Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to balance multiple responsibilities at once? How did you manage that?
- Describe a situation when you had to make a difficult decision in your job. How did you approach it and what was the outcome?
- How do you manage your time and prioritize your tasks in a fast-paced work environment?
- Give me an example of a situation where you had to choose between tasks and how you decided what to focus on first.
- Tell me about a time when you had to shift your focus in the middle of a project due to changing priorities.
- Can you describe a situation when your priorities changed suddenly and how you responded?
- How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?
- Can you tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed with work? How did you handle it?
- How do you handle the stress that comes with tight deadlines and multiple projects?
- Tell me about a project you had to complete under tight deadlines. How did you manage to meet the deadlines?
- Can you describe a situation when you had to sacrifice quality because of a time constraint? How did you handle it?
- How do you stay organized and keep track of tasks in your work?
- Tell me about a time when you had to delegate tasks because you had too much on your plate.
- Describe a situation when you had to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders.
- How do you handle a situation where your supervisor asks you to finish a task, but you’re already working on a different urgent task?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
To illustrate, let’s examine this question: ‘How do you handle competing priorities?’ This question might seem like a standalone inquiry about your organizational skills, but if you dig deeper, it touches on all three fundamental areas interviewers are looking to assess.
1 – Can you do the job?: In asking about your ability to manage competing priorities, the interviewer wants to understand whether you have the necessary skills to juggle multiple tasks or projects simultaneously. This is particularly crucial in fast-paced work environments where adaptability and time-management skills are key. Your response can demonstrate your capability in strategizing, prioritizing, and executing tasks effectively.
2 – Will you do the job?: The question also probes your dedication and perseverance. By inquiring how you navigate through challenging situations, they get a sense of your commitment and drive to see tasks through to completion. Your answer can reveal your level of motivation, especially when faced with potentially stressful scenarios.
3 – Will you fit in?: Finally, your approach to handling competing priorities provides insights into your work style, which plays a part in determining whether you’ll gel with the team and the organization’s culture. Do you work independently or seek collaborative solutions? Do you maintain a calm demeanor or do you thrive in high-pressure situations? Your response could shed light on how well you’ll mesh with the existing team dynamics.
How Best To Answer ‘How do you handle competing priorities?’
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief: Your belief involves what you think and feel about the situation, including your approach to handling competing priorities. Do you believe in multitasking or focusing on one task at a time? Do you value collaboration or prefer making independent decisions in such scenarios?
S – Situation: For example, perhaps you found yourself in a situation where two high-priority projects landed on your desk simultaneously, both with tight deadlines. This situation required not just task completion, but strategic thinking and effective time management.
T – Task: Your task in this situation would be to manage and successfully complete both projects without compromising on quality or missing deadlines. It’s crucial to highlight your specific role and the responsibilities that were entrusted to you.
A – Activity (or action): This is where you walk the interviewer through your step-by-step actions. For instance, you might have assessed the tasks’ complexity and deadlines, prioritized them based on urgency, delegated certain parts to team members, or consulted with your supervisor to negotiate a more feasible timeline. Remember to underline the reasoning behind each step you took.
R – Result: The result is the outcome of your actions. Try to quantify this wherever possible. You might say something like, “Despite the challenge, both projects were completed on time and met the quality standards. This led to a 20% increase in client satisfaction scores for our department.” This shows the positive impact of your ability to handle competing priorities.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action
How do you handle competing priorities? – Example answer
Project Manager Example
“In my view, efficient management of competing priorities is key to successful project delivery. I think it’s important to maintain a balance between the urgency of tasks and their impact on the project’s overall success. There was a situation in my previous role as a Project Manager where I had to juggle several high-priority tasks simultaneously. Two major client projects landed on my desk at the same time, both with tight deadlines.
In that role, I was responsible for ensuring both projects were completed to a high standard within the deadline. Given the tight timelines, I knew I had to strategize effectively to manage the workload. I started by assessing each task’s complexity and urgency. I then drafted a detailed plan, prioritizing tasks based on their deadlines and their potential impact on the projects.
Once I had the plan in place, I communicated it to my team, outlining their roles and responsibilities in the projects. Where possible, I delegated tasks, ensuring they were aligned with the skills and capacities of the team members. I also maintained open communication lines with the clients, updating them on our progress and managing their expectations.
As a result of this approach, we were able to complete both projects on time and to the clients’ satisfaction. Not only did this result in a 15% increase in customer satisfaction scores for our team, but it also reinforced my belief in the importance of strategic planning and effective communication when handling competing priorities.”
Customer Service Representative
“I believe that in a customer service role, each customer concern is a priority. But there are certainly moments where some issues require immediate attention, so understanding how to effectively prioritize is crucial. For instance, in my previous role as a Customer Service Representative, there was a particular day when I was dealing with a high volume of incoming calls due to a product recall.
In this scenario, my task was not only to address each customer’s concern but also to provide accurate information about the recall and offer the best possible solutions. Given the circumstances, I knew that my approach to each call could significantly impact our company’s reputation and customer satisfaction.
To manage this, I began by quickly assessing each call’s urgency. For simple queries, I provided the necessary information promptly, which allowed me to address more calls. For more complex issues, I assured customers that their concerns were acknowledged and important, scheduled callbacks, and took the necessary time outside the call to gather more details and devise the best solutions.
The result of this approach was that despite the unusually high call volume that day, I was able to assist each customer effectively. I managed to reduce waiting times by 20%, and our department received positive feedback on our swift and helpful responses during the recall situation. This experience has only solidified my belief in the importance of prioritizing tasks, especially in a customer-centric role where time and effective resolution are of the essence.”
Software Developer Example
Other Interview Question and Answers
Interview Question: What is your approach to problem-solving? – Answer Tips
Interview Question: Can you describe a time when you had to handle a crisis or an emergency situation? – Answer Tips
Interview Question: Why should we hire you? – Answer Tips
Interview Question: How would your close friends describe you? – Answer Tips
Interview Question: How do you ensure that you have considered all stakeholder needs when undertaking a new initiative? – Answer Tips