When asked to describe your current or most recent workload, you're really being asked how you perceive and react to responsibility. A candidate who describes an unmanageable workload that was unrealistic for one person may be expressing complete truth—but it's more about the perception and one's approach.
By contrast, that same candidate could describe a heavy workload that was a constant challenge, one which would always keep a person busy. Describing the situation in a more positive fashion actually sheds more light on the worker, not the work itself.
Points to Emphasize
Keep in mind that the interviewer is more interested in your demeanor and approach to work. Your answer should be focused along the following lines:
- Detail not just the amount of work, but the range of different tasks to highlight your versatility.
- Use the opportunity to emphasize your organizational and multi-tasking skills.
- Express confidence in your ability to keep up with sizeable workloads without feeling overwhelmed.
- Make sure to maintain a positive tone—an unmanageable workload might translate to an unmanageable worker.
A team player is someone who understands that the workload is shared and doesn't shy away from a challenge. Keep these ideas in mind for your interview.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Remember that one's workload is not always simply a series of tasks handed down by a manager. Avoid these common mistakes when responding:
- Don't express exasperation or a sense of being burdened by your amount of work.
- Slow business periods shouldn't mean less work—drastic variation suggests you can't always find ways to remain productive.
- Avoid overly-brief answers; give your interviewer some insight as to what makes the workload what it is.
- Don't downplay your contributions, either—it's okay to talk about hefty expectations if you do so in a positive fashion.
It's often beneficial to seem loose and casual in interviews, but don't slip into the wrong mindset and start venting about how hard your job is (or was). Stay professional.
The following example will give you some insight as to how you might respond to this question effectively:
There were days when the call volume seemed impossible to keep up with, but overall, the workload at my last job was manageable. My team communicated and worked well together to stay on top of things and adapt during the busy rushes, which I believe was good preparation for my next fast-paced job.
Emphasize what you did, how you managed, and why the experience was beneficial to you. Very few employers will welcome you in by assuring you that there's little work to be done—make sure they know you're ready for the task.