowledge for effective high-level and strategic decision-making.
Check out our System Design Interview Course for a deeper look.
How to Answer Program Sense Interview Questions
As the name suggests, a critical part of technical program management is, of course, the managing of programs. That is managing technical processes designed to actualize the goals of an organization.
A TPM's "program sense" is their capability to comprehend and build upon these technical programs.
Ultimately, there are four main aspects to program sense. These are:
A cornerstone of managing programs is managing the people involved in them. This means that TPMs must know how to effectively influence these teams to achieve the program's goals.
As such, you should expect program sense questions to evaluate how you as a candidate can navigate all the stakeholders of a program.
How do you pitch your ideas around these programs to the teams involved in them?
Navigating Technical Dependencies
A centerpiece of a TPM's role is navigating through technical dependencies. This is especially important considering TPMs are usually tasked with driving deadlines and business processes to completion.
A crucial piece of a TPM's program sense is knowing how to best work around technical constraints.
Amongst many others, TPMs work closely with the product management teams. Together, TPMs and PMs work to ship their products. While it is a technical role, it is vital, for this reason, for TPM candidates to understand product requirements, context, vision.
Last but not least, TPMs ultimately need to get their products shipped. This usually means executing and shipping code. A critical aspect of their program sense in this regard is their ability to expedite and simplify their programs.
How to Answer Cross-Functional Partnerships and Teamwork Interview Questions
While TPMs must manage technical programs, this also means the management of the cross-functional relationships that come with it. Technical programs involve many different teams and departments. It is part of a technical program manager's responsibility to navigate these cross-functional partnerships and keep everyone on track and on the same page.
Generally speaking, these interview questions are focused on:
- Your previous experience working alongside various stakeholders,
- How you collaborate with others,
- How you manage conflicts between different teams,
To give you a better idea about what cross-functional partnerships are all about, here are some of the teams you'll likely work with:
Naturally, TPMs will work most closely with the engineering teams. Of which, you'll likely partner with many engineering managers and tech leads.
It's recommended that you maintain good relationships with these stakeholders, considering you'll work with them on essential timelines, processes, and milestones.
Another essential partnership for TPMs is with the product management teams. This relationship is defined by a collaborative effort to execute product vision and development goals.
Together, PMs and TPMs work to keep the shipping of products on track. This relationship is a partnership in every sense of the word.
In many instances, technical insights from a TPM can influence how PMs design their product roadmaps and vice versa.
Data is bigger than ever at today's tech companies. Whereas in years past, these teams may have been wrapped up under engineering, with the advent of big data, they typically have large teams all to themselves.
There are many data-related partnerships TPMs will make during their duties. Whether they be with biz ops analysts or data analysts, TPMs work alongside quantitative teams to investigate and analyze the effectiveness of technical programs.
One of the most significant aspects of these partnerships is communicating these insights to other stakeholders.
Finally, TPMs may find themselves working with the design teams. At the end of the day, there can be no product launch without the work of designers.
These teams will undoubtedly have their own roadmaps and timelines, which may or may not align with your other partners. TPMs must know how to work with the design teams to keep everything on track.
Chances are, there will be a program manager involved with the design teams that you can work with alongside.
Technical Program Management Interview Help
Needless to say, this article shouldn't be the only form of preparation for your upcoming TPM interview. Luckily, we have tons of different TPM interview resources here at Exponent to help you set yourself up for success.
💬 Review more commonly asked sample TPM interview questions.
📖 Read through our company-specific Technical Program Manager interview guides
- Amazon Technical Program Manager Interview Guide
- Google Technical Program Manager Interview Guide
- Facebook Technical Program Manager Interview Guide
👯♂️ Practice your behavioral and program sense skills with our mock interview practice tool.
👨🎓 Take our comprehensive Technical Program Management interview course.