How to answer "Can you give me an example of a time when you had to work with a tight deadline?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This Question

One common goal of all employers is to hire top-performing candidates. Candidates who can tackle difficult tasks, work under pressure, meet tight deadlines are in high demand. To ensure they hire the right candidates, most companies will gauge the ability of the candidate to work under tight deadlines through this question. The candidates who can articulate relevant answers that showcase their ability to work under pressure will impress the interviewers. The other reason employers ask this question is to ascertain how the candidate has handled similar situations in the past and how they can use the same skills and experience to excel in the new role.

In some industries, such as project management, meeting deadlines is critical, employers want to hire candidates who can complete projects on time and within budget. Therefore, if you prepare well and respond to this question correctly, it could land you a job offer.

How to Answer the Question

The good news is that you can prepare for this question beforehand. Look into your past work experience and identify how you managed to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines. In your answer, it’s vital that you provide specifics about the situation, the task you were assigned, the actions you took and the results you achieved.

Start by briefly explaining the situation that demands working under tight deadlines. For instance, you can mention a situation where you were assigned a project/ task that was required to be complete within a short timeframe.

Highlight the actions you employed to ensure the task gets completed on time. This way, you illustrate your problem-solving skills and abilities to work under pressure. You can provide specific examples such as breaking the project down into manageable tasks, prioritizing, and delegating tasks to team members. It's essential to emphasize why you took the specific steps and how they contributed to the successful completion of the project.

Finally, you should describe the results you achieved by stressing how you met the deadline and aided the organization’s success positively. Also, mention any feedback obtained from the project supervisor or any recognition attained.

Remember to be confident and avoid embellishing your answers. You should always be truthful and demonstrate your ability to work under pressure when responding to this question.

Sample answers

Below are some example answers to the interview question "Can you give me an example of a time when you had to work with a tight deadline?" along with an explanation of their strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Bad answer:

    Uh, I can't really think of a specific time. I always try to work as efficiently as possible, so I don't usually have tight deadlines.


    This answer is bad because it suggests a lack of experience working under pressure and could make the candidate seem unprepared for challenging situations.

  2. Good answer:

    During my previous job, my supervisor asked me to come up with a marketing campaign in just two days. It was a really challenging deadline, but I knew I had to deliver. I focused on developing a clear strategy and prioritizing the most impactful tactics. I also communicated often with my team to make sure everyone was aligned and felt supported. In the end, we were able to deliver a high-quality campaign on time and with great results.


    This answer is good because it provides a clear and specific example of a challenging situation and demonstrates the candidate's ability to work under pressure while maintaining a positive attitude. The candidate also shows how they utilized effective communication and prioritization to meet the tight deadline.

  3. Good answer:

    During my internship, I was given a tight deadline to complete a complex research project that required a lot of data gathering and analysis. I immediately broke down the project into smaller tasks and created a detailed project plan with deadlines for each step. I communicated regularly with my supervisor to make sure I was on track and to get feedback on my progress. Even though it was a difficult project, I was able to complete it several days ahead of schedule thanks to my planning and diligence.


    This answer is good because it shows the candidate's ability to break down a complex project into manageable tasks to meet a tight deadline. The candidate also demonstrated the ability to communicate effectively with their supervisor and seek feedback to improve their performance. Completing the project ahead of schedule shows their efficient work style and dedication to meeting deadlines.

  4. Bad answer:

    When I was in college, I had a paper due the day after my birthday. I really wanted to celebrate with my friends, so I stayed out late and only started the paper around midnight. I had to write 10 pages in just a few hours, and it was really stressful. But I managed to pull it off and get a B+!


    This answer is bad because it suggests that the candidate has a habit of procrastinating and may not take deadlines seriously. It also shows a lack of consideration for quality work since the candidate is willing to settle for a B+ after rushing to complete the assignment in a few hours.

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