Before You Accept: Questions to Ask Interviewers

Approximately 29% of workers plan to look for a new job in 2018, according to a survey from Accountemps. If you are one of them and fortunate enough to earn interviews, expand your preparation beyond researching the employer and anticipating interview questions. Consider what you will want to know about the job (besides the compensation package). In particular, for a Commercial Card program manager or administrator position, following are possible questions to ask interviewers at some point during the interview process to help you evaluate whether the job could be right for you.

Possible Questions

Before the interview, determine what is most important to you. What program drawbacks or challenges can you deal with? Every program has them. What will be too frustrating for you? Gather a mix of information—facts, opinions, and perceptions.

Program Facts and Metrics

  • What card products/solutions are used today?
  • Who is the card provider? When does the contract end?
  • What technology solutions are used for program management?
  • What is the current program size (spend, transactions, cardholders, geography)?
  • What percentage of B2B payments are captured via the card program?

Organization Vision

  • What are the organization’s program goals and objectives?
  • How does the organization want to grow the program (e.g., more cardholders, additional countries, new allowed spend categories)?
  • Where do cards rank in terms of the overall payment strategy?

Perspectives, Buy-in, and Support

  • What are the biggest program challenges?
  • What are the biggest opportunities?
  • What are the most notable program successes to date?
  • Tell me about program buy-in by cardholders, their managers, and executives. Does anyone resist or resent the program?
  • How do procurement and accounts payable provide program support?

Auditing and Accountability

  • What have recent audits revealed about the program?
  • Who performs transaction auditing? How does the auditing occur (manually or via technology)?
  • Is everyone, including executives, held accountable for their respective card program role?
Look for the right job for you. Ask questions about the card program to evaluate whether the job would be a good fit.

Look for the right job for you. Ask questions about the card program to evaluate whether the job would be a good fit.

    About the Position

    • What qualities do you feel are most important in a card program manager?
    • What should be the priorities of the next program manager?
    • Is the role a decision maker for the program?
    • Are you looking for the next program manager to instigate change?

    Final Thoughts

    While everyone will have different priorities, I think there are some universal red flags. I would steer clear of a program that:

    • is not supported by management
    • is plagued with audit findings
    • fails to hold employees accountable  

    Conversely, an organization eager to improve and/or expand the card program—with the program manager leading the way—would be a good sign. Still, it pays to dig deeper before accepting any position, especially if/when some of the questions posed to you by an interviewer seem strange.

    For related resources, such as tips for hiring a program manager/administrator, visit the Program Management page.


    About the Author

    Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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      7 program staffing factors

      How many full-time equivalents (FTEs) are needed for Commercial Card program management? While this sounds a tad like a “light bulb joke,” it is an important question. A common measurement reported in industry studies is program manager/program administrator (PM/PA) FTEs per number of cardholders. This is just one small part and an industry average does not necessarily represent what is ideal for your organization. To evaluate whether your card program is appropriately staffed, consider the following seven variables. You might find that the issue is not a lack of staffing, but rather gaps or hurdles elsewhere within the program.

      Factors to Evaluate

      Any of these can change or evolve over time:

      1. Program goals: What purchases and suppliers are targeted? What is the actual or expected transaction volume? 
      2. Geographic locations: Are cardholders local only? Is the program operational in one country or more than one?
      3. Cardholder status: Besides the number of cardholders, it is worthwhile to consider their skills and turnover.
      4. Training: Do you conduct live training (in-person or virtual), or provide recorded training?
      5. Technology: What tasks are accomplished manually versus tasks supported or executed with technology?
      6. PM/PA aptitude: Is the right person or people managing the program?
      7. Special projects: What is happening that affects those who have a program management role?

      What Could Require More FTEs

      • A wide range of targeted purchases and/or suppliers
      • High transaction volume
      • A geographically dispersed program, especially one spanning more than one country
      • Cardholders who do not grasp (or read) procedures, thereby needing more ongoing help 
      • A notable number of new cardholders each month
      • Live training for every new cardholder and/or manager
      • A high number of manual tasks (e.g., transaction auditing)
      • A PM/PA who is not well suited for the role, so others have to pick up the slack
      • Projects demanding extra time, such as a request for proposal (RFP) for a card issuer or technology provider, switching issuers, or implementing new technology (e.g., an auditing solution, different ERP system, etc.)

      Some of these bullet points are naturally positive things, like a program that allows all sorts of purchases. Some are neutral and depend on other factors to make them positive or negative (e.g., live training might be fine until it becomes too time consuming due to a high number of new cardholders). Some are simply a drain on time (e.g., manual tasks). Nevertheless, the more that apply to your program, the more FTEs you will need.

      Conclusion

      In short, your current FTE number is likely appropriate if:

      • your program is meeting or exceeding goals
      • audit results are consistently acceptable
      • the program is well received internally
      • more time is spent on strategic program activities than on operations
      • the PM/PA has a manageable workload (yes, “manageable” is subjective, so it warrants a conversation with management)

      Your organization invested time to implement a card program. Doing what is necessary to help it succeed should be a priority. Many factors are within an organization’s control, such as taking advantage of technology to streamline program management. No matter what is lacking in a Commercial Card program, ignoring issues increases the likelihood that your program will not achieve its full potential.

      Finding the bullseye in your program management staffing level first requires evaluating many factors.

      Finding the bullseye in your program management staffing level first requires evaluating many factors.

      Virtual Workshop Opportunity

      P-Card and ePayables Payment Strategies, a Three-part Series

      Program management FTEs directly tie in with an organization’s overall payment strategy. Attend this virtual workshop to acquire key aspects of building a cohesive payments plan: 1) understanding the options, 2) assessing your card opportunity and devising a plan, and 3) working with suppliers. Learn more...

      While this event is targeted at higher education institutions, the content is applicable and suitable for all types of organizations.


      About the Author

      Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

      Subscribe to the Blog

      Receive notice of new blog posts.

      Who audits the program manager?

      In the life of a Commercial Card program, cardholders are routinely under a microscope. Yet, an auditor’s radar may fail to pick up the program manager or administrator (PM/PA). Even if the PM/PA is a rock star within the organization, no one should be exempt from an audit process. Following are six PM/PA aspects for your internal audit team to review.

      PM/PA Aspects to Audit

      1. Separate from the policies and procedures (P&P) cardholders must follow, are there current, documented procedures for tasks executed by the PM/PA? Examples include steps the PM/PA follows to establish a new card account, monthly reporting and analysis performed by the PM/PA, and how to resolve card usage issues like declined transactions.

      2. Perhaps most important, does the PM/PA consistently follow documented procedures? For example: 

      • If the PM/PA must ensure a card applicant completes training prior to receiving a card, the auditor should review the timing of the training versus the timing of card issuance/activation.
      • If the PM/PA must notify a cardholder’s manager upon instigating a temporary limit increase, is there documentation (e.g., an email to the manager) to support this?   

      3. What type of system access does the PM/PA have? Is there adequate separation of duties? For example, the same person should not be able to:

      • download transaction interface files from the issuer and upload into the finance system
      • upload transaction interface files into the finance system and make coding changes/other corrections to the uploaded information

      If a lack of resources makes separation of duties impossible for certain activities, then, at a minimum, there should be sufficient means to monitor the PM/PA’s activity, such as an electronic audit trail and/or management oversight.  

      4. Are there effective controls to ensure the PM/PA does not obtain unauthorized cards? In my role as a PM, an auditor asked what prevented me from getting and using a card without anyone knowing. I had to admit that it would be easy for me to obtain a card for myself, but I explained the detective controls that would catch this.

      5. Is the PA/PM allowed adequate time to spend on card program management? If they are pulled in too many directions, it increases the risk to the organization and the program will likely flounder. An auditor can help shed light on this problem.

      6. Is there sufficient backup for when the PM/PA is out of the office or otherwise unavailable? Select an appropriate employee—someone with the right skills—for this role. Also, if someone is trained as a backup, but does not routinely execute back-up duties, then he or she might get rusty. 


      Final Thoughts

      The PM/PA is critical to long-term card program success. An organization should design the role thoughtfully, hire wisely, and audit regularly (e.g., annually). 

      Related Resources

      If your organization would like assistance with developing the PM/PA role and/or audit process for the P-Card program, contact Recharged Education.


      About the Author

      Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

      Subscribe to the Blog

      Receive notice of new blog posts.