How To Answer Interview Questions About Stress

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 29, 2022

Published July 26, 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.

If you have been a part of the workforce, or on your educational journey, you are probably familiar with stress and various stressful situations. Potential employers may ask you about your experiences with stress to gauge how you handle stressful situations. These questions will help them understand how you might react in stressful situations and how your relationship with stress can affect the team or company. In this article, we discuss why employers ask about stress, how to answer these interview questions effectively, and methods on how to best highlight your relationship with stress.

Why do employers have interview questions about stress?

Stress is a part of many positions, and it is important for employers to understand your response and relationship with stress. This can help them understand how you would fit into the position you are interviewing for and can help them see how you would likely respond to stressful situations. By understanding your response to stress, they can see how you might help the team and company as a whole. Some employers might look for individuals who:

  • Uses pressure to create quality work in a timely manner

  • Prioritizes their work to help prevent stressful situations

  • Communicates with team members and managers to convey concerns and stressors

  • Sets healthy boundaries to align their capabilities with expectations

  • Is self-aware of their individual stressors and tendencies to work on improving them

  • Can effectively reorganize priorities to meet deadlines

  • React to stress in positive and helpful ways

  • Remain positive and boost the team in stressful situations

Related: 18 Common Interview Types and How to Ace Each One

How to answer interview questions about stress

It is important to consider how you react to stressful situations and to think about some stressful situations you have been in. By thinking about some of this information before your interview, you can answer questions about stress more effectively. Here are some things you might consider to help you answer interview questions about stress:

1. Think about how you approach stressful situations.

Considering how you have responded to stressful situations can allow you to describe your relationship with stress to your interviewer. You can start to think about your relationship by considering these questions:

  • What was the original cause of the situation?

  • What could you have done differently to avoid that situation?

  • How do you react to the situation?

  • How did you manage or reduce the stress?

  • If that situation were to happen again, how would you respond?

  • How did that situation help you or hurt you?

Related: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

2. Remember stories and examples that show how you handle stress and how they show your growth as an individual.

Recalling experiences of stressful situations can help an employer understand your responses to stress. This can show how you take stressful situations and use them to help motivate you. This will also give you the opportunity to show additional skills you have learned through these situations, such as communication and time management skills. Here are a few examples of how you might answer this question:

Example 1: "Making lists and planning are some key tools I use to help me reduce or avoid stressful situations. Creating a plan and a list of tasks to accomplish helps me manage my time effectively and keeps me ahead of deadlines. When stress does rise, creating a list of tasks that need to be accomplished helps me focus and stay on task rather than being overwhelmed by the situation. This has helped me to discover processes that have ultimately led to more streamlined methods that continuously meet quality expectations."

Example 2: "I have found that a healthy amount of stress can help provide motivation to stay on task. Stress can help me create quality work that continues to meet expectations while remaining within a set timeframe. Some of the best work that I have created has come from a situation in which continued pressure was applied to meet deadlines and expectations."

Example 3: "I have found that communication is a vital part of reducing and handling stressful situations. Having strong communication among my peers and managers has helped to keep everyone on track and on time. For example, there was this one project I was a part of that had several large tasks to complete. Before we even started, my manager and the rest of the team made sure to sit down and delegate tasks and set timelines in order for the project to run smoothly. Throughout the project, there was communication between project managers and the team to reflect on any issues or concerns. This helped to lessen the team's stress and ultimately had the project completed several days ahead of the project deadline."

Related: 10 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

3. Prepare to answer some follow-up questions about your experiences.

Some employers may have follow-up questions to better understand your relationship with stress. Reflecting on your relationship and how you might have answered the first questions about stress can help you explain and expand on how you might handle stress in that position. Here are a few examples of follow-up questions you might be asked:

  • How might you handle stress if there is no clear choice to make?

  • How do you handle stress when you have to make a tough decision?

  • When decisions involve and affect others, how do you handle the stress of that situation?

  • What do you consider a healthy amount of stress?

How to answer stress questions effectively

How you answer questions about stress can portray your positive relationship with healthy amounts of stress. By conveying how you effectively handle stressful situations and the positive outcomes it has influenced can highlight your ability to handle stress positively and separate you from the rest of the candidates. Here are some things to consider in your next interview when asked about stress:

1. Highlight that you do experience stress and methods of how you handle it effectively.

It is important to acknowledge that you do experience stress and some healthy ways in which you handle these situations. You might add specific mechanisms or tools you use to help reduce your stress levels, such as making lists or taking a small break to refocus. This will help show the interviewer that you can effectively handle stressful situations and accomplish the objectives of the position.

2. Focus on your actions under stress instead of the emotions experienced during these situations.

It is a good idea to focus on the actions of any examples you provide instead of the emotions you might have felt during high-stress moments. This can show that you are still an effective team member in stressful situations and can still benefit the team in these situations. Focusing on your actions can also show how you do not let stressful emotions dictate your ability to handle these situations.

3. Try to find examples of stressful situations that were caused by outside influences.

Finding examples that were caused by outside influences that were unavoidable can show how you can adapt and handle unpredictable situations. It is a good idea to reflect on examples that were not directly caused by you or avoided easily. This can also show that you do not cause the team or company stress and will instead solve those issues caused by outside influences.

4. Ensure you portray positive and open body language.

It is important to match your words with your actions and body language. By ensuring that you portray a calm and relaxed demeanour can help show your ability to remain calm under pressure. Showing your confident and relaxed manner by not fidgeting and keeping eye contact can help an interviewer understand how you might react in stressful positions.

Now that you know why employers ask about stress, how to answer these interview questions effectively, and methods on how to best highlight your relationship with stress, you can confidently answer interview questions about stress.

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