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  1. #1
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    Question Multi-tasking vs Quality Work

    I was recently asked this question on a pre-interview questionnaire.

    "There are times when multi-tasking is necessary between ongoing day to day work and special circumstances that require press coverage or other activity. How would you describe your ability to focus on more than one task at a time without sacrificing quality in your work?"

    Is there a personality type that can pull this off? What type is it?

    I find it hard to believe that it's actually humanly possible, probably because I am a perfectionist.
    I can multi-task but the quality of the work is going to suffer a little.
    How can it not?!
    I know that "multi-tasking" is the buzzword out there.
    I just don't believe it's possible to do both - multi-task AND not let the quality of your work suffer.
    Or am I the only one who has trouble with this?

  2. #2
    Queen hunter Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    It all depends on what you are doing.


    I prefer focus on one thing because that is the only way I can get the depth I want.

  3. #3
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Hmm...multitasking has been labeled one of my strengths at work, and I don't think the quality has been sacrificed as a result, as I've also been cited as having high quality!

    I actually find I can be most energized at work when I suddenly have a lot of things that I'm having to juggle. It's like my mind has to go into hyperdrive and it keeps things interesting. Almost like my mind has more clarity all of a sudden and I can calculate the fastest way to get things done -- but not sacrificing quality. BUT while this can be exhilarating for me, it can also be quite draining.

    I don't know...it's an interesting question. I think the quality question will depend on the type of work involved, and also how 'perfect' you want the results to be -- i.e. minimum necessary to meet requirements/needs, or going above minimum and putting in extra touches that might not *really* be necessary.
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  4. #4
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    In an occupational capacity, it's one of my major strengths, and has been recognized. Five things at once, pick up the last thing where I left off, no problemo. Speed and quality are not a problem. I trust my N/T to make snap decisions and rarely fail.

    Not at work? Count yourself lucky if I'm doing anything productive.

  5. #5
    Feline Member kelric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by INTJMom View Post
    I was recently asked this question on a pre-interview questionnaire.

    "There are times when multi-tasking is necessary between ongoing day to day work and special circumstances that require press coverage or other activity. How would you describe your ability to focus on more than one task at a time without sacrificing quality in your work?"

    Is there a personality type that can pull this off? What type is it?

    I find it hard to believe that it's actually humanly possible, probably because I am a perfectionist.
    I can multi-task but the quality of the work is going to suffer a little.
    How can it not?!
    I know that "multi-tasking" is the buzzword out there.
    I just don't believe it's possible to do both - multi-task AND not let the quality of your work suffer.
    Or am I the only one who has trouble with this?
    I think you're right... in fact, I'm almost positive. You can task-switch between multiple things, but the quality *will* suffer. Not much doubt about it - I ran into a book discussing this the other day in the bookstore (can't remember the title ), and basically it said that it's a neurological fact - there is degradation of quality, response time, etc. when trying to juggle multiple tasks, be they mental or physical. You'll tend to prioritize them, and spend more time and effort on the more important one, but performance of both will suffer. Now if they're both trivial, you may be fine anyway (the old "walk and chew gum at the same time" thing), but for anything that takes effort it's just not possible to do two things as well as one. I don't think personality type really has much to do with it.

    In my somewhat cynical opinion, this question really means "tell me that you can do multiple things perfectly at once, so that, if hired, I can pile multiple things on you and interrupt you constantly, and then blame you if you can't handle it all flawlessly."

    I'm not sure how I'd answer this question (which, like you say, is sort of a buzzword-bingo thing anyway). Either make up a bunch of BS (probably what most people do), or approach it at the level of prioritization - knowing what's important to focus on at any given moment, with the understanding that true simultaneous focus isn't possible. Explain things like how you might allocate time to focus on different things throughout the day, or how you might handle an interruption almost immediately, but after taking a few short notes on what you were focusing on pre-interruption so that you can get back to it easily later.

    I believe that it also changes as you age... younger people (early 20's ish) tend to be better at juggling multiple things, but older people tend to be better at prioritizing. I know that I'm very, very annoyed when I'm trying to focus on something and I get interrupted by someone wanting something (which happens a lot at work). My tendency is to want to say, "shut up and leave me alone and let me finish what I'm doing!" (although I never do). That might be a personality thing .

    But enough rambling... short answer... I think you're right .

  6. #6
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Yup. It's me.
    I actually produce better results if I multitask than if I focus on one thing.
    If I focus on one thing, I get bored very quickly and then don't pay much attention, and tend to rush it off to get it done quicker. Inferior result.
    If I'm multitasking, the stimulation of it keeps my brain very active and I'm better able to pay attention to each thing that I'm doing simultaneously. Multiple superior results.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Simplexity's Avatar
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    Yea I think this might have some type implications. I know personally with my INTJ dad he is the type that really maximizes his results if he is working on one thing. Me on the other hand I'm much like substitute, my mind just seems to turn on and be a hell of a lot more resourceful and my attention does not wander. I have been diagnosed with ADD so that may be a reason but honestly more is better is something I sort of live by when it comes to attention(within reason). Guess its that lack of Te I need more information to choose from because I'm not ruthlessly efficient in organizing. I would parse too much or retain too much.
    My cold, snide, intellectual life is just a veneer, behind which lies the plywood of loneliness.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hirsch63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelric View Post
    In my somewhat cynical opinion, this question really means "tell me that you can do multiple things perfectly at once, so that, if hired, I can pile multiple things on you and interrupt you constantly, and then blame you if you can't handle it all flawlessly."
    "Quality" needs to be defined...not verbally, written down. Most HR operatives would be loathe to do this I suspect. Quality on an assembly line differs from that in a tailoring establishment. I suspect that quality in the hiring context means "how much can we pile on you at our whim and your performance will not vary?" or "can you play this word-game?". A dynamic office environment certainly will require multi-tasking and rather more as a rule than an exception. With that in mind a competent manager should be able to arrange available resources to achieve the desired level of quality. More often than not I have found managers of all abilities tasked with producing "quality" without the necessary resources.

    I can take some multi-tasking as long as I have seen that the overall system that I am working within is a sucessful model. What I can't tolerate is when a flawed or incompetent system of management tries to compensate by squeezing resources beyond a prudent limit for no discernable gain.

    At the end of interviews with these type of questions I'll say "I can do anything you ask of me as long as you provide the necessary tools and resources". This usually leaves them looking baffled and suspicious as if I said something sinister.
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  9. #9
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure there's studies out there that have proven unless there's some attention deficit, no one is better at multi-tasking than individually addressing each topic. Have I seen these studies? No. I am just assuming.

    Just duck the straight yes/no answer and go on to say you are extraordinarily competent at "maintaining superior results" while multitasking.

    Maintenance of the same results would be a lie for an IxxJ, but maintenance of "superior results" is a categorical, more vague definition of the word, and thus lets you answer it the way the phrasing clearly expects a "right" answer without any lying involved.

    Any idiot that phrases a question like that clearly doesn't know what they're looking for when they're hiring someone anyway. They just want a competent and likable employee, which you are. Tell them why they should want you.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Simplexity's Avatar
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    ^ I think the difference lies in motivation. Some people just won't be as motivated if they're working on just one thing and some people are only motivated when they can invest all their resources and energies in one thing. Quality obviously will decrease with the more tasks you incur but some people can't rev up the motivation in order for that difference to be very noticeable in a singular task.

    I agree though, that was not a well worded question.
    My cold, snide, intellectual life is just a veneer, behind which lies the plywood of loneliness.

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