You may be the best manager, the smartest engineer, or a great visionary. Nonetheless, your day has only 24 hours, and your working day only 8, unless you work overtime. You can do just as much during the day. Regardless of your productivity and efficiency, there will come a time when you have to delegate your work to someone. You will have only two options left: Either someone else will do the job–not as well as you’d do it, of course, or nobody will do it. And you do not have to be the brightest mind in the city to know that the first option is the better one for the company.
Such situations do not happen to managers only. You may have to delegate your work as an analyst, engineer, assistant, or even as a custodian. Therefor you may face this question in an interview for almost any corporate job. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers. You will find on my list some typical examples of delegating work. But I included also a couple of unconventional answers, and answers for people without any working experience. Regardless of your situation, and the attitude you try to show in the interviews, you should find at least one good answer on my list. Do not forget to check also the notes below the answers, for additional hints and explanations.
7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively” interview question
- I faced such a situation in my last job in quality management. The managers buried me with work. They assigned me three different clients, and though I tried my best, I quickly fell behind with schedule, and my to-do list grew longer each day. I knew I had to do something. At first I raised the issue with my superior, asking them to assign one of the clients to someone else in the company. But they did not agree, and I knew I was on my own. Hence I picked the smartest guy from quality control, and delegated certain duties from two of my projects to them. I explained them everything properly, and also suggested it was their chance to get promoted later on. They took on the job, struggled a bit at the beginning, but I was always on the call to explain things. Eventually it worked, and after a few weeks I got back on schedule with my work.
- This happened to me in my last managerial job. I want to emphasize that it was never easy for me to delegate my work. Partially because I was a workaholic, and partially because I didn’t trust anyone to do the job as well as I’d do it. But I paid the price. The workload grew incredibly heavy and suddenly I was spending 70 hours at work each week. My body could not sustain it any longer, and I knew I had to get over my ego. And so I did it. I delegated one big project to my assistant. I made sure to have a short meeting with them each morning, to make sure they are on the right track, and know how to progress. But I let them enough freedom. I knew they were capable of seeing it through. And they did it. At the end I found it a great experience. It was empowering for the assistant, good for my work-life balance, and eventually also good for the company.
- I had to do it just a month ago, when I was leaving my job. I left two construction projects unfinished, but, as we already discussed in this interview, considering the circumstances, I could not stay with the company any longer. You know, I could have simply walked away, saying it was not my business, and leaving things to them to figure out. But I am not that kind of a person. Sure enough, they didn’t treat me well, but I still found it right to explain the work properly to my successors, to delegate the projects to them, to make sure they would not mess it up. And that’s exactly what I did, spending a lot of time with the two guys, explaining my methodology of work, strengths and weaknesses in the team, opportunities and threats. Even now they can call me anytime to ask for an advice, though I am not with the company anymore, and do not get any compensation for my assistance to the new managers.
- Well, this is my first job application, so I can hardly talk about an example from work. But I can assure you that I do not consider myself superior to the rest. And while I definitely do not want to take advantage of my colleagues, delegating projects and tasks to my colleagues, just because I have power to do so, I won’t have a problem to delegate a project to someone when I have to, when I do not have time to take care of it myself, or when they are more qualified to handle it. Just like in any other situation, I will try to do the best thing for the employer.
- So far I haven’t had to do it. I do not want to brag about my skills, but I do not struggle with concentration, organization, and time management. Sure enough, some of my colleagues from the financial department in my last job didn’t manage their workload during the day. Then they had to stay overtime, or come to work on Saturday, or they delegated their tasks to their assistants, people who weren’t necessarily qualified to take care of them. But it was not my case. I’ve never struggled to plan my day properly, to eliminate all distractions, and to handle the daily workload. That’s why I’ve never faced this situation, and I do not think I will face it in my new job. If I will , I am ready to delegate the project to the most qualified person in the team with free capacities.
- Well, I’ve actually had to delegate all my projects to other people. Working in a startup, the company grew with almost a scary pace. First round of funding, second round of funding, and within a couple of months, the team grew from four members to thirty. And while I was originally spending my days in front of the computer, working on the code, I suddenly had to manage other coders, who were working on the projects I had worked on initially. So I delegated the two projects to the coders, clearly specifying the goals, milestones, KPI, and making sure they knew what they were supposed to do. As it often goes with startups, however, they grow quickly just to collapse with even a more rapid pace. We exhausted the funds, competitors presented a similar product on the market, and we didn’t manage to get other injection of cash from the investors. So we had no money to pay the developers, the company fell apart, and I ended up here, interviewing for a job with you…
- This is my first job application, but I can perhaps find an example from my personal life. Years ago I started a soccer club in our neighborhood. Got the jerseys, got some small sponsors, recruited amateur players, and we joined a local league. The team grew over the years, and so did I. We kept on playing, and progressed three leagues higher, to a level on which things started to be interesting. But I was already studying at the university, and I realized that I could not manage the club any longer. I mean, I could, but it would hinder the progress, because I just did not have enough time to devote to the activities and meetings with other members. So I delegated it to one of the guys who was in the club from the very beginning. He didn’t go to University and soccer was his life. He knew the people and was smart enough to handle the job. I explained him everything, we discussed the strategy with other club members, and I eventually walked away and let the club in the reins of other people…
Show them that you can get over your ego
Regardless of the position you have in the corporate hierarchy, you should always try to do the best thing for the company. Or at least that’s what you should try to convince the hiring managers about in an interview.
And in many cases, the best thing is delegating a project to someone. Perhaps someone less qualified, someone who won’t do it as well as you would. But they will do it, while you would neglect it, having too much on your plate already.
Show the hiring managers that you can get over your ego, empower other people from the team, and don’t hesitate to delegate the project when it is the best thing you can do for the company.
First job application? Talk about what you would do, or about an example from outside of work
At the end of the day, your attitude is the most important thing for the hiring managers. They do not care much about the situation you narrate to demonstrate the right attitude, as long as it makes sense.
Maybe you’ve never worked anywhere before. Or you did have a job, but there was no need to delegate any tasks or projects to someone. In such a case, you can talk about an example from your personal life or from school (check sample answer no. 7 from my list), or you can even talk about your attitude directly, without specifying any situation (check sample answer no. 4).
As long as you get the message over, and show them that you are ready to delegate projects, and know how to do it, but won’t abuse the power to do it, they will be satisfied with your answer…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- What should I know that is not on your resume?
- What do you enjoy most or least about teamwork?
- Tell us about a time when you used persuasion to successfully convince someone.