Tell me about a time you've had to handle multiple tasks at the same time?
“At my previous job I had gotten to a point where I was able to complete my day-to-day tasks fairly easily, and started taking on responsibilities in several areas that were above and beyond my core job duties. But taking on so many new responsibilities started to weigh on me.
At the time I thought I could manage everything but I realized that changing between all of these responsibilities started to take a toll on me personally in addition to my productivity. I realized that it wasn't just the sheer number of tasks that were affecting my productivity, but it was that I was consistently bouncing back and forth between each of those responsibilities.
Once I came to that realization I took steps to chunk my time more deliberately, which allowed me to get more work done in each area without sacrificing productivity by having to constantly move back and forth between each of these tasks. Since then I always try to block off chunks of time to get work done as it really does improve my productivity and allows me to manage my time more effectively both at work and even at home.”
You told your boss you’re proficient enough that you could complete your expected tasks quickly
You told your boss you’re happy to take on new responsibilities when appropriate
You showed your boss that your self aware
You showed your boss that you’re able to manage your time effectively
You showed your boss that this is more of a lifestyle shift rather than just a “time management tool” by alluding to the fact that this has improved your personal life in addition to your work productivity.
In any job, we’re going to be expected to multitask. Check out any research and it’ll show that multitasking isn't actually a thing. We may think we’re doing several things at once, but really we’re shifting our attention constantly, and that shifting of attention does take a toll. Some of us manage it better than others, but we’re all susceptible to fading productivity the more and more tasks we’re expected to do at the same time.
Regardless of that fact, we’re going to be expected to take on several responsibilities at once. That might be answering phones while filling out forms and chatting with 6 customers online. It could be that you simply have multiple reports due by the end of the week and you’ll need to manage your time properly. It’s rare that you can simply sit down and focus on one thing at a time, especially as more and more people start relying on you to get things done.
The reason they ask this question is that you will DEFINITELY have to multitask at your job. Some positions are more than others, but it's pretty rare to have a job where you’re able to completely focus on one task. This question is meant to gauge how you’ll handle having multiple tasks thrown at you… do you crumple under pressure or can you manage your time effectively?
Tip: Block off your calendar
One of the best ways to actually be successful when multitasking is to block off different chunks of time so that you can focus fully on each one. Tracking this through your calendar is not only a great way to do this, but is also a great tip to add to your response to this interview question (whether or not you actually do it).
This question is sometimes replaced by or can even accompany other time management questions such as “how do you manage your tasks”. Be sure to check out that video right here.