How to Answer the “How do You Prioritise Your Workload” Interview Question
Prepping responses to competency-based interview questions? Questions about how you manage your work, organise your tasks and manage conflicting priorities are among the most popular behavioural interview questions.
Organisational skills are needed for pretty much every job role, and so it’s a good idea to have a strong answer to the ‘how do you prioritise your workload’ interview question prepared.
In this blog, we’ll explore what interviewers are looking for when they ask ‘managing workload’ interview questions, examples you can point to, question variants and three STAR examples to inspire your answers.
What are interviewers looking for when they ask the “How do you prioritise your workload” interview question?
As you’d expect, questions about prioritising your workload are designed to test the way you approach and organise tasks.
The requirements of many roles can be demanding - in most jobs, you’ll have more than one task to deal with at any given moment.
For that reason, interviewers want to see that you can use your initiative to assess which tasks should be given priority and ensure that you aren’t overwhelmed by conflicting deadlines.
In your response, you should emphasise your ability to independently organise your workload, communicate with colleagues to determine your priorities and identify the limits of your abilities when it comes to meeting deadlines.
Managing workload interview questions and variants
Questions about managing your workload can be asked in several ways. Here are some examples of competency-based interview questions you might be asked:
- Describe a situation where you had to manage conflicting deadlines
- Tell me about your approach to organising tasks
- Give an example of a time when you had too much work on your plate. How did you respond?
- How do you cope when you have several high-priority tasks to work on?
- Give an example of a time you successfully met an important deadline
- How do you organise your work?
- What methods do you use to understand task priorities?
- How do you know which tasks you should approach first?
- Describe a situation where you needed to push back on a deadline
While these are all phrased differently, they’re all driving at pretty much the same thing: namely, how you use initiative and organisational skills to successfully meet the requirements of your role.
Answering interview questions about prioritising tasks
It can be helpful to point to specific examples when answering interview questions about prioritising tasks.
Struggling to think of relevant examples? Here are some that you might have experienced:
- Using problem-solving skills to determine which tasks take precedence
- Using questioning and communication skills to enquire about each task’s importance and urgency
- Using organisational skills to ensure deadlines are met
- Using collaboration skills to help your team meet a deadline
- Having the ability to focus under pressure
- Using negotiation skills to propose alternative deadlines
‘How do You Prioritise Your Workload’ STAR example answers
Using the STAR technique to answer the ‘How do you prioritise your workload’ interview question is the best approach.
STAR stands for:
S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Result
We’ve put together three STAR example answers for managing workload interview questions.
#1: Describe a situation where you had to manage conflicting deadlines
I was asked to work on a last-minute project proposal, however, I was already working on an existing proposal that was due on the same day.
I needed to work out a way of delivering both project proposals and meeting both deadlines.
As I had a lot of work to get through, I wasn’t able to meet both deadlines on my own. I spoke with my colleagues and divided work on the second proposal between myself and another team member, clearly explaining the requirements of the task.
I then checked my team member’s work and made minor adjustments after I had finished the initial project proposal and my part of the second proposal.
Both deadlines were met and I’m pleased to say both of our project proposals were successful.
#2: Give an example of a time when you had too much work on your plate. How did you respond?
I had been asked to work on a number of tasks. Several team leaders had briefed me on work and many had looming deadlines.
I needed to be realistic about my workload, and act before meeting deadlines became a problem.
I approached my line manager and discussed the issue I was experiencing. I had already assessed what I believed to be the most urgent and important tasks and had identified some tasks that I thought might be possible to postpone.
My manager reviewed my proposed schedule and made some small tweaks. My manager was then able to speak to the team leaders about pushing back the deadline on certain lower priority tasks.
I was able to deliver all high priority tasks to schedule and met the revised deadlines for the lower priority tasks.
#3: How do you know which tasks you should approach first?
In my current role, I’m often asked to take on several tasks by different members of the team who don’t necessarily know each other’s schedules.
For that reason, it’s quite common for me to be briefed on multiple tasks, all with competing deadlines. Part of my role is understanding which tasks should take priority, and therefore which ones to complete first.
I tend to break down my tasks by creating a large list of everything that needs to be completed and assigning a deadline date to them.
From there, I look at which tasks are urgent, important, or a combination of the two.
Any task that is neither urgent nor important, I place at the back of my to-do list.
From there, I take on tasks that are in the urgent and important category, then the urgent category and then the important category.
Of course, there are often times when what I consider urgent and important might not line up with the perception of the person who’s assigned the task, so I make sure to communicate my anticipated schedule for delivering the work and ensure that I have their approval before going ahead with my plan.
The approach I take to completing tasks tends to mean I deliver work to a schedule that keeps most of my teammates satisfied. By keeping in regular communication with my colleagues, I can identify any gaps in my understanding of the urgency or importance of a task before it becomes a problem.
Managing workload interview questions: Final thoughts
We hope that you now feel a little more confident when it comes to interview questions about managing your workload. Use the STAR examples as inspiration for your answers, using your own experiences to make the answers fit with your circumstances. With any luck, you’ll be answering workload prioritisation questions like a pro in no time.
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