These multitasking interview questions with answers will help you pass your next interview and impress your potential employer. If a job description talks about managing different tasks or prioritization, the hiring manager will be sure to ask some of these job interview questions.
Here are 25 common interview questions asked by HR managers about your multitasking skills and a sample answer for each to show you are the best candidate.
5 Tips for Preparing Your Great Answer
- Talk about your time management skills.
- Include your prioritization method for various tasks.
- Try to include managing stress or working under pressure.
- Be cool and confident when you answer so that your explanation about your multitasking ability matches your body language.
- Try to include references to recognized management methods.
5 Mistakes to Avoid Giving Bad Answers
- Overselling your multitasking abilities.
- Speaking negatively about past multitasking experiences.
- Saying that you cannot answer the question.
- Becoming flustered or stressed during the interview.
- Sounding like you will leave the company for bigger opportunities.
25 Examples of Time Management Interview Questions and Answers
#1. How do you manage information overload and multitask effectively?
Important Points to Address: A good answer needs to explain how doing less can make you more effective.
Getting more done in less time and managing a heavy workload requires strong information filters. In my last job, I found that by carefully managing what information I receive and what information is delegated or redirected to other team members, I could focus on the main task and get more done.
I did this by using email filters, and when taking phone calls or face-to-face contact, I followed a system of eliminating the unnecessary, delegating based on others’ strengths, prioritizing based on company objectives, and delaying less important tasks.
#2. How would you define multitasking?
Important Points to Address: In most lines of work, it is important to address that the human brain is not able to truly multitask, and all multitasking is a combination of different soft and hard skills.
I don’t think that true multitasking is possible because the brain can only focus on one task at a time. I consider multitasking being able to complete tasks effectively and efficiently when switching between several tasks on a regular basis, based on varying demands in the workplace.
#3. Do you have experience multitasking?
Important Points to Address: Never say that you do not have experience. Always provide an example. Even high school and college students have experience multitasking.
Yes, on any given day, all of us have to multitask in our professional life. I always work from a list of my tasks, and my primary task is that which has the shortest deadline and highest value to the company. I also find the use of software programs to manage my daily schedule is a great way to make sure that I have enough time to manage my different projects, and I try to build in a buffer for taking on additional responsibilities.
#4. How well do you think you multitask?
Important Points to Address: Use an example from a real situation to demonstrate. Plan ahead so you have your example ready.
I feel that I am good at multitasking, and this is because I take the time to plan ahead so that my work progresses in manageable chunks of work. For example, one time, I had a project with a tight deadline where I had to juggle several different tasks at once.
I found that by keeping a list of priorities and breaking each task down into smaller steps, I was able to complete the project on time.
#5. What do you find most challenging about multitasking?
Important Points to Address: This question is really asking, “What is your greatest multitasking weakness?” Make sure to include how you have improved and your plan for dealing with this weakness.
In my current role, I find the soft skill of delegating to be the hardest. Because I sometimes have to take customer calls, it is difficult to predict my workload. The sheer number of phone calls sometimes leaves me without as much time as I need.
I find the most important aspect in correcting this is working on my communication skills to seek help from team members immediately if I anticipate my workload becoming unmanageable.
#6. What do you think are the keys to successful multitasking?
Important Points to Address: Be sure to list two or more tangible skills such as prioritizing, consistency, delegating, etc.
A good start when multitasking is to have strong prioritization skills and excellent time estimation. At the end of each week, I make a list of deliverables for the next, and at the end of each day, I make a to-do list for the next day.
My lists are prioritized by what is most critical to the company’s objectives and using time estimation. I only include the tasks I can complete on a given day on my to-do list, but include a section for my “wish list” items in case I have extra time.
#7. Do you prefer to multitask or work on things sequentially?
Important Points to Address: It is best to avoid saying which one you prefer and instead explain how both are valuable, and that which is better at any given time depends on the specific task or project.
I think it really depends on what you are doing. Multitasking is best for tasks that don’t require a lot of focus, and that can be done simultaneously without interfering with each other.
Sequential tasks are generally those that require more focus and shouldn’t be done simultaneously with other work because the quality of your output will suffer. I prefer to use whichever method allows me to work at a steady pace for that specific situation and do the job well.
#8. When have you worked on multiple projects, and how did you prioritize them?
Important Points to Address: Show that you understand the relationship between urgency and business importance when determining the priority tasks.
I always prioritize tasks based on the deadline, the importance to the organization’s goals, and the amount of time and effort required to complete the project. If there is a pressing deadline that can’t be missed and the project is important, then that will be my priority. If the project doesn’t have a pressing deadline or it’s not important, then it will be lower on my list.
#9. How do you manage prioritizing competing goals and objectives?
Important Points to Address: Competing objectives may lead to stress and burnout, so it’s important to not only discuss prioritizing but also how this helps to manage stress.
The first thing that I do is sit down and create a list of all of the goals and objectives that I need to complete. I then prioritize them by urgency and importance. I figure out what needs to be done first and what can wait. Essentially, I use the Covey Time Management Matrix and break things down into four quadrants. This helps me to start tackling the most important items.
I also break down each goal into smaller tasks. This helps me feel less overwhelmed and makes it easier to see what needs to be done to accomplish the goal.
#10. Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple tasks at once. What did you do?
Important Points to Address: Behavioral interview questions are asked to get a better understanding of your experience with types of situations. Using the STAR technique is the best way to effectively showcase your prior experience. “STAR” stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result, and your answer would flow in that order of outlining the situation, the task, the action you took, and finally the result you achieved.
I remember one time when I had to juggle multiple tasks at once. I was working on a project that required my full attention, but I also had to respond to emails and calls in real-time. I arrived early each day to work uninterrupted on the project in the mornings.
I left easier parts of the project for when I expected emails and calls to come in, and I made sure to work on answering emails while I was taking phone calls. By doing this, I was able to complete the project and my daily tasks.
#11. Give an example of a time you had to multitask. What was the outcome?
Important Points to Address: Behavioral questions are usually highly specific questions and require examples to be given in your answer.
One time when I had to multitask was during a recent project at work. We were working on a very tight deadline, and there were a lot of moving parts. I had to keep track of everyone’s progress, make sure that deadlines were being met, and also do a lot of the work myself. By using lists and time blocking, I was able to do it, and we completed the project on time.
#12. Can you give an example of a situation where you had to rapidly switch between tasks?
Important Points to Address: Experiences interning often provide great examples of swapping between many tasks and projects rapidly, often multiple times a day.
When I was an intern at a tech company, I worked on a project with one team in the morning and then had to help another team in the afternoon. To do this, I had to make sure I knew exactly what the first team required of me for the day before I moved onto the second team.
I took a few minutes between roles to clear my mind of the morning’s tasks and to make sure I understood what the second team required. By staying organized and efficient, I was able to complete both tasks successfully.
#13. What traits do successful multitaskers possess?
Important Points to Address: Make sure to include prioritization, organization, and stress management, as these are common to all multitasking roles.
Successful multitaskers share some key characteristics and traits, which include the ability to prioritize, remain organized, and stay calm under pressure. Multitaskers must be very organized to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, and they need to have a system in place that helps them keep track of everything they need to do.
They also must be able to prioritize what are the most important and urgent tasks and focus their attention on those first.
#14. Do you think there are times that you cannot or should not multitask?
Important Points to Address: The correct answer to this question is always “yes.” But make sure to explain your answer. Remember that if an interviewer asks a “yes” or “no” question, he or she is expecting that you explain your answer as well as directly answer the question.
Yes, multitasking has a number of benefits, such as getting more done faster and being able to deliver results to multiple stakeholders. However, it usually comes at the expense of overall quality. For highly detailed tasks, multitasking will usually cause reduced quality output and reduced efficiency of output.
#15. How do you manage stress?
Important Points to Address: This question is always asked if a job is likely to be high-stress, so you must focus on managing stress and not avoiding it. It is even better if your answer can convey that you do well under pressure.
I do some of my best work when I am under stress. I find it helps me to stay motivated, focused, and on track. To avoid too much stress, I make sure to always keep a running list of what I need to get done, prioritized by deadlines and importance and I focus on the biggest and most important tasks first. By doing this, I am left with smaller tasks that can better absorb unexpected interruptions.
#16. What is a quality outcome?
Important Points to Address: Outcomes should always relate to goals, and goals should always be specific and measurable.
A quality outcome is when a task, project, or duty is completed at or above the benchmark standard within time and within budget. If a company has clear goals and strategic objectives, then quality outcomes are the foundation of delivering value to all stakeholders.
#17. Can you maintain similar levels of efficiency across multiple tasks?
Important Points to Address: Show that while you can maintain a consistently high output, some tasks require a lower output to maintain quality.
As a rule, yes, but it depends on the type of tasks.
Multitasking can increase efficiency on smaller tasks that require less focus and attention. This level of efficiency cannot always be maintained on bigger, detailed-oriented tasks that require a high degree of concentration. The important thing is to balance speed and efficiency with quality and effectiveness.
#18. How do you prioritize tasks when you have multiple deadlines?
Important Points to Address: When possible, it is good to refer to recognized methods for prioritizing and decision-making.
I prefer using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help prioritize based on urgency and importance. This is good for organizing projects. For smaller tasks and sub-steps to a project, I use priority lists that order tasks by their immediate importance. I try to apply both of these with time blocking to make sure that I can focus solely on one task when possible to increase my efficiency in completing each task.
#19. What strategies do you use for managing time effectively?
Important Points to Address: Make sure to refer to at least two techniques for time management, such as time blocking, breaking down tasks, the 80/20 rule (Pareto Analysis), the Pomodoro technique, or others.
I use a number of strategies to manage my time effectively. One strategy that has worked well for me is to break down large tasks into smaller chunks that I can finish in a shorter time frame.
This helps me to stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I also schedule a set time for checking emails so that I do not become distracted by checking my emails throughout the day.
#20. What would you do if you realized that you would not be able to meet an important deadline?
Important Points to Address: It is important to take ownership of deadlines and explain what you do proactively to reduce the impact and severity of missing a deadline.
If I realize that I will not be able to meet a deadline, I contact the stakeholder as soon as possible and explain the situation. If there is no way to get an extension, I will alert my manager, and I will also turn up early and stay late while doing my best to minimize distractions. By doing this, I can maximize effective work hours available to deliver the project.
#21. Have you ever had to listen and write at the same time?
Important Points to Address: Everyone has had to do these two tasks at least once. The answer is always yes. But, it’s important to explain what you do to be effective at it. Even though the question is a “yes” or “no” question, the interviewer is expecting an explanation.
Yes, in a previous role, I had to take notes whenever I took a phone call. The best way to do this was to bullet point the key talking points. If there was a lot to take in, I would ask them to slow down and explain I needed to make sure I understood their inquiry. If I put them on hold to make changes in the system, I would also take this time to ensure my phone log was accurate.
#22. How do you manage interruptions when working on an important task?
Important Points to Address: It is important to address both how you prevent interruptions and what you do when they arise.
First, I try to always use time blocking to avoid distractions and let other team members know I need to be uninterrupted. Second, if an interruption arises, I take notes on what it is and what they need from me, and I will attend to it after that time block. Third, I also make sure to avoid discretionary interruptions like emails and social media so that I do not distract myself.
#23. What is your process for transitioning between tasks?
Important Points to Address: It is important to demonstrate that you have a simple and effective strategy for changing tasks and minimizing downtime.
Whenever I transition between tasks, I spend a few minutes beforehand planning and organizing my thoughts. For example, if I know I have an important meeting coming up, I’ll make sure to review the relevant materials ahead of time so that I’m as prepared as possible. By taking a little bit of time upfront, transitioning between tasks becomes much easier and less disruptive.
#24. What techniques do you use to stay organized and efficient while working on multiple projects?
Important Points to Address: Ideally, list a technique for projects, tasks, and daily organization, showing that you can manage time at the weekly, daily, and hourly levels. There are several techniques that you might use together, such as sorting your email, keeping your desk clean, using to-do lists, using a timer to stay efficient, and planning your priorities with the Covey Time Management Matrix (the 4 quadrant method).
First, I use a checklist to keep track of both big and small tasks. Secondly, I have separate folders for each project to keep all the information for that project in one location. Finally, at the end of each day, I prepare for the next day by creating a to-do list. This ensures that I know exactly what needs to be accomplished the following day and prevents me from forgetting anything important.
#25. How do you balance collaboration with completing tasks independently?
Important Points to Address: Show that you can deliver what is needed of you in a group while working with and planning around others’ delivering work to you.
Balancing personal duties with collaborative projects can be difficult. I make sure that I always understand what is needed of me by the team and when it is needed, and I schedule collaborative tasks into my schedule.
I also make sure that my team knows what I need, and I check in occasionally to make sure that they are on track and won’t delay my work. I also find clear communication and flexibility key to effectively working both collaboratively and independently.
You can usually guess the types of questions that will be asked in an interview by looking at each job requirement in the job advertisement. When delivering your multitasking interview answer, it is a good idea to have a system you follow to deliver the best answer and show that you are a good fit for the company.
The easiest way to do this is to practice your perfect answer to two or three different types of multitasking questions and be sure to have at least one answer that uses specific examples from different situations that you have experienced. Doing this is the best way to make sure you always have the right answer in any job interview. Good luck!
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.