Job interview questions can be quite challenging, especially when uncertain about what the employer wants to hear. Most job interviews include at least one question about time management, as it is one of the essential soft skills employers look for in candidates.
Good time management skills include prioritizing, delegating, multitasking, problem-solving, scheduling efficiently, thinking strategically, handling multiple projects, and more.
Below are some of the interviewers’ most common questions to determine how skilled they are at these tasks, the reasons they want to know, and how to answer time management questions.
Examples of Time Management Interview Questions and Answers
Each question below shows how you manage your time: interview questions and some sample answers.
Here we go:
1. Why do you think it’s important to manage time wisely?
Time management is an important aspect of your personal and work life, and your interviewer wants to know that you understand. Companies want to hire people that can meet deadlines.
Candidates that seem unconcerned about managing their time will likely not get hired. The best answer involves explaining how time management has already benefited you.
In my work and my personal life, I have obligations and goals. I learned that there was no way I could meet or reach any of them without a time management system. I plot out each project and the due dates and then generate a daily to-do list to keep me on track. In doing so, I successfully graduated college while managing a household and a full-time job.
2. How do you limit distractions?
Distractions are a productivity killer and an everyday occurrence. They come in email notifications, coworkers dropping by your office, calls from home, and more.
Your interviewer wants to know that you know how to prevent them or deal with them when they occur.
I take several steps to address distractions. I turn off all sound notifications for email, text, and phone calls. As I have time scheduled throughout the day to focus on email, I know I’ll be able to address them later. My family knows that I will check in when I am on break. If there is an emergency before that, they can call the office. If coworkers stop by and do not need my attention immediately, I create a schedule a time later to meet with them. While working I also use Pomodoro technique to stay focused and productive. Taking such steps allows me to stay focused on the task at hand.
3. How do you manage stress at work?
Stressful situations happen when you are working behind the counter at a local fast-food restaurant or are the CEO of an international business. There is no way to prevent them, but allowing stress to take over is unhealthy for you and the company you work for.
Your interviewer wants to see someone who recognizes the stress and can manage it healthily.
I began practicing yoga years ago, which helps me destress after work. It also helps me be more in tune with my body, allowing me to recognize feelings of stress immediately. When I feel stress building up, I take a few moments to complete breathing exercises and recenter my focus.
4. How do you manage deadlines?
Deadlines are a common part of the work environment, and employers rely on their employees to ensure deadlines are met. When asked how you manage deadlines, it’s important to show that you have an organized system. It’s also beneficial to give an example of your system in action.
In my last position with the ad agency, one of our clients asked us to handle his major rebrand. It would take place over three months. Upon being handed the assignment, I immediately got to work, listing every task that would need to be completed. I broke each one down into five to ten-minute tasks. I then took out my planner and mapped out every task so the project would be completed two weeks early. This left some cushioning for any unforeseen circumstances or potential issues.
By the next day, I had delegated all tasks to myself and other employees. I added everything into a group board in the Trello project management software that allowed everyone to keep track of and update their status. We met weekly to go over progress and make any adjustments. Despite some issues we had to address, we completed the project several days in advance thanks to staying organized and working together.
5. Describe a time when you missed a deadline or were late completing a task
Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay to admit yours. The interviewer doesn’t expect to hear that you are perfect. However, they want to hear that you handled the missed deadline well and how you worked to ensure it didn’t happen again.
In the early days of college, I had not yet learned to organize tasks. In one week, I had two papers due and a major test. I focused all my attention on studying for the exam, not realizing the deadlines for the papers were coming up. I passed the test but had neither paper to turn in. I requested extensions, which were graciously approved with point deductions. It was at this point I learned the value of time management. I read everything I could about it until I developed a system that worked well for me, which helped me miss no more deadlines.
6. How do you prioritize when you have multiple tasks?
No, this is not about multitasking!
No matter where you work, your job is to get that work done. Prioritizing multiple tasks is one of the foundations for meeting deadlines.
Your interviewer wants to know that you can determine which tasks need attention at the right time. They want someone who can manage tasks of competing importance even as they change throughout the day.
I plan out each task according to the due date, urgency, and importance at the beginning of the week in a planner. There is a technique called time management matrix that I use for prioritization. Then I break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks and spread them out to consistently work toward them throughout the week. I try to group tasks, such as making necessary phone calls in the same block of time. I intentionally leave some white space in my planner that allows me to rearrange if a new task requires prioritization over the others. Each day, I check my progress and make any necessary adjustments.
7. Tell me how you balance work and your personal life.
Companies may want to know you will throw everything you have at work, regardless of any other obligations. However, employers know that it can impact your mental, physical, and emotional health when your personal life is in disarray. And all of that can impact your work.
Try not to tell your interviewer that work is your number one priority and everything else fits in around it. Instead, you want to show that you have a good work-life balance.
I set boundaries for each of my priorities. When at work, I focus fully on work tasks. When I leave work for the day, I switch my focus to my family and hobbies. I work hard to keep each priority from encroaching on the others, allowing me to pour everything I have into what’s in front of me.
8. What do you do if you return from vacation and have hundreds of emails waiting?
An email is an important form of communication that businesses rely on. How you handle your email is a good indicator of your organization.
Additionally, your employer must know that you take this part of your job seriously. Therefore, this question gives the interviewer insight into your organizational skills.
I send a general email explaining that I have been out of the office and when they can expect a reply. I then work through each email, labeling them as “1,” “2,” or “3” according to urgency and importance. Starting with the 1’s, I systematically work through each email until I have responded to all that require attention. As responding to each could take an entire day, leaving no time for other priorities, I schedule time each day to focus on email responses. When that time is over, I focus on other tasks that require my attention.
9. If your manager gives you a quick deadline, how do you meet it?
A company can take on a new client or project at any given moment. This means that you might get handed a new assignment at any moment and it may be due quickly.
With this question, the interviewer needs to see that you can effectively adapt to such new priorities.
I immediately look at my schedule for the week as well as my daily to-do list. I determine what can be shifted to a later time or date. Then, I add in the new task and deadline, breaking it down into smaller tasks. When necessary, I delegate some tasks to others to meet the deadline.
10. Why is it important to delegate?
No man is an island — nor should one try to be.
Your interviewer wants to know that you recognize the value of teamwork and are willing to work with others if the situation demands it.
Sometimes, one person working alone to complete a task is not the best choice. For instance, if there is a large project, one person may not have the time to accomplish every step involved. Additionally, that one person may not have all of the skills or training needed for the project to be completed well. They were breaking the project down and delegating tasks to others better equipped means having several people invest time, energy, and skills.
11. If you notice that you’re going to be late for a deadline, what do you do?
We’re all human, so we make mistakes. And with changing priorities and new projects in the workplace, it can be easy to get off schedule. Of course, companies want deadlines met, but they are aware that things can get off track.
Your interviewer wants to see that you handle it responsibly if this happens.
I start by determining why I’m going to be late. Do I lack the tools or resources I need? Am I overbooked? Have I prioritized something unnecessary over the deadline? If possible, I address the situation myself by adjusting my schedule, delegating tasks, or asking for help gathering the resources I need. If I cannot address it alone, I reach out to my manager or team leader to explain the issue so we can work together to find a solution.
When getting ready for your job interview, think through times in your life when you managed your time well. Also, think about times you didn’t. You can prepare answers to any interview question about your time management skills by going over these times.