How to Answer "How Do You Handle Stress and Pressure?" in an Interview

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Deborah Sweeney102 CEO
April 15, 2024 at 8:59AM UTC
After applying for countless jobs, you finally get an email or a call from your dream job. They’ve reviewed your resume and would like to chat with you in-person about the position. When the day of the interview rolls around, you come prepared and even have a few questions to ask your interviewer. Everything is going great until the question, “How do you handle stress and pressure in the workplace?” comes up.
What should you say? For many of us, the immediate reaction might be to take a superhero approach. “I don’t get stressed. I can handle any project given to me!” While you might think this sounds impressive, ultimately it’s not the answer interviewers are looking for because they know everyone gets stressed in the workplace and they want to know how you deal with and manage stress.
So, what’s the “right” way to answer this question?
An interviewer doesn't care to hear about what stresses you out, or that you're stressed out in general. Rather, an interviewer cares more about how you handle inevitable stresses. You can explain this with specific examples of stressful scenarioes and by talking about it with the following tips in mind.

1. Share a Relevant Story

Provide an example of how you have handled stress in the workplace before. You want to give the interviewer an idea of how well you work in stressful situations—rather than of the ways in which stress can get to you.
You could tell your interviewer how you handle stress and pressure when you’re at work, or you could give them a glimpse into your process by sharing a relevant story instead.
A compelling story allows us to set the scene for an interviewer and detail a time where you were caught in a stressful situation. What was going on? What was your mindset like? Did you immediately get strategic in figuring out a solution or take a break to figure out what to do next? You can then detail the steps you took to get out of it and the overall lessons that the experience taught you. By the end of the story, the interviewer should have a better understanding of how you react when the pressure is on — and it’s the candidates who approach situations with grace and ease that most companies want to hire for their teams.

2. Talk About Breathing and Mindfulness

If you’re not prepared to answer this question, your mind might start racing trying to figure out the “best” response to answer during your interview. If you’re drawing a blank, talk about breathing — seriously.
How do you breathe when you’re at work, particularly when you’re caught in a panic-fueled moment? Do you do it quickly and rapidly? Do you inhale and exhale slowly to better reset your body and mind? Share some insight into your breathing techniques with your interviewer along with any mindfulness exercises you practice, such as meditation or journaling. These exercises only take a few minutes to do each day, but doing them helps adjust your mindset and keeps you from sweating the small stuff. Even when the work is piling up, by breathing you’re better able to stay focused, worry about one thing at a time, and strategically work your way through it.

3. Focus on the End Goals

Everyone has that moment when they work on a major project or assignment where it’s almost impossible to imagine ever being finished with it. Rather than see a deadline as something to panic about, look to it as a motivator. Tell your interviewer how focusing on reaching your end goals works to keep you motivated instead of feeling stressed out. If you’re working with a team, you may even want to elaborate on your techniques for keeping everyone motivated and on task too.
At the end of the day, remember that most interview questions are not here to trick you but to look for honest and true answers. Companies seek out employees that can admit to their faults because everyone is human and makes mistakes. Next time you walk into an interview, be prepared to answer stressful questions and remember that it’s okay to talk about the struggles you have encountered in the workplace. This shows that you recognize you have areas to improve upon and offering insight into how you have begun this process is a great place to start.
There are tons of stressful situations after stressful situations at work. No matter what your job or situation, work-related stress can get all of us at one point or another. But it's important to bring down stress levels by identifying stressors and working on stress management before those stress levels go through the roof. Follow the above stress management tips to minimize your work-related stress and know how to answer the question of stress in your next interview.

Example Answers

Here are three example answers to answering how you handle stress in the workplace.

1. Answer A

"There was a time in my previous job when I had to finish a massive campaign on a very tight deadline. But, fortunately, I react to situations rather than to stress. I was able to break the campaign up into steps and give myself smaller deadlines for each of those steps—and, this way, I could lean on my team to chip in with individual tasks. This taught me how to lead and manage a team, allocate work, and collaborate efficiently to, ultimately, get the job done on time."

2. Answer B

"Stress is important to me because, when I'm under pressure, I can often do the best possible job. I make sure I have the correct balance between good and bad stress. For example, I need deadlines, which I consider good stressors. If they're not given to me, I give them to myself, to motivate msyelf to work efficiently. This is how I'm able to consistently turn my projects in on time or before they're due."

3. Answer C

"I stay calm under pressure and handle stress easily. For example, whenever the holidays come around, and I'm working double time, I focus especially hard on balancing my mental health. I practice breathing techniques and make time for me to hit the gym. This way, every time I come to work, I feel rejuvenated and ready to give it my all."

Related Questions 

1. How can employees manage stress?

For more on how to manage stress at work, consider these seven stress management strategies by which successful people swear.

2. How can I be stress-free in the workplace?

Relieve stress in the workplace with these 30 tips for relaxation.

3. How can managers reduce stress in the workplace?

Managers can help reduce stress in the workplace by avoiding these common leadership mistakes.

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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

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