Interviewing: Tips on Time Management Q's

In an interview, they often love to ask about how you manage your time. Even harder, they ask how do you manage unexpected or emergency assignments. Now, I’ve never had a problem meeting deadlines and I do what needs to get done. But it’s hard to put into words. Any tips on good answers?

For starters, maybe:
a) I break large tasks into smaller steps
b) I set daily goals for myself and review my progress at mid-day and day’s end
c) I aim for the completion date, but budget for two days earlier

Maybe I’ve answered my own question? But, I’d like to hear from others!
What else might one say about managing one’s time - on the job?


  • Jinx

That’s a good start. You may want to add how you determine priorities (do you have an “A,” “B,” and “C” list–how do you decide what gets which priority) and how you track progress in your projects (I set key dates and milestones and, for complicated projects, I’ll keep an updated list of where everything is).

Depending on the position, you may also need to mention how you can and do deligate tasks to others on your team or those who may report to you.

If you’re a fan of a particular system (like the Franklin Planner system) you may want to say why you find that helpful (without trying to convert someone–you’re mostly giving them insight into how you keep track of things, not make a sale).

In my job, it’s a given that not everything we want to get done can happen. So I always mention that when things get overwhelming, I’ll propose the priority I think is best (and say what logic I use to give things priority) and then present my thoughts to management about what is most important and make sure that we agree.

I always throw in specific examples of how I’ve managed multiple projects and keep things moving.

Thanks for the feedback. It helps, but who are we kidding, right?

As an engineer, I have to laugh at these questions, though. I can tell the management exactly what they want to hear in an interview only to always be shot down in meetings, when put into practice. They just love to hear you reguritate back all those terms they learned in their management courses (assuming they were even sent to any).

They just want to make sure you’re brianwashed to fit in…like the emperor’s new clothes! If only businesses sent people to management courses instead of tossing them into such a position overnight. If they only did things the right way from the start (instead of cutting corners), maybe only then there wouldn’t be any surprises regarding their bottom lines!

Too bad the first civilian in space wasn’t a manager! :wink: Sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at how blind they are to their own vices…to which the rest of us shall fall victim. - Jinx

Yes, specific examples are important. Handwaving and non specifics set of an alarm bell.

I guess some people would look for key buzz words, others hate them and view them are mere cliches. So that is a slippery slope. So IMHO try to stay away from fancy names for methods but instead state specific examples. What you are doing is right, get a story together now, not during the interview.

Of course, any Engineer (I am one) gets enough shit. Hurry up and wait kind of stuff or a project is no longer viable after hours of work on it. I guess some things people try are get help from co-workers, bump the least critical task (mission critical is a term that could work or bomb), and that is what staying ahead of the clock allows you to do…handle emergencies.

I manage my time by working ridiculously faster than normal people. it works for me.

The time management tip that has helped me the most is keeping a running To Do list. I used to get sidetracked easily because I’d finish one task and couldn’t immediately think of what I needed to do next, so I’d get online for “just a minute” and end up wasting a lot of my time. Now I have a list right next to me of things I need to do, so I get sidetracked less easily and I get the satisfaction of crossing stuff off the list when I’m done.

As far as interviews go, if I ask someone about their time management techniques, I’m looking for some evidence that they actually do have the ability to manage their time. It’s not that hard to tell the difference between someone who actually puts their words into practice, and someone who’s just feeding you what they think you want to hear. What I care about is, are you able to set priorities and schedule your time so that deliverables are finished on schedule? (Generic you, obviously.) I don’t really need to know the intricate details of how you do it.