ad unit placeholder ad unit placeholder ad unit placeholder

How do you handle stress? How to answer this job interview question 😰

Copied to clipboard

It’s highly likely that at some point, a stressful situation will occur at work.

A potential employer will want to know then, that you can handle working under pressure whilst remaining productive and professional.

So, alongside the more clear-cut job interview questions like ‘why do you want to leave your current job’ and ‘what makes you unique?’, employers will often ask stress interview questions like ‘how do you handle stress?’ to gain insight into how you’ll handle stressful moments and how your reaction may impact their business.

Because they are so open-ended, stress and pressure interview questions can be particularly difficult to answer, but it’s key to answer honestly and highlight what methods you use when managing stress levels.

Identify a previous example of a time you experienced a stressful situation and provide detail on how you managed this effectively to achieve a positive end result.

In order to explore this common interview question further, let’s look firstly at why employers choose to ask it…

Summary video for “how do you handle stress?”

Tip: Change the playback speed in the settings at the bottom right corner, to suit your learning requirements!

Please feel free to embed this video on your website (get in touch for more info), or for more great videos for graduates, subscribe to the Give a Grad a Go career advice YouTube channel.

 

Why do employers ask "how do you handle stress?"

  • Learning how to deal with stress and anxiety at work is tricky, but it is a skill that is highly valuable to employers.

    You might be surprised to know that employers don’t actually want to hear that you never feel stressed, or that you’ve never been involved in a stressful situation.

    Aside from the fact that it will seem like you’re being dishonest, denying that you’ve ever experienced work-related stress will leave the employer wondering how you’d react if ever you were.

    Realistically, everyone has experienced stress at some point in their lives and most have likely experienced many causes of stress at work.

    Likewise, all graduate jobs will be stressful at one time or another

    So, an employer will be looking for confirmation that you know how to deal with stress at work, and have the experience to back up your statement.

  • Though stress is often seen as something negative, stress management at work is an incredibly valuable skill – and being able to demonstrate to an employer that you perform well under pressure will be highly impressive.

    You can display that you know how to handle stress well if there are any ‘managing stress’ techniques or stress management tips that you already use to help you calm down.

    By asking this interview question, employers are looking to see if you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and that you’re aware of the skills the graduate job will require.

    For example, if it’s a role where deadlines are essential, they’ll want validation that you can work well under pressure, manage your time effectively, and turn around exceptional work to even the tightest deadlines.

    The best answers in interviews to ‘how do you handle stress?’ will include how these strengths are applicable to the nature of the job and prove to the employer that you are the right fit for the role.

  • In a high-pressure interview, your initial reaction when asked how you handle stressful situations might be “…you mean, like this one?”

    Well… you might be on to something.

    Employers often use this stress interview question to gauge how you actually handle a stressful or high-pressure situation – do you remain calm and collected, or do you become flustered and try to side-step the question completely?

    Often, the best way for employers to find out how you act under pressure is by assessing your body language and the answer you give – so preparing your response to the question is the best thing you can do.

    Dealing with stress at work can be tricky, so it’s important to use your interview to demonstrate that you can deal with high-pressure situations.

    Jump to our “how do you handle stress” sample answers to find the best ways to respond to this question.

  • This may seem like an obvious statement, but drawing on past experiences is the most important thing to include in your answer.

    Rather than being a straightforward ‘do you’ or a ‘can you’ question, ‘how do you handle stress?’ really requires you to explain the ways you do, and provide solid evidence to back up your reply.

    Think of the interview question, then, as ‘how have you handled stress in the past?’ – and draw on your experiences (whether at school, university, through extra-curricular activities or in previous graduate jobs) to show the employer how you have dealt with a stressful situation.

    You might like to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to show them how you work in a productive and resilient way.

     

 Register to our website to receive job alerts tailored to your search preferences!

On the hunt for graduate jobs? Find the latest vacancies on our job board!

How to handle stressful situations examples

When interviewing for entry-level jobs, we recommend that you prepare for interviews answers and practice in advance to ensure that your body language stays completely confident and relaxed during the high-pressure environment.

It may also be useful to research some tips for stress management in interview settings.

Here are some ‘how do you work under pressure?’ example answers to help you when an employer asks you to describe a stressful situation and how you handled it…

  • Stressful situation example 1

“I actually believe that a little bit of stress can be a good thing. I work well in a fast-paced and healthy stressful situation, as I enjoy a challenge and I find that extra bit of pressure can spur me on to get tasks completed quicker, pushing me to work even harder! I think that’s why I enjoy working in sales so much, because I am able to work towards a target; in my current Sales Executive role I have exceeded my target every month, increasing this by around 10% each time.”

 

 

  • Stressful situation example 2

“One of my most effective coping with stress life skills is knowing when to take a step back and allow myself some time to think, plan and prioritise. For example, if I’ve got a lot of different university projects I’m working on all at once, I become more efficient with my time. I break the big tasks up into separate, individual activities, working out which take the longest, which I can complete quite quickly, and which have the nearest deadlines. It then becomes more manageable and far less stressful.”

  • Stressful situation example 3

“I think that communication is vital when handling stressful situations. In my previous job, I had multiple people that I was required to report back to, working across 3 different departments. This meant that it was down to me to manage my workload and liaise with each department to decide which tasks needed to be completed more urgently. I also learnt to be honest and advise my superiors when the workload got too much. This communication really helped in reducing stress and it meant that everyone was able to plan ahead, knowing which tasks were due to be completed first each week.”

 

  • Stressful situation example 4

“I find that, for me, what makes stress worse is not having an outlet via which to offload. So, I handle stress by ensuring that I am active at lunchtimes. I rarely eat lunch at my desk, every Tuesday I have yoga at lunchtime and on days that I am not doing a sport, I always try to get outside and go for a walk. I also encourage others in my team to come for a walk too, it really helps to let off some steam and get us ready and focused for the afternoon.”

  • Stressful situation example 5

“I often find that helping colleagues with their stressful situations or any problems they come across, enables me to put my problems into perspective. I know how to deal with stress from work-related issues and I can give advice on how to deal with certain circumstances. In return, my colleagues sometimes help me with my problems too. Sharing a problem often takes a great deal of weight off, as the saying goes – a problem shared is a problem halved!”

  • Stressful situation example 6

“To help deal with stress, I always look for the positives in every situation. Instead of concentrating too much on the things I didn’t manage to get done that day, I focus on how much progress I have made in other areas. For example, last month we had 2 weeks where multiple people were on annual leave, and two people were off sick. I was therefore left with a big workload which was very overwhelming, to begin with, but I tried to think of the glass half full and would write down 3 things that went well at the end of each day, which really helped me to stay positive and keep going. Now, whenever my colleagues ask for tips for handling stress, I tell them to do the same!”

What to avoid when answering ‘how do you handle stress?’

Claiming that you don’t get stressed

When answering the ‘how do you handle stress?’ interview question, saying that you don’t ever feel stressed will be a big red flag for any employer!

While it might be tempting to present yourself as someone who is always calm, realistically everyone feels stressed at some point in their lives – and denying it or avoiding the question will only lead them to assume you handle it in a bad way.

If you’re worried about coming across as someone who gets stressed easily, tell the employer about any stress management techniques you use in these situations to reassure them.

Using a bad example

Though using a situational example is important, it is possible to choose one that will be detrimental to your interview and suggest that you can’t handle stress at work.

Try to avoid anything where the stress was your fault, i.e. “I once forgot about a university deadline, and was left with one day to plan and write a 3000-word final year essay”, any example that is unprofessional, or where the outcome wasn’t a positive one.

When answering an interview question dealing with stress, stick to showing that you have coping with stress strategies at your disposal due to a previous workplace situation that you handled successfully.

Getting flustered

Though it can be a tricky one in a high-pressure graduate job interview, getting flustered will only hinder your chances of success and show that you can’t handle stress very well.

If the employer is looking to analyse how you actually handle stress, getting worked up won’t indicate to them that you know how to handle stress better than other interviewees.

Plus, you don’t want to throw off your performance throughout the rest of the interview.

So, take a deep breath and prepare to wow the employer with the answer you’ve prepared and practised.

There’s no better opportunity to implement your coping with stress mechanisms than in an interview!

Variations of the interview question “how do you handle stress?”

There are many ways that employers may ask “how do you manage stress” interview questions, so take a look at this list of example stress-related interview questions to know how to spot them:

 

  • How do you handle pressure?
  • Please give examples of 10 ways to cope with stress
  • Please give an example of a stressful situation you have been in
  • How do you handle difficult situations in life?
  • How have you handled difficult situations in the past?
  • What are the signs of stress in the workplace? How do you respond?
  • How do you handle stress and pressure?
  • How do you handle stressful situations?
  • What do you do to deal with stress at work?
  • What stress management techniques do you use?
  • What methods do you use to relieve stress and anxiety?
  • How do you handle a challenge?
  • Describe a stressful situation and how you handled it
  • How do you manage working under pressure?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How much stress can you handle?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • What stress management skills do you have?
  • How do you cope with signs of stress at work?
  • How do you handle stress in the workplace?

Generally speaking, a great way to respond to stress-based interview questions is to use situational evidence.

So before you go into an interview, prepare your answer with an example that shows off your strengths and skill set, and confirms to the employer that you’re the best person for the job.

 
If you found our sample stress interview questions and answers helpful, be sure to read our advice for interviews!

And, if you’re looking to land a job, head to our graduate job board!

Was this post useful?
ad unit placeholder ad unit placeholder ad unit placeholder