Job Interview Question

Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them.

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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Job interviews are like very intense speed dating.  They need to get to know you well in a very short time.  For many companies, talking about your resume and what you’ve done is just not enough.  They need to know how you’ll behave on the job, how you’ll react to situations.  To get to the meat of those issues, they use behavioral interviewing.  You must know how to answer behavioral interview questions before you go into your next job interview.

This question, asking you to describe how you’d handle a “too much to do and not enough time to do it” situation on the job is a classic BEI (Behavioral Event Interview) question.  Who HASN’T had to deal with a day like that on the job?

You don’t have to get into specifics here…what they want to know is how you THINK.  How do you approach problems?  What tools or strategies do you use to approach and solve challenges in your daily life on the job?

With this question, it all comes down to prioritization:  How do you prioritize tasks?  CAN you prioritize tasks?  They don’t want someone who’s going to collapse into a “get me to therapy” heap or explode in anger over the issue.  And they’ll know by your answer.

A bad answer would sound like, “I expect my boss to give me a reasonable workload and recognize that not everything can get done.”  Another bad answer is “I would just until I completed everything, as late as that needed to be.”  On the surface that sounds good, but in reality, it says nothing about your ability to think on your feet, analyze the situation, and implement a reasonable solution.  That’s what they want to know.

So walk them through your thought process when you prioritize:  Does everything truly have to be done today?  Even though you may have 25 tasks, maybe the truth is that the person who wants those done can’t really do anything with all of them immediately anyway.  Maybe they can only deal with 5 or 10 of them in the next couple of days, so those are the ones you concentrate on first.

Or maybe in your position, you would have people that you could delegate work to.  When you talk about how you’d do that, they get a peek into your management style, too.

A lot of people take on tasks and never really take a look at “When does this have to be done?”  They just look at the list and pull it onto their plate.  That’s not strategic thinking.

Show them your strategic thinking abilities and you’ll be very impressive in the interview.

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