Stress belongs to almost every workplace in the world. Managers set ambitious targets for the employees, and there are always some deadline you have to meet with your work. What’s more, everyone expects something from you–your superiors, subordinates, your colleagues in the office, and of course yourself.

It is completely natural to experience some pressure in work. In many places it is almost unavoidable. What interests the hiring managers, however, is your ability to manage stress, to deal with it, and to not let it have a significant impact on your health, or on your performance in work.

Let’s have a look at some questions they may ask you while trying to assess your stress management skills during a job interview.


Tell us about the most stressful situation you’ve experienced in your life so far.

Few things matter here. First one, you should pick something big. Perhaps the school leaving examination, or a stressful situation from your personal life–when you fought for your life, for example, or someone you loved was seriously sick. Work examples are also good–for example when you had to deliver a super important presentation in front of a big crowd, or were trying to meet an unrealistic deadline, working day and night.

The second important thing is to not show any emotions anymore. It was a stressful situation, but you eventually managed to get over it. Now it’s just a memory, certainly something you prefer not experiencing again, but not something that still sends shivers down your spine.

Last thing is to explain how you eventually managed the stress–maybe someone helped you, supported you, or you used meditation or breathing exercise. Or when the moment came and you started to speak in front of the big crowd, the stress disappeared, and you delivered your message calmly, exactly how you wanted. Or you simply accepted the stress, and it slowly dissolved like water in the air. If you took some medication to alleviate stress, I suggest you to not talk about it in an interview.

* May also interest you: Can you work under pressure? – 7 sample answers.


Tell us about a time when your stress resulted in mistakes in work, or in saying or doing something you wouldn’t normally say or do.

Demonstrate them that you are emotionally intelligent, and aware of the impact your emotions have on your behavior. Perhaps you shouted on your colleague, or said some bad words to someone in the office, just because you struggled with stress.

That’s fine, it happens to everyone. Just ensure the interviewers that you quickly realized what you did, and apologized to your colleagues. The same applies to making a mistake. Maybe you had too much work, but you still tried meeting some unrealistic deadlines–just because you cared, and tried your best for the company.

But trying too hard and not checking things twice you eventually made a mistake–in some calculations, forecasts, reports, anything. Again, it’s perfectly fine and it happens to everyone. Just tell them that you did not blame someone else for making the mistake, and learned your lesson.


Things change pretty quickly in this business. How do you adapt to changes?

Nobody likes changes. Or almost nobody. We prefer to have our routine, to do the things the same way every day, week, and month. However, the only inevitable thing in life is change--and you should count with it while interviewing for the job.

Try to be honest though. Say that changes can be stressful for you, just like for everyone else. But you understand that company has to evolve if it wants to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. And the same is true for you as an employee.

Hence you are ready to embrace the changes, and will do your best to adapt quickly. Counting with  changes and looking for positives in them, instead of negatives, is an attitude that will help you deal with the stress associated with each new situation in the workplace.

What are your favorite stress alleviation techniques?

You should have some. It can be your family back home–always waiting for you, allowing you to forget work, and to gain strengths for yet another day in the job.

But you can refer to any other stress alleviation technique, such as meditation, physical exercise (especially aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling), quiet time in the nature, good book or even a table game you immerse in, forgetting everything else around you, including the stressful situations from work. However, if you enjoy getting wasted each Friday to forget everything, I suggest you to avoid mentioning this specific stress alleviation technique…

Show the interviewers that you have your way of managing stress. They may work better on some days and worse on other, but you have your remedies, and will apply them after each stressful day at work.


How do you ensure that a stressful situation in the workplace won’t escalate into something bigger, for example in an emotional conflict with your colleague?

Such things can’t always be controlled–sometimes things simply escalate. While interviewing for a job, however, you should at least show them that you try your best.

Say that you try to keep a cool head, even in the trying circumstances. You won’t pour oil into fire. If you see that someone can’t stand you in the office on a given day, you won’t be there. If you know that someone isn’t ready to hear some message, you won’t tell them, you will wait for a more appropriate moment, unless it is absolutely necessary to tell them.

To put it simply, you try to be attentive to the feelings and emotions of your colleagues. This helps you to take the right action in each situation in the workplace, in order to avoid some emotional conflicts and other unnecessary dramatic situations in the workplace.


One of your colleagues is super stressed about a deadline. What will you tell them, if anything?

All companies look for team players, so you should definitely say something. Maybe you can suggest them to try one of the stress alleviation techniques that work for you.

Or you can try to assure them that neither their life nor their position in the company is at stake with the deadline, and that you will stand behind them and advocate for them in front of the manager–if they fail to meet it, from objective reasons.

You can also suggest assuring them about their abilities. Praising them for their qualities, and the good work they do for the company, you are sure that they will try their best to meet the deadline–whether they meet it or not is not the most important thing in the world. Effort is what counts.

* May also interest you: Tell us about a time when you had to work with limited time or resources.


Tell us about a time when the stress got the better of you.

You have two options here. First one is saying that it never happened. Certainly, you said or did something stupid under pressure, but you quickly realized your mistake and remedied the situation. This can work fine, as long as you look chilled and relaxed in the interview.

Even more powerful answer is admitting that stress actually had the upper hand in some situation. You exploded, you did something outright stupid, or you got sick as a result of your stress. Looking back, however, you see it as just another learning experience.

You learned your lesson, and maybe it actually motivated you to seek a better life-work balance, or even another employment–and that’s why you sit in the interview with them.

Honesty is a highly sought-after quality in the employment market.  And there’s a lot of strength in an ability to admit a weakness... Remember it while answering interview questions about stress management.


Tell us about a time when you had to make a tough decision in work, for example dismissing someone, or reporting your colleague who happened to be your friend. How did you handle the situation?

Any situation you talk about, ensure them that you do not let your emotions to impact your decisions in work. You have emotions, you are a human being, and not a stone or a tree. But you do not let them to dictate what you should do. And you try to make the best decision for the company.

So, when you had to dismiss someone, or report someone, or make some other unpleasant decision, you simply did it. Maybe it was stressful, maybe you didn’t feel great about making it, but you eventually decided rationally, doing the best thing for the business. Because emotions have no place in an effective management.


A few tips on how to demonstrate your stress management skills in an interview

  • Try to stay calm and show no negative emotions. They may purposely put you under pressure, with a series of tough questions or even with some unpleasant situation. Do not take it personally–it’s just a part of the hiring process. Stay calm and answer their questions. If you do not know, say that you do not know…
  • Do not say them that you never experience pressure. First of all it’s not true–unless you lived like a princess until this point in life, facing no challenging situations whatsoever. Admit feeling pressure, but explain how you try to alleviate it.
  • Do not focus on the stressor. Focus on the solution. When answering any of their questions, you should not dwell much on the cause of your stress. Nor should you blame it. Explain it, but focus on the solution of the problem, the action you took to overcome your stress…


Ready to answer interview questions about stress management? I hope so! Learn also how to answer:

Matthew Chulaw
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