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

1 of 30 Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on June 29th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

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 what you learned from the outcome. Show the interviewer that you do not have a defeatist mentality.

Professional Answer Examples
General
Answer example

"Last month I missed a project deadline primarily because I underestimated the need for support staff on the project. Despite working overtime, I missed the deadline by three days. When I realized that the deadline was fast approaching, I called the client and apologized. I did take full accountability for the inconvenience and met the second deadline that I promised the client."

Admin
Answer example

"In my current role, I was asked 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. Because I do not have experience in recruitment or resume reading for that matter, 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. He declined the offer but was happy with my willingness to go over and above to meet my deadline."

Manager
Answer example

"I once had to update our IT security systems across the organization. Some of the equipment did not arrive on time, and we were unable to meet the deadline. We utilized transparency and communication to let our leadership team know we would be delayed and assured them we were doing everything we could to meet the new deadline. We also resolved the issue with the shipping company to prevent it from happening again."

Marketing
Answer example

"I was tasked with, for the first time, writing up a new client's projected account volume for the following fiscal year and, despite working after hours to complete it, 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 timeline needed to complete the task. They were 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."

Retail
Answer example

"When working in the shoe department, I was tasked with reorganizing the inventory room, which is 4000 sq feet spread over three floors. 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 month timeline, and within a week it was clear that that was going to be impossible. I immediately went to upper management with a plan: I could meet the timeline if given additional resources such as overtime hours and additional staff. Or, we could push it out to an 8-week timeline with the current staff already tasked with the project. 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, they appreciated the transparency. It also taught me to dig deep into the scope of the project before committing to such an aggressive timeline in the future."

Sales
Answer example

"We once fell behind in a project due to endurance testing on a new product. I reacted by quickly rearranging schedules and identifying our earliest possible completion to inform our supervisors and customers. I remained pragmatic through the entire situation."

Teacher
Answer example

"When revamping the entire curriculum, we found that we were either going to be ineffective in the three weeks we had planned, or we'd have to spend some extra time on the project to do it the proper justice our students deserved. Rather than go too quickly and have a crummy outcome, we decided to stay an extra few days, working on our own without pay, to fully rewrite more effective, engaging curriculum. By identifying our objective and refusing to settle for less, we kept the best interest of our department and students in mind and sacrificed our time to meet that goal. It was certainly worth it."

Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers
Answer example

"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."

3D Animator
Answer example

"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!"

Written by:

Heather Douglass
Heather Douglass has over 20 years of experience recruiting and hiring candidates. She has a knack for resume writing. You can find her on twitter at @heatherinidaho.
Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
Ryan Brown
Ryan Brown, is the creator of MockQuestions. He has over ten years experience creating interview questions. His website has helped over 10 million job seekers in their interview preparation.
First written on: 03/06/2011
Last modified on: 06/29/2018

More Interview Questions

View user-submitted Answers

Tell me about a time when you were unable to meet a project deadline. How did you react?
1.
I have worked under time constraints at my last three positions. I understand the urgency of situations and the need for the work to move quickly in a fast paced atmosphere. If I see a project that is not on a realistic time frame, I am going to take action to correct the matter.
2.
I had to do two evaluations on two employees I had planned on doing them at work that day but for some reason later in day I got very sick so I had to leave but before I did I ask the keyperson to do them which was good because she worked with them alot and then I went over them the next day.
3.
Typically, after each MAP window, I submit reports to our coordinator of high stakes assessments. In a school of about 900 students, we have about 5-7 students who were unable to complete testing because they were either out of the country/absence. For these student who were out of the country, we voided their results and followed up with the parents of other students to ensure they were present for make up testing so reports can be submitted in a timely manner.
4.
Budget constraints and city council changed their vote as a policy decision not to continue with the project.
5.
Yes because of my boss suddenly resigned and I unable to one project in timely.
6.
Again me back to my days it was my agric project I spent much time researching than the time I spent on writting it and in the end I did not finish it which was so frustrating after all the info I got.
7.
Always find a way of completing a project on time.
8.
Honestly, I do not know when this has ever happened.
9.
Can't remember a time where I did not complete a project on time.
10.
The passing of my mom, I withdrew some of my college courses.
11.
No team effort.
12.
Oh that's easy, every project I get I hand in at least 2weeks after the deadline - everyone knows me like that.
13.
I always managesd in time, but foe my last NAR paper I needed and extensuion of 1 month for my revision time.
14.
Actually my first year in this program I wasnt able to meet my goals, but ever since I have learned the process and I always start the projest to have something ready and work from that.
15.
I always managesd in time, but foe my last NAR paper I needed and extensuion of 1 month for my revision time.
16.
I always do my best to complete a project. There was one time in my current position where payments were set out but the insurance company didn't tell us the format was incorrect so the day we all had to go and resend new invoices.
17.
I can't recall a time I have not completed a project.I like to feel a sense of achievement everytime I have completed a project which is why I strive to complete my projects in good time.
18.
So far I always complete all my project. I don't want to be late in submitting them.
19.
When the electricity in the water park went out we had to emergency close the park and our accounting information was due from that week. It had to be carried into the next pay period.
20.
While doing my MBA studies. was not able to complete the project on HR coz of my working time. I requested the co-ordinator if I get an extension of the project submission date.
21.
Assignment on prostatectomy<br />
22.
I took an on-line course and had technology problems and was not able to load everything by the deadline so I contacted the instructor showing I had completed the work but due to the server I wasn't able to load it to the site.
23.
My computer project, that was a disaster when my aunty met with an accident that time, she was so close to me that I had to be near her and I couldn't complete my project. I cannot say anything because she died on the same period.
24.
At the hotel we had a groupon deal for a period of afternoon teas. We were usually busy enough with them, but when people would call to make reservations, sometimes they would speak to the front desk. This one person who worked at the front desk, took a few reservations without confirming with me if we had available times for those days. So one day we had an afternoon tea for hen party of about 20 women, that took almost half of the restaurant.
25.
Nothing specific comes to mind.
26.
There were times when I was doing prop inspections and there were times that I was just not able to perform when it was needed due to the expectations that were not reasonable. I was able to advise of the issue and complete asap.
27.
Flexcube.
28.
Fdfdsfdff.
29.
Sounds strange but I really do not remember other than when it was computer related.
30.
A project which was having a lot of functions was a very big one . This was lead by me but unable to complete on the specific time due to the functions which was creating a disturbance in the other functions which was already created.
31.
We had a lean six sigma project and needed more data which required us to extend our project time.
32.
There have only been a handful of times I was unable to complete anything on deadline. One was due to the accidental death of partner when I was 21. I was in college and needed to finish my project proposal. I received an extension and had it completed within a week.
33.
Fortunately I have not experienced a project not being completed on time. My work ethic will not let me sleep at night till I have completed my project so that it is always on time.
34.
In my first year of college doing travel and tourism I did not complete all of coursework on time but I stayed behind and completed it all on time.
35.
I don't think there ever was a time.
36.
I have never not completed a project on time I like to meet deadlines or rather have things completed ahead of time. Although there have been school projects that I probably could have started sooner in order to allow for more time to review.
37.
Masinga scada<br />tana dcs<br />kipevu 3 dcs.
38.
Once I had to enter the data of more than 500 clients in 8 hours I did my best but was able to reach 400 so manager gave me extension of 2 hour to get the job done as all the info was needed within 24 hours.
39.
It was due to that I was given task in a very short period of time but my boss was happy even though it was incomplete.
40.
I tried all the time to finish my projects on time, or time pass before. That is my achievement in a company.
41.
Launching the AXN/Canl sony tve apps were not launched on time for a variety of reason, many of which were beyond my control, but regardless it ultimately was my responsibility to get the products out.
42.
No it never happend .
43.
In most of the situation I will handle about the project. In the most suitable subject have get collect that topic on the project.It will improve the skills and they read the good result about that project.
44.
At Sprint, I was responsible for the planogram. With one store opening there was a delay of receiving some of the products. I chose to fill the empty areas with related miscellaneous items. Technically, the project was missed due to not receiving all of the products on time but the customers never knew the difference however I'm sure they would have noticed a store opened with empty shelves and displays just taking up space.
45.
I did not recall a moment that I had not completed a project, due to my good understanding of planning and coordinating projects.
46.
At Juicy we are assigned tasks to complete during our four hour shifts. I was unable to complete my jewlery task on time and so I delegated the remaining duties to the team member who was coming in for the night shift.
47.
Danielle had asked me to remerchandise Pad 1, according to reporting and what we were selling and not. Suspicious activity, busy.
48.
At alliance, I ran into unexpected problems on an installation, luckily the customer and my supervisor were able to give me more time.
49.
Never I am very dependable.
50.
Due to system failure, we as a team faced a situation wherein we were unable to get the production on time.
51.
A role perhaps, because of low numbers of recruitment. The data our group generated was published from a small sample size.
52.
Project deadlines can change often. Sometimes problems can become so complex that you need to ask for additional help from coworkers. Often times they may be beyond your realm of expertise and the entire team may have to go back to "the drawing board" to do more research.
53.
I have to say that I have not had that experience. I am a very organized person who will make sure that if given a project that it will be completed either earlier or on time.
54.
When I first started as a grad nurse I had difficulty with time management. I was behind on medications. My preceptor started timing during medication administration. 5min per pt room. Before the end of the week it would take me less than one hour to give all my meds.
55.
Project kept awaited for the proper item to come.
56.
I am not facing this problem yet.
57.
School.
58.
My manager assigned me to mop the floor after we closed the store one night. Right before closing a customer hit my car in the parking lot. About time I was finished with the police officer who was handling the report they were ready to close down the store. I apologized for not getting the floor mopped and promised to complete it the following night I returned for work.
59.
Projects which needs more time to finish and some fortuitous events can delay the completion of the project.
60.
I can sometimes put things off until the last minute but have never turned in a project late.
61.
Our HRIS project lingered from 8 months to 12 months, it was quite a difficult time, as factors other thatn our own effort were contributing towards to the delay. This was being discussed all over the organization and in the consultants organization too. I lead phase 2 which finished in its usual deadline of 4 months, but being part of phase 1, nearly killed by ontime finishing record.
62.
IT never happened.
63.
I personally didn't get to finish striping my hallway at work but 2 others did it.
64.
A school project. It had so many things we had to do in one. We had to write a two page essay, answer questions, draw a map, and summary for this one book. It was due in two weeks and it took me about a week and a half to read the book. And after that I started working on my project and I didnt finish in time.
65.
I was bussy a lot at work and my mother was very sick at home.
66.
We were given the time limit of 15 days to bring a magazine in its final and printed form but we had a delay of 5 days in that the reason being technical failures and glitches in the printing press.
67.
I handed an assignment in late, my daughter dislocated her arm at school and was in a very bad way. I was in hospital with her for 3 days as she couldnt eat from the pain and was dehydrated. I didnt get the extension. I brushed it off and moved on and just learnt to get it done in good time next time.
68.
No such eperineces<br />
69.
At the period of contraption in tremours club, we planned to complete the three process. But improper planning, mis understandings of the environment and situation we implement oly two process.
70.
The specific time for me is during dating and spending time with my friends because my body and mind relax during these times. If I commit a project on these timings there are possible ways that I may not finish it.
71.
I was converting accounting systems and I only had 3 days left to have it have it up and running. We were all working alot of overtime to get it done.The night before our pregnant employee gave birth. ( she was 3 weeks early) We missed our dealine by 2 days. But the test run went smoothly and mom and baby are fine.
72.
At Robert Allen, we were constantly setting up new showrooms as agents across the country. After a location was scouted and an agreement was signed, I was handed the responsiblity to get the agent set up with paperwork, training, and everything the agent needed to open the new showroom on time. I developed a timeline that allowed all aspects of the opening to happen in a reasonable timeframe. In one instance, my supplier did not come through on some product we needed to display in the showroom on a new fixture. I realized the showroom would open with an empty rack- something that would be a negative to a customer. <br /><br />I came up with a solution and implemented it in time for the showroom to open with a beautiful display covering the empty rack. It was a big hit and actually sold fabric that would have otherwise not been as visible. It led to the showroom creating a permanent display to showcase new fabrics and trends.
73.
During the research project we were required to do I went to a campus tour in San Diego, Ca--I lived seven hours away--and left a part of my work on the campus. I emailed my teacher immediately and told her that my work would be a day or two late and that I would work extremely hard until I had finished it, because I sent the email before class had even gone back into session she was very understanding and gave me a two day extension; although she did take off points, I was very appreciative that she had given me a second chance to turn it in, especially since I had not completed the work on time.
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