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Answering the Interview Question about Stress Management

by THEA kelley | August 19, 2021

“How do you handle pressure? How do you cope with stress in the workplace?” Some people do their best work under tight deadlines, find white-knuckle challenges exhilarating, and are cool-headed even when everyone around them is freaking out. If this is true for you, great! Say so, and give a specific example. If it isn’t–read on!

If you’re more of a sensitive or high-strung type like me, never fear–you can still handle this question effectively.

To answer an interview question about stress management or working under pressure, tell a story.

Think of a time when you successfully handled a high-stress situation at work: you remained pleasant, overcame challenges and delivered what was needed, even if you did feel like putting yourself into a straitjacket, or wrestling one onto someone else! Specifically how did you manage it? (Overcoming the challenges, I mean–not putting somebody into restraints.)

  • Did you cope by being very organized, prioritizing, working faster (to meet a deadline) or more carefully (to ensure accuracy under hectic conditions)?
  • Did you make a point of empathizing with stressed-out co-workers and remembering not to take things personally?
  • If not, what’s your own stress superpower? Humor? Mindfulness? Headphones?

Focus on your smart actions and the good results.

An interview story consists of a situation or problem, the actions you took and the results. The actions and results are the part that sells you, so don’t ramble on and on about what a horror show the situation was. Be specific about the positive results you managed to achieve. Did you meet the deadline, create high-quality deliverables, keep smiling, learn from the situation and/or improve processes to make the next crisis easier to handle?

Prove it, right there on the spot.

Remember that the interview itself is a high-pressure situation, and the interviewer will be assessing how you handle it. The best way to appear calm and unperturbed is to actually be that way inside. So before you have to answer the interview question about stress management or working under pressure, spend some time actually practicing a genuinely calm, confident interview demeanor.

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