Answering "How Do You Work Under Pressure?" in an Interview

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 6, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working under pressure is a valuable quality that can bring you success in many roles. In many job interviews, hiring managers and recruiters often want to know about your ability to manage stress and work under pressure. Knowing how to respond to the question, "How do you work under pressure?" can help you calmly and confidently show your ability to handle stressful situations. In this article, we explain why hiring managers ask this question in interviews, describe how you can answer it, and provide some examples to consider when preparing your answer.

How to answer the question "How do you work under pressure?"

The goal of answering this question is to show a hiring manager how you work under pressure. Interviewers look for specific examples where you handled stressful situations in your answer. Here are some things you want to consider when preparing to answer this question:

1. Use the STAR method

STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result:

  • Situation: Describe the scene around the events, like what the larger project goal was, how many people were on the team, and what problem you needed to solve.

  • Task: Detail your specific responsibility for the problem.

  • Action: Describe how you handled a situation. Explain each step you took to address the problem.

  • Result: Describe the results of your actions and how they compared to the expected result.

Show that you have an excellent record of working under pressure. When preparing for the interview, think of a previous professional situation in which you displayed calm when working through difficulties. Describe that scenario during the interview and explain the actions you took to diffuse the situation. Besides listening to your response, the interviewer may evaluate your thought process, experiences, and ability to formulate an argument.

Read more: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

2. Be honest

It's best to be completely honest when discussing your abilities in a job interview. Try to think of ways in which you can use the truth to your advantage. Even if you struggle under pressure, calmly acknowledging and mentioning this demonstrates you're actively trying to improve in this area and can leave a positive impression on the hiring manager.

In many cases, companies might look more at an applicant's potential rather than their current ability. Showing that you're aware of your shortcomings and willing to work on them may positively impact your chance of securing a position.

3. Stay calm and collected

Interviewers often observe nonverbal cues. Answering this question calmly and confidently is even more critical than it is for other questions. As you verbally express your confidence, try to ensure your tone and body language match. Speak slowly, make minimal gestures, and make eye contact. This manner may help you gain the interviewer's trust and help them feel confident that the rest of your answers are truthful.

Related: 10 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

4. Mention your ability to manage stress

Besides explaining how you work effectively under pressure, mention the methods you use to manage workplace stress. This part of your answer may show the interviewer that you can handle the effects of constant pressure and that you can perform well. Since continuous stress can negatively affect overall productivity, employers value team members who can find ways of relieving work-related stress. Some alternative questions you may answer include:

  • How are you able to manage stress?

  • Describe a stressful situation that you've experienced.

  • Is it easy for you to work under pressure?

  • Describe an overwhelming situation and how you managed it.

  • Do you think stress and pressure have benefits?

What industries might ask about your ability to work under pressure?

Although "How do you work under pressure" may be a common interview question, there are a few specific industries that may be more likely to ask this question:

  • Healthcare: Healthcare managers, especially for roles in the emergency room, want to know how you handle high-stress situations that require you to multitask and think quickly.

  • Technology**:** Programmers and software developers often design, develop, and release new technology on business-driven deadlines. This question helps hiring managers know how you handle pressure.

  • Finance and accounting: This industry requires you to manage many client details and meet critical deadlines. In an interview, show how you can respond to clients who may feel stress and uncertainty about their finances.

  • Sales: Sales professionals consistently have goals they need to achieve. If you miss a quota or time passes where you fear you may not reach your goals, this can be a stressful job.

  • Management: As a manager, you ensure your team performs well, that you achieve objectives set by your manager, and that you complete tasks assigned to you. Answering this question for a management position shows how you can prioritize many tasks without sacrificing quality.

Related: 13 Nursing Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Example answers for the interview question, "How do you work under pressure?"

During an interview, you want to explain how you specifically work under pressure and manage stress and situations that forced you to act quickly. Here are some sample answers that can help guide you when thinking about your answers:

Example 1

This example explains the process for handling stress and includes how the candidate immediately responded, what they did, and the end result:

"I've always worked best under pressure. I like to keep my workspace organized and prioritize my tasks using a planner to track upcoming deadlines. If my manager assigns me a new task or project, I quickly shift priorities, assess risk, and delegate tasks where needed.

At my last job, management reorganized their structure and laid off several employees, including two sales representatives. The shift was so quick that we didn't have time to transition work. Immediately, I contacted each of their customers to inform them of the changes and determined their immediate needs. I assisted them by getting them the products they needed. I also contacted the rest of my team to understand their capacity requirements, reallocated the customers, and transition, losing no sales."

Related: 19 Common Interview Questions and Answers

Example 2

This example shows the ability to handle high-pressure situations, with an explanation of how to overcome and manage them effectively:

"I've worked as a patient care technician for the past three years and have developed many skills to work well under pressure. Although my duties have been primarily straightforward, stress levels are high with patients, and nurses constantly reevaluate their priorities. When I got stressed early in the job, I panicked and got confused about where to focus. I learned to complete one task at a time. Whether it's patient observation, education, or administering treatments, it was essential to understand that focusing on one task helped me manage stress, complete all of my duties, and ensure patients maintain low-stress levels.

If I ever experienced stress or had too many tasks, I used my communication and de-escalation skills. Whether it was a nurse or receptionist, I would communicate my needs for additional staffing or resources clearly. With any issues, I knew who to approach to handle conflicts."

Example 3

In this example, the candidate describes their stress management techniques, describing how they're proactive in stress management and what tools they employ when handling stressful situations:

"As an outside salesperson, there are two key areas where I've learned to manage my stress: presenting to clients and reaching my quota. Public speaking always made me nervous, and every time I had to present, I'd meditate for five minutes before my presentation. Even if I was in my car, taking deep breaths and performing a mindfulness activity helped calm my nerves and prepare me to present confidently.

Meeting quotas is also stressful. I try to organize my goals into daily objectives to help me achieve my monthly quota. If I start to get behind, I revisit my goals and update my daily requirement. I might double the number of cold calls I make or reward referrals as I try to reach my goals. Although it can be stressful, creating an actionable plan helps me manage my stress."

Tips to ensure a successful response

There are a few things to consider when responding to interviewers:

  • Be confident: Confidently express to the hiring manager you're able to handle pressure. Showing that you've successfully learned and developed your stress management skills can show your determination.

  • Remain positive: Try to avoid discussing situations where you may have caused a stressful situation and focus on how you handle them. Interviewers want to see how you positively handle sometimes difficult situations.

  • Be specific: Include specific examples of your stress management techniques in response to actual scenarios. If the interviewer poses a theoretical situation, try to think of a similar scenario and how you handled it.

  • Be reassuring: Assure the hiring manager of how you intend to bring those same techniques to this role. Reference specific questions or parts of the job description and how you can apply your stress management techniques.


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