Each of us spends 8 hours in work daily–at least if we are lucky, and do not slave in some mine or sweatshop in a third world country, for 12 or 14 hours a day. But the fact that we are in work doesn’t necessarily mean that we are working effectively. And that’s exactly what the interviewers try to find out with this strange question: how do you manage your time in work, whether you do not waste most of it. In some cases they may put it differently, asking “How do you plan your day?”, or even “Can you describe your time management?”.
In truth, our productivity does not depend only on our motivation, and time management skills. I saw many companies and offices that were simply overstaffed, and some people had nothing to do. Of course, no employee will ever complain about such a situation :).
Anyway, when you are interviewing for a job, you should at least try to convince them that you manage your time effectively, and try to do the most for your employer. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question. Check also my notes after the answers–they will help you understand some nuances and peculiarities of this question…
7 sample answers to “How do you manage your time?” interview question
- I try to make a to-do list for each day in work. Being aware of my goals, and what I try to achieve–be it a completion of a certain project for example, or reaching a partial milestone, I write down the tasks for the day, and work on them, one after one. This helps me to stay effective in work, and to not waste time doing things that aren’t really important at the moment.
- I’d like to split my day into most productive and less productive hours. I mean, my mind works best in the morning, before lunch, and that’s when I focus on the most important things, and tasks that require some critical thinking. Basically I try to do the stuff that needs my full attention and concentration. After lunch my energy drops somehow, so I focus on tasks such as answering emails, having meetings with colleagues, or working on some routine tasks, that do not require any special thinking or effort. This is my way of planning my days at work, and managing my time effectively.
- This is my first job application, so I do not have any experience with managing time in work yet. But I’ve never been a time waster, and I am not a kind of guy who enjoys lying in a bed all day, doing nothing. I am pretty active, and I have proactive approach to everything I do. I would love to transfer this attitude also to my work. However, I must first understand what exactly you will expect from me here, and then I should be able to plan my day in the office in a meaningful way.
- So far I’ve been doing only manual labor. Standing at an assembly line, doing simple quality checks, or serving customers in a restaurant. As you can imagine, one doesn’t have much room to plan their day or manage their time. You simply go with the flow. When there are many customers in a restaurant, you try to work really fast, you make no breaks, because you do not want to let the people waiting for too long. On the other hand, when the place is empty, you can take a while to relax, have a cigarette, and so on.
- I’m obsessed with time management, in both work and personal life. Look, I have a family, several hobbies, and my last job was also pretty demanding. If I didn’t manage my time properly, that means wasting the minimum of it, I would not be able to do a great job, spend enough time with my kids, and also have some time for myself, to enjoy a bike ride, or other activity I like to do in my free time. It’s a lot about planning, eliminating distractions, and do not waste time with things that are just a waste of time, such as television, or Facebook.
- I’ve had a pretty competent and strict boss in my last job. They managed my time, they made to-do lists for all employees in their team. So I did not have an opportunity to do things my way. But I am not disappointed, because I think they did a great job, and I actually learned a lot from them when it comes to effective time management. I honestly believe that I can benefit from these lessons also in my new employment.
- Sometimes I have the feeling that the time manages me, or the life, to say it more exactly. I have so much on my plate at the moment. A kid, two jobs, part time, and I also try to distantly study at a community college. So basically I am jumping from one place to another, always busy, trying to somehow juggle all my roles. However, I do not think this really is sustainable in a long run. Unless I want to experience a burnout or even something more serious, I have to manage my time better. And that’s exactly why I am here. If I get a decent full time job with you, I can dash the two part time jobs immediately, and perhaps find things a bit easier, and manage my time in a more effective way.
Having goals and to do lists is always a good answer
If you aren’t sure what to say, you can always refer to goals, milestones, to-do lists, and similar stuff–even if you are not using them at the moment. At the end of the day, hiring managers can hardly verify what you are doing in your present job, or were doing in your last one.
As long as they see that you have some system in your work, and some tools that help you to stick to the system (it doesn’t matter if the tools are online or offline), they will be happy about your answer. See answer no.1 from the list for some inspiration.
* 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!
Ensure them that you are neither time waster nor money waster
If you ever managed a team in work, you have surely experienced at least one “time waster“, and one “money waster“. In the worst possible scenario, one of your subordinates (or colleagues) fitted both categories.
Time waster is someone who always has one more coffee to drink in work, or one more pointless discussion to lead with another colleague. Or a guy who prefers talking to working, and actually makes the work of the rest of the team difficult. Not only does time water do less work, but bothering others with their pointless talks, they also lower their productivity.
Money waster is another kind of an animal. Not spending their own money, but the money of their employer, they never hesitate to fly business class, to buy the most expensive office stationary, and to invite business partners to the most expensive restaurant in the city, tipping an attractive waiter $100 bill.
Needless to say, companies hate to hire time wasters, and unless very big, they cannot afford money wasters onboard–at least not for a long time. Ensure them that you are neither one nor the other. Check sample answers no. 5 or no. 2 for your inspiration.
If someone else managed your time up to know, show them that you are ready to change that
It’s not necessarily a minus if someone else managed your time in work up to this point–as long as they were competent. You can learn a lot from a skilled manager, and their habits can become your habits over time.
That’s what you should focus on if you had a job in which someone else was responsible for the allocation of tasks and time management, or if you had a superior who simply didn’t allow you any freedom of choice. They made the decisions, and you had to follow their directions.
You learned from them, and now you are ready to finally manage your time in work, in a most effective way. Answer no. 6 from our list is a good illustration of this attitude.
Struggles with time management can be the reason for your job change, or even career change
Sample answer no. 7 is an excellent example of this situation. Maybe you are too busy (like many people), and cannot really find a way to juggle all the roles you have in your corporate and personal life, to at least somehow excel in each role–or to not fail in them completely.
That’s exactly the reason why you are looking for a job with their company–because the working hours are better, or you won’t spend three hours commuting to work each day, or it will make your life easier in some other way. This is an unorthodox answer, but it makes sense, and most employers will be happy with it. Do not be afraid to go against the flow. Some unorthodox and creative answers can only help you in the interviews….
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- How do you motivate others?
- If you were an animal, what would you be?
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for the customer.