Interview questions about how you deal with stress and stressful situations are very common in job interviews. Instead of stressing out about these types of questions, you can actually use them to your advantage if you prepare the right way!
Most jobs have stressful aspects. Think of reaching targets, goals, presenting ideas, and meeting tight deadlines. For employers, employees that possess good stress management skills perform better and are more efficient in their work.
Questions about how you handle stress are usually behavioral interview questions. These types of strategic interview questions require you to provide the interviewer with an example situation that you experienced in your work situations. Behavioral job interview questions focus on work situations that you experienced in the past and how you responded to them. The way you respond to these questions tells the interviewer more about your personality, work processes, and ethics.
The rationale behind discussing previous stressful situations is the best indicator to predict how you will handle situations in the future. For interviewers, behavioral questions about stress are the most pragmatic way to uncover past work experiences. The answers you give the interviewer should convince him or her that you can handle situations that you are probably to encounter on the job if you’re hired.
Interview questions about your past work behavior may sound challenging, but they are actually a great opportunity for you to show that you’re a fit for the position. With the right preparation, you can use your answers to your advantage by demonstrating that you’re able to perform under pressure.
In this article, we discuss why the interviewer wants to discuss stress management, and how you should answer them. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.
Why Interviewers Ask Stress Management Interview Questions
The ability to handle stress and stay calm under pressure is essential in a lot of jobs. If a job requires this, the interviewers want to make sure that a candidate is able to take on that environment. Hiring managers want to know if you react to stressful situations in a constructive way rather than a destructive one. Employees who get motivation out of a healthy dose of stress and use those situations to their advantage to be productive and deliver quality work is what employers look for.
The best way for you to demonstrate that you possess stress management skills is by explaining how you approach complex situations in a systematic way and how you have successfully done so in the past. The most efficient way to demonstrate this is by explaining how you plan ahead and prioritize your work. Interviewers look for candidates who focus on constructive communication with their colleagues and supervisors but are also able to set healthy boundaries.
On the other hand, employers try to avoid candidates who can’t cope with stress and who might react in an angry or sad way. The same goes for candidates who are reactive to stress in a disruptive manner and allow stress to impact the quality of their work. By analyzing your answers, interviewers try to get answers to these kinds of questions.
What your answers should include
Your answers to questions about stress management should demonstrate that you’re not being overwhelmed or shut down when stressful situations. It’s important that you show that you stay calm under pressure and that you are still able to think even though you experience stress.
Furthermore, the interviewer wants to hear from you how you have taken responsibility in the past to avoid putting yourself or colleagues in stressful situations. This is mainly assessed through the use of behavioral questions to uncover your past work experiences and how you handle certain situations.
Why Assess Stress Management?
Interviewers are looking for the right candidate for each position. They’re tasked with making the best hire with someone who fits the company culture. If a position includes dealing with stressful situations from time to time, interviewers want to verify if you can handle that.
Instead of hiring the person that they ‘like’ they need something better to figure out which candidate is the right fit for the job. By analyzing how you perform in stressful situations, the interviewer is trying to assess if you are able to successfully perform the tasks required for the job.
Interviewers consider the following when using behavioral questions about stress management in a job interview:
Uncovering specific details of your behavior and stress management
The interviewer is interested in specific details of your behavior regarding stressful situations. Your answers should give the interviewer the ability to get more in-depth information about your stress management. When they ask you a question, make sure you include specific details of how you have handled similar work situations in the past.
Of course, the interviewers got your resume already and maybe even a motivational letter or letter of recommendation. Still, this only allows the interviewer to assess your hard skills and educational levels. Soft skills such as stress management are better to gauge during job interviews with the help of behavioral interview questions and situational interview questions. Behavioral questions regard your past work experience, while situational questions are hypothetical in nature.
Therefore, include scenarios in your answers that demonstrate how you handle day-to-day tasks, how you approach stressful situations in the workplace, and what you learned from your mistakes.
Analyzing your past behavior – A good predictor for future performance
By asking questions about your past experiences with stressful situations, the interviewers can quite accurately determine your work behavior and patterns. They can analyze if the way you handle situations and solve problems aligns with the requirements for the position that you’re interviewing for.
This proven technique can give more insight into your future work performance. Make sure that you prepare well for these questions and expect related questions about, for instance, your strengths and weaknesses. By preparing example answers with scenario’s that you’ve encountered in the past, you can provide a concise and concrete answer without missing important details.
The costs of bad hiring decisions
If it turns out that a candidate is not able to perform to the standards required for the job, this could be costly for employers. This is why hiring managers will do everything in their power to ensure the right people get hired.
For a company, bad hiring decisions can lead to more than just losing money. For example, employees who turn out not to perform can also lead to a decrease in productivity. If a hired person is not up to the task, this could lead to them underperforming. Also, time will be lost if the company needs to search for a replacement.
Behavioral questions about stress management are regarded as a preventative way to make sure that the right candidate with the right fit for the company is hired. Interviewers want to know if you’re the kind of person who is going to be able to handle work situations professionally.
Determining future success
By asking about your past behavior in stressful situations, hiring managers can quite accurately determine your future success in the job that you’re interviewing for.
Prepare well for these questions if you’re applying for a job in which it’s likely that you will encounter stressful situations—for instance, a position at a company that’s active in fast-paced work environments. Also, ensure that you can discuss your strengths and weaknesses.
By preparing concrete example answers with scenarios in which you successfully demonstrated stress management skills, you can provide a concise answer without missing important details.
Avoiding making the wrong decision
By using behavioral and situational questions, hiring managers can assess the future job performance of candidates. Based on their judgment, they can make better hiring decisions. A perfect resume or cover letter is not enough to make it past seasoned hiring managers.
If they use behavioral questions, the interviewers want to get to know more about how you have handled stressful situations in the past. If they ask you situational questions, they want to know how you would handle a hypothetical situation. These questions are usually related to situations you’re likely to encounter in the position that you’re applying for.
The information in your answers should give the interviewer a better insight into how you deal with stressful situations and if your approach matches the ones required for the job you’re interviewing for. If you prepare your answers the right way, you can ensure that your answer situations include aspects of the most important requirements of the job.
Whether the interviewer is using behavioral or situational questions, they want to hear you describe how you have handled or would handle a specific work situation. By preparing example scenarios to questions you expect, you can give exactly the information that he or she is looking for.
When you answer behavioral or situational questions, make sure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer. The STAR method is discussed in more detail later on in this article.
What Employers Are Interested In When Assessing Your Stress Management
In short, hiring managers want to get to know you better and learn more about your work approach. This is also why we can’t stress enough how important a strong preparation is. Through your preparation, you should be able to demonstrate your stress management skills by using solid example scenarios.
Your interviewers want you to demonstrate that you can take on the day-to-day tasks that are required for the position. Furthermore, you need to show that you have the potential to grow.
Behavioral questions and situational interview questions are used to get insights into how you deal with stress and challenges in your work. Basically, the interviewers want to get the following questions answered:
- Are you able to perform when you encounter stressful situations?
- Can you communicate effectively with different personalities?
- Are you able to adequately respond to situations that occur during your work?
- Are you able to adjust to changing work environments?
- Can you assist your coworkers or team when needed?
- Are you flexible in your approaches to situations at work?
Behavioral Questions About Stress Management
Behavioral interview questions require you to provide the interviewer with an example situation of work experience. A commonly asked behavioral interview question about stress management is ‘tell me about a time you experienced a stressful situation at work.’ As you can see, your answer needs to describe a situation from your past work experiences in which you experienced a stressful situation but came out on top.
That’s the most important aspect, making sure you use strong examples to demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job. The key to coming up with a strong example of a time you showed the desired behavior in your work is preparation.
Behavioral job interview questions usually start with:
- Give me an example of
- Tell me about a time when you
- Have you ever
- Describe a situation where
Example behavioral job interview questions about stress management:
- Give me an example of a time you stressed out, which resulted in making errors in your work.
- Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to handle a stressful situation.
- Have you ever had trouble responding to a hectic or stressful situation?
- Tell me about a time when you were late to complete a task, or you missed a deadline.
- Describe a situation where you used your creativity to overcome a stressful situation.
- Tell me about a situation where you had to complete a challenging task to a tight deadline.
Situational Questions about Stress Management
Situational questions require you to describe how you would respond to a hypothetical situation. These situations are often related to the job and are situations that you are likely to encounter in your daily work if you’re hired. Hiring managers use these questions to predict and assess your future job performance.
Situational interview questions are also called scenario-based interview questions. The scenarios used in the questions help interviewers to determine how well you fit the company culture and how likely you are to succeed in the job. Situational questions are an efficient way to assess whether or not you’re a good fit for the company and team. The way you respond to situational interview questions reveals a lot about your skills, abilities, work ethic, character, and personality.
By using these questions, interviewers can get a better understanding of how you approach situations and how you deal with stress.
Situational interview questions are similar in nature to behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interview questions also require you to discuss work performances that the interviewers use to gauge your future job success. The difference between them is that behavioral questions regard how you handled situations in the past, while situational questions require you to discuss hypothetical questions. These questions often start with ‘how would you handle a situation in which..?‘
Situational job interview questions usually start with:
- How would you handle a situation in which
- When you
- What would you do
Example situational job interview questions about stress management:
- How would you handle a situation in which you had to prepare a presentation to important clients the day before it’s due?
- When you need to calm down a team member from getting stressed out about a deadline, what do you say?
- How do you prevent a situation from getting too stressful to manage?
- What would you do if you received negative feedback from your manager?
- How would you deal with frequent changes at work? For example, in fast-paced work environments.
- When you work on several projects with tight deadlines, how do you make sure you stay on track?
Red flags For The Interviewers Assessing Stress Management
Before we discuss how you can figure out which questions you can expect and how to answer them, we want to discuss a couple of red flags for interviewers. There are a couple of things you want to avoid when discussing stress management. Below we discuss these points in more detail.
Answering that you don’t experience stress
Everybody who works in a commercial work environment will encounter some stress sooner or later. Interviewers know this as well. So, even though it might sound like a good strategy to tell the interviewer that you never encounter stress, it’s not a genuine answer. The interviewer wants to know how you react to stressful situations. You can do this by using examples from situations that you need to explain from examples in the past or through hypothetical situations.
Not providing enough detail
Interviewers are looking for candidates who are really able to explain how they handle stressful situations. You need to be able to provide them with specific details of the situations you experienced in the past, as mentioned in your resume or cover letter.
If you, for example, claim that you have experienced fast-paced environments in which you sometimes had to make quick decisions to complex problems, you better be able to back this up. The most efficient way to do so is through clear examples of times you used your skills successfully.
If you fail to do so, this could lead to a quick elimination of your candidacy for the job. If an interviewer has trouble verifying your employment history, this could be a warning sign for them.
Not responding effectively
Interviewers expect you to prepare for your interview. It’s okay to take some time to come up with the right words for your answer, but rambling does not work. Failing to respond effectively to a question can be a warning sign for an interviewer.
Your research should give you an idea of which topics you think the interviewer wants to discuss with you. Based on these topics, you should be able to come up with a couple of common interview questions that you can expect. Make sure you prepare example answers to these questions and scenarios that you can use in answers.
For example, if you’re preparing for an interview question about stress such as ‘Describe me the last time you experienced stress during a project?‘ you can expect the interviewer to follow up with ‘what actions did you take?‘ and ‘what were the results from your actions?‘.
Not taking responsibility
If you’re asked about a stressful situation in which you had to react quickly, it’s important that you take responsibility in your answers. If you don’t, this could be a warning sign. Make sure you tell the interviewer about a work experience in which you took action to resolve a stressful or challenging situation.
Self-awareness and being able to reflect on situations is an important characteristic to possess in the workplace. Also, make sure that you are able to discuss situations in which you failed. Interviewers want to hire candidates that can admit errors or who made thoughtful mistakes in the past and tried to fix them. However, make sure you use an example that wasn’t caused by you personally or a mistake that could have been easily avoided.
Hiring managers know that the candidates are human and make mistakes, just like everybody else. It’s important that your answers show that you take responsibility for situations. Therefore, describe the actions you took to resolve a problem or challenge.
Negativity in any form is not appreciated by interviewers. Employers want to hire positive-minded employees with a can-do attitude. Examples of unneeded negativity are talking inappropriately about previous employers or colleagues, but also situations in general. Negative undertones never impress interviewers the right way. Therefore, focus on yourself and put yourself in the best light possible.
How To Figure Out Which Stress Management Questions You Can Expect
Based on basic research, you can make an educated guess about which questions you are likely to get during your interview. Below we discuss a couple of steps that you can take to get you started in your interview preparation.
Start off with thoroughly researching the company and the position you’re applying for. This research will help you identify the required skills, abilities, and competencies.
Analyze the required skills, abilities and competencies
Once you have identified the required skills, abilities, and competencies, you can start analyzing them. Write each of them down and rank the skills on importance in relation to the requirements of the position that you’re applying for.
Based on the list you have created, you can start figuring out question categories, which in turn, will allow you to prepare answers to questions in those categories. A lot of companies are looking for similar skills such as stress management, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, creative thinking, problem-solving, etc. Rank the skills on importance in relation to the requirements of the job that you are interviewing for.
Think of your work experiences that relate to the position
Next, based on the list you created with the required skills, abilities, and competencies, you can start researching the most commonly asked questions about those topics. Make sure to prepare approximately answers to 3 to 5 common interview questions per topic.
If you’re creative, you can prepare your answer scenarios in such a way that the skills you describe in it apply to multiple types of questions. For example, when answering common questions about stress management, it’s likely that you have used communication skills, problem-solving skills, and adaptability. So, if you have prepared answers and the interviewer skips in-depth interview questions about communication but focuses more on adaptability, you can still use the answer you would have used to answer questions about communication.
Highlight your skills
Furthermore, you can use your answers to highlight multiple skills in one scenario. This is also the reason why behavioral questions and situational questions are a great way to demonstrate your suitability for the job. It just requires some preparation.
Therefore, ensure to highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior related to the competencies, skills, and abilities required for the job. Focus on delivering a concise and to-the-point answer.
To help you get started with your preparation for stress management questions, you can cask yourself the following questions:
- What were the causes that led to you being in stressful situations?
- Have you ever contributed to a stressful situation? If so, what could you have done differently to avoid it?
- What was your most recent reaction when you experienced a stressful situation?
- How did you mitigate or reduce the stressful situation?
- If you had the possibility to react to that situation again, what would you have done differently now?
- In what ways did stress help or hurt your performance?
Focus on successful situations and challenging ones
When it comes to stressful situations, the interviewers want to know how you approach and solve these situations. Therefore, make sure you’re prepared to discuss situations in which you successfully did so. However, interviewers also want to zoom in on challenging situations you have encountered.
Tell the interviewer what you did, why you did it, and what the outcome was. Also, explain what you learned from the situation. Focus on demonstrating problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creative thinking skills.
There’s also a large chance that the interviewer will ask you follow-up questions. They do this to assess your self-awareness. For example, by asking you how you might handle a similar situation differently at the current stage in your career.
Use the STAR method to structure your answers
When the interviewer asks you about specific work situations, the most efficient way you can answer is according to the STAR interview technique. The STAR method allows you to concisely provide the interviewer an answer by logically walking them through the situation. It’s important that you give your interviewer answers in the form of a story, and you need to structure this story logically.
STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your walkthrough. It allows you to efficiently demonstrate the skills and abilities required for the position and what the interviewer wants to see.
STAR Interview Technique
Behavioral job interview questions are best answered by providing example situations according to the STAR method. This way, you can give interviewers exactly what they are looking for. Also, it allows you to provide a concise and to the point answer about how you acted in previous work situations.
Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.
When you give your answer to the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details. When the interviewer asks you questions about stress management and challenging situations that you have encountered, make sure that you provide all the details necessary for them to understand what you were up against.
After you describe the situation, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task during that specific stressful situation.
Then, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing while under stress. Provide the interviewer with a step by step description of what actions you took.
Finally, talk about the outcomes of your actions. Make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Here you answer questions such as What happened? And What results did you get? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation. Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences.
Frequently Asked Stress Management Job Interview Questions
Below we discuss the most frequently asked stress management interview questions.
- Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict within the team. How did you handle it? What was the result?
- How do you adjust to changing situations that you have no control over?
- Tell me about a time when you were late to complete a task, or you missed a deadline.
- How do you handle stress in fast-paced work environments?
- Tell me about a time when you had to perform a task in which you had little or no experience in doing. How did you approach this situation, and what did you learn.
- Describe a time you had to solve a challenging problem at work.
- Tell me about a time when you had an unexpected event that required you to adjust your priorities.
- Tell me about a situation where you had to complete a challenging task to a tight deadline.
Sample Answers To Stress Management Job Interview Questions
Below you will find some example questions and answers about stress management. These are all behavioral interview questions, and the examples are already written in the STAR format. This way, you can clearly see how you can structure your answers.
However, these are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!
Stress Management Question 1: How do you handle stress? Can you describe a time you handled a stressful situation successfully?
‘I think a healthy dose of stress makes me more focused. For example, when I work on multiple projects at the same time, it helps me to stay productive and motivated to keep going. My prioritization and time management skills help me balance work in order to meet deadlines. This is also what keeps me from getting stressed out.
Situation & Task: ‘For example, in my previous position, I was asked to run a project team to develop a sales pitch to persuade a client into using our products. This was a high-pressure situation because there was a three year and multi-million dollar contract on the line. However, we only had five days to develop and present our pitch.
For the organization as well as for me personally, this was an important deal. For me, failure was not an option because it was a unique opportunity.
Action: I assembled a team of the most experienced colleagues. Together with the team, the goals and milestones were determined for each day. After that, I delegated tasks based on the knowledge and experience levels of each team member.
Result: I distributed the responsibilities according to experience and knowledge levels, so everyone on the team was aware of his or her responsibilities. Furthermore, everybody was aware of the importance of this deal. Even though the project required the maximum of everybody on the team, we delivered everything on time.
The client told us that he was impressed by our effort within the time constraint. We landed the deal, which was a great achievement for everybody on the team. It was an effort that could not have been made without the people on it.’
Why this is a strong answer:
- The answer is related and relevant to an interview question. It starts with you explaining how you approach stress in general. Next, an example is given of a time you have used the skills you discussed in your answer.
- This answer shows your determination but also other important skills, such as communication, leadership, growth potential, time management, and stress management.
- It’s an example of a time you successfully were able to perform under pressure, which gives the answer more weight.
Stress Management Question 2: How do you adjust to changing situations that you have no control over?
Situation: ‘In my previous job, my supervisor had to unexpectedly leave for three months due to a medical condition.
Task: Because of this unexpected situation, our boss asked me to step in as an interim manager for our team. I was familiar with the basics of management and what my manager was looking for in our team because I worked with him for a couple of years. However, I was not trained to be a team manager yet.
Action: I saw this as a great opportunity to reach a career goal, which was becoming a team manager. I enjoy challenges and was confident enough. At that time, I thought I could do it. I organized a meeting with the team and explained the situation. Also, I asked them to work together as well as possible and that we had to get through this period together. Furthermore, I asked another manager to coach me during the process to make sure I would learn on the job.
Result: We managed to get through the three months very well, and all the projects were finished on time. When my manager returned, he was very pleased with the work the team delivered, and I even got compliments from our director. My performance led to me being promoted to team manager myself at the end of that year.’
Why this is a strong answer:
- The answer is related and relevant to an interview question. It’s an example of a time you successfully were able to perform under pressure.
- This example shows that you’re not hesitating when it comes to challenges and stressful situations.
- Furthermore, you demonstrate that you are willing to work under pressure and possess management skills and leadership potential.