How Do You Handle Stress?

How to Answer Interview Questions About Stress

Man being interviewed by a panel
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One common interview question is “How do you handle stress?” The interviewer does not want to hear that you never get stressed; after all, everyone feels stress at one time or another at work. Instead, the employer wants to see if you know how pressure affects you, and how you manage it.

To answer this question successfully, you want to provide specific examples of how you have handled stress well in the past.

You might also provide examples of times when pressure actually made you a more productive employee.

How to Answer the Question

The best way to answer this question is to give an example of how you have handled stress in a previous job. That way, the interviewer can get a clear picture of how well you work in stressful situations.

Avoid mentioning a time when you put yourself in a needlessly stressful situation. For example, do not share a story about a time when you were stressed because you procrastinated and had to finish a project quickly. Focus on a time when you were given a difficult task or multiple assignments, and you rose to the occasion.

You also should not focus too much on how stressed out you felt. While you should certainly admit that stress happens, emphasize how you dealt with the stress, rather than how it bothered you.

If possible, avoid saying you are stressed by a situation that will be common in the job for which you are applying.

For example, if you say you get stressed when you're given multiple projects, and you know the job will require you to juggle many assignments at once, you will look unfit for the position.

You might even consider mentioning how a little stress can be a helpful motivator for you. You can provide an example of a time the stress of a difficult project helped you be a more creative and productive worker.

Sample Answers

  • Pressure is very important to me. Good pressure, such as having a lot of assignments to work on, or an upcoming deadline, helps me to stay motivated and productive. Of course, there are times when too much pressure can lead to stress; however, I am very skilled at balancing multiple projects and meeting deadlines, which prevents me from feeling stressed often. For example, I once had three large projects due in the same week, which was a lot of pressure. However, because I created a schedule that detailed how I would break down each project into small assignments, I completed all three projects ahead of time and avoided unnecessary stress.
  • I react to situations, rather than to stress. That way, the situation is handled and doesn't become stressful. For example, when I deal with an unsatisfied customer, rather than feeling stressed, I focus on the task at hand. I believe my ability to communicate effectively with customers during these moments helps reduce my own stress in these situations and also reduces any stress the customer may feel.
  • I actually work better under pressure and I've found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment. As a writer and editor, I thrive under quick deadlines and multiple projects. I find that when I'm under the pressure of a deadline, I can do some of my most creative work.

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