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Behavioral Interview Questions About Organizational Skills

January 16 • 7 Minute Read
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Introduction

Being organized is a key trait every employee should possess. It enables them to be effective and efficient, completing their assignments on time and with minimal resources. Employers will ask candidates at every level of the company about their organizational skills and methodologies. Key organizational skills hiring managers look for when interviewing a candidate include:

  • Time Management
  • Delegation
  • Initiative
  • Multitasking
  • Managing Projects

While all of these skills do not apply to every position within an organization, each position will require some of them. You can be absolutely certain you will be asked about organizational skills during an interview. The best way for employers to determine how organized you are is to ask about situations you handled in your previous jobs that required the organizational skills listed above. These types of questions are known as behavioral questions.

This article will help you get ready for behavioral questions that help employers understand your organizational skills and the methods you use to get things done. Knowing how to correctly respond to this type of question will help demonstrate your ability to help an organization achieve its objectives by being organized and convince the interviewer you are the right candidate for the job.

Behavioral Questions

Questions about your organizational skills are a specific type of behavioral question. Behavioral questions explore how you handled situations in your past positions and indicate what you will do when faced with similar challenges in the future. You can identify behavioral questions when the interviewer starts the question with something like, “Tell me about a time …” or “What steps did you take …”

Questions About Organization

The best way hiring managers can learn about how organized you are is to ask questions about your previous experiences. These questions require you to create a story and relate it in a structured and clear fashion. Interviewers will note the skills you used to stay organized and complete a task, how effective they were, and how you helped the organization achieve its objectives. They hope to hear that you have developed skills and work habits that keep you organized, allow you to focus on the task at hand, and enable you to meet your deadlines.  

How to Answer Questions Related to Organization

Most people don’t think about how they keep themselves organized; they just do it. You are unlikely to list the methods you use to stay organized in your resume, nor should you. Therefore, you should review your work habits and create a list of the methods you use to stay organized. This may include creating a to-do list, keeping a detailed calendar, prioritizing your tasks, delegating, or using time-management software. If you anticipate behavioral questions about organization and are prepared to answer them, you will find it easy to respond to these questions during an interview. 

Organization-related behavioral questions can best be responded to using the STAR format. This helps you organize your response by creating a story related to the question.

The STAR format uses the following framework:

Situation – Briefly describe a situation related to the question. Ensure the situation you use describes a time you used an organizational skill to complete an important task.

Task – Summarize the task or goal you needed to achieve. Describe how your organizational skills were required to achieve an objective.

Action – Talk about the actions you took which resulted in a successful outcome. These should include organizing your time, using available resources efficiently, prioritizing the individual tasks, and delegating effectively.

Results – Discuss the results you achieved and the impact they had on the organization. Emphasize how your organizational skills contributed to the successful outcome and achievement of the goal.

When preparing for an interview, you should anticipate this type of question and have your STAR stories ready. The stories you relate should be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing so they resonate with the hiring manager. Preparing your stories in advance and rehearsing them before the interview will give you confidence. This will also enable you to respond to the interviewer’s questions by providing compelling stories and communicating them clearly and expertly.

Organization-Based Behavioral Questions 

Here are some examples of organization-based behavioral questions you can anticipate during an interview, the rationale behind them, and an example of how you can respond to them.

Question: Talk about a time when your organizational skills helped you be successful when working on a team.

Explanation: This is an example of the format of a behavioral question. Behavioral questions have become very popular with interviewers because learning what you’ve done in the past will help them understand how you will perform going forward. When you recognize a question as being behavioral, you should immediately start thinking about your answer in the STAR format. Make sure you hit each point, especially the results which arewhat the interviewer is most interested in.

Example: “(Situation) In my last job, I was part of the team that had to organize the company awards banquet. (Task) My role was to coordinate the catering, including appetizers, the meal, dessert, and coffee. (Action) To ensure I did not miss anything, I created a list of the activities I needed to complete to make the meal exceptional. I then prioritized them and created a schedule, noting when each task had to be completed and the lead time each one would require. I used this to organize my work on the project and built in some contingencies in case unexpected issues cropped up. (Results) During the banquet, the meal service went flawlessly, and I received a great number of compliments about the quality of the food and service. The manager in charge of the project asked if I would be willing to do it again next year.”

Question: Tell me about a time when you volunteered to manage a complicated project, and discuss why you took the initiative to do this.

Explanation: Part of being organized is taking the initiative when it is appropriate which demonstrates your confidence in your abilities to get things done and your willingness to work on complex and difficult projects. Having a STAR story that illustrates this will help you convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the position.

Example: “Last year, the company initiated an intern program. Since I had worked as an intern before joining the organization, I volunteered to organize it. I recruited several other former interns to be part of the team, and together we created a plan for the program. We then launched the program and recruited our first team of interns. Each intern was assigned to a different department within the company. We monitored their progress and interviewed them and their supervisors at the end of the program. Everybody involved agreed that the program had been a success, and senior management made it permanent.”

Question: Can you describe a situation in which you had to work under a tight deadline?

Explanation: Completing a project or task while working under a tight deadline requires great organizational skills. The work must be done efficiently and effectively with little time spent on waste, delays, or errors.  Being able to describe how you’ve accomplished this in one of your previous roles will help you succeed during an interview.

Example: “While many of the projects I work on have challenging deadlines, I was once asked on a Thursday to finish a complex project by Monday. This gave me only two business days to get the work done. I accepted the assignment and kicked it off by creating a schedule that included all of the tasks and the resources needed to complete them. I then organized the tasks sequentially, noting the dependencies between them. I immediately got to work on the first task. As each task was completed, I moved on to the next one on the schedule. By Friday afternoon, it was clear that I would not be able to complete the job on time, so I worked over the weekend and completed the project Sunday afternoon. This impressed the manager who confided that they didn’t believe the project would be finished by Monday. As a result, I was promoted to a team leadership position and assigned to more challenging projects.”

Question: Describe a time when you were required to multitask to finish all of the work you were assigned.

Explanation: The benefits of multitasking are debatable. Some people believe the ability to multitask is a strength and allows you to accomplish more. Others feel that you should focus on one task at a time, optimizing your focus and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete each task. Regardless of your opinion of multitasking, you should be able to demonstrate your ability to do it if required.

Example: “During my first job, I was responsible for keeping the office organized and supplied. This required me to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously. I often had to switch between ordering supplies, restocking the supply cabinet, fixing jams in the copier, and making sure the pantry was stocked. After a few weeks on the job, I became familiar enough with the tasks that I could seamlessly switch between each one and know which of them had the highest priority at the moment. My work in this role was noted and led to a promotion which was the start of my rise within the organization.”

Question: How have you handled a situation when your planning was not sufficient and you encountered unforeseen issues? 

Explanation: This is a hybrid question that addresses your organizational skills as well as your ability to handle failure. Being able to recover from failure often requires strong organizational skills. Whenever you’re planning a project or task, you should build in some contingencies, allowing you to address issues you did not anticipate. Doing so will allow you to recover quickly and get the project or task back on schedule.

Example: “Regardless of how carefully I plan a project or task, something will inevitably go wrong, or an issue will come up which was not anticipated. An example of this occurred during my most recent software development project. Halfway through the project after a great deal of code had been written, the users changed the specifications. This required a great deal of recoding, including the creation of a new user interface. Fortunately, I had built in extra time in the schedule for just such an occurrence. My team and I still had to work overtime, but we were able to accommodate the users’ requirements and still delivered the project on time.”

Additional Organizational Questions

Talk about a time when your planning led to a positive outcome.

Tell me about a time you worked on a major project with multiple deadlines and requirements.

What was a key objective you set for yourself in your previous job, and how did you accomplish it?

Can you discuss a time when you missed an important deadline?

Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond to complete a project.

Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed and how you dealt with it.

Have you ever taken on more than you could handle, and if so, what did you do to resolve this?

Talk about a situation where planning for possible deadline changes or unforeseen challenges helped you complete an objective.

Tell me about a time you had to act strategically rather than tactically to achieve all of your top tasks.

Describe a long-term project that you managed and how you kept it on schedule.

The key to nailing your interview – practice, practice, practice.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. The most common ways to practice are with in-person mock interviews or a list of questions. While these options are a great place to start, they can leave a lot to be desired.

Practicing with In-Person Mock Interviews and Question Lists

One way to get valuable interview practice is to set up in-person mock interviews. Unfortunately, they can be somewhat inconvenient. You have to find someone to conduct the mock interview, and schedule a meeting every time you want to practice.

Question lists offer a much more convenient way to practice interviewing. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s going to be asked and this is exactly what can make interviews so stressful.

Interview Simulators – The best of both worlds.

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