A guide to help you answer a stressful interview question while keeping your cool.
“So, how do you handle stress and pressure?”
Your immediate response to this question might be, “Stress? I never get stressed. I’m cool, calm, and collected all the time. Nothing bothers me. What’s stress?”
This isn’t the answer that the interviewer is looking for. They don’t want to hear that you never get stressed. Everyone gets stressed at some point or another. What are you, a robot? Even though this seems like a good go-to answer, replies like this can make interviewers suspicious. Especially if you’re sweating profusely and struggling to get your answer out in the interview.
Interviewers ask questions like this because they want to know how pressure affects you and what you do to handle it. To give a good answer to this question, you should provide examples of how you’ve handled stress in the past and how it’s made you a more productive worker.
Employers want people who work well in stressful situations and solve problems instead of avoiding them. They want to know that you won’t crumble emotionally under the weight of your responsibilities or pass off your duties onto everyone else. No one wants to be responsible for your nervous breakdown.
1. Give an example
Interviewers love stories — but before you grab your beloved copy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, remember that they want to hear stories about your work experience. Give an example of how you’ve handled a stressful situation at a previous job and show them how well you work under pressure.
2. How do you deal with it?
Try not to mention that your favorite way to deal with stress is to curl into a fetal position and cry under your desk. Talk about some of the healthier methods you use to deal with stress instead of the ways that stress can get to you. Some ways of dealing with stress to consider are mindfulness or meditation, getting rid of interruptions or distractions, prioritizing and balancing your work, and using stress as a motivator, among others.
3. Talk about how pressure motivates you
Tell the interviewer about how pressure or stress can motivate you to really buckle down, focus, and work diligently to get assignments done. A lot of times, the stress of a deadline can motivate people to prioritize and organize their work to meet those due dates. If this is true for you, make sure to show this to the interviewer in your story.
4. Mention skills you’ve learned from working under pressure
Dealing with stressful situations can teach you valuable skills like time management, prioritization, organization, and diligence. These are all soft skills that employers look for in potential employees. Using your response to this question to talk about your work-related skills and how you deal with stress will make your answer twice as good.
5. Mention goals and end results
A good motivator to get through a stressful situation can often be to remind yourself of your ultimate goals and what you hope to accomplish with a project. Taking a step back and remembering what you’re working towards can help you get through the pressure of a difficult project.
Giving a bad answer to this question can have a negative effect on your chances of getting a job. Let’s not let that happen. This is how you can avoid making a fool of yourself:
1. Avoid saying that you don’t get stressed
This seems like a good answer, but let’s be realistic — everyone gets stressed at one point or another. Giving this answer could make the interviewer think that you lack self awareness or don’t take your work seriously. No one wants to hire an employee who doesn’t even know how they act under pressure or care about their job.
2. Don’t mention things that could have been avoided
When talking about how you’ve dealt with stress in the past, try not to bring up times when you put yourself in situations that could have been prevented. For instance, don’t talk about a time that you were stressed out because you procrastinated on a project and started it the day before it was due. Try to focus on times when you had a difficult project and how you were proactive in getting them done.
3. Try not to bring up job duties as stressors
Do your best to avoid saying that you were stressed by a situation that you’ll regularly run into at the job you’re interviewing for. For example, if part of the job description is working on multiple projects at once, saying that you have panic attacks when you have to juggle several projects at the same time is a good way to make yourself look bad.
4. Avoid saying that you “just push through it”
Giving a response like this could make the interviewer think that you won’t reach out to your boss, even if there’s a problem you need help with. Even if you could handle these situations on your own, they could be avoided with simple communication.
5. If you’re interviewing for a management role, avoid saying that you “delegate”
In an interview for a management position, you’re probably going to talk about delegating at some point — but managing stress is not the time to bring this up. No one wants to work for a boss who assigns them their own personal workload when they feel overwhelmed. You jerk. Instead, try to bring up communication and teamwork.
6. Don’t say that you don’t handle pressure well
This is a terrible answer. Don’t say that you don’t work well in stressful situations or mention a time when you couldn’t perform your job successfully because you were stressed out. Pressure can be a good thing — try to portray it as a motivator instead of something that prevents you from getting work done.
7. Don’t say anything stupid
Try not to mention that your favorite stress-reliever is getting high, playing beer pong, or just totally checking out from work and taking a nap in the bathroom. This is an interview, for christ’s sake — be professional!
When giving your answer to questions about how you handle stress and pressure, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to give examples. Remember to talk about situations where you successfully handled stress and came out on the other side a better and wiser employee.
Talk about how dealing with a stressful situation taught you valuable skills
I feel that sometimes pressure can be a good thing, working under pressure has taught me how to prioritize and balance my workload. I once had three very important assignments due the same week, but I completed each assignment on time because I meticulously organized and planned how I would tackle each project. Because of my planning and prioritization, I was able to avoid stress altogether.
Give an example that shows that you’re motivated by stress and work well under pressure, mention how working under pressure makes you think more creatively
I often find that stress is a great motivator for me and I work well under the pressure of a deadline for several projects at once. As an artist, I often find that I produce my most creative work when working with deadlines in place.
Mention the reward of a successful end result
When I get stressed, I’ve found that the best motivator is to remember the end result I’m working towards. When I’m working on a challenging project, I sometimes will take a step back and remind myself of my goals. This helps me stay positive and work to my fullest potential.
A good employee isn’t someone who doesn’t get stressed out — a good employee is someone who can work efficiently even when there’s a deadline weighing you down and killing you on the inside. Use this question to your advantage to show your dedication to getting your work done to best of your abilities.
Job interviews are stressful enough on their own. If you can be composed and give examples of how you handle stress, you’re pretty much guaranteed to give a successful answer. Again, try not to mention anything that will make you seem unprofessional. Just wait until after the interview to curl into a fetal position to deal with stress in your favorite way.
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