Hiring managers ask interview questions about all kinds of things—your background, your experience, your successes, your failures, and all kinds of day-to-day issues. One of the things they may want to know is how you handle stress or pressure on the job. Most jobs have elements of stress or pressure, and how you behave in response to that stress greatly affects how you perform and how you affect the work environment for others. Here are three sample questions and answers for you to consider:
How do you handle stress and pressure on the job?
This question is pretty straightforward. You may be tempted to say, “I handle it just fine,” or “It motivates me to work harder.” Even though these seem like good answers, you’ll be better off if you can give them a little more insight into you and the way you think. For instance, a more effective way to respond may be to say, “I’ve learned that in times of stress, it’s very important to prioritize my tasks so I can continue to be productive.” However you’ve learned to deal with stressful situations, it’s nice to follow up your response with an example of how you’ve put that approach to the test. Your example would include the steps you took to think about what had to be done and decide on priorities.
Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.
This question is essentially asking the same thing as the direct, straightforward question, but specifically asks for a story. Don’t just say that you buckled down and stayed until the work was done. That does show you as someone who finishes a job no matter what, but you’ll make yourself stand out more if you choose an example that walks them through how you approach and solve problems. Highlight your critical thinking skills. Usually this will touch on how you had to look at the situation critically and prioritize what needed to be done immediately and what could wait (or what could be delegated). Walk them through why you chose what you chose and what the results were.
Describe a time when your work was criticized and how you handled it.
Isn’t it always a bit stressful when our work is criticized? No one’s perfect, so chances are that you will have had your work criticized in the past (and will again in the future). To become better at anything, you must be open to constructive criticism and willing to learn from it. Learning and improving are what will make you even more valuable as you grow in your career. Tell them about a situation that is preferably far in your past and isn’t directly related to important tasks of the job you’re interviewing for. (Accountants may not want to talk about how you miscalculated a budget forecast because of a math problem—but telling a story about what you learned from a difficult situation with a project team member that made you a much better communicator would be great.) Explain the situation you were criticized for, the action you took to learn from or correct the situation, and the end result. Your goal is to show how you improved and are now better because of it.
**Need more in-depth interview answers? Download Career Confidential’s Free eBook, How to Answer Interview Questions – 50 Tough Questions Answered, to learn the best strategies and answers for your next interview.
About the author
Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.
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