How to answer 'How do you prioritize your work?'
Prioritizing work is one of the necessary keys to a successful work environment. A plan of action in place means the daily process of time management, maintaining deadlines, and staying ahead of schedule results in positive and forward-moving workflow, efficient productivity, and less stress. When interviewing for a new job, potential employers will want to know how you would go about achieving these goals and will ask how do you prioritize your work. There are steps to consider that help refine the process of prioritizing while maintaining the goal of completing the project on time.
How to prioritize work
Be prepared to answer how you prioritize work by explaining how your processes add support, structure, and consistency to your daily work routine. Follow these steps for prioritizing a work project:
1. Create a to-do list for prioritizing your work
The starting point for prioritizing work begins by making a list of all elements that make up the project. These elements may include processes such as:
- Making calls
- Scheduling appointments or meetings
- Estimating the time needed to complete each segment of the project
- Determining an estimated deadline
- Follow-up correspondence
- Creating a work schedule
- Creating a communications plan
- Pin-pointing resources such as materials, supplies, equipment, and manpower
2. Determine priority versus secondary projects and processes
Taking a systematic approach to determine where a project ranks on the list of priorities can turn an overwhelming situation into an efficient one. The most important steps in a project should be completed first; especially during the first part of the workday when the team is fresh and capable of working at peak performance.
3. Estimate project time
Determine an estimated time for the team to complete each task. Consider using an estimated date range, whether the project is scheduled for completion in an hour, day, week, month, it allows you to provide timely/fluid updates to clients, partners, and supervisors who have a stake in the project’s outcome and the ability to adjust the completion date.
4. Re-evaluate and suggest recommendations
You may find you need to update the way you prioritize your work. Conduct an evaluation, and scrutinize each task to ensure to see if there’s a way to make it more productive, efficient, and timely. You may find that you can re-prioritize some tasks.
5. Effectively manage workload
A key factor in effectively managing workflow is clear and concise communication among everyone involved in the project. Providing updates and project progress via email, text, phone, or a virtual chat. There should also be an open-door policy that allows team members to ask questions, share concerns, and make suggestions in support of a successful project and on-target deadline.
6. Stay focused on the tasks at hand
Stick to your priority list. You’ll complete tasks that are urgent to the project are in a timely manner and set the entire project up for success by starting off properly. While doing the easier less important tasks first may seem like the better way to manage the project’s workflow, it is best use your plan consistently. Sticking to the plan helps avoid or eliminate unnecessary distractions.
Responding to How do You Prioritize Your Work Interview Question
One of the interviewer’s tasks is asking questions that showcase a candidate’s knowledge, experience, flexibility, and creativity in several areas. One of those areas is organizational skills, which includes sharing your thoughts, techniques, and ideas when asked the question ‘how do you prioritize your work’ during the interview. When the question is posed, be prepared to provide:
- The method you use to prioritize tasks
- How you estimate the time/date for a deadline
- How you handle unforeseen situations that affect the project
- Your practices for dealing with distractions
- How you maintain minimal stress levels throughout the project
Preparing for the Interview
In preparation of the interviewer’s questions, there are several tips to help provide an informed and knowledgeable answer.
- Prepare for the interview in advance by doing an overview of your work schedule
- Be comfortable with the information on your resume in anticipation of questions about previous jobs that required time management skills
- Be prepared to clearly describe your time management skills
- Practice how you will thoroughly answer all questions confidently
- Show the interviewer your communication and clarification skills by asking questions of your own
Examples of How do You Prioritize Your Work Interview Questions
An interviewer may ask about how you prioritize your work in a way similar to these examples:
- Do you prioritize a project when it’s assigned? If so, explain the basic steps you use to set up a time management plan.
- When prioritizing a project, are there any areas you find more difficult to organize than others? If there are, how do you incorporate them into the priority list?
- When it’s clear the impending deadline for a project will not be met how do you handle the situation?
Example responses to the above questions:
Consider these examples to help you create your own response:
- 1. I start with a checklist of all tasks then sort them between urgent (priority) and important (secondary). If a task is unclear, I acquire more information before rating it. New tasks being assigned to the project are evaluated then added to the appropriate list.
- 2. If I encounter a difficult area, I ask for suggestions from others (team members, supervisor, manager) then re-evaluate the project and make changes, as needed.
- 3. If it is becoming clear the estimated deadline will not be met, I’ll evaluate the tasks then discuss the situation with my manager to make suggestions or recommendations.