Why do companies ask candidates time management questions? Effective time management in the workplace is essential for streamlining processes across various roles.
From the lowliest employee to upper management, poor time management issues can have a catastrophic effect on a project. Therefore, hiring managers want to know that potential employees can manage their workflow with initiative and on time.
Overview: The top 10 time management skills questions
Q1: What techniques or tools do you use to stay ahead of your workflow?
Q2: How do you prioritise work with multiple conflicting deadlines?
Q3: Why do you think time management skills are important?
Q4: Have you been in a position where you had too many tasks and then received another to manage? If so, what did you do?
Q5: How do you prepare for the working day ahead?
Q6: How do you manage a large project to meet deadlines?
Q7: How do you manage a tricky assignment with a short deadline?
Q8: How do you cope with a backlog of emails if you have had time off work?
Q9: Have you ever missed a deadline? If so, what happened, and how did you recover the situation?
Q10: How do you manage disruptions at work or, if remote working, at home?
What Is Time Management?
OK, you know you need time management skills and may be asked a bunch of interview questions relating to your capabilities to manage your time, but what are time management skills? Moreover, how can you demonstrate your time management superpowers to the hiring manager without sounding like you’re blagging your way to a job offer?
The definition of time management skills is “the ability to effectively prioritise your work. It’s essentially your aptitude for staying productive and ensuring you are meeting your overall objectives” (Source: Glassdoor).
Primarily, time management is about estimating how long a task might take to complete, coupled with the ability to prioritise and stay focused when distractions occur. Employees with good time management skills are great assets to a company because they are more likely to hit performance goals and manage deadlines.
Are Time Management Skills Necessary for all Jobs?
Regardless of job position, or industry type, a workforce with time management skills is the ultimate goal. The faster-paced the environment, the more it is necessary that everyone can manage their workflows efficiently and collaboratively, especially when managing multiple and conflicting priorities.
Employees with time management skills are more likely to: –
- Get more job satisfaction
- Manage stressful situations more effectively
- Handle a diverse and increasing workload
- Be better collaborators
Since solid time management skills allow employees to perform better overall, hiring managers must ask questions specifically about time management. In most cases, time management interview questions are either behavioural or situational.
How to Answer Time Management Interview Questions
As mentioned, time management interview questions are likely situational or behavioural. Situational questions focus on the hiring manager presenting a hypothetical scenario and asking how you would handle that situation from a time management perspective.
Alternatively, hiring managers may ask for real-life situations to assess how you behaved in past employment concerning your time management skills.
The best advice we can give for interview success is to prepare a solid strategy and expect the unexpected. Hiring managers aren’t trying to trip you up, but they want to know they’re hiring someone who doesn’t curl up in a ball on the floor when under pressure.
If you’re ready for curveballs, you can retain an inner smugness when you see the sparkle of challenge in the hiring manager’s eye. It’s no problem because you know you got this, whatever they throw at you.
Prepare for Time Management Questions
For spectacular interview success, preparation is king. Spend time researching the company, print off the job description and read it until you know it by heart. Look for anything in the job description about time management, a fast-paced environment and priorities.
The next step is to visit the company’s website. Study the core values, mission and value statements and the careers page. Browsing the website should give you a better idea of the company’s overall culture. That’s important because the last thing you want is a job offer from a company with a toxic work environment.
You can also learn a lot from the company’s social media channels. What sort of tone do they use, and how do they respond to comments, negative or positive? Overall, what can you ascertain from monitoring the company’s communication style?
If you are happy to proceed with a job application after that, you can tailor your resume and cover letter to align with the company and job description.
The next step is to reflect on your time management skills. Be brutally honest with yourself. Has a company ever criticised your time management? If so, how did you respond and did the critique help improve your time management skills?
Alternatively, perhaps you’re a time management ninja. If so, awesome! Gather instances of your time management skills. Perhaps, it led to a promotion, or your skills helped you complete a project ahead of time.
Whatever benefits and examples you have, these are important stories to help you nail the interview when the subject turns to interview questions about time management.
The STAR Technique for Interviews
When asking behavioural questions, hiring managers may use the STAR technique for the interview framework.
STAR is an acronym for: –
Your responses should also follow a format, so you frame them with a beginning, middle and conclusion, and they must relate to a work situation.
- What was the situation?
- What tasks were required?
- What (exactly) did you do?
- What was the conclusion?
Here’s an example of a positive response in a story format: –
“A client project at XYZ company was overdue two weeks because a developer made a mistake. The client was close to enforcing the reduced fees agreement for incompletion of the task for the predetermined date.”
“The company needed someone with Solidity language experience to read the existing coding and correct the error.”
“I spent six hours working with a team of my choosing, identifying and correcting the multiple errors.”
“After that, the company could complete the project and receive full payment from the client.”
The above example shows how you managed your time and a team efficiently and completed a task to benefit your employer. Ideally, in an interview, “showing” the hiring manager your skills is preferable to “telling” them about your skills.
Prepare for these situational and behavioural examples in interviews, and it helps to increase your confidence when seemingly put on the spot by a hiring manager.
Now it’s time to discover the top ten time management interview questions.
The Top 10 Time Management Interview Questions
Depending on the specific role, most time management questions are similar. Each hiring manager may frame questions differently, but the general premise is to discover if you have time management skills.
The following are examples of typical time management interview questions and answers.
#1: What techniques or tools do you use to stay ahead of your workflow?
The hiring manager wants to gain an overview of how you manage your time concerning the tasks required to do your job. It’s acceptable to give an example from a previous job.
“I use a calendar to manage my work tasks, so I can time block for projects with fewer distractions. I begin the week by adding a to-do list using Trello project management software. It prepares me mentally for prioritising and tracking projects and managing my workflow. I move tasks daily to the completed folder, which is very satisfying.”
“If disruptions occur or I receive an additional project, I clarify the priority and adjust my workflow as necessary.”
Note: Project management software helps improve time management, and many of them are free to use at a basic level, such as Slack, Notion, Trello and Clickup. If you aren’t already using these tools, it’s a good idea to become familiar with how they work, as most companies use project management software.
#2: How do you prioritise work with multiple conflicting deadlines?
We all know it happens. Your manager suddenly dumps an urgent task on your desk and demands you complete it by an impossible deadline. You have two other pressing priorities, and you either implode and hide under your desk or take a deep breath and focus on prioritising the demands on your time.
“I have often had to manage multiple and conflicting deadlines. My first task is to clarify priority, and if a manager is involved, I immediately communicate with them to ascertain which task is the most important. If there are conflicting deadlines, I might ask for help from a team member.”
“If no help is available, I prioritise the shortest task first and then transition to the next job. In addition, I will shift unnecessary tasks as required.”
#3: Why do you think time management skills are important?
This question helps the hiring manager to see that you understand the need for effective time management and how it might apply to your job.
“I think time management is essential because it impacts job performance, such as productivity and efficiency. Employees who are good at organising and prioritising their workflow, scheduling, planning and delegating can do a better job for the company and help it achieve objectives.”
#4: Have you been in a position where you had too many tasks and then received another to manage? If so, what did you do?
If you give a great answer to this question about your approach, it positions you as an ideal candidate if time management skills are essential in the job role.
“Yes, I have been in this position many times. In my last place of work, my manager asked me to complete a new task when I had multiple high-priority tasks. I believe in honest communication, so rather than struggling, I immediately asked my manager for a meeting and outlined my priority tasks with urgent deadlines and how long they would take.”
“I told my manager that extra work could negatively impact my performance and asked for help to consider a solution. We added an experienced team member to help me, and we completed all the tasks on time.”
#5: How do you prepare for the working day ahead?
This question helps a hiring manager assess if you have the initiative to plan your day or rely on someone handing you an agenda for your workload.
“I believe if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I enjoy planning my work and always organise my workflow at least a day ahead. I do an end-of-day review, checking completed tasks against my to-do list. If anything needs carrying across to the next day, I will do so and prioritise it if needed.”
“If I need anything tangible for the next day, I gather the resources the day before, ready to start working with everything I need. I think this strategy helps me better manage my time.”
#6: How do you manage a large project to meet deadlines?
This question enables the hiring manager to assess your capability for breaking down assignments into chunks of activity.
“With large projects, I always look at the bigger picture and then break the tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, allowing me to create a working framework. After that, I allocate time for completing each activity. This strategy helps me to sign off on each aspect of the project, checking the accuracy along the way, which allows me to complete a project ahead of time in many instances.”
#7: How do you manage a tricky assignment with a short deadline?
The answer to this question is not dissimilar to question #6. The hiring manager wants to see how you manage your time effectively in challenging situations.
“I’ve been in this position many times. Firstly, I gather information and clarify details with my manager or, if necessary, ask experienced teammates for guidance. Once I have enough to start, I break the task into manageable chunks and allot time for each aspect. The main priority is not to get overwhelmed, to keep a clear head and ask for help if the deadline is looming. In most cases, I managed to stay ahead and complete a task ahead of the deadline.”
#8: How do you cope with a backlog of emails if you have had time off work?
This scenario isn’t unusual, as most employees receive hundreds of weekly emails. Facing an inbox bursting at the seams can be a daunting prospect for anyone, and the hiring manager wants to know how you organise and prioritise tasks in this situation.
“I’ve been in this situation many times in previous jobs, where I must work through hundreds of emails. What I find helpful is to create folders or use colour-coded flags to prioritise messages by importance.”
“After that, I send a brief message to high-priority emails. My message states I have been out of the office but am now working on addressing their query, and I give a time estimate. People dislike uncertainty, so a time guideline can help reduce complaints.”
“The next step is to time block my work to address the emails by priority. In the past, my time management strategy has helped me improve my organisational skills and reduce potential overwhelm.”
#9: Have you ever missed a deadline? If so, what happened, and how did you recover the situation?
We’ve all missed a deadline in our careers, and most hiring managers are less concerned about that than understanding how you handled the situation. Choose an example where you fixed the failed deadline and turned it around to a positive conclusion.
“It’s a situation I work hard to avoid. However, when I started with my last company, I lacked experience managing large projects and had no idea of the estimated time for completion.”
“Halfway through the project, I knew I was behind with my tasks, and if I continued on the time trajectory, I would miss the deadline. I resisted the urge to panic or feel I had failed because I knew my inexperience had caused the issue. I contacted my manager, who apologised as he hadn’t understood it was my first project of such significance.”
“Ultimately, it was too late to achieve the deadline. I asked my manager to allow me to accept responsibility, and I had to explain to the head of the project what had happened and why.”
“I was allowed to continue the work with the help of a more experienced team member, and we completed the project two days beyond the original deadline. I learned a valuable lesson, and since then, it’s been easier for me to calculate how long a project is likely to take and ask for immediate help if needed.”
#10: How do you manage disruptions at work or, if remote working, at home?
It is impossible to manage disruption at work unless you lock yourself in a cupboard without your phone. However, dealing with time-consuming distractions is a time management skill that demonstrates a candidate’s ability to retain focus in challenging circumstances.
“I shut down all but necessary notifications and time block it on the shared calendar to show people I should not be disturbed for anything other than urgent reasons. I always have a tidy workspace to prevent the temptation to start working on anything other than the task, and I have a 3-tier shelf with high, low and medium priority tasks.”
“It sounds cheeky, but I dissuade colleagues from dropping by for a chat by putting a “do not disturb” notice on my door. It helps keep me focused if I reduce the number of times I have to tell people I am busy.”
Conclusion: 10 Popular Time Management Interview Questions: How to Answer
Time management skills are vital to keeping a company running smoothly. Hiring managers actively seek candidates who not only possess the specific hard skills required but can also manage their time without constant monitoring from management.
Most people get stressed about attending interviews and often admit they aren’t at their best when questioned. However, there’s no excuse if you plan to succeed. Interview questions about time management are part of most interviews and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Whether you’re attending a face-to-face or phone interview, understand that hiring managers will ask similar questions for specific job roles. If you have prepared, you can answer any question confidently and impress the interviewer with your calm, balanced response.
If you want a new Web3 career, contact the CB Recruitment team, and submit your resume. Let’s discuss how we can help you find the job of your dreams and prepare you for nailing every interview.
How do you demonstrate time management skills?
It’s best to explain examples of how you managed your time using a specific work occasion that demonstrates your time management skills.
What is a good interview question for time management?
A good interview question lets you talk about your time management skills, such as “how do you cope when a colleague leaves and your manager asks you to take on their workload?”
How do you approach time management interview questions?
In an interview, stay calm and relaxed. You don’t have to answer every question immediately. If needed, ask for a moment to consider a question before answering. Refrain from bluffing your way through a hiring manager’s question. It is better to answer each question honestly. However, do try to keep your answers framed positively.
Are time management questions the same for leaders?
Yes, time management is essential for leaders because they are often the face of the company. For example, a leader with poor time management skills cannot effectively lead a team to complete a project if they cannot assess the necessary framework and timescale for completion.