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Interview Questions About Prioritization

by Lisa McQuerrey, studioD

If you're applying for a job that requires independent, self-directed work, you’ll be asked interview questions related to how you prioritize daily tasks and responsibilities. The employer wants to see how well you manage your time, coordinate daily workflow and accomplish all duties in a professional environment.

Deciding What's Important

Questions related to prioritization are trying to gauge how you examine your workload and decide what should be done first. Your response to these questions will vary based on the type of job you’re applying for. If you’re seeking a job as a triage nurse, you would explain how you prioritize patients according to severity of condition. If you’re seeking a job as a newspaper editor, you might explain that you prioritize tasks related to deadline or newsworthiness. Consider what the employer is looking for with regard to the position you're after and outline how you rank the importance of basic job responsibilities.

Project Planning

Interview questions associated with prioritization might relate to your ability to plan projects and follow timelines. In this instance, the interviewer is trying to get a sense for the chronological pattern you follow with regard to planning various aspects of your work and making rational, educated decisions. If you’re interviewing for a retail supervisory position, for instance, prioritization interview questions might relate to how you approach employee scheduling, ordering inventory and merchandising. If you’re looking for a job supervising a cleaning crew, you’d explain how you decide which tasks to assign first to streamline and coordinate efforts.

Time Management

Many prioritization questions relate to time management. The employer is trying to get a sense for how you accomplish all of your assigned tasks in a given day, particularly if emergencies arise or you have competing interests. You might be posed behavioral-style interview questions where you’re asked to provide real-life examples of times you had numerous tasks and responsibilities to accomplish in a short period of time. The interviewer wants to know how you went about prioritizing responsibilities, delegating tasks and undertaking your work. This behavioral technique is used with the idea that previous behaviors are a good indication of future behaviors.


Demonstrate your organizational skills and your flexibility. Give examples of times you had to think fast on your feet in order to get all assigned tasks accomplished efficiently and correctly. Emphasize your ability to assess a situation and make calculated decisions, particularly if you are applying for a managerial or supervisory position. Explain the rationale and thought process behind work prioritization scenarios. You want the employer to see you as a good decision maker.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images