When it comes to interviews, there are doubts that we have and the interviewers can take you for a whole ride based on their company, the position, and what they know. In the list, there are often questions that are triggering or more on the negative side. Ever wonder why? Most interviews focus on the not-so-sweet questions that require making use of certain skills and capacities to answer at the spur of the moment maybe and that can get challenging. Let’s get our attention toward one of the popular questions – ‘ Tell me about a time you had to leave a task unfinished’ and how to tackle this one the right way. let us know about that the A Time You Had To Leave A Task Unfinished.
Why is this question asked ?
When answering questions that depend on you to choose from your set of experiences, the best and most upfront way is to consider why the question is asked. Based on the company, position, and so on, there would be varied reasons in line with the company morals and principles which you would have more or less an idea of beforehand and can keep in mind before you answer.
On the general side, this question is asked to test your decision-making capacity at the time, how your priorities work, what is the best reasoning to offer as to why you decided at the time, and how far you’re willing to go to get things done. In other words, if you had to be working for their company, under what circumstances would you leave something undone.
Common mistakes made
With all the jitters from the interview questions, there are times you tend to forget what you may have prepared or how you planned to answer these kinds of questions. Either way, have a look at the common mistakes people make while answering this question.
Me, Myself and I
Quite often, our subconscious mind focuses on you in the question and takes it as a life or death situation to completely answer by giving a long list of how capable you are. Stop right there. When the company asks this question, you want to tell them why and how you made the decisions and not a superhero-style where you saved the day. While they want to know your abilities, they don’t want you to indirectly praise yourself. They can see right through when you’re doing that. Frame your answers in a way that your decision to leave the task unfinished was in the best interest of the company in some way at least.
Blabber blabber or one-liners
It is understood that you may be nervous or are trying to be cautious but you have to be attentive to what you’re answering. While interviewers welcome your ideas and opinions, you shouldn’t go on and on nor should you provide too little. They want to know your skills, your confidence and if you’re going to go on like a chatterbox it would be as good as beating around the bush. On the other hand, if you barely tell of your task and why you took the decision, the interviewers may not understand your perspective. Maintaining balance is the key.
Where’s the rest?
Okay, you may have answered why you chose to leave the task unfinished. But where is the rest of the team? How did your decision affect the company? Did you consult your team before you could decide or did you do it of your own free will? Why you left the task doesn’t concern only you. It has some of the other effects on the surrounding people as well and it’s important to make a mention of that to give the interviewers a final picture of how your choice turned out.
How to answer?
The big question then is, how do I answer this? Here are a few tips you can consider while framing your answer. However, it is also a need to understand the context that you’re putting forth and then give the facts:
You want to keep your answer crisp and concrete. Giving away idol talk or talk that is not directly related to the question may not only give a bad image of you but will also show that you’re drifting from the original idea and may cause the interviewers to think that your decision has no concrete reason and you’re just beating around the bush. Include details like
- What was the task?
- Who was involved?
- What were the consequences of both the options that you had before you?
- Why was your option the best at the time given the company and yourself?
- How did you collectively deal with it along with the others?
Keep principles in mind
You will have a rough idea of the principles your company follows be it, customers, first or quality, and so on. Try and frame your answers so that your decisions are well in line with the principles of the company. This would also be a good time to incorporate your morals that suit their principles.
For example, if the company works on the principle of teamwork, you can say that you left the task unfinished because you had to cooperate with your co-workers for another task that required collective efforts
Remember that your interviewers have an idea of your abilities. They want to test how well you can put them in terms of a situation and therefore, they ask questions like these. You want to tell them only what they ask and what is relevant. The main skills you want to give out here would be
- Your ability to decipher
- Prioritizing skills
- Multi-tasking and managing skills
- Persuasive skills
- Ability to coordinate
In many cases, interviewees are so focused on what the task was and why it was left unfinished that they forget to say what happens after. This is one of the crucial points that the interviewers want to check out. Did you get back to it? Did you make arrangements for it to be done so that there’s no loss? Did you make sure that there is a backup even though you were not able to complete the task? They want to know what the next step is too.
What to avoid?
Take a look at a few pointers to what is a complete no-no while answering this question.
If you left writing a report and you tell the interviewers it was because you had a party, you may as well walk out of the room yourself. The question put forth is such that you have already failed to deliver and you have to answer why. In this case, the only thing to do is have a valid reason to back you up. Something that was of more importance or something that had a quicker deadline. And in worst-case scenarios where you don’t have a very pleasing reason, don’t go on about it. Be precise and focus more on how you made up for what you left unfinished.
As long as you remember to connect the company’s principles to your answer, you’re good to go. If you’re going to hesitate about your reason, the interviewers will determine your decisions- making skills on that basis. Before anything else, show a firm attitude and certainty in the decision you made so that the person on the other side will want to pay attention to what you’re about to say. Don’t be shaky about your answer. Instead, give off the idea that the choice you made was the smartest one at the time.
Framing and tone
While this is important in every other question as well, concerning this one, the way you deliver is to consider. Use phrases and words like ‘ I don’t usually’, ‘ there was just one time’, ‘ I tried my best ‘, ‘ I regret the one time ‘, ‘ We looked at all possible options ‘, ‘ I consulted with my team and it was the best thing to do’, ‘ My attempts were in vain’ and so on which show your face of responsibility while gradually building up to the reason.
So now that you’ve got all your pointers in check, have a look at a few sample answers that may help you build just the right one when faced with this question at your interview!
- I regret the time I had to leave this undone. A team of 4 colleagues headed by me was working on a designing project for a client. We had many ideas and experiments lined up and the client too, seemed to find a liking to our work. Halfway through, the client decided that they didn’t want those designs as they changed the resources and found a different outlook. Although I tried to convince the client about the potential our design held for them, they remained persistent. After a discussion with my team, we tried to approach the client with what they wanted. Unfortunately, our attempts didn’t make it through as they had already found a specializing company for their new design. It was discouraging and unpleasant considering the entire team that had been putting in efforts but I had to let it go.
2. I recollect an instance when I was at my previous job. A co-worker and I had a deadline to complete a feature article by the end of the day. We began with my work as usual and it wasn’t long that one of our superiors asked me to instantly begin working on another new article that required immediate delivery within a matter of a few hours. Being an important assignment, I had no other option but to leave the previous feature article midway and inform my co-worker that I have another urgent assignment to complete. Since it was already early evening, doing research and writing for the urgent article would not give me time to work on feature one. However, while keeping in mind my priorities, I did speak with my superiors and informed them of the situation, and got together with my colleague the very next day to finish the article.
3.This is from when I was a freshman. Each of us was assigned a task to complete which consisted of research, analysis, writing, editing, and so on. As initially decided, each freshman would work on what was assigned and later put it all together. I was told to work on the writing based on the information received. Although things didn’t go as planned and due to a few changes that came from the superiors, we were bound to get together in teams and rework by combining their tasks with ours. This was troublesome as I had already begun working and things were going to be altered. Right enough, I was told to work with the research team as there had been some misinformation. That was it, I had to let go of my initial drafts and assist the research team instead.
- I don’t leave tasks out, especially when I’ve got a plan in mind. However, there was this time when I was asked to attend a meeting. I was on my regular schedule and just before I was told that an urgent delivery had to be done. I found myself in a fix as I had everything set for the meeting and didn’t expect this to come out of the blue. I had to prioritize and while the meeting was important, ‘customers come first’ was my company’s policy. Adhering to that I was left with no choice but to go as quickly as possible and make the delivery. In the bargain, I missed the meeting but was able to explain myself for the same as well as take the necessary messages and instructions passed in the meeting.
There you have it all, right from the Do’s and Don’ts to the tips and tricks, all laid out for you. With a good bunch of examples of different scenarios and situations to come in handy, go confidently and get your shot! Kudos for your interview!
These questions always seem to be asked by many interviewees out there:
- Is it safe to say you’ve neve left a task unfinished?
It definitely is not, it’s obvious that you have left something or the other undone. Be it intentionally or unintentionally, in school or at work. The interviewers know that and you do too. So don’t avoid the question completely.
- Can I use personal examples?
While it depends on each interviewer, there is no rule that you can’t use personal examples over professional ones. However, considering that you are seeking a professional job, it is smarter to use a related concept. However, if you find that you can align all the tips in a personal example, go ahead!