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Hiring Program Managers: steps along the interview process

The following article outlines some of the main steps of iMentor’s Program Manager (PM) interview and hiring process. Be sure to click on the links to view or download the accompanying resources used in the process.

Sample position announcement

One of the first steps in iMentor’s process of hiring Program Managers is advertising the position through a description of the role, its responsibilities, qualifications, and benefits. Here is an example of a position announcement for the Program Manager role in iMentor’s Chicago program. The text can be adapted to fit specific program needs and posted on your website as well as various job search sites or other venues.

Second round interview questions

iMentor Talent and hiring staff often use questions from this second round interview template to interview Program Manager candidates during a second round (after initial phone screening). These questions can be adapted to specific hiring philosophies and needs and used for phone/Skype or in-person interviews.

Work samples

Along with application screening and interviews, a work sample is an excellent tool to determine whether a job candidate is likely to succeed in the role in question. iMentor includes a work sample as a part of the hiring process for nearly every position at every level of the organization. A good work sample should require candidates to demonstrate a competency or skill required by the role that might be difficult for interviewers to assess through application screening and interviews alone. At iMentor, Program Manager candidates are asked to lead a brief classroom session for “students” who are actually hiring decision makers (see the next section entitled "Mock class session instructions" for more details). Not all work samples involve role-play. Some may involve data analysis, project scoping, delivery of pair support, or whatever best reflects the skills necessary for success in the role. If the objective of the exercise is not a fact-finding mission, it’s generally best to provide candidates with all baseline data needed, and leave the rest to their judgment. The less you share about what you are looking for, the more variety you will see in approaches to the task. Some work samples have a much quicker turnaround time; one example is a writing sample, such as crafting a support email to a hypothetical mentor, that is administered on the spot at an in-person interview. Alternatively, work samples that involve only written work may be given to candidates in advance of the deadline, and a reasonable turnaround time should always be considered when selecting the scale of an exercise.

Mock class session instructions

During in-person interviews, iMentor requires applicants for the Program Manager position to give a presentation, following these instructions, which are sent by email to candidates for the PM role 2-3 days before their in-person interview so that they can prepare. This mock class session is intended to highlight applicants’ ability to engage a group effectively and enthusiastically, while clearly communicating the key points of the day’s topic and leading students in engaging their mentors in a conversation that furthers their learning via the online platform. It is also intended to gauge the applicant’s organization, adaptability, and critical thinking skills. The mock class session should be between 10 and 15 minutes (no longer), and is followed by a discussion with current iMentor staff.

PM presentation/mock class session rubric

As stated above, during the in-person interview each PM candidate must make a lesson presentation similar to one they would teach during an iMentor classroom session. Several members of the program team, including current Program Managers and a Program Director, participate as “students” in the mock class session using instructions here.  After the candidate’s presentation, participants use this presentation rubric to assess how candidates presented the lesson plan and curriculum. This rubric is then given to the Talent, HR, or staff responsible for hiring decisions.

For any questions about the initial stages of hiring Program Managers or about the templates contained in this article, contact your manager.

Additional Considerations

As you hire Program Managers for your program, it is also important to consider how those staff members will be supported. At iMentor, Sr. Directors of Program provide the day-to-day support to Program Managers. See the Program Director Job Description for the role's responsibilities and qualifications.