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Work Priorities Interview Questions

Updated: May 13


You have an inbox full of 'urgent' requests, and a desk covered in 'very important' work. How do you decide where to start? That is not an easy question, and it's one your interviewer will want to know your answer to as well.

 

Every role and situation will be slightly different, but we still make these decisions every day. So ask yourself, how have you made these decisions in the past, and what criteria do you use to assess the situation?

 

Take a look at our example interview questions about prioritizing your work, example answers, and helpful tips about making a good impression in your interview:

 

"How do You Prioritize Your Workload?"


Nobody has a working life where all their tasks are easily prioritized, and there are never any conflicts or tight deadlines. For most of us, this is just normal everyday work. Your interviewer wants to know what strategies you use to make sure the most essential work is always completed, and if anything must ever be delayed, how you make that decision.

 

Do you:


  • Use your email to flag extremely important work?

  • Use your email client's 'to do' list?

  • Time your tasks, or plan out your working day?

  • Keep notes about different tasks to help you be more efficient in the future?


Whatever your methods are, to make a good impression show that you can succeed without close supervision, that you put a lot of thought and effort into prioritizing your work, and that you are well organized.

 

Example Answer:


"I always make daily to-do lists. I write down the tasks that need to be completed on a pad of paper at the start of each day because I have to move around the office quite often. I prioritize my work based on things like each task's overall importance to the company if other important tasks must wait for this one to be completed, and what will fit best into the time slots I am left with between meetings. That makes sure that I am using my time efficiently, I'm not holding anyone else up on important tasks, and that I never leave anything essential incomplete at the end of the day."

 

"How do You Decide What to Prioritize When You are Under Time Pressure?"


Sometimes you have to switch to a new task because it's urgent, and sometimes it's because your boss has just assigned it to you. Constantly switching what you are working on isn't great for getting things done, but it happens! How do you decide when to focus on your daily tasks and when to switch to urgent ones?

 

It can be tempting, when you love your work, to create a spreadsheet so beautiful that Michael Angelo would be proud of it, but does that help to achieve your department’s goals? And is a highly detailed 45-point task list that makes you feel overwhelmed actually useful? Your interviewer wants to know that when new tasks come in, you will think about the company's bigger priorities.

 

Example Answer:


“Recently, I had a situation where I had to adjust to an office crisis quickly. I had kept the morning free to work on budgets, but my colleague asked me to help with a presentation because the client’s requirements had changed on short notice. We worked on it together, and I decided to sit in on the meeting to provide additional support. I worked on the budget from home the next day, so I had no interruptions and could complete the work on time.”

 

"How do You Maintain a Good Work-Life Balance?"


Everybody needs to find a good work-life balance, and letting your interviewer know this is important to you is a very good idea; it's not smart to tell them you'll be working 14 hours a day. Tell them the hours that you can work, and be confident when explaining why you keep it that way. You need time to be a good employee and time to be a healthy human!

 

Your interviewer wants to find someone who can decide what has to be done, and then do it, even when their schedule is changed. But they don't want someone who is going to burn themselves out a few months into the job by working crazy hours. That's where work-life balance comes in; show your interviewer that you value your mental and physical health as well as your job.

 

Example answer:


“I check in with my supervisors and colleagues throughout the day and week. If I’m working on something that will take a while, I let my team know about it. If I feel like my workload is unmanageable, I talk to my boss to see what tasks can be moved down the priority list and what deadlines can be rescheduled. It's very important to me that I get results and meet all of my targets, and I can always do that if I'm getting the rest hours I need at home. That's why I work hard to keep my working hours as regular as possible.”

 

Wrap Up


There are no perfect answers to job interview questions about how you prioritize your work. Take some time to really think about how you decide:


  • What has to be done first.

  • What can be done tomorrow.

  • What the best way to organize your time is.

  • What the best way to keep track of your progress is.

  • What time you need to be good at your job, and what time you need to enjoy your life.


Good answers to these questions are thought out before the day of your interview, and demonstrate a healthy balance between what the company needs and what you can realistically do for a long time. It's important to make a good impression, but only make promises that you can keep.

 

So, invest a little time in looking at the methods you use and the way you make these decisions. Then be clear, honest, and confident; you've got this!

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