How To Answer “Tell Me About a Time When Your Workload Was Heavy” (2021)

Do you have an upcoming job interview? Make sure you know how to answer these similar interview requests: “Tell me about a time when your workload was heavy“, “Describe a situation when you had many deadlines” or “How do you handle a heavy workload? Check out the example answers down below.

Additional links

  • Matching resume and cover letter templates (50% discount)
  • Check out my Youtube channel on interview questions and answers

This interview question is often asked to find out more about how a candidate handles responsibilities or challenging situations at work. Provide a suitable example and inform the interviewer about the context, action, result and learnings (CARL method) you took from this experience:

Example Answer (Experience)

Context: “When I was a [Job title] at [Company XYZ], one of my colleagues was about to go on maternity leave and no replacement was hired. I requested a list of all the projects she was working on and shadowed her for two days straight to ensure a smooth transition.

Action: Over the course of six months, my workload doubled. However, I remained calm, prioritized tasks and focussed on one task at a time. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., I spent time on new projects and for the remainder of the day I resumed my other projects. 

Result: This daily routine proved to be efficient. I managed to finish all projects on time and attained a constant 95% client satisfaction level based on conducted surveys. 

Learning: What I’ve learned from a sudden heavy workload, is that organizational habits and a daily routine are key to stay on track. Also, I noticed that busy times are an opportunity to excel and stand out.”

Example Answer (No Experience)

Context: “As I haven’t actually been employed before, I can provide you with an example situation when I was at university. I was assigned in a 5-person team to write a marketing plan.

Each student had to finish around 20% of the report. However, three days before the deadline it became apparent that one teammate was not pulling the weight.

Action: I booked a classroom and arranged a team meeting. I suggested sharing the burden among several members which unfortunately led to a disagreement. I then took initiative and assigned the remaining 15% to myself. 

Result: As a result, I had to work overtime for three days straight. It took a 15 minute break every hour to avoid getting fatigued, but I managed to complete it before the deadline.

Learning: What I’ve learned from this project is to keep each team member in the loop, provide feedback when needed and check up on the progress of each member.”

Interview Question Tips

  • Don’t blame a heavy workload on mismanagement, lazy or unqualified colleagues. Hiring managers are looking for positive candidates that take accountability and responsibility. 
  • Don’t appear as someone that is emotionally unstable. For example, don’t say you were stressed out about an unanticipated workload or challenging situation you had in the past. 
  • Do highlight your contributions, remain objective and inform the interviewer about what you’ve learned from the experience
  • Do provide a positive and constructive answer that is short, concise and to the point