Key Insights for Addressing Multitasking in a Job Interview

Multitasking and Other Common Job Interview Topics

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Multitasking is a component of every job, to some extent. Tetra Images / Getty Images

In a job interview, a potential employer might ask you how you handle a situation when you are in the middle of working on a singular task, and you are asked to jump on something else at the same time. This probe is geared toward assessing your ability to multitask.

How you answer this question really depends on the job you are applying for, as well as the qualities the potential employer is looking for in an ideal new hire.

For example, a television producer or registered nurse must be able to multitask, like a juggler in a circus ring. However, if you are applying to be a copywriter or massage therapist, multitasking is not as much of a concern.

Is Multitasking a Good Thing?

In most situations, an employer is asking if you can juggle a few things at once. It's a fair question, especially with the sheer number of phone calls, emails, and meetings that can come up on a given day. However, in some lines of work, multitasking is not the ideal. It can mean that your attention is drawn away from your main task, which has a few risks. It may take longer to accomplish a task, and the task may be prone to errors. A person is usually more efficient when allowed to focus on one task at a time. 

In work, something usually comes up that will derail your concentration on your primary task. Interviewers know that time management can sometimes suffer at the hands of multitasking.

How to Answer the Question?

Remember to be honest with your answers. The question is: "Can you multitask? Or, do you prefer to handle one project at a time?" Find an answer below that sounds right to you. Then, build on that foundation for your own answer to the question. You can expect that multitasking may come up in your job interview.

  • "I like to multitask, in my personal as well as my professional life. I prefer to have many things going on at once. It keeps me interested and moving forward."
  • "I find gratification in accomplishing more than less, so I prefer to take on a little more. It is better than handling only one issue at a time."  
  • "I am best when I am multitasking. When I tackle one problem at a time, I tend to dwell on the solution. Meanwhile, when I have multiple things to accomplish, I am able to focus on the most accurate solution right away."
  • "I prefer to handle one project at a time. It allows me to focus on the task at hand. However, in business, while that would be ideal, the reality is that I need to be able to adjust to outside forces. When a lot of things come at me at once, I create a checklist, which helps me to prioritize and guides me to work on the most pressing needs first."

Other Common Interview Questions

As important as multitasking is to a potential employer, so are a few other factors: the ability to work with a team, ability to communicate, and your work ethic and loyalty, to name just a few. Take a look at a few other questions you may encounter while in an interview.

Assessing Your Weaknesses

What are your weaknesses?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions. Be sure to minimize your weaknesses and emphasize your strengths. Focus on professional traits that you know an interviewer is looking for in a candidate, such as good communication skills. A sample answer to this question would be, "I continue to look at new ways to improve my communication skills to be a more effective presenter. I feel I am effective in my current approach, but communication is one area where we can all learn to be stronger communicators."

Magnify Your Strengths

A question that you may get on an interview is, "What can you do for us that other candidates cannot?" This allows you free reign to shout from the mountaintops your greatest qualities and highlight your strengths. Summarize a few shining examples of how you helped negotiate a deal, solved a problem, or delivered on a deadline that was a big deal for your past employers.

How Loyal Are You to a Company?

Loyal employees contribute extensively to the productivity of the business. An interviewer may ask the question, "Why do you want to work here?" This question is used to gauge if you are genuinely interested in working at the company and that you are not just sending out resumes to anyone and everyone.

A way to let a potential employer know that you can be a loyal asset is by saying that in your job search, you have selected key companies whose mission statements are in line with your values, where you know you could be excited about what the company does.

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