Last updated on January 10th, 2020 at 05:22 pm

Program director leads a friendly meeting with the core employees of his team. He uses demonstration to get his message over.Job that offers a lot, and requires a lot.

Program director is an interesting occupation, typical for non-profit sector of economy (nearly the same position is called “project manager” in for-profit sphere).

You will respond for planning, budgeting, staffing, organizing, and controlling the program.

You need a variety of skills, and good experience, to be able to handle this job. Right attitude to work, and understanding of the goals of the non-profit organization, and what they try to achieve with the program, is also crucial for your success.

All this will be tested in a job interview. Let’s have a look at questions you will face.


Why do you want to work for our non-profit organization?

Try to show them that you do not see this just as another managerial job. You aren’t in only for the great salary. You know what they are doing, who they are trying to help, and what they try to achieve long-term. And it resonates with you strongly.

That should be the reason why you applied for a job with them. Or at least you should say so in an interview…


Why do you think you can be a good program director?

Experience is priceless in this case. Talk about similar programs or projects you led in the past.

Big scale, small scale–doesn’t matter. If you took care of planning, budgeting, hiring staff, and operating a project, it will help you greatly in this interview.

Results you achieved before, and references from your past employers or clients, will easily convince the hiring managers that you can be the right guy to lead their program.

But what to do, if you have no experience?

Well, you have to play with the cards you’ve been dealt. Talk about your understanding of their program, your education, skills and abilities that make from you a good applicant for the position. This may not be enough to succeed, but you do not have other options for your answer once you lack previous experience.


A small team of people works together on budgeting a project.What do you want to accomplish on this position?

I’ve heard many bad answers to this question, though it looks easy to me. But the key is to liberate yourself from your ego, at least for a while, and focus on something greater, something that goes beyond your own career.

Each of the programs in non-profit sphere has some goals, and a target group of people (or other living creatures) this goal relates to.

That’s what you should focus on in your answer–achieving the goals of the program, and doing the most for the target group. Forget yourself for a while. It will pay big time at the end of the interviews…


I can see you led (this or that) project in your last job. Can you tell us about the challenges you faced while leading it?

They are testing your attitude with this question. Each program or project has some challenges. Speak about them openly, and admit making mistakes–and learning from them.

The question is not whether we can lead a program without facing challenges, or making a single mistake–since that’s impossible. Good leaders are able to address the challenges, and overcome them.

To typical challenges we face when leading a program belong: problems with finding (good) volunteers or workers, problems with funding, failing to achieve one of the partial milestones, conflicts in the team, failing to meet deadlines, etc.

Special Tip: Download a full list of questions in a one-page long .PDF, print it if you want, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

pdf for interview questions for program directors

program director interview questions, PDF


If we hire you for this position, what will be the first thing you will do in the job?

Now they are testing whether you understand the role, know what will be expected from you, and can work independently.

A good answer is saying that you will talk to the leaders of the organization, ensuring yourself about the goals of the program, and their expectations.

Then you will probably prepare your first plan, including all resources you’ll need, and critical milestones you have to achieve. Next steps will follow.


A scene from an interview - blonde woman answers questions of two mature hiring managers.Do you have any experience with hiring people for a job?

Easy question when one has experience. In such a case, you should simply describe a positive experience with hiring your colleagues, people who stayed with the company, people who did a good job. No reason to mention a bad experience in this case.

And if you do not have any experience with hiring people, say that you plan to consult other people in the non-profit organization, asking them to help you with the interview template, and also to participate in the interviews.

Show them that you are a team player, and humble enough to ask for help when you need it.


Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues.

Another behavioral question. Talk about a conflict situation that ended well. Show them that your subordinates won’t be afraid of you, that you won’t let your authority to blind you.

The key is to demonstrate (on a situation that happened to you before) that you are ready to listen to the opinion of your colleagues, and can accept criticism of your work.

Constructive conflicts do actually often lead to new discoveries, ideas, and plans. Ensure the interviewers that you want to have only such conflicts with your colleagues, and would never initiate destructive conflicts after which people don’t speak together in the office anymore…


Other questions for the program director interview

  • What do you consider your greatest strength as a leader?
  • What would you do if you were behind schedule in the program?
  • What do you consider the most challenging aspect of this job?
  • How do you handle disappointment?
  • Why did you leave your last job? (Why do you want to leave your present job?)
  • Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
  • Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?
  • Describe a difficult decision you had to make in your professional career. How did making this decision affect you?
  • Describe a situation when you had to motivate someone in work (your colleague, your subordinate, or even your superior).
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the other applicants?



Friendly handshake at the end of a job interview.Program director is an amazing job. You can find true fulfillment in this work, and grow both as a leader, and as a human being. But it is in no way an easy job, or an easy interview…

Prepare for the behavioral questions. Show the right attitude, and explain how your past experience helped you to get ready fort this role.

And if you are not sure how to answer the questions, or interview for a job tomorrow and do not have much time to get ready, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Multiple great answers to all difficult behavioral questions will help you greatly to prepare for this difficult interview.

We wish you good luck! – Your best job interview coach since 2011


May also interest you:

  • Leadership interview questions – An essential skill for every good manager, your leadership skills will be tested in an interview for virtually any managerial job. Are you ready to demonstrate them in an interview?
  • Project Manager Interview – One of the most exciting jobs you can have, and one of the toughest to get in a job interview…
  • How to answer interview questions – It is not only about what you say, but also how you say it in an interview.

Matthew Chulaw
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