Interview questions and answers: Prioritizing your work

This is one of the class of organizational interview questions, which is about efficiency, and handling workloads and priorities. Interview answers can be tricky and complex.

Prioritization interview questions can be expected in any job where you're dealing with tasks of varying levels of importance. The interviewers are looking for a structured working method. Interview answers must be structured so that they can see how you organize your work priorities.

Interview answers for prioritization questions should:

  • Describe the job, the work inputs and the tasks involved.
  • Explain the different levels of importance of each task
  • Explain how your priorities are arranged by management
  • Show how you manage timeframes
  • Explain why your system of prioritization works

Describe the job, the work inputs and the tasks involved

Your interview answer needs to explain what's being done, how you receive your work, and what the tasks involved in the work.

Explain the different levels of importance of each task

This is a very important element, and it's what the interview question is really about. What has to be done urgently, what's routine? To give a good interview answer, you need to spell out the levels of importance, to explain your priorities.

Explain how your priorities are arranged by management

Your work is allocated by management. You need to explain the requirements of management in your interview answer, so the interviewers understand that part of the story.

Show how you manage timeframes

Timeframes are usually created by management. That's another very relevant part of your interview answer, to show that your organization of priorities meets management requirements.

Explain why your system of prioritization works

This is the critical proof of your methods in this interview answer. It demonstrates that you prioritize effectively. The whole interview question is based on efficiency and meeting performance standards.

Example:

The job is a senior administration clerk. The interview question is 'How do you prioritize your work to meets performance standards?' It is a double question, and to give an interview answer that covers all criteria, it requires all of the above elements.

'My work involves a range of admin tasks with different time frames. Management gives us dates for completion. Most tasks are either 48 hours, or a week, for routine matters. The exceptions are urgent jobs, which have to be done ASAP.

These timeframes are also the required performance standards. I prioritize my work so that I can keep track of due dates and stay organized. I set my own time of completion 24 hours before the due date, and work systematically. I do urgent matters immediately. I revise schedules if necessary, but I meet the performance standards every time.'

Analysis:

The interview answer shows:

  • Applicant operates on multiple task with different time frames
  • Applicant's prioritization method meets performance standards
  • Method of prioritization is systematic and flexible
  • Prioritization allows for additional urgent work

All requirements of the interview question are covered.