Time management interview questions are asked to ensure that you are able to effectively manage competing priorities and demands at work. Effective time managers can prioritize tasks, delegate effectively, and accurately estimate the amount of time needed to complete a given task. A strong answer will help you move forward in the hiring process.
Here are five tips to give the perfect answer and five ways to avoid giving the wrong answer, followed by 25 common time management questions that the hiring manager might ask in your next job interview.
5 Tips for Your Answer
- Try to always reference professional time management techniques in your answers.
- Talk about breaking big projects into smaller tasks.
- Talk about how keeping on top of work helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Use specific examples based on past experiences if answering a behavioral question.
- Discuss how you account for last-minute urgent tasks in your planning.
5 Mistakes to Avoid
- Don’t be late. If you can’t manage your personal life, you won’t be organized at work.
- Don’t forget to discuss work as part of a team.
- Don’t blame others for failures at your last job.
- Don’t forget to discuss your prioritization skills.
- When applying for a graduate job, don’t forget to still find real-life examples.
25 Best Answers to Time Management Interview Questions
1. When you have a variety of tasks, how do you prioritize your time?
When faced with several tasks, I apply the bubble sorting technique and arrange the tasks in order of the value of each task and their due date. This makes sure that important tasks are done first thing and that I can always meet critical deadlines. I also try and build in a buffer so that I have room to schedule new tasks when they present themselves.
2. Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet a deadline. What was the outcome?
In a previous role, I was working on a new project as part of a remote team. The dependent deliverables kept slipping, which left our team with little time for our part. When it was clear that we would miss our deadline, I contacted the rest of the team to discuss the best way forward.
We then scheduled a meeting with our manager and explained that we would be unable to deliver the project on time. We agreed to prioritize our work based on the level of importance of each task to the project so we could still deliver a workable solution in the minimum time possible.
3. How do you maintain the quality of your work when performing repetitive tasks?
Maintaining quality is an important skill and something that I take a lot of personal pride in. While most people’s quality reduces over time, I can maintain my overall performance while completing repetitive tasks. One reason is that I already use batching to manage my time, so I have experience completing similar tasks repeatedly.
I also make sure that during assigned breaks, I go for a short walk and get fresh air to maintain alertness. Finally, I am careful not to rush, and I take a moment to review the accuracy of my work before submitting it.
4. Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
Yes, I am a very organized person. I have a systematic approach to everything, from organizing my work environment to planning my daily tasks and meeting deadlines. The reason I am so organized is that it helps me stay focused and productive.
When everything has a place and a purpose, it’s easier for me to know where to start and what steps to take next. And not only does being organized help me stay on top of things, but it also makes me feel calm and in control.
5. How do you stay organized?
I use a combination of apps and paper to stay organized. I have a notes app for taking quick notes, a calendar app for tracking appointments, and a to-do app for creating to-do lists. For paper organizing, I like using a planner with monthly and weekly views to schedule out my days and a binder with dividers for file folders. Finally, I plan all my tasks based on value to the company and due date so that I always do the highest value tasks first.
6. What is your favorite productivity tool?
For long-term planning, I like to use my Outlook calendar to schedule meetings and due dates so that I can meet deadlines and I do not overbook myself. Short-term, I find a simple paper-based to-do list the most effective. I estimate the time of each task and create a to-do list for the day prioritized by task importance. Using these two tools, I can be consistently productive.
7. What does a typical day at your current job look like?
Each morning I arrive early so that I have time to get myself a coffee and be relaxed at my desk. I use this time to check my emails for new important items. I work methodically through my to-do list, and if new responsibilities come up during the day, I fit them in in order of priority and talk to my manager if too many things are required of me that day.
I use the latter part of the day to respond to emails when I have already completed my important tasks, and before I leave each day, I make sure everything is done and prepare my to-do list for tomorrow.
8. How do you recognize if you are making the best use of your time?
The most important thing with good time management skills is knowing the value of time. By always doing the right thing, like working hard and avoiding the use of social media at work, I know that I am delivering maximum productivity. My daily planning involves setting specific times that important tasks must be started and completed and giving myself a time limit on lower-value tasks, like responding to low-importance emails.
Finally, I use my communication skills to check in with my manager and seek feedback on how productive I am being for the business and look for ways to improve.
9. How do you handle urgent tasks that crop up during the workday?
When tough situations come up, like something that needs a detailed answer while I am already busy, I try to approach the situation calmly. First, I provide a quick response and try to give enough help for progress to continue until I can give it my full attention. I work with my manager to delegate my different tasks to others so that my other duties will not become their own emergencies. I can then focus on achieving the best end result for the urgent task.
10. What type of scheduling technique do you use to ensure you stay on task?
I apply priority scheduling to make sure I always produce valuable work, and I like to work from lists that I order using bubble sorting. This means I don’t have any idle time trying to choose when moving between tasks. I usually use the Pomodoro technique and eliminate as many distractions as possible so that I can use each 25-minute chunk as a time block. I have always found this an effective way to stay on track throughout the day.
11. Tell me about a time when you struggled to complete a task. What did you do?
In a previous role, I was asked to undertake the duties of another colleague for a few days. I was new, and I wanted to make a good impression, so I said “yes” straight away. I had no training, and I quickly fell behind schedule. Near the end of the first day, I talked to my manager and explained that I needed help. They delegated some of my duties to other team members and got a senior colleague to coach me in the role, too.
I stayed late the next two days to catch up on the work I failed to do on day one and completed the task successfully. I have learned that whenever I don’t know something or have too much work, I ask for help before the situation is out of control.
12. How do you manage when you fall behind schedule with your workload?
As soon as I know I will miss a deadline, I let others know that I cannot deliver on time so that they can manage their workloads too. I contact my manager and discuss how to get back on track. I usually ask to delegate some duties to others so that I can deliver my most valuable work. I defer non-time-critical tasks to the next day, and I eliminate distractions to focus on my productivity. I also stay late when necessary to catch up on my backlog and get back on schedule.
13. How do you manage stress at work?
First, I handle stress well, and I find that I produce my best work when I am under pressure. How I manage stress when it arises is twofold. First, I have clear priorities and objectives so that I can focus on what matters and avoid becoming distracted. Second, I make sure that I maintain a healthy personal life with exercise, a good diet, and good sleep. Using these, I have worked through highly stressful situations without becoming overwhelmed.
14. How do you estimate task completion time?
Because I maintain a diary, I have an accurate record of past tasks and how long they have taken me to complete. I refer to my experience and compare new tasks to similar completed tasks and consider how different they are. For any tasks that I am unfamiliar with, I break them down into smaller tasks that I can more accurately estimate. I also add a time buffer where possible, but I am careful not to overestimate as this lowers productivity.
15. What do you do if you feel a deadline is too tight to guarantee quality work?
I always plan my work from the quality triangle. You can have a job completed to budget, to quality, or to the timeframe. You can usually have any two of these objectives, but not all three. If I am falling behind on either time or quality, I always talk to my boss. I make sure to identify which is more important; delivery time, cost or work quality and create a plan based on the priority. This allows me to always achieve an appropriate balance.
16. How do you handle coworkers who run behind schedule, preventing you from meeting your deadlines?
I use publicly visible calendars to plan my deadlines and deliverables, including the expected dates to receive work from others. I also have regular check-ins to answer any questions and help keep them on track. If the issues are persistent, I talk to my manager and explain that I cannot produce good work on time for the company if I am always starting behind schedule because of other coworkers.
17. How do you prioritize your time when you have multiple deadlines?
First, I use Google calendar to schedule everything as far in advance as I can. I break large projects into smaller steps and schedule these smaller jobs on my calendar too. If I have too many duties, I will always alert my manager to conflicts as soon as possible so that the workload can be managed. I work from a weekly to-do list too, and I order my list based on the importance and due date of each task. This way, I can systematically work through my list, knowing that I will meet each deadline if I stick to the list.
18. How do you handle a situation where a supervisor gives you too much work?
When I feel like I don’t have enough time, I start by looking at my timetable to make sure that I do not waste time on unimportant tasks. Next, I look at my workflow and process to make sure that the work I do is done efficiently. Third, I talk to my coworkers and try to delegate some of my tasks if they have the capacity. Finally, I will always tell my supervisor if I become overloaded so that the issue can be resolved.
19. How do you collaborate with a coworker on work that has a tight deadline?
I start by arranging a meeting with my worker to discuss the project and deliverables and divide the work based on our strengths. Next, I will set up collaboration tools like Trello and Google Calendar so we can both track deliverables and due dates. Finally, I make sure that we have follow-up check-ins scheduled so that we don’t waste time on full meetings, but we still stay on track and communicate regularly. Using this process, I have consistently collaborated and delivered on time.
20. How do you ensure the quality of your work while maintaining productivity?
I like to use the Pomodoro technique when working, especially on large projects. By breaking my work into 25-minute chunks, even big jobs are easily managed. The 5-minute breaks give me time to clear my head between tasks, which means that I maintain optimum productivity. I periodically review the quality of the work I am producing to make sure that I am delivering a good quality result while maintaining my speed throughout the day.
21. How do you delegate tasks?
I use a four-step process for delegating tasks. First, I identify what task needs to be done and, if necessary, break it into smaller chunks. Second, I consider my team and the strengths of each person. Third, I delegate the duties to each person and provide instructions and deadlines. Fourth, I follow up with each person to make sure everyone is on track to deliver on time and answer any questions.
22. You’re just returning from a week-long vacation. What do you do first?
If they’re available, I will check with my manager or a senior team member if there are any emergencies I should know about. After this, or if everyone is busy, I will check my emails and sort them by priority and date to get to the oldest emergencies first. I then find out what is currently outstanding or coming up so I can create a schedule to get to work on. Once big issues are resolved, I will then respond to any minor emails and incidentals that need my attention.
23. How do you prioritize your work when you report to several different managers?
I make sure that I keep an up-to-date calendar that both managers can see with all meetings and deliverables visible. If an emergency arises with one manager, I will alert the other immediately if it impacts the work I do for them. Finally, I prioritize all my competing demands based on value to the business and let each manager know any time I am unable to meet their expectations due to existing higher priorities.
24. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with your workload or deadlines?
If I feel overwhelmed by my workload, I first take a 5-minute break to get fresh air and clear my head. I look at my schedule to determine if the workload is realistic and whether I have scheduled my time efficiently. If I have, I then look at each task and make sure that I know the best process to complete each in a timely way. If I have done everything I can to manage my workload, I will ask my manager for assistance delegating my work or moving deadlines to reduce my workload.
25. How do you track the status of various projects?
I use project management software to manage the status of various projects. Project management tools are a great way to manage the necessary resources for multiple projects. I use the traffic light method to indicate the status of both the overall projects and their smaller parts. This is especially useful as most tools automate this and give you alerts of project status as long as you update the projects daily. This makes it easy to see when and where problems arise and find solutions in a timely way.
These are some of the most common time management interview questions and sample answers. There are a variety of questions interviewers can ask that are different versions of these same questions, but the answers are the same. To give the best possible answer, try to adapt each example answer for yourself. Finally, whenever you are asked behavioral interview questions, be sure to use the star method to help you to give a great answer.
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.