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Behavioral Interview
Questions

| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 30

Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet a project deadline. How did you react?

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Behavioral Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet a project deadline. How did you react?

      The interviewer wants to know how you respond to perceived failure. Nobody is perfect! The interviewer knows that there will be times when deadlines pass, and projects go sideways. What they want to know is - how do you react? Are you someone who will have a workplace temper tantrum, or are you the type to keep plugging away, despite the perceived failure?

      Perhaps you merely underestimated the depth of the project, or maybe you faced a distraction at work. Whatever the situation was, discuss the case, what you did, and the outcome. Show the interviewer that you do not have a defeatist mentality.

      Behavioral-based interview questions that begin with 'Tell me about a time...' are best answered using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Organizing your response using this framework will ensure that you provide the interviewer with the right amount of information and detail to form a compelling answer.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "(Situation) Last month, I missed a project deadline for an important client. (Task) I missed this deadline because I underestimated the need for support staff on the project. Despite working overtime, I missed the deadline by three days. (Action) When I realized that the deadline was fast approaching, I called the client and apologized. I took full accountability for the inconvenience and provided a new timeline that I could meet. (Result) I met the second deadline that I promised the client, and they were impressed with my transparent and honest attitude throughout the process."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Admin interview

      "(Situation) In my current role, we had a serious backlog of candidates who were waiting for a response on their applications. (Task) Since I am the Admin Assistant, my boss tasked me to sort through our company's ATS system and reject candidates who did not possess the minimum education requirement for a position for which we were hiring. (Action) Because I do not have a lot of experience in recruitment or resume reading, the job took me much longer than my boss expected. I realized after a few hours that my pace was not what he was expecting, so I offered to take some work home to catch up. (Result) He declined the offer but was happy with my willingness to go over and above to meet the original deadline. In the end, we agreed on a new deadline that I was able to meet."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Manager interview

      "(Situation) While working for Company ABC, we went through an entire company overhaul related to our IT systems. (Task) As the IT Manager, I had to organize this system update across the organization. Although I had a great amount of lead time, some of the vendors failed to complete their tasks on time, and I knew that we were unable to meet the deadline for the system launch. (Action) As soon as I realized that the deadline was not do-able, I utilized transparency and communicated in-person to let the leadership team know we would experience a delay. I was specific on what went awry and assured them that the IT team was doing everything we could to reach the launch ASAP. (Result) In the end, I was able to resolve the issue with some of our vendors, negotiating rush services. We did not meet our deadline; however, we were only one week out, which wasn't as bad as I initially anticipated."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Marketing interview

      "(Situation) Recently, I needed to write up a new client's projected account volume for the following fiscal year. (Task) I was the only person on our team available and equipped to perform this with a fast turnaround. (Action) I jumped into the task right away; however, despite working after hours to complete the project, I knew it was not going to be the quality work I wanted to submit. Once I recognized this, I was honest with my boss about the revised timeline needed to complete the task. (Result) My boss was understanding and simply swapped my review by one day to give me the appropriate time to prepare. They also gave me access to an operations assistant to assist with preparation. While I was embarrassed to fall short of expectations, I learned to communicate early and often and ask for assistance when I need it."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Retail interview

      "(Situation) When working in the shoe department at Company ABC, we noticed a severe issue in inventory tracking after the busy holiday season. (Task) As the Inventory Manager, it was up to me to reorganize the inventory room, which was 4000 sq feet in total. It was a huge undertaking, and as I was so eager to please, I underestimated the amount of time it would take to redo the system. I gave a three-week time estimate, and within a week, it was clear that the deadline was unrealistic. (Action) I immediately went to upper management with a plan. I could meet the timeline, provided I received additional resources such as overtime hours and additional staff. Or, we could push the inventory project to a 6-week timeline. (Result) By communicating early, admitting my error in judgment, and asking for help, the worst thing that happened was a bit of initial disappointment. More than anything, my management team appreciated the transparency. The situation taught me to dig deeper into the scope of a project before committing to a timeline."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Sales interview

      "(Situation) While working as a Sales Manager for Company ABC, we fell behind on sales targets after a product launch became delayed due to further endurance testing. (Task) As the Sales Manager, it was up to me to help my team of 12 reps pivot to the change and start delivering results despite this delay. (Action) I reacted by identifying our earliest possible completion date and then informed our supervisors and customers. I also crafted a new pre-sale initiative for the reps to push. (Result) Because I remained pragmatic through the entire situation and presented solutions rather than giving up, my team exceeded the sales target by 23%."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a Teacher interview

      "(Situation) Last year, our faculty needed to refresh the math curriculum for our grade 4/5 class. (Task) As the Learning Leader, it was up to me to take a lot of initiative on the project. The project was robust, and our timeline was tight. It quickly became apparent that we did not have enough time to finish. (Action) Rather than rush the work and have a crummy outcome, I encouraged the team to work on weekends, ensuring a more effective, engaging curriculum. My stance was that, by identifying our objective and refusing to settle for less, we would keep the best interest of our department and students in mind. To me, this seemed like a better option than sacrificing our goal. Not everyone agreed with me; however, I kept my end of the bargain and worked double-time to complete my tasks. (Result) In the end, although I sacrificed my personal time to meet the goal, we did fail as a team. I learned that I could be persuasive, but in the end, I cannot control the actions of others. However, I was proud of myself for delivering the high-quality work that I expect from myself."

      Ryan's Answer

      "I had a suit that was overdue by one week. The reason was because the cutter had a sudden family emergency, and the person who took over was new. This disrupted the flow of my work. I worked a few hours extra each day until the suit was finished. I told the boss that we need to make sure we have backups in place, like keeping a list of freelance tailors who we can outsource the work to in emergencies."

      Rachelle's Answer
       for a 3D Animator interview

      "Experiencing a deadline change is always a bit scary, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major deadline change I will take a few moments to debrief with my manager and create a plan of action. Then, I get to work!"

      Anonymous Answer

      "Right now, I am an IT management consultant and my current project is to be a test coordinator for implementation of SAP during different phases. So after a couple of months when I needed to handle a phase all by myself to test a certain amount of test scenarios until a deadline. But even because I tried so hard and contacted different person for test data, but somehow I often got forwarded to another person which was handled those test scenarios and could provide me test data. In the end, I, unfortunately, did not make to test all the scenarios to the deadline. My reaction was that I started to reflect for myself why I did not meet the deadline, what could I do better, what did I learn from this and what is the best possible action to do further. What I actually did was to set up a document for myself where I write about all the systems which were connected, all the dependencies we have with other projects, contact details for point of contact persons. The result was that I in a structured way could handle the next phase better because I knew better how to act and who to contact in different situations and manage if different defects happen."

      Nazish's Answer

      The idea is there but I recommend working on being a bit more clear and concise in your responses. You don't want to lose the interviewer with too many details.

      "In my current role, as an IT Management Consultant, there was a time when I needed to handle all phases by myself and test certain scenarios within a deadline. I did not meet the deadline as I was unable to find the support that I needed when it came to some aspects of the data testing. I was not happy about missing the deadline, so I decided to create a document for myself that noted the ways the systems were connected, all the dependencies our company had for other projects, and the final contact person at each stage. After this exercise, I felt very organized and structured, knowing if this situation happened again; I would be prepared."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I was creating a new app. I was learning the software as I built it. I was struggling and running out of time so I asked my boss for some help as I didn't think I'd finish it. He assigned another team member to take over half of it, so we finished the app on time."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This is an excellent example with a great solution and positive outcome. Well done!

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (1) or No (0)
      Anonymous Answer

      "While working for an engineering firm, working on a solution for our client, I did not foresee the time it would take in developing a solution to upgrade the communications system which was also part of the telemetry system. I spoke with a couple of Radio and Wifi Providers, and spoke with several RTU Providers. No one was calling me back soon enough, and I was falling behind schedule fast, so I called our client, got an extension and changed to project scope to include a study to compare solutions. This work out Great!"

      Rachelle's Answer

      Good start! Your answer shows you were proactive in communicating the new developments with the client and were able to secure a later deadline. However, your reasons for speaking with Radio, Wifi Providers and Providers may not be apparent to the interviewer. What was the purpose of talking with the providers? Did you need their help in developing a solution? Did you talk to them or leave messages/email them and they didn't return your calls/emails?

      "While working for an engineering firm, I was working on a solution for our client. I did not foresee the time it would take to develop a solution to upgrade the communications system, which was also part of the telemetry system. I spoke with a couple of Radio and Wifi Providers and spoke with several RTU Providers. No one was calling me back soon enough, and I was falling behind schedule fast, so I called our client, got an extension, and changed to project scope to include a study to compare solutions. This work out great!"

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      Anonymous Answer

      "In my first postdoctoral, I missed a project deadline primarily because I underestimated the need for support on the project. Despite working overtime, I missed the deadline by two days. When I realized that the deadline was fast approaching, I called my supervisor. I did take full accountability for the inconvenience and met the second deadline that I promised to my supervisor."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Showing accountability is what matters most for a question of this nature. Very good!

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I missed a deadline while installing a fence once; due to weather conditions. So my boss and I stayed late on the days we could work and gave the client a discount on labor for missing the deadline."

      Mary's Answer

      Consider providing more details to elaborate on the Situation, Actions, and Results. Interviewers look to behavioral-based responses to predict how an individual will operate in a similar, future circumstance.

      "Situation: When I was working at [Employer/Job Title], I fell behind on a fence installation project due to inclement weather. Actions: I partnered with my boss and we both worked extra hours to get the project done as quickly as possible. We offered a discount to the client on labor charges for going past the deadline. Result: The client was satisfied with the outcome, discount, and the installation."

      Was this answer helpful? Yes or No
      Anonymous Answer

      "I was working on a project with a government bid, and I underestimated the return time of the procurement to inform us of when they can get the pharmaceuticals into our warehouse. Once I realized this mistake, I quickly told the customer and my supervisors that the return time would be longer than expected. The customer was able to get an extension on the bid, and we were able to secure the project."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This is an informative example and showcases the fact that you are fast to act and detail-oriented.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes or No
      Anonymous Answer

      "I had a project that took a lot longer than we expected it would take. It was a team project on a project, and the team that I was working with was all extremely busy, so we had a very hard time scheduling time to meet. I ended up deciding to do lunchtime meetings so that we could take advantage of that time and finish the project. It was behind schedule, but we still completed the project."

      Kristine's Answer

      Nice response! The interviewer will be impressed by your determination to move a project forward despite busy schedules. You can enhance your answer by mentioning if you communicated with anyone such as a supervisor or client in advance to notify them you would miss the deadline. You could also discuss what you learned from the situation and what you would do differently in the future. I revised your response a bit for clarity.

      "I had a project that took a lot longer than we expected. It was a team project, and my team members were all extremely busy, so we had a very hard time scheduling time to meet. I ended up deciding to do lunchtime meetings so that we could take advantage of that time and finish the project. It was behind schedule, but we still completed the project."

      Was this answer helpful? Yes or No
      Anonymous Answer

      "I had a week and a list to call Dr's and change patients' prescriptions to 90/days. I was busy with all we do in the pharmacy and new training. I couldn't finish the list by Friday, but I came early Monday to finish it. And next time, if I feel that I wasn't going to meet my deadline, I ask for my coworker's help so I can finish calling the Drs on my list by Friday."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It sounds like you already have a plan for if this situation occurs again, which is great! You show a willingness to go above and beyond by coming in early to complete the work.

      "I was given a list of X physician names, and just five business days to call them all, to change patient prescriptions to 90 days. I was busy with my regular tasks and training a new team member. By Friday the end of the day, I did not finish the list. I came into work early on Monday to finish. The next time this happens, I will know to ask for help so that I can meet my deadline."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "It was about the AM/FM radio project. I soldered all the AM section of radio and checked everything, 5 AM station I can tune on the AM part. I have started Soldering FM section of the radio following all instructions. FM part is soldered and ready. I tune and turn the knob of the radio; no station is there, just a noise. My deadline is next week. I check every test point; reading was okay. I show it to my friend, whose radio works well, to find something if he can, didn't work out. I desolder another half part of the circuit and solder it back, nothing worked. The deadline came and I show it to the professor and explain; only AM section is working which is not the passing marks. I asked for an extra week extension, he gave it to me. I finally found out it was the wrong valued resistors I have soldered, which is affecting the FM section of the radio. I replaced it with the right value resistor and it worked."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Try shortening up your story a bit, as it will be challenging for the interviewer to follow. Also, the most important part, which is how you reacted to the perceived failure, does not stand out. I have provided an example, below.

      "I was late on one of my projects in school, which was an AM/FM radio project. No matter what I tried, I could not get the FM component of the radio to work properly. I explained the situation to my professor, and he helped me to troubleshoot. I asked for a week extension. During that time, I discovered my error and made the radio work. It was important to me that I not give up, but keep going and solve the issue."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Last time I missed a deadline because I underestimated the staff that I needed to schedule for that project. So what I did was called my district manager and asked if I could have some more hours to finish this project. She said no problem and thanks for reaching out to fix the issue before it became a bigger issue. So I reacted by solving the issue, and the project got done only by two days late instead of a week late. Everyone was happy."

      Lauren's Answer

      You picked a great example that showed resourcefulness and a proactive work style. Great work!

      "I once missed a project deadline due to an underestimation of staff required to complete the work. When in stressful situations, I spring into action and become proactive versus reactive. I reached out to the District Manager to request more hours to complete the project (which was readily granted). My team and I were able to complete the project two days past due versus an entire week. Overall, everyone was pleased with the outcome, including myself."

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