How Do You Prioritize Your Work? (Interview Question)

Most jobs require you to manage multiple tasks, and you are about to face competing priorities.

So employers ask questions in an interview like “How do you prioritize your job?” Or “Tell me about a time when you had conflicting priorities at work.”

And if you can not show the employer that you have a proven time management and task management system, they will be worried.

(Which may cost you in the job offer.)

Soon, I’ll show you how to answer interview questions about conflicting priorities so you can impress the interviewer and win the job.

What does “conflicting priorities” mean?

Conflicting priorities are goals that compete for your time and attention, that not everything can be done at once. When faced with conflicting priorities, you are forced to manage your time and rank these tasks in order of importance, with reference to some before others.

Employers will often ask an interview question about competing priorities to make sure you can handle the most important tasks they assign to you and complete projects within their deadlines.

To properly handle conflicting priorities, you will need time management skills, communication skills (if working as part of a team), ability to stay calm while working under pressure and problem solving ability.

Examples of conflicting priorities at work

  • Your direct supervisor told you that Task A should be done immediately, but a department head, who works over your boss, pulled you aside and asked if you could help them with Task B.
  • You have been given two urgent projects and have been told that both are a top priority but you only have time to address one before the end of the day.
  • A retired team member, you received his workload in addition to yours at the last minute, and you will not be able to complete your most critical project while managing his workload.
  • Your manager has given you an urgent task, but before you finish, he asked you to support another project that is critical and requires more attention.

Frequently Asked Questions for an interview regarding prioritization

The most common interview questions about prioritizing your work are:

  1. How do you prioritize your work?
  2. How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks?
  3. How do you handle multiple tasks and priorities?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflicting priorities at work

With questions 1, 2 and 3 in the interview, you can answer in the same way, as they focus on your general approach to prioritizing tasks throughout your day.

Question 4 is a behavioral interview question. To answer this question, you will need to describe a particular period in which you had conflicting priorities.

But the general idea of ​​what to say to the employer is the same for all four questions:

The best way to answer any question about how you manage conflicting priorities or many tasks / deadlines is to show you stay calm and sensible, and most importantly There is a system.

If you can show employers that you have faced competing priorities in the past and you have a method to address them, by giving an example or describing your system, you will provide the interviewer.

Below, I will share examples of how to answer interview questions about prioritizing your work.

How do you prioritize your work? Sample interview answers

Example Answer 1:

I like to prioritize my work by keeping a spreadsheet of my projects and their deadlines so I can see everything at a glance. Next, I sort and adjust the spreadsheet to prioritize my work based on the importance of the project, how long it will take, how urgent it is, and whether I will need information from other team members to complete the work. I review this issue every morning. In my current position, I usually have six to eight projects. I found that by clearly communicating with my team and manager at multiple points throughout each project and then tracking everything in Excel, I was able to manage all of my tasks and meet any deadline, even if we encountered some unexpected challenges or delays. I have discovered that communication is also the key in all of this.

Example Answer 2:

When working in retail customer service, it is not always possible to handle everything urgently at once, so it is important to know what the biggest priority is. For example, if a customer falls and breaks a glass jar in the aisle, cleaning it is urgent because it poses a safety hazard. I took it upon myself to learn and learn what is most urgent at work and if I am not sure, I use my best judgment and then ask my manager after the fact if I acted correctly. Through this, I am always learning and getting better, and it helps me to know what is the right priority to follow up next time I face a similar situation.

Example Answer 3:

Each week, I review my workload and projects and set a daily schedule that will help me prioritize. Usually, I will estimate how long a project will take and give it a rating in terms of how urgent it is based on it. A clear priority each day allows me to better manage my workload and juggle multiple tasks without missing deadlines. If necessary, I can prioritize within a day, to ensure I deal with the most important jobs, first thing in the morning.

Example Answer 4:

I had to juggle multiple deadlines and projects in my last two jobs, so I developed a system that works well for me. I use a log and alert system to keep track of my priority list so I can see what is most time sensitive and urgent among my tasks. I also break down each project into stages to see which parts of the work are most urgent or require the most time. That way, I can set priorities each day for larger jobs or projects, allowing me to meet deadlines even on long and complex tasks. Some of the projects I managed in my current role lasted multiple months and included 10-20 team members, for example.

Tell me when you should have had conflicting priorities: Examples

Example Answer 1:

In my final year of college, I had three professors who assigned large, multi-week projects, all of which were supposed to be in the same week. I knew it would be a crippling workload if I kept it to the last minute or not I would give priority and plan ahead, so I sat down, dismantled each project into smaller tasks and estimated how long each smaller task would take. It showed me which tasks to deal with the fastest, and I was able to use this system to turn everything around in time. It worked, and I finished my final year with an average of 3.8.

Example Answer 2:

As a software developer, I usually work on two to three projects at a time, with varying importance and urgency. Everyone also has a different project manager, so I often get conflicting tasks that are time-sensitive and important. For example, my manager recently told me to stop what I was doing and help with an urgent task for the rest of my work day. He did not know that I had already been pulled aside to work on another urgent project, by a project manager in another group. So I just said, “I’m happy to do this, but are you aware that I was drawn to work on <שם הפרויקט> By <שם מנהל הפרויקט>? “It turns out that my boss did not understand this, so this is an example of how clear communication and my ability to stay calm under pressure allowed me to set the right priorities and complete the most urgent tasks first.

Match your answer to the company if possible

Employers ask questions about prioritization because they want to see if you can prioritize effectively their position.

In most cases, you will have a variety of examples that you can share for times when you had to manage competing priorities.

But you will chart the interviewer the most if you can focus on examples and answers similar to the work you would do in the work you are discussing.

For example, imagine that your most recent job was a combination of analytical skills and spreadsheet work, but also interpersonal interaction and teamwork.

If the next job you are applying for is almost entirely teamwork and will make you interact with clients / clients, then you will want to share examples of how you managed conflicting priorities in working with clients / clients.

Showing that you have managed to prioritize tasks in situations similar to the job you are talking about will show the interviewer that you are suitable for his company.

However, if you are currently applying for positions that include more analytical work and solo work on spreadsheets and other tools, instead, you will want to discuss how you manage individual work effectively.

So look at the job descriptions for the roles you are aiming for and pay attention to which important tasks they indicate.

Then think about your previous work and create some examples involving similar tasks and challenges that you used to organize and manage time to move forward and prioritize.

This will give you better results in your job search.

If you are able to talk about a period that you have gone through and beyond what is expected of you, it is also great because it is a soft skill that goes into every new job.

Mistakes to avoid

There are a number of mistakes that should be avoided when telling the interviewer how you prefer the job.

First, I encourage you to avoid saying anything that will make it sound like you are having a hard time managing time or tasks.

So your answer should highlight situations where someone was overwhelmed or had to juggle multiple tasks.

But if you sound like someone who is always retarded or feels overwhelmed at work, then it may cost you job offers.

One more mistake: I recommend leaving personal stories out of your answer.

It is tempting to talk about work-life balance, and how you prioritize your work when you are also juggling child rearing or any number of other personal and family commitments.

However, your answer will be much simpler and less relevant to a potential employer if you focus on talking about how you approach each task at work.

Talk about how you prioritize your work over the other tasks assigned to you so you can meet deadlines.

While the answer method is a bit dry / boring, it will avoid saying anything that is a potential red flag to the employer, which is what you need to do when asking this question.

This is not a question where you have to amaze the interviewer. Instead, you seek to reassure them that you have a method of prioritization and you can handle any task they give you.


For any type of job, employers want to know that you can prioritize work based on what is urgent and create a workflow to stay focused on what is needed.

They also like to hear that you communicate with your staff and management as part of prioritizing when needed.

If you provide an answer to an interview that sounds like the sample answers above, you will show employers that you are able to be productive in their environment and know what is urgent and important.

Finally, go create some answers based on your career experiences, especially those that will fit the jobs you are interviewing for.

By practicing ahead of time, you will feel more confident and will be willing to answer interview questions about how you prioritize at work.

Interview related questions:


Similar Articles


Most Popular