It's not surprising that job interviewers often toss out a question about your organizational skills. The ability to efficiently allocate time, energy, and resources is critical to nearly every position in any industry. Organization is also a necessary soft skill for people who work in fast-paced environments where they are expected to be excellent multitaskers.
Before you sit down for an interview, think through your response to interview questions about organization.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
At the most basic level, interviewers want to know if you are—or are not—organized as an employee.
They'll be looking for evidence that you can keep track of deadlines and responsibilities and follow up on even the smallest of tasks.
They'll also be interested to know if your organizational abilities are a good match for what the role demands.
Interviewers may ask:
- How do you stay organized?
- Tell me about a time you worked on a major project with many deadlines involved.
- Are you an organized person?
- What tools and systems do you use to keep organized?
How to Answer Questions About Organization
There isn't a single right way to stay organized, and thus there isn't one correct answer to the question.
In your response, you should share your personal methods for staying organized, whether it's using a pen and paper to make a list or taking advantage of project management software. You should also explain why you opt for this method.
The best answers will provide examples of how you've used different organizational systems and also show that you're capable of being flexible.
That's important because sometimes a system that works for one role won't necessarily be a good fit for another role — you'll want to show that you can adapt to meet the needs of the situation at hand.
Examples of Best Answers
You may be asked whether you would describe yourself as an organized person. The short answer is "yes," but consider expanding your answer with some details that show the rationale underlying your confidence.
You might tailor one of these examples to your own experiences and habits:
- Absolutely. I like to keep a checklist and make sure that each item gets the attention it needs.
- Yes, sometimes a little too much so. I make sure that everything is neat and in order.
- I am a very organized and thorough person, which I think contributes to my success.
- Yes, I use several online and desktop tools to stay organized. On Monday of each week, I review my calendar and highlight the key things I need to accomplish.
- I like to plan my daily, weekly, and long-term work projects carefully.
- I make it a point to set up reminders and write to-do lists. Then I carve out blocks of time to devote to particular tasks, so I have designated steps and the required time allocated to meet those goals.
- I plan ahead as much as possible, but in reality, things come up at the last minute. Thus, I make sure I can adjust and respond quickly, integrating new priorities into my daily work.
- I make sure that my team members and I know established project deadlines, and then I set benchmarks so that we can track our progress. For most projects, I also set "early deadlines" a day or two ahead of the "final deadline" and do my best to meet that target so that the project is completed ahead of time.
Tips for Giving the Best Answers
In your response, make an effort to talk about your own personal methods, what works for you, and why. Follow these strategies in framing your response:
- Demonstrate that you've thought about your organizational methods and challenges, that they are important to you, and that you have a system that works.
- Describe your specific methods for staying organized in as much detail as you can.
- Relate an example of ways in which your system benefited you and others.
- Stress that you can be flexible to accommodate unexpected new problems and tasks.
What Not to Say
While organizational systems can vary, and there's no single right way to be organized, there are some responses that are best avoided.
- Don't say you're not organized. Even if you're not the most organized person, you'll still want to keep your response positive.
- Don't be rigid. It's OK to have a preference when it comes to organizational systems, but aim to make it clear that you can adapt as needed.
- Don't get too nitty-gritty. Even if you feel passionately about your organizational system, don't overdo it. The interviewer likely isn't interested in an in-depth tutorial on your strategies for keeping on top of your responsibilities and deadlines. Keep your response brief and to the point.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
Interviewers often follow up an initial question about organization to test whether you've really thought it through. These examples show how detailed your thinking has to be in preparing for the interview.
- What steps do you take to organize and plan a project? Your answer should demonstrate how you use organizational skills to prepare for a project and then focus on it.
- How do you accommodate last-minute changes that you have to fit in? Your answer should show that you can amend your plans and integrate new information when necessary.
- How do you prioritize the tasks within one project? Your response should demonstrate that you know how to plan, analyze various approaches and possibilities, make sound decisions, and succeed with your workload.
- How do you plan ahead of time for possible deadline changes or unforeseen challenges? Tell us about how you develop back-up plans in case "Plan A" doesn't work out.
- How do you handle a situation when your planning was insufficient? Discuss your problem-solving capabilities, your ability to multitask, how you handle competing priorities, and your ability to reorganize as needed.
As you answer these follow-up questions, try to provide specific examples of occasions where you have demonstrated your organizational skills in the workplace. This will be particularly effective if you can show how your skills solved a problem or otherwise contributed to your company.
Perhaps you were able to eliminate a backlog of paperwork. Maybe you established deadlines and processes for an important project that ensured its successful completion. By describing how your organizational talents have had a positive impact, you'll be able to impress your interviewers as being someone who could make effective organizational decisions.
Be prepared: You'll want to feel ready to talk about how you stay organized, and why that's your preferred method.
Share examples: As always, the most powerful interview responses are specific. Share examples of how you've put your organizational strategy to work (and bonus points if that's been beneficial to the company).
Be brief: Don't ramble in your response. You'll want to affirm that you're organized and share some details, but don't get too deep into the nitty-gritty of your organizational strategy.