5 Ways to Answer “How Do You Prioritize Your Work?”

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 25, 2022 | Published April 3, 2020

Updated May 25, 2022

Published April 3, 2020

During your interview, a common question you might expect is, "How do you prioritize your work?" The interviewer may ask you this question to gain insight into how you manage your time and organize your workload. You can use your answer to highlight how you communicate with teammates about urgent tasks, balance your work and personal time and how you approach handling changes in your assignments.

In this article, we review how to answer this question with several sample responses to help you make a great impression and increase your chances of getting the job.

Why employers ask "How do you prioritize your work?"

Employers ask this interview question as a way to evaluate your time-management skills and to assess your ability to distinguish between urgent and important tasks. Your answer to this question allows the interviewer to get an idea of how you would manage and complete your work assignments, should they hire you for the job.

Highlighting your time-management skills, organizational skills and your ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance can show employers you are capable of taking on multiple responsibilities and performing efficiently on the job.

Read more: 7 Time-Management Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

How to answer "How do you prioritize your work?"

During your interview, provide examples of how you plan out your daily schedule and set deadlines for urgent and important tasks. Use the following steps as a guide to help you answer this interview question:

1. Describe how you schedule your day

When the interviewer presents this question, be specific in your answer about how you manage your daily work assignments. For instance, if you create a to-do list first thing in the morning, explain how you list your tasks and rank them in order of their urgency and importance. This shows the interviewer your initiative and your ability to effectively organize your workload.

Example: "As soon as I get to work, I record the assignments I need to complete and list them in order of highest to lowest priority based on the due dates. This helps me manage my workflow and keeps me on track with what I need to get done for that day."

Related: Managing Team Workflow in 7 Steps (Plus Importance and Tips)

2. Explain how you shift between priorities

It can be common to have changes come up throughout your workday that demand your attention, and explaining how you handle last-minute shifts in your workload can highlight your adaptability and give the interviewer insight into how you reorganize your priorities. For instance, explain to the interviewer how you handle taking on tasks assigned to you in the middle of your other projects to show how mindful you are of urgent company priorities.

Example: "My daily task list helps me manage a steady workflow, but I understand that priorities can shift unexpectedly. Knowing this, I try to limit the number of daily tasks and save time in the event that I need to make adjustments for any changes to my daily workload."

Related: 11 Prioritization Strategies To Help You Arrange Your Tasks

3. Discuss how you set your deadlines

Completing work assignments on time is an important aspect of any job, and the interviewer wants to know that you can establish timelines for yourself that accommodate impending and shifting deadlines where necessary. Discuss how you set your deadlines according to task urgency, and provide details about how you determine appropriate time frames.

For instance, give examples of how you discuss due dates with team leaders or confirm important and tight deadlines. This shows that you are considerate of company goals and your team's input on when projects should be completed.

Example: "I always communicate with my team lead about expected due dates for my assignments first. Then I create my own deadline based on my assigned due dates. Typically, I like to give myself at least a day or two in advance, that way I can complete my work and still have time to review everything thoroughly before turning it in."

Related: How To Show Your Ability To Meet Deadlines on Your Resume

4. Tell how you maintain work-life balance

Explaining how you set realistic expectations for yourself during your workday highlights your ability to determine what tasks need to be completed and when a timeline should be extended. For instance, if you work on a project that you know will extend to the following day, share your expectations for what you can finish in an eight-hour period. This shows employers that you understand the importance of working within your daily time limits and that you value your productivity and performance.

Example: "If I'm working on an assignment that I know will take some time to complete, I communicate with my manager as soon as possible to let them know. If I feel like my workload is getting unmanageable, I speak with my team lead to discuss which tasks I can move to the bottom of my priority list. This helps keep me from getting overwhelmed, and I can reevaluate my expectations about my deadlines."

Read more: Ultimate Guide To Work-Life Balance

5. Connect your answer to the job requirements

When the interviewer asks about your ability to prioritize your workload, be sure you connect the examples in your answer to the job requirements.

For instance, if you're interviewing for an administrative assistant position, describe how you organize your administrative tasks such as responding to client emails, disseminating information for senior executives and communicating with customers. Relating how you prioritize key tasks of the job can demonstrate how you fit the job's requirements and understand the expectations of the role.

Example: "I prioritize my work according to company objectives and what is expected of me as an office administrator. I organize my workload to reflect my most urgent priorities, such as corresponding with clients and communicating team updates. I follow my urgent tasks with my important organizational tasks, like creating the topic outlines for our monthly team conferences. When I prioritize my work this way, I still have room for any changes in priorities while maintaining a healthy balance between my work and personal life."

Related: How To Tailor Your Resume To a Job Description (With Example)

Example answers

When providing your answer, be sure to use the STAR method to introduce the situation, identify the task you had to complete, outline the actions you took and reveal the results that you achieved. This method enables you to fully demonstrate your skills in action in the workplace. Use the following examples to help you answer the interviewer:

Example: Product manager

"I am used to working under tight deadlines, so I set my most urgent tasks at the top of my to-do list every morning when I get to work. Then, I establish a clear deadline for myself that's usually a day in advance of company due dates. Recently, I had to shift around my workload to accommodate an urgent product order. The client wanted custom modifications to the product completed in a week, but our normal lead time for implementing modifications is around 10 to 14 days.

I communicated with my production department and manufacturing team to implement urgent changes in the production timeline. These adjustments allowed us to ship the product to the client on time, effectively reducing the time it took to apply the customizations by three days."

Related: Product Manager vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?

Example: Software developer

"Every morning when I arrive at work, I look over my company task sheet to review any new development projects I have. Since some of my software projects can take longer than others, I communicate with clients about their expectations for completion. I use the client's input to help me organize my most urgent tasks and to set deadlines for myself for completing projects. Then, I create a document to share with my team lead so they know which tasks I'm working through and which tasks I'm moving toward the end of the week."

Related: 12 Software Developer Skills To Learn (With Examples)

Example: Junior business analyst

"I prioritize my workload by first communicating with senior analysts in the event there are any urgent developments. Then, I create a to-do list based on our company shareholders' business objectives. Since analyzing risk and costs are typically among my most urgent tasks, I usually complete my risk and cost analyses documentation assignments first. Once completed, I collaborate again with senior analysts to ensure my work meets my supervisors' and stakeholders' expectations."

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