Given the amount of calls, emails, meetings and deadlines people face every day it would be hard to imagine getting through it all without having the ability to multitask. In recent years, companies have reduced staff in an effort to boost productivity and decrease costs. This reduction in the workforce now requires employees to take on additional responsibilities. Having the ability to manage multiple assignments, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and assignments are often considered key competencies to employers.
Multitasking Daily Tasks
During an interview the recruiter will attempt to gauge a candidate’s ability to multitask through a series of questions, addressing such factors as number and type of tasks, availability of resources, prioritization, level of decision making, degree of task urgency, and the individual’s track record on delivering to the employer’s expectations. Candidates are frequently asked to give an example of when they had to accomplish several daily tasks within a short amount of time. Examples of prioritizing daily tasks should reflect an applicant’s ability to analyze various possible outcomes, planning work ahead of time and making efficient use of the time available.
Daily Tasks Response
A recruiter or hiring manager may ask, "Tell me about a time you had to multitask to get your job done." An effective response may be, “In my current role as coordinator I am constantly being called on to multitask, balancing my responsibilities of servicing client complaints on the phone, and on email, along with attention to supplier reconciliations. I also consider myself to have a strong aptitude to communicate with supervisors to determine each task's priority and deadline so I can better plan out my work.”
Multitasking on Projects
Senior leadership roles call for the similar ability to plan and prioritize, but they also require the additional responsibility of managing multiple long term projects at the same time. Business leaders believe that, "If we can work on the right number of projects concurrently but stage them in a way to optimize the use of shared resources such as analysts and programmers, we can get more done without overly taxing any one individual or group." A recruiter assesses the candidate's capacity to analyze the scope of the project, measure available resources, identify hurdles present during the process and the ability to overcome those obstacles.
A candidate may encounter a question like, "What do you do when you're in the middle of a big project and you are asked to simultaneously support another project?" A potential response would be, “I understand that this position requires someone who is organized, able to prioritize and works well under pressure. If you were to contact my previous employers, or colleagues, you would find that these skills are listed as some of my strengths. I was highly involved in complex projects during my employment and even served as project manager on several of them. I am most proud of a recent payroll implementation where we were able to bring it in under budget and within the required deadline, and resulted in saving the company 20 percent on yearly service fees.”