Interview questions and answers: How to deal with conflicting priorities

This is one of the problem solving and organizational interview questions. It's intended to find out how well interviewees manage situations in the workplace. It's a particularly important interview question. In the situations where it's asked, it refers to real possibilities, like working for multiple managers.

This particular interview question can be an obstacle course. The situation usually given is 'What do you do if you have two managers creating conflicting work priorities?', which tends to produce an interview answer which is more of a compromise than a solution.

The fact is that both jobs must be done, and the idea is to keep the work organized and on schedule. The conflict has to be resolved to properly answer the interview question. Some people can do both jobs by organizing themselves to deal with both. In some cases, the conflict has to be decided by management.

Covering all angles in your interview answer

The problem with this interview question is making sure your answer is properly organized. To structure your interview answer you need to deal with how you schedule your work.

Your interview answer must:

  • Explain the objective of doing both jobs together
  • Explain the method of scheduling.
  • Explain the time frames
  • Include the option of asking for a management decision on priorities.

Explain the objective of doing both jobs together

The interview question is really about resolving the conflict. You explain how to manage both jobs on time to resolve the conflict.

Explain the method of scheduling.

You show how you create schedules for completion, to keep your interview answer clear about how you deal with the problem.

Explain the time frames

You schedule your work according to the time frames for completion. Remember that this interview question has to have a logical structure.

Include the option of asking for a management decision on priorities.

The fact is that not all conflicting priorities can be resolved in this way. You include this point in your interview answer to show you're aware of the possible problems created by conflicting priorities.

Example

The interview question is 'How do you deal with conflicting deadlines?'

'Conflicting deadlines are a normal occupational hazard. I resolve the conflict by using the time frames as the reference, and scheduling for completion according to needs. I schedule within the deadlines, so I work ahead of them.

I break the jobs into schedules, and complete each job systematically, so I stay organized, and on time. It's an effective method of dealing with conflicting deadlines.

In some cases, the deadlines can't be resolved like this. In those cases I ask for guidance from management.'

Analysis

This interview answer demonstrates:

  • A straightforward method of resolving conflicting priorities
  • A systematic working method
  • A clear objective approach to completion
  • Awareness of the need to need to consult management regarding problems

The applicant has fully covered all aspects of the interview question.