Interview Questions About Deadlines

One of the interview questions that is very common relates to working under tight deadlines. It is important to be able to meet deadlines in many careers. There are very few companies where the speed and urgency are not important.

Over the years, I’ve asked about deadlines in interviews very frequently. This is one of the questions where job seekers usually react exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter what type of personality the job seeker has, their job type or the industry. The answer that almost everyone gives is a variation of this:

Question: Tell me about a time when you worked under a tight deadline.

Answer: All the time. Everything we do has a tight deadline. Meeting customer needs requires responding quickly. We never have much warning when we get a special project and have to get the project done quickly.

This answer is very general. Job seekers usually include specific industry terms in their answer, but the overall message is the same. Everything the job seeker does has a deadline.

I’m sure you can see that this answer tells the interviewer nothing. The goal of a question about deadlines is to understand the sense of urgency of the job seeker and to get an idea of how the individual will perform. Generalizing the answer provides nothing noteworthy.

To effectively answer a question about deadlines, you need to give an example. Starting out with a statement that deadlines are common in your field is ok. The interviewer probably hears this every time they ask the question, so you’re not going to make a bad impression with it.

The key to making a good impression is what you do next. Give an example of a specific deadline and how you were able to meet it. This will demonstrate the value you provided in the past and help create an impression of success.

This is an example of a better answer to this question:

We work under tight deadlines all the time. For example, we recently had a customer place an order for one of our products with several custom modifications. The customer needed the product in a week, and our typical lead time with the modifications was 10 days. I was able to cut a couple of days off the production schedule by coordinating with the manufacturing department to run the product on a different line than normal and then cut another day by working with quality so that they would inspect the product as it was produced. We shipped the product on time. These type of deadlines are commonplace and I work very well with other department to ensure that we meet every schedule no matter how tight.

This is very basic example of expediting production of a product. Despite this, it shows the type of deadlines the job seeker encounters, how they approach the deadline and gives an example of a success. Even though this is a basic example, it is a much better answer than the original general answer.

One reason this example is effective is the emphasis on working with other departments.  The anser address the sense of urgency of the job seeker but also uses the example to demonstrate how effective they are at influencing others in their company.

Look for ways to give examples of what you have done. Examples create a picture in the mind of the interviewer and make a much stronger impression.

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