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How to write a program management job description

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Program managers play a crucial role in your organization, directly impacting sales performance and your brand's reputation. An accurate and detailed job description is essential to attracting candidates with the right program management skills and qualities.

But crafting a program management job description can be tricky, as you must accurately capture the multifaceted nature of the role while addressing the demanding and fulfilling aspects of the role. 

In this article, we dive into how to create a compelling job description that will attract top program managers. We also provide a template to get you started.

What is a program manager?

A program manager oversees a group of related projects within an organization. They ensure these projects work well together and align with the company's overall goals. Their job includes planning, coordinating resources, and managing relationships with different teams and stakeholders. 

The role is more about the big picture and long-term success than handling the details of individual projects.

Key skills to look for in program managers

Below are some key skills to look for in program manager candidates.

Hard skills:

  • Strategic planning: Developing long-term strategies aligning with organizational goals

  • Budget management: Managing large budgets, ensuring efficient resource allocation

  • Risk management: Identifying and mitigating risks throughout the program lifecycle

  • Process improvement: Analyzing and enhancing processes for better efficiency and effectiveness

  • Technical knowledge: Understanding industry-specific technologies and methodologies, including methodologies like Agile, Scrum, or Lean and tools like JIRA, Asana, or Microsoft Project

Soft skills:

  • Communication: Excellent verbal and written communication skills for clear, effective stakeholder interactions

  • Problem-solving: Ability to resolve complex issues that arise within a program

  • Adaptability: Flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances and project demands

  • Collaboration: Ability to work harmoniously with diverse teams and departments, including project managers

  • Leadership: Strong leadership qualities to guide and inspire project teams

In his article “What Great Program Managers Do,” KC Lakshminarasimham, head of the Program Management Office at Yohana, suggests that program managers should have leadership styles that encourage autonomy and collaboration. He says: The foundation for program management excellence starts with the decision to reevaluate leadership styles, especially the command-and-control style. It means empowering a team to work autonomously without fear of small failures.

How to write an effective program management job description

Follow these best practices to write a great program manager job description.

Clearly define program goals and responsibilities

Clarifying goals and responsibilities is crucial to attracting candidates with the right expertise and mindset. Detail the scope of programs, expected outcomes, and specific responsibilities. For instance, if the role involves technology integration, mention this explicitly. This clarity helps candidates determine if their skills and experience align with the role, reducing the likelihood of misfit hires.

Emphasize leadership and interdepartmental coordination skills

Program managers must excel in leading diverse teams and coordinating across departments. Highlighting these skills ensures candidates understand the importance of collaboration and communication in your organization. For example, mentioning responsibilities like team leadership and stakeholder management underscores the expectation for these essential soft skills, which are critical for the role's success.

Include specific technical expertise required

Specifying technical skills and industry-specific expertise ensures candidates have the necessary knowledge for your sector. For example, companies hiring for tech-based roles should detail experience with Agile methodologies and tools like JIRA. 

Outline key success metrics

Defining success metrics sets clear performance expectations. Whether these metrics are “completing projects within budget” or “achieving strategic objectives,” they help candidates understand the role's impact and how you’ll measure their success. This aligns their efforts with your organization's goals right from the start.

Program management job description template

This template will help you create a detailed and attractive program manager job description that captures the essence of the role while attracting highly qualified candidates.

Company introduction

Start with a clear and brief introduction to your company. Mention your mission or purpose and the types of products or services you provide. Emphasize any complex, large-scale projects your company has undertaken or completed. Highlight what sets your organization apart in project management and execution within your industry.

Benefits of working with [your company]

Explain the benefits your company offers to its employees. Include financial benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. Highlight other types of benefits, too, such as the option to work flexible hours, mental health days off, and employee discounts.

Include benefits that appeal specifically to program managers, such as opportunities for leading diverse and challenging projects, professional growth in program management, and potential for career advancement. These benefits can help showcase the more fulfilling aspects of the role. 

Program manager job brief

[Company name]

Job title: [Project Manager]

Reports to: [For example, Head of Project Management Office or Portfolio Manager]

Position type: [For example, full-time or part-time]

Location: [For example, remote, hybrid, or on site (include office address if applicable)]

[Salary range]

Responsibilities and duties

  • Develop comprehensive program strategies that align with our organizational goals.

  • Coordinate and oversee multiple projects, ensuring they complement and enhance each other.

  • Manage program budgets, timelines, and resources effectively.

  • Facilitate communication and collaboration across various departments.

  • Assess program performance, identify areas for improvement, and implement change.

  • Provide regular program updates to stakeholders and senior management.

  • Foster a culture of excellence and innovation within the program management team.

Skills and qualifications

Required skills and experience

  • Proven track record as a program manager, particularly in [specific industries or types of programs relevant to your company]

  • In-depth understanding of program management methodologies like Agile and Lean

  • Expertise in using project management tools (e.g., MS Project, Smartsheet, Trello)

  • Exceptional leadership skills with the ability to motivate and guide teams

  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration, project management, or related field or relevant experience

Preferred skills and experience

  • Advanced degree (MBA or similar) or professional certifications (PMP, PgMP)

  • Experience in [sector-specific skills or technologies relevant to the role]

  • Strong analytical skills for effective problem-solving and decision-making

  • Prior success in managing large-scale and diverse programs

  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills

4 things to avoid when writing a job description for program managers

In drafting a job description for a program manager, certain mistakes can significantly diminish its effectiveness. Here are some key things to avoid so you can effectively attract candidates who are both qualified and well-suited to the role.

1. Underestimating the scope of the role

Program management is not just about overseeing projects – it involves strategic alignment with organizational goals. Avoid simplifying the role to basic project management. The job description should reflect the broader scope, including strategic planning and organizational leadership.

2. Neglecting program-specific needs

Each program has unique demands, so avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor the job description to include specific skills and knowledge pertinent to the particular program the program manager will manage, such as experience with specific software or methodologies relevant to your industry.

3. Overloading with jargon and buzzwords

While technical terms are necessary in program management, overusing jargon or buzzwords like “scope creep” can make the job description unclear or intimidating. Use clear, concise language to ensure the description is accessible to qualified candidates from various backgrounds.

4. Ignoring cultural add

Focusing solely on technical skills without considering a candidate's ability to fit in with and enhance your company culture is a common mistake. Program managers often shape team dynamics and influence company culture. Include aspects of your company's work environment and values to attract candidates who will thrive in your specific setting and bring the cultural changes you want.

Next steps: Attracting and assessing program management candidates

After you write your job description, post it on relevant job sites, social media, and your website. Due to the multifaceted nature of the role, you may receive various applications from individuals who partially meet the criteria but lack certain essential qualifications.

To shortlist applicants efficiently and effectively, online talent assessments can be invaluable. 

TestGorilla offers a structured approach to evaluate candidates' competencies. With TestGorilla, you can combine various tests into a single assessment. You can even add custom questions to ensure your assessment is perfect for your role. 

For program manager roles, consider administering the following tests to assess their suitability:

  • TestGorilla’s Program Management test measures candidates' proficiency in overseeing every phase of a program's lifecycle, encompassing the planning, execution, monitoring, and closing stages.

  • The Budgeting test evaluates a candidate's proficiency in analyzing and understanding financial data. It tests their capability to estimate financial requirements for a project or organization, manage and oversee budgets, and implement financial policies and controls.

  • The Project Management test focuses on evaluating candidates' ability to effectively manage projects with the aim of achieving business objectives. 

Combine some of these tests with other technical, personality and culture, and cognitive ability tests to better understand each candidate’s overall suitability for the role.

FAQs

What is the difference between a project manager and a program manager?

Project managers and program managers differ primarily in scope and focus. A project manager oversees a single project, focusing on tactical elements like deadlines, budgets, and deliverables. Program managers handle a group of related projects, concentrating on strategic alignment with organizational goals. 

While project managers handle the detailed management and execution of specific projects, program managers ensure that all projects within the program work synergistically towards broader, long-term objectives. 

What is the salary for a program manager?

There are a few variables to consider before deciding on a salary for your program manager role, including location and experience level. According to Glassdoor, as of 2024, the typical salary for a program manager is approximately $99,916, with the higher end reaching around $176,978 and the lower end averaging about $66,263. 

Start hiring top program managers with TestGorilla

Program managers are integral to driving your organization's strategic initiatives and achieving long-term goals. A meticulously crafted job description is vital for attracting the right talent for this critical role and minimizing the risk of a mis-hire.

Once you've received applications, the next step is to effectively assess the candidates' diverse skill set and fit for the role. Talent assessments are an efficient way to do this. At TestGorilla, we offer hundreds of tests, including role-specific, cognitive ability, and personality tests. These tests give you a comprehensive understanding of each candidate's potential as a program manager.

Sign up for a free live demo or create a free account to learn more about how we can help you find your ideal program manager.

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