The typical job interview is filled with various skills-related questions. Somewhere along the way, you might encounter questions about your multi-tasking abilities. Multi-tasking is the ability to successfully juggle more than one action at the same time. The key word in that sentence is "successfully." While many people might try to perform several tasks at once, fewer excel at it. If you are asked about your multi-tasking abilities during a job interview, focus on where your specific skills lie.
Every job comes with a list of immediate tasks that you must complete on a daily or weekly basis. During an interview, an employer will explore how capable you are at handling your basic job-related responsibilities. For example, if you are interviewing for a job in customer service, a question you may encounter in an interview is, "How would you handle greeting a customer who walks in while you're on the phone with another customer?" An employer is looking for how you handle satisfying these two customers at once. In this case, you could explain how you would nod hello to the customer and motion for him to wait a second before putting the telephone customer on hold.
When you work with other people, their requests and interruptions inevitably lead to the need to multi-task. Employers are aware of this, so you may face an interview question like, "What do you do when you're in the middle of a big project and you are urgently asked by a co-worker to address something else?" For questions like these, make sure you explain to your potential new boss that you would first and foremost save what you were working on. From there, you can describe how you would determine what is most important to tackle next, either by checking with your supervisor or by using your own experience and judgment to make the call.
Some of the most complex multi-tasking happens cognitively. Throughout the day, we think about many job issues. During an interview, a hiring manager might explore whether or not you can think about two things at once. For example, you might encounter a question like, "Can you tell me about a time when you had to figure out how to handle two pressing issues at the same time?" If you face questions like these, use an example of a past work experience that challenged your brain. For example, a former retail manager might tell about an afternoon when she had to figure out how to graciously fire an employee while also forming a satisfactory solution for an unhappy customer. The key is to provide specific information about how you juggled your thoughts, what led to your actions in both situations, and what those actions ultimately were.
Most employees have significant commitments outside of work. Therefore, the ability to multi-task goes beyond the four walls of the office. Hiring managers might ask how you handle work/life demands. A question you could be asked to address is, "When your life outside of work gets stressful, what do you do?" To answer this question successfully, you can say that work takes priority when you are on the clock. You could also explain that you juggle all of the commitments of your life by drawing healthy boundaries and completing your home tasks without bringing them to work.
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