Life of a typical corporate employee is far from easy in the 21st century. With expectations higher than ever, and profit margins tighter than ever, people have to work more for the same money, facing pressure and deadlines on a daily basis. What’s more, you often get orders from multiple superiors, and have to juggle your responsibilities in several projects.

It can easily happen that you face multiple deadlines on the same day. Hiring managers wonder how do you deal with that, not only in terms of your work, but also your emotions and mental health. In this article we will look at 7 sample answers to this intriguing question. Before I proceed with the sample answers, however, I want you to remember a couple of things.

First of all, telling a story is your best bet. Everyone loves stories, they are easy to imagine (if narrated well), and a good story can help you demonstrate your point. In this case, you can tell them about a situation from your previous job (or from school, if you are applying for your first ever full time job) when you faced multiple deadlines (perhaps even conflicting). Explain how you organized your schedule, worked extra hours, and simply did your best to meet the deadlines. And secondly, do not forget about the mental health aspect. Ensure them that you can handle the expectations, and won’t break down when facing a tight deadline or a couple of them simultaneously… Let’s have a look at the answers.

7 sample answers to “How do you handle multiple deadlines?” interview question

  1. I try to handle them with excellent planning and time management. In my last job for example, I worked simultaneously on three projects of mobile games development. It happened a few times that I had to meet multiple deadlines by the end of the week, for example delivering a certain part of code, or test results. Instead of panicking, I simply planned my days properly, making sure I do not waste time with any unnecessary tasks or distractions. Staying focused and following the plan hour after hour, I typically managed to meet the deadlines, without experiencing significant amount of pressure or discomfort.
  2. This is my first job application, so I can talk only about situation from school. During the exam period I often had to prepare for several exams the same week. I know it isn’t the same as working in a multinational corporation and facing tight deadlines, but we can definitely say I had “multiple deadlines” to handle at school. How did I manage to do it? I simply worked more, and limited distractions. Studying long hours every day, and balancing it with physical activity and walks outside, I managed to simplify my daily routine and get more done, and eventually pass all my exams. I imagine it will be pretty similar in the workplace. On some days and some weeks we will simply have to work more, staying overtime, in order to meet our productivity goals and deadlines. I am ready to work hard and will do my best to handle multiple deadlines.
  3. First of all, I try to stay mentally sane. Because when you think too much about the workload and whether you can actually handle it, things can easily get out of your control, you struggle with sleep at night, always thinking about work, you lose your focus due to the lack of sleep, and it really is a downward spiral from there on. Therefor I learned to accept my limitations, and focus more on effort than the eventual results. What I try to say here is that I will do my best to meet every deadline, working hard and managing my time well. But if it isn’t possible, and I do not meet a deadline, it isn’t the end of the world. Because let’s face it–sometimes the expectations of the managers aren’t realistic, or we get different deadlines from different managers and it is simply out of our reach to meet them. In such a case we should communicate the issue with the managers and try our best, but it may happen we won’t meet one of the deadlines, and it is important to accept that. At least this is the way I see it.
  4. Working as a cook in a busy restaurant, I know everything about multiple deadlines. One minute the place is empty, and next minute you have twenty guests, all of them hoping to eat in twenty minutes, if not earlier. In such a situation it is important to manage your assistants and make sure the entire kitchen works as a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows what they are supposed to do, and eventually in fifteen minutes you have the meals ready. What I try to say here is that one has to know their job, and their subordinates, in order to meet multiple deadlines. And I bet it is the same in every job.
  5. Honestly speaking, I do not have an experience with such a situation yet. This is my first job application in the corporate sphere, and in the part time jobs I had before I haven’t faced similar situations. Hence I cannot tell how I handle them. All I can tell is how I will try to handle them. I will try to stay focused. Instead of jumping from one task to another, I will simply work according to the plan, goal after goal. For example, if I should prepare two presentations by Friday afternoon, I will work on the first one, and maybe complete it on Wednesday already. Just then I will start working on the another one. Focusing on one task at a time, it is easier to work efficiently and meet your goals, at least in my opinion. Nervously jumping from task to task, just because you face some deadlines, won’t yield you the desired result.
  6. Speaking from experience, I handle them quite well emotionally. Of course I face some pressure, because I want to deliver and meet my goals at work. But I do not let the pressure to get the better of me. I may work overtime, or even on Saturday, in order to meet the deadlines. But I won’t do so in a hectic fashion, nervously jumping from one task to another. On the contrary, I spend enough time planning and assigning priorities to various task on my list, making sure I do not waste time with things that aren’t essential for meeting the deadlines. It has worked well for me over the years, and I plan to stick to the same routine in my new job with you.
  7. In my opinion, the best way to handle multiple deadlines is to avoid them. Let me explain. I always try to have a clear and open communication with the managers. Trying to set clear priorities for every project, and making sure they aren’t conflicting, I can avoid unpleasant situations such as having to decide whether to work on this or that project, or meet this or that deadline. Of course, it can occasionally happen that I have to meet multiple deadlines during a short period of time, regardless of excellent planning and communication. In such a case, one simply has to log in the extra hours, stay overtime, and sacrifice something for their job. It isn’t good to do this often, because life-work balance is extremely important if one wants to stay sane. But occasionally it is fine, and you can be sure I won’t struggle to do that….

Ready to answer this tricky interview question? I hope so! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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