How to Answer “How Do You Stay Organized at Work?”

Show potential employers your inner Marie Kondo.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How do you stay organized at work?

Behavioral interview questions such as “How do you stay organized at work?” help hiring managers assess how you handle yourself in a work setting. Your response allows them to gauge your soft skills and competence level, helping them decide whether you would be a good fit for their company. This is why you need to be prepared with a job-winning answer.

Read on to learn how to answer this question and ace your next interview!

Why hiring managers ask this question

By asking this question, hiring managers want to ensure that, as a prospective hire, you’re equipped to take on the responsibilities of your role.

As an employee, you’ll be required to take ownership of your tasks, keep track of your progress, and deliver projects on time. This is especially true for jobs that will expect you to work independently and manage your time with minimal supervision.

This is why organization is considered an invaluable soft skill, as it signals professionalism and responsibility. Your answer, then, must convince employers that you’re capable of staying on top of your work through a well-honed organization system.

How to answer “How do you stay organized at work?”

These five essential tips will help you craft an effective response:

1. Keep it short

A great way to demonstrate just how organized you are is by providing a well-structured and succinct answer. A long-winded but vague response will do little to convince the hiring manager of your skills, as it signals uncertainty and a lack of preparation on your end. Doing some interview preparation in advance will help here.

You want to show confidence and reassurance by stating how important organization is to you before moving on to describe your system. Follow this up by providing real examples demonstrating how you stay organized at work.

2. Explain your system

To give the hiring manager a better idea of your organizational skills, make sure to talk about the methods, practices and tactics that you rely on to stay on top of things.

For example, you could mention how you like to keep a planner that includes the information of each project you take on, or that you conduct a task overview every Monday so you can visualize the week ahead.

If you use specific tools and apps, make sure to include them in your answer, explaining why you like them and how they have optimized your system. Finally, make sure to explain things in detail so that your interviewer can understand your process.

3. Provide examples

Your goal when answering this question is to reassure the hiring manager that you’re an organized individual. After all, anyone can claim that they’re organized, but by providing clear-cut examples, you’ll be a lot more convincing, as you’ll show that not only do you have a system but that it actually works, too.

Ideally, your examples should be paired with the methods and tactics that you’ll mention, hence presenting a comprehensive and complete answer. Choose a real-life scenario from your previous role, and describe how your organizational skills came into play.

A bonus tip for this part: Make sure that your example relates to the job you’re interviewing for, as this will also highlight your experience to the hiring managers.

4. Link it back to the role

Continuing from the previous point, it’s vital for your answer to tie in with the current role, showcasing how your organizational skills would apply to it. Beyond highlighting your relevant experience, you can also discuss how some of the tools you rely on are compatible with the position and how you would use certain methods to carry out tasks.

This will show foresight, demonstrating that you have already considered how you fit into the company and the role. You can also make suggestions for other methods and systems that could optimize processes within the company overall.

5. Show flexibility

When talking about your organizational skills, you want to prove that you’re methodical and efficient, but not rigid and too set in your ways. Indeed, interviewers will be interested to know that, while you’re someone who can manage their work and time effectively, you are also capable of adapting quickly when plans change.

To achieve this, you can provide another example that showcases your flexibility when priorities shift and a new plan is needed.

Example answers

If you’re still uncertain how you should approach this interview question, then take a look at the example answers below:

Example 1: Utilizing online tools

Staying organized is a priority for me, especially in my current role where I manage multiple projects at once. I use different resources and tools to stay on top of my work and keep track of everything that is going on.

For example, I like to use color coding within my online calendar to categorize all work obligations in a neat order; so, green for meetings, red for deadlines, blue for routine tasks, and so on.

I also rely on online organization platforms to keep track of my progress on different tasks and optimize my workflow. These tools are also great for team collaboration, as they automate a lot of processes, improve communication and keep projects on the right track. For this reason, I always advocate for their utilization in every group I am a part of.

Example 2: Outlining your process

Over the years, I have developed a process that helps me manage my time effectively and stay organized.

I always like to start my week by taking inventory of pending tasks and deadlines. I then create a to-do list, by order of priority. Once this is ready, I like to allocate these tasks within my calendar, creating a detailed weekly schedule. I have found that this helps me visualize my time a lot better and be more productive as I set an estimated amount of time to complete each item on my calendar.

I also like to leave room for error — for example, if something takes longer than expected to complete or something urgent comes up. This is why I also carry out a small review mid-week, to ensure that everything is running smoothly and to adjust my schedule, if necessary.

Example 3: Talking about projects

I consider myself an organized person, and I like to take the same approach for every assignment that I am given at work, too.

I do this by breaking down a task or project into smaller pieces. I then allocate time for each piece and formulate a detailed plan based on the needs of each part. I have found that this makes bigger projects a lot more manageable, and it also makes it easier to track their progress and ensure that the deadline will be met.

Mistakes to avoid

We’ve talked about the dos of answering this interview question, but keep these interview don’ts in mind too:

1. Rushing your answer

This applies to every interview question. Take the time to formulate a response in your head rather than diving in without a clear answer in mind. As aforementioned, your answer should be concise and well-structured, so spending a few seconds to think about what you want to say will certainly count in your favor.

2. Lying

If organization is not a particular strength of yours, you shouldn’t lie about it. Instead, focus on the things that help you stay on top of your work, even if it’s as simple as a to-do list. You also want to show employers that you’re striving to improve, so you could mention some methods you would like to implement into your workday in the future.

It’s better to be self-aware and eager to learn than to lie to the hiring managers.

3. Overselling it

While you will want to show hiring managers that you’re an organized person, you don’t need to provide countless examples or methods to prove this to them. If you’re confident in your skills, this will be visible to your interviewers. Less can be more, and you want to ensure that your answer is both precise and to the point to keep them happy.

Final thoughts

There is always a reason behind the questions you’re asked in an interview. So, when a hiring manager asks you about your organizational skills, what they really want to know is if you’ll be able to handle your duties and manage your time at work effectively.

It is up to you to convince them that this will be the case. This is why interview preparation is key, as it helps you ace any questions thrown your way. Plus, it shows excellent organization!

Got any other tips or any questions about answering “How do you stay organized at work?” in an interview? Let us know in the comments section below.

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on June 6, 2015.