Working fast and furious has become the mantra of 21st century. Everyone is obsessed with growth–growth of productivity, profit, GDP. This obsessions will one day eat us alive, and it is already happening, with more people than ever experiencing burnout, mental issues, and permanent fatigue. But the madness continues, and if you apply for a job in any Fortune 500 corporation, or in any big retail store or a fast food restaurant, you can expect a fast paced working environment, and hiring managers may ask about it in an interview.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. You will find on my list examples from different workplaces, some answers for people without any previous working experience, and also some unconventional (or even philosophical) answers, when candidates talk about the issue of permanent stress and the implications it has on everyone in the workplace. I hope that at least one answer on the list will resonate with the message you want to convey in your interviews. Do not forget to read also my notes below the list of answers, for additional hints and explanations.
7 sample answers to “Describe your experience working in a fast-paced environment” interview question
- My last job in desktop support was extremely fast-paced. The phones never stopped ringing, the emails kept arriving all the time, and while you were addressing one issue, three other people opened support tickets. But I handled it well, because I had a good system in work. I always focused just on one task at a time, giving it my 100% attention, and trying to resolve it as quickly as possible, but without dropping the quality of customer service. This worked well for me and I avoided headaches and other issues some of my colleagues faced, while trying to work on two cases simultaneously.
- My last sales job was as fast-paced as you can imagine. The managers set the bar high, and we had to reach ambitious targets each month. And the numbers do not lie… I had to make many phone calls each day, go to meetings, and often I didn’t even have a time to stop for a lunch, so busy I was during the day. And while I managed the workload, and reached the goals on most months, I am not exactly sure if it is healthy for people to live in this way. That’s why I eventually decided to leave the job. But it doesn’t mean that I do not want to work in a fast paced environment anymore. I known that the expectations are high everywhere. But I want to avoid such an extreme as I faced in my last job. I believe it will be the case in your corporation.
- Working in an Italian restaurant, I know what it means to work fast. Because when peak times arrive, which was in our restaurant from 1pm to 3pm and then from 8pm to 11pm, you cannot afford to stop for a second. Everyone is running around the kitchen, working hard, trying to make sure that customers won’t wait longer than necessary. And I actually enjoyed the adrenaline of the busy restaurant, I thrived in such an environment. Because I am naturally a hard worker, and during these peak hours time simply flew by. That’s one of the reason why I decided to apply for a job with you. I know it is fast-paced here, and we won’t stand idle playing with our phones. That’s exactly the type of place I want to work at.
- This is my first job application ever, so I haven’t really worked in such an environment yet. But I want to assure you I am no lazybones. I know that you are not paying people here for hanging around the shop, swiping the screens of their smartphones. We are here to work, and since this place has a great vibe, I am sure it is packed pretty often, and we’ll have to work hard and quick to ensure the optimal level of customer satisfaction. I am ready to try my best to make sure it happens.
- I’ve had such an experience in my last job in retail. The place was extremely fast-paced, but also unorganized. The manager did not allocate the duties properly to various employees. And then everyone was doing everything, and the entire place was a mess. I mean, we were working extra hard, but customers saw only confusion. I learned an important lesson in the place. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, how much you work. If there isn’t a good system in the place, you won’t achieve anything extraordinary. So I left the place, and now I try to get a job of an operations manager with you. I believe I will benefit from my experience, and make sure that your store runs like a Swiss watch.
- To be honest, I’ve been working in such places for the pat ten years. Experiencing several burnouts and ruining my personal life a couple of times, I finally decided to quit the madness. I mean, where do we all rush, from morning to evening, day after day? Will we always continue to pursue this illusion of happiness? Instead of having meaningful interactions and taking our time to do stuff properly, we just skip from one thing to another, and there is always the next thing on a to do list. But I have enough of it. I gave up on my corporate career, and now I look for a job in a quiet place, a coffee shop or a bistro, outside of the buzz of the city center. I hope I can find it here with you…
- In my opinion, everything is a question of perception. What seems dangerous for one person can seem completely safe for the next. A star someone tries to reach may be a far-fetched ambition for the masses, but the pioneer sees it just a first step on his journey to eternity… And the same is true about fast-paced working environment. I do not want to brag about my skills, but I consider myself an excellent planner, and my time management is second to none. And though I worked in some corporations that most people would call fast-paced, I didn’t perceive it in the same way. I always managed the workload, even doing something extra, and never had to stay overtime, which was the case for many of my colleagues. And I don’t see why it should be any different in your place, or in any other corporation…
Whatever you say, they should get an impression that you will manage the workload
At the end of the day, managers want to hire someone who will handle the workload, and who will stay with the business for some time. The situation you narrate in the interview isn’t the most important thing for the interviewers. Your attitude matters the most for them.
They want to hear that you tried, that you did all you could to handle the workload, and to stay sane in an extremely fast-paced environment of a big corporation, or of a small busy restaurant. At the end of day, we get paid for going to work, and cannot expect it to be easy. At least not all the time. Ensure the interviewers that you do not expect an easy ride, and will try your best in their place, regardless of the pace of work.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Unconventional answers can help you stand out
Job interview is a competition, like almost everything else in our life (which is a sad fact, but it is still a fact). Applying for any decent job, you will always compete with other people. It can be three, ten, but also fifty. And all of them set their sights on the employment contract you try to sign with the company. In this case, saying the same thing everyone else will say won’t give you an edge.
It doesn’t mean that you have to give them some strange or philosophical answers to all their questions. Not at all. But in order to stand out, and make sure that they will remember you once all interviews end, you should say something unexpected at least once or twice. And this question presents a good opportunity to do so.
You can either boast about your time management and organizational skills, and your exceptional intelligence, saying that what is a fast-paced environment for others, is a normally-paced environment for you. Just because you are better organized at work and manage to get more done than your colleagues on any give day. Check sample answer no. 7 from my list as a good example.
You can take it even further, however, calling the never-ending pursuit of higher productivity and higher profits a madness, and saying that you finally found the courage to leave that train. And that perhaps the hiring managers should consider doing the same. Give them some food for thought, and make sure they will remember your words long after the interviews. Check sample answer no. 6 for an inspiration.
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What makes you stand out from other applicants?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with.