Multitasking, one of the biggest myths of 21st century. In fact, our brain can focus on one task at a time only. Sure, we can do several things simultaneously, but only when just one of them demands our attention, and we do the rest automatically. That’s the reason why some women can brush their teeth while talking on the phone and cooking a dinner at the same time. They focus just on the phone call, and the two other things they do automatically, or subconsciously if you want. Having done them a thousand times before, their hands simply take care of the job, as a well-oiled machine… But many corporations and hiring managers still believe this multitasking myth, and they will ask you about it in the interviews.
Luckily for you, it isn’t one of the really difficult interview questions. You have actually several options for a good answer. One of them is simply saying that you focus on one task at a time only, because in fact that’s the only honest answer :). You can emphasize your time management and planning skills along the way. Doesn’t matter how heavy the workload is, you always find a way to get things done. Second option is adding some fuel to the fire of their false belief, saying that you actually have this super-human power of multi-tasking, and manage to take care of multiple tasks at once, regardless of the nature of the tasks. And the third option is saying that you purposely combine tasks you have to focus on with tasks you do without thinking (or they require just a minimum amount of thinking), and in this way you actually manage to handle multiple tasks at once.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question. You will find on my list sample answers for all three options I mentioned here, plus also some other, rather thought-provoking answers. I hope at least one of them will give you some inspiration for your own, great interview answer. Enjoy the list, and good luck in your upcoming interview!
7 sample answers to “How do you handle multiple tasks at once?” interview question
- I handle them in a way that I actually do not handle them at once, but one after another, in quick succession. In my opinion, we humans cannot really focus on more tasks simultaneously. In an FP&A department each mistake can prove costly, and I do not want to make mistakes just because I try to rush things, and handle more tasks at the same time. On the contrary, I focus on excellent planning and on eliminating distractions at work, which allows me to handle the heavy workload, without having to try to do more things at once. In my experience it is the most efficient way of working, and one will also avoid making stupid mistakes.
- My way of handling heavy workload is trying to combine tasks that need my conscious attention and tasks that do not need it. Let me explain. When I print something, or take care of correspondence, or water the plants in the office, I do not really have to think about these tasks. My hands simply take care of them, as they have done so many times before. Driving is also such an activity. Hence when I drive, I can make a phone call with a colleague. When I am printing stuff, I can at the same time work on a report, or talk to a manager. In this way I manage to take care of multiple tasks at once, and save some time at work, which is precious considering the heavy workload one faces nowadays in almost every place. But you also need to be careful, and make sure you do not try to do two tasks simultaneously which you actually cannot do. One learns this with experience.
- I do not know how I do it, but I just do. Perhaps being a single mother with two jobs and household duties taught me how to take care of multiple tasks simultaneously, how to “divide” my awareness, and actually manage to take care various duties at the same time. Day has only 24 hours, and if I always did just one thing at a time, I would not manage to take care of all my roles in life. I have to admit though that it isn’t always easy, and one can make mistakes. Because of that, if it isn’t necessary, if I am not under a time pressure, I prefer to give my full attention to one task only, whatever it may be.
- To be honest I never do, and nobody else does. Multitasking is a myth. Some people may look like they are “multitasking”, but in fact the only thing they do is turning their attention from one task to another and back in quick succession. It seems like they are handling multiple tasks at once, but in fact in every instant they work on one task only. It isn’t a bad ability to have–this ability to turn your attention to different things in quick succession. In my last job in a hotel I used it quite often, because I was responsible for both reception and breakfast. But in reality I was never taking care of more tasks at once. It only seemed so, but in reality in every instant I focused on one task only.
- This is my first job application ever, and up to this point I was never forced to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. To be honest, I am not quite sure whether it is technically possible. But I am ready to learn and work hard, and if the situation on a shift requires me to take care of multiple tasks, I will try my best to manage it. I also hope that my colleagues, who no doubt have more experience, will help me out, and show me how to take care of such situations.
- First and foremost, I try my best to avoid such a scenario. Let me explain. If you really focus on work, instead of spending half of your time drinking coffee, chatting with colleagues, or checking your phone, the workload isn’t as heavy as people believe it is. In such a case it rarely happens that you find yourself having to meet a tight deadline or having to work on multiple tasks at once. If it does, the key is to limit all outside distractions and really focus just on the two tasks at hand. When you manage to do so, and have some experience with multitasking, you can work on more things simultaneously without getting a headache.
- I just don’t handle them. It is outside of my powers, especially because I always aim for precision and perfection. Sure, you can try doing more things at once. But you cannot expect a great result from a half-hearted effort. For me, getting things done a bit faster is not worth the sacrifice. That’s why I always work on one task only, giving it 100% of my attention, living in the present moment. And I believe that the results of my work prove it is the only correct approach to working, at least in this field…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
- How do you handle multiple deadlines?
- What do you like least about your company?