Ace the TPM Interview + Questions and Answers

Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated

Are you thinking of becoming a technical program manager? Do you already have an interview lined up for a TPM position?

The TPM interview can feel daunting, and we're here to help you prepare.

About this guide: We interviewed 6 FAANG+ technical program managers to create this prep guide and our TPM interview course. It includes real-world practice questions, mock interviews, and rubrics to grade your answers.

Below, you'll find a list of the most commonly asked technical program management interview questions and what to expect in the interview.

Watch Kevin Wei, a Web3 PM, explain the role of technical program management.

Types of TPM Interview Questions

There are four key components to TPM interviews. They are:

System design

The responsibilities of a technical program manager are a little more big-picture than that of a software engineer.

Expect to answer questions about system design. You'll be asked to think through and design a product’s system architecture from scratch.

Program sense

Another critical piece of the TPM role is managing programs.

Program sense questions evaluate your ability to think and work through technical dependencies, project management, product context, execution, strategy, and impact on a team.

Cross-functional partnerships

Technical program managers sit at a crossroads between many different teams and departments.

Cross-functional partnership questions seek to discover your capability to manage these complex relationships.


Behavioral interview questions are designed to get to know you better based on how you performed in past roles and situations.

Chances are, you’ve been asked plenty of them interviewing for your previous roles.

Watch a Google TPM answer a mock interview question about data centers.

Below, you’ll find several sample questions for each category.

Practice just one type of question at a time. That way, you’ll get a better idea of your particular strengths and weaknesses.

Read More: Check out our technical interview cheat sheet.

Sample question 1: Design Instagram

While system design and technical interview questions can be fairly ambiguous and intimidating for some, they are ultimately consequential to your interview performance.

Here’s a sample answer by our co-founder Jacob to the question “Design Instagram:”

Sample Question 2: Describe a Time You Improved an Inefficient Process.

As a technical program manager, you’ll be primarily tasked with managing a “program” or technical process at your organization.

Many of the questions you’ll field during the TPM interview will be designed to evaluate your “program sense” or your ability to understand and improve these technical processes, drawing upon your past experience.

Here’s a sample answer to the question: ”tell me about a time you improved an inefficient process”

Sample Question 3: Tell me about a time you faced technical and people challenges at the same time.

As a technical program manager, you’ll need to navigate several cross-functional relationships and partnerships while managing your programs. So, don’t be surprised when many of your behavioral questions during the technical program manager interview center around cross-functional partnerships.

Generally speaking, these interview questions will evaluate:

  • Experience working with and navigating different stakeholders
  • Collaboration style
  • Dealing with disagreements and difficult scenarios

Check out this sample answer by a Google TPM to the interview question, “Tell me about a time you faced technical and people challenges at the same time.”

System Design Interview Questions

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

  1. 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.
  2. Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical. Watch an expert answer to this question here.
  3. Tell me about a time you improved a complex process. Watch an answer to this TPM question frequently asked at Amazon here.
  4. Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with a tight deadline. Watch a TPM at Cruise answer this question here.
  5. Tell me about a time when you raised the bar. Watch our co-founder, Stephen, go through this question here.
  6. Tell me about a time you made a bold and difficult decision. Watch a sample answer to this question here.
  7. Describe a time when your project failed. Watch a Startup founder answer this question here.
  8. What's the project you're most proud of? Watch Stephen explain this question here.
  9. Tell me about a skill you recently learned. Watch an expert answer to this question here.
  10. 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.
  11. Tell me about a time you turned down more resources to complete a project. Watch Stephen answer this question here.
  12. Tell me about a time when you solved a problem innovatively.
  13. Give an example of a tough or critical piece of feedback you received.
  14. 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 in 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, and 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.

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. This naturally requires great communication skills and technical knowledge.

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.

Product Context

Amongst many others, TPMs work closely with 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, and vision.

Simplifying Complexity

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 do 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.

Product Management

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 process. Chances are you'll need to also prepare for technical questions, coding questions, program management questions, and more to ace your TPM interview.

Luckily, we have tons of different technical program manager interview resources here at Exponent to help you set yourself up for success.

💬 Review more commonly asked sample technical program manager interview questions

📖 Read through our company-specific Technical Program Manager interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral and program sense skills with our mock interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our comprehensive Technical Program Management interview course

Learn everything you need to ace your technical program management interviews.

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