Question forms part of
Civil Service Question Bank
Project Manager Question Bank
Other interview questions that are similar
Do you work well under pressure?
How would you go about setting a deadline for a new project?
Tell me about a time you have had to deal with a tight deadline
When setting a deadline for your team do you prefer to give them a short deadline or a long deadline?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
We all have them. Whether it is a report that needs to be submitted by no later than 5pm or it is a major project that needs to be delivered before Q3, we’ve all been there.
This is a particularly unusual question as normally interviewers ask how you are at dealing with tight deadlines, or multiple deadlines (or multiple competing tight deadlines). When they ask these questions the interviewer wants to see how you cope under pressure and whether you are able to prioritise your tasks in order to meet the deadline with a quality output.
But this question is more general than that. It is asking how you feel about deadlines as a whole. It is one of the questions in the Civil Service bank of questions so it is definitely worth practising an answer if you are applying for a government position.
For this question the interviewer wants to see if you understand the importance of deadlines and your experience with working toward deadlines. If you are applying for a senior position the interviewer may also be looking to see how you would approach setting deadlines for your team members.
There are a few competing schools of thought when it comes to deadline setting. Some managers believe giving short deadlines results in people working harder and therefore increasing output, other managers will prefer to give a lot more slack when setting deadlines (where possible) as they find it is more important for their team to focus on quality rather than quantity or speed.
Whichever approach you take just ensure that you are able to discuss the pros/cons when the interviewer asks their follow up questions.
The best approach to answering this question
This is an opinion question so in theory there is no right or wrong answers.
In practice however you should probably avoid saying that deadlines can go *&^% themselves!
The best approach to this question will use the B-STAR technique as while this is an opinion based question (and not, for example, a “Tell me about a time” question) you will want to back your answer up with an example from your experience, and the best way to structure your answer when dealing with examples is to follow the B-STAR process.
Let’s see how that would work when answering this question:
B – Belief – What are you thoughts / feelings on the subject? – Discuss what you feel about deadlines. Good answers will talk about how when deadlines are set appropriately that they provide structure to activities and motivation to the team.
S – Situation – What was the scenario? – Following on from what you feel about deadlines pick an example of a good deadline that you had in one of your projects.
T – Task – What was your role? – In the scenario you are describing what had you been assigned to do? Good answers here will have you in the exact same role that you are applying for.
A – Activity – What did you do? – Run through the steps that you took and why.
R – Result – How did everything end up? – This is an interview so the best option is always to describe a successful result. Make sure to tie the result back into how you feel about deadlines to really round out your answer.
How NOT to answer this question
Do not say deadlines stress you out. They stress everyone out at some point in time but you are looking to impress the interviewer so you should talk about how you find them motivating instead of daunting.
Do not answer a different question. As discussed earlier this question is often asked in a way that refers to tight deadlines or competing deadlines. While it is encouraged to talk about these things in your answer ensure that you do not only talk about these things.
How do you feel about deadlines? – Example answer
“Obviously having a future date that something is due looming over you can be daunting, especially when it is a hard deadline. It is quite easy for people to get overwhelmed and get stressed. But I feel differently. I hold a begrudging respect for deadlines. I appreciate their importance as they force you to provide more structure to your work and can act as a motivator. Without deadlines I feel like a lot of work would just not get done.
To give you an example, last year I was brought in as Project Manager on an infrastructure upgrade project. This project had been ongoing for 3 years with no end in sight. There was no urgency within the team to get their work completed as there was no deadline to meet. Instead the team would prioritise other pieces of work over this project.
Eventually this pushed on long enough that a hard deadline did appear. This infrastructure upgrade became a dependency for another project of mine and it needed to be completed before I could go-live with my project.
Immediately on taking ownership of the project I created a project plan using the new deadline to create a work breakdown structure. Then I spoke with all project team members and stakeholders to advise them of the new deadline and the new plan that everyone was to adhere to.
In the end the infrastructure upgrade was deployed successfully. As a result I was able to deploy my other project on time also. So to circle back to the question I truly believe that deadlines are important as otherwise I do not believe a lot of work would get completed.“
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