How to Answer "What Techniques and Tools Do You Use to Keep Yourself Organized?"

Whether you are a meticulous planner, or more of a last minute back-of-an-envelope type of guy, most people have a system for keeping life – personal as well as professional – organized and running smoothly. If you are applying for a position in which your organizational skills are particularly important to your success, then you can expect to be asked a little about your personal style and how you like to keep yourself (and others) on the right track.

This is not a question where there is necessarily a ’model’ or ’correct’ answer, but there are certainly some areas you should try to cover to give the hiring manager confidence in your day-to-day organizational abilities. Plan to talk about these areas in your answer:

1. Where's Your 'To Do' List?

There are few aspects of organization that everyone agrees on, like the importance of a ’to do’ list. Keeping your short term priorities for the day in order and planned in a way to allow you to deliver on a daily basis, your interviewer will expect to hear a little about your personal take on the ’to do’ list. Whether it is some notes in a pad kept for the purpose, on your smartphone, using an app or an endless trail of post-it notes, be prepared to tell the hiring manager what you do and why it works for you. If you have an easy example (and one you’re proud of!) – your current list on a phone or in your pocket, for example – show it for even more impact.

2. Communication Management

The second area that is important in more or less any role, is how you organize communication management – specifically, how you keep on top of emails and calls on a daily basis. This is especially important in a role which involves interacting with customers or other parts of the business but it is also a question you will be asked in any management position where you have to assimilate and share details with a team. What communication tools do you use? How do you make sure your inbox is managed? How do you know what actions are needed to be taken? What is your routine and discipline around communication to ensure that everything gets done but without sacrificing personal life and becoming a slave to the iPhone?

3. Show How You Prioritize

Having talked already about how you remain organized on a daily basis through a great ’to do’ list and a system for managing regular communication, you need to demonstrate your ability to prioritize. Do you have short, medium and long term goals for your role and for your own personal career? What tools do you use to prioritize tasks? How do you establish what tasks take precedence when you are under time pressure? How do you split out the urgent from the important? Share your system to show the interviewer that you can be relied on to deliver against the important priorities of the job.

4. Share Your Planning Routines

Another important aspect to cover in this question is around your planning routines. How often do you write down your tasks or goals? Do you have a discipline of writing a list for the day every morning, or even on the way home from work every day ready for the day ahead? What is your system for reviewing your successes and learning from any mistakes in your planning and organization? Show the interviewer that you have an approach that ensures you develop and learn as you go.

5. And What About When Things Go Wrong?

Finally, do not forget that no matter how naturally well planned you are, things frequently do not go quite in the way we might like them to. Your interviewer is likely to ask about this if you have not offered the information already – so get ahead of the game and tell them about how you cope with change, how you adapt your plans, and use a flexible approach to stay on top. Give real life examples for maximum impact.

Organization is central to many roles – either in terms of organizing yourself or others, and this is a common interview question in many fields. Be prepared for it and you can easily win over the interviewer with your organization style and skills, giving them confidence that you’re the right person for the job.