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Probing organizational skills is among a hiring manager's main priorities during a job interview. From an employer's perspective, the most skilled candidate who doesn't manage time well isn't really worth considering. For this reason, it's not unusual for interviewers to explore an applicant's attitudes toward time management -- and how he functions in high pressure situations. The responses help the recruiter decide if she's found a suitable candidate, or needs to look elsewhere.
How Do You Handle Conflicting Tasks?
Employers want to feel confident about an applicant's ability to function under pressure, especially when multiple projects or last-minute deadlines are involved. Raising this question helps an interviewer see how well a candidate manages his workflow and collaborates with others to solve problems, according to the National Center for the Middle Market website. If you're called on to respond, this is the chance to recall how you successfully resolved a high-pressure situation at your last position.
How Do You Set Priorities?
By asking this question, the interviewer is trying to get a sense of how an applicant actually goes about organizing her workday. He can then pose follow-up questions about practical steps that the candidate takes to manage her time, notes the Target Jobs website. He's looking for a description of specific procedures, such as making lists, and how they've proven helpful to the job seeker. This question also exemplifies a hypothetical scenario that forces the job seeker to go beyond her prepared response.
How Many Hours Do You Work Every Week?
This question is designed to elicit how well the candidate thinks he's functioning on the job. According to the Hcareers website, an applicant who hasn't totally thought out his answer may suggest that he'll work as long as it takes, which could hint at poor organizational skills. By contrast, smart candidates might suggest that they have no difficulty finishing their allotted workload, but are willing to work after hours when the situation requires it.
What Happens When a Project Isn't Finished on Time?
Not all projects get done during a normal workday, but employees still have to finish them -- and interviewers want to know how a potential hire feels about those issues. Generally speaking, the interviewer expects to hear how the applicant did her best to help, while pointing out potential problems. On the other hand, a candidate who acknowledges staying late every night to finish her work -- or complains of overloading -- may be experiencing productivity issues that make her unattractive as a potential employee.
- Hcareers: 10 Toughest Job Interview Questions
- Inc.com: Four Vital Interview Questions to Ask
- National Center for the Middle Market: 10 Great Situational Interview Questions to Identify the Best Job Candidate
- Target Jobs: 'How Do You Manage Your Time and Prioritise Tasks?' Tricky Graduate Interview Question
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.