If you are planning to attend a job interview, it is good to prepare answers to possible questions ahead of time. Some of the most common interview questions revolve around time management and prioritization of tasks. This article shares some examples of interview questions that focus on time management skills and different techniques to prioritize your tasks.
Why do interviewers ask questions about time management skills?
Here are some of the reasons why employers seek candidates with good time management skills:
- Effectively manage their workloads
- Successfully meet all deadlines
- Need little or no micromanagement from supervisors
- Know how to appropriately prioritize their tasks to ensure timely completion
- Be able to work under stress when dealing with multiple projects at once
Employers often see the ability to manage time efficiently as a necessary skill for many positions. These traits can work to improve the overall productivity of a team or company, making time management an important skill to cover in the interview process.
Examples of time management interview questions
Here are some of the most common time management interview questions:
How do you manage time and prioritize your workload?
When an interviewer asks a question like this, what they want to understand is your ability to cope with different tasks that have different deadlines without getting overwhelmed. They want to know if they can trust you to perform duties using your common sense to complete all the tasks on time. When answering this question, you should give a precise answer by providing an example of how you managed time effectively in the past.
Example: ‘I make a list of tasks that I need to undertake, then plan the order of doing them by scheduling the tasks according to their urgency and importance. If I am not sure about how important or urgent each task is, I ask. If given more tasks, I add them to my list and determine when to do it based on their urgency and importance, too. All I do is to adapt the order of doing things when confronted with different tasks at the same time.’
Tell me about a time when you had several tasks to complete. What did you do to prioritize them?
Interviewers ask this question to understand your ability to work under pressure. Many jobs entail some level of delegation to complete multiple tasks within a short time. Your ability to prioritize tasks confidently is critical in this case. When answering this question, focus on a time you had to get your colleagues actively involved in the prioritization of your projects or tasks. You may include internal managers, external managers and your coworkers who are requesting your time.
Example: ‘During my internship, the management tasked me to oversee a new project and, at the same time, asked me to involve myself with an ongoing project. Three weeks into my internship, I realized that the ongoing project was quite demanding, and I had to spend long hours working on it. As a result, I rarely got time to attend to the new project. At the beginning of the fourth week, I met with the manager, and we discussed the conflict of prioritization. We successfully developed a strategy on how I could best handle both the critical and most urgent support tasks as well as completing the new project assigned to me. At the end of the internship, I received two awards, one for my quick response to the critical issues with the ongoing project, and the other for the successful completion of the new project.’
Has an unexpected event ever forced you to change your priorities?
Apart from finding out how you respond to an unforeseen occurrence, this question also tests your knowledge of what else you could do to avoid such a conflict. The interviewer is likely also interested in knowing if you were able to put some mechanisms in place to deal with such an occurrence in the future. The best way to answer this question is to talk about an event which couldn’t have been planned for. Your answer should demonstrate how to respond to and correct the situation. You could also talk about a time when you helped another team during an emergency.
Example: ‘At my first work station, we had an unforeseen cloud service event, which caused a system downtime both for our user base and the entire company. We had switched to cloud service to help us minimize possible downtimes. Given their multiple layers of redundancy, it was entirely unexpected and ironic when the service provider was hit with the denial of a service attack that shut down the network of sites. We were largely affected just like the other companies that depended on this same service provider. We went offline for close to three hours. I assembled my IT team quickly, and together with the service provider, we developed ways of minimizing the impact to our users by shifting service temporarily to our local servers by the use of a manual IP. We also used our learning from this event to develop an automated IP shift to cub the problem in the event a similar problem reoccurs in the future.’