When you’re interviewing for a job, you’ll find that time management, in terms of soft skills, is often highlighted no matter what the job description may be.
Why do you think this is?
Time management skills are a great indicator of your productivity, and any company needs to ensure that whoever they employ, no matter their talents, can get the job done in time.
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In this Remotely guide, we’ll explain why time management is always a key employer question in interviews and how you can craft the perfect responses to get you hired.
What is Time Management?
Time management is the ability to effectively evaluate the time that’s required to handle tasks, prioritize them correctly, and allocate the proper attention to them during the day. It also includes knowing the skills, tactics, and tools that help you stay on track. Time management is crucial to remote productivity, and will be something that remote employers will pay special attention to.
Effective time management aims to meet your deadlines and reach those necessary performance goals. Fortunately, time management is a skill that’s not strictly inherent, so you can develop the necessary skills to help you stay organized.
Some helpful tips include:
- Identify your priorities
- Avoid multitasking to increase focus and complete tasks to the best of your abilities
- Clear out distractions (e.g. turning off phone notifications while working)
- Say no to responsibilities you can’t handle
- Plan your day with daily to-do lists
- Consider time management apps like;
- Take breaks to avoid burnout
Why are time management interview questions highlighted?
Recruiters look for applicants with excellent time management skills
Any organization regardless of size will struggle without effective time management. Without proper time management, workflows can be slow and tasks won’t be completed or prioritized correctly. Additionally, tough situations are also bound to arise, and having employees with effective time management helps to ensure that those difficult situations will be addressed.
Recruiting employees that have great time management skills helps companies to deliver their output on time and keep their customers and clients happy.
To assess task prioritization
It’s easy to forget the distinction between ‘urgent’ and ‘important ‘tasks’.
Important tasks contribute to the long-term goals of the company and urgent tasks need to be focused on at the moment because the consequences are in the short term. When working, everything you’ll need to achieve is important, however, only some tasks will be urgent.
Making the difference between these two will show recruiters that you can make the correct distinction to meet deadlines and not compromise on the efficiency of the company.
To evaluate time management strategies
Recruiters often look for people who can bring something new and fresh to the team. So, they’ll be more interested in candidates who can share their unique time management strategies that will be a dynamic and beneficial addition to helping the company achieve its goals.
Time Management Questions to Expect During an Interview
Regardless of the career path you’re going into, interview questions about time management often have a similar structure. Of course, the questions can also be unique to the job role itself but the questions we’ve selected will give you an idea of what hiring managers typically want to know.
Time management questions are often behavioral, which requires you to apply the skill to certain situations you’ve encountered or may encounter. For example, “Describe a time you displayed excellent time management skills.” Your answer will help the interviewer determine your unique approach to time management and establish if it will best fit the job role you’re interviewing for.
You can look at the STAR technique to answer behavioral interview questions. STAR is an acronym for situation, the task in that situation, the action you took, and the result of that action. Using this method, you’ll be able to present the interviewer with a logically structured answer that walks them through the situation.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
This interview question helps interviewers gauge your day-to-day organization and if and how you apply time management skills in your everyday life and not just in your work. It’s also a favorite of remote managers, who want to determine whether you’ll be a good fit as a member of a remote team. Employers understand that those who have a good work-life balance are great at managing stress and taking on an honest workload that they can complete to the best of their ability
“As someone who works from home, it’s more important for me to avoid blurring the lines between my work and home life. I set my working hours in the same way they would be in an office, and I dedicate a specific room in the house so I can work peacefully. As I’m working, my tasks are my main priority, and by 5 pm, I’m clocking out to return to my personal life. Having those specific times set, I can work more efficiently and avoid working late and neglecting myself or those I care about.”
How do you prioritize competing tasks?
When answering this question, you’ll need to explain what helps you determine which tasks are more urgent than others. This helps interviewers identify how you consider things like client relationship management and any over-arching organizational priorities.
“In my previous role as a member of a marketing team, I worked closely with the PR team manager of one of our clients. I maintained good communication, so I was always aware of any sudden changes to a campaign or if we encountered any issues on our side. I focused on tasks with the closest deadline first and prioritized work according to the scale of client campaigns. If I had specific tasks for the day and didn’t manage to complete them all, I reassessed them for the next day and made sure to allow myself more time to complete everything.”
Have you ever missed a deadline?
This is not a trick question, interviewers want to know about your real experience so that they know how you handle unprecedented situations. It’s in your best interest to answer this question honestly because you want to remain genuine and trustworthy.
If you’ve missed a deadline, explain how you communicated that with your superiors and what you did to improve the situation. In the rare case that you haven’t, explain what you’ve done to allow you to keep on top of deadlines. You can also put forward how you’d handle missing any deadlines in the future.
Some great tips for meeting deadlines are:
- If you can choose your tasks, select ones that you can realistically complete without hassle
- Always plan out your work processes so you have a reliable system
- Minimize your distractions
- Maintain effective communication with your management whenever problems arise so they can be fixed promptly
“I have missed a deadline for submitting a career development report once. I had misinterpreted the due date as two days later on a Friday because I didn’t specify the actual weekday when I noted the date. The morning the report was due, I realized I was mistaken and immediately contacted my supervisor to tell them about my mistake and that I’m willing to work longer to complete the report and avoid inconveniencing my other tasks. Now I make sure to add my deadlines into a digital calendar so I receive notifications the day before they’re due.”
How do you limit distractions?
Distractions are always present in our day-to-day lives. When interviewers ask this question, they’re trying to understand if you’re aware of what distracts you and if you use effective methods to limit them so it doesn’t interfere with your productivity. How you answer should show your commitment to self-awareness and self-improvement.
“I’m someone that enjoys social interactions, and I’m aware that it can take some time out of my tasks. So during working hours, I consciously limit my conversations with others to work-related topics. If the conversation does take a turn to unrelated topics I tell my colleague that I’m still interested in what they have to say, but we should have the conversation during lunch or after work so we can enjoy it in-depth. This method works well for me because I can maintain the relationships I’m fond of without compromising my efficiency at work.”
What tools or techniques do you use to ensure you can stay on top of your responsibilities?
Here, the interviewer wants to see what time management methods you apply to help you stay efficient at work.
“I have a few different approaches to help me stay on top of my work responsibilities. When I have a light workload, I can do well with a simple to-do list to order my tasks according to priority. If my workload is heavier and I have many tasks to keep track of, I use my Google calendar and Microsoft To-Do so that I can set the relevant notifications to remind me about each task.”
How would you approach it if you were given a new and challenging task to be completed within a short deadline?
With this question, interviewers are trying to understand how you take on new challenges and how much new and unfamiliar tasks can impact your productivity. If you have experienced this scenario before, make sure to share your story and what you learned from it. If you haven’t, propose how you would react in that situation.
“I enjoy accepting new challenges because they help me grow, but I also understand that I manage my time best with familiar tasks. For a new task, I would ask my supervisor for any training available to help me learn as much about the task as possible so I can complete it by the deadline. If the time was too limited, though, I would suggest the task be given to someone else who is more experienced while I take the time to learn how to do this task in the future.”
You can almost always expect these questions to come up during job interviews. Although we want to help you craft the perfect responses, it’s always beneficial to remain authentic and apply your answers to your real-life experiences. Add personal anecdotes to these suggested replies to make your answers more relatable and authentic.
If you’re still on the job hunt and looking for a remote job to bring you greater opportunities, make sure to check out Remotely. Our carefully curated job board will help you match up with the remote job that you’ve been hoping for!