Stress is a normal human response, and we all deal with it in different ways. If you’re in an interview and the employer asks you how you handle stress, it’s because they know you’re going to deal with stress at some point in the workplace and they want to know how it will affect you.
How an employee handles stress is a pretty big indicator of how well they will work under pressure, and if you’re interviewing for a job where stress will be a regular occurrence, the employer needs to know you’ll be able to keep your cool even in a stressful situation.
Here are some dos and don’ts on answering the question “How do you handle stress?”
Dos and Don’ts
- Be honest, but also be positive.
- Think about the types of stress you’ll encounter at this job before you answer the question.
- Don’t answer in a way that will seem like you can’t handle the job.
- Do give specific ways that you manage your stress.
- Don’t pretend that you never encounter stress in your life.
- Do talk about what you’ve learned from working under pressure.
- Try to share a personal story or a specific example of a time when you were able to handle the stress around you.
- Focus on the triumphs you’ve had when dealing with stress. Don’t talk about a time when you fell apart because of all the stress you were under.
- If the job you’re interviewing for is extremely stressful, make sure you communicate that you’re used to dealing with stressful situations.
- Be prepared to answer any follow-up questions.
- Don’t focus on the emotions you felt when you were stressed.
Best Answers to “How Do You Handle Stress?”
1. “I work well under pressure, and do my best to complete tasks on time even in stressful situations. When I find myself under a lot of pressure because of a deadline, I make a specific schedule for myself to help me get my work done, and having specific times for each task helps me manage it.”
The interviewer wants to know how stress will affect your work, and if you’re able to still work hard under pressure. Deadlines are a reality at every job, so sharing a specific way that you handle the stress of deadlines is a great way to answer this question. When you’re sharing a specific example, it’s also important that the stress wasn’t caused by you. It’s okay to say you were under pressure because of a deadline, but don’t say you were stressed because you missed the deadline.
2. “When I’m in a stressful situation, I try to focus on what I need to fix, instead of how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling stressed because of an issue with a client, I try to focus on what I can do specifically to fix the situation instead of thinking about how stressed I am.”
Stress can be overwhelming for many employees, and some let it get the best of them. When an employer asks you how you handle stress, they want to make sure that you’re not going to give in to your emotions when you’re in a stressful situation. This answer works because it shows that you choose to focus on the task at hand instead of getting angry or overwhelmed.
3. “It’s easy to get caught up in all the stress when those around you are panicking. If I’m working on a group project with my team and there’s a lot of stress in the team, I try to help my teammates and see how they’re doing with their stress levels. I find that checking in on those around me helps them relieve some of the stress, which ultimately makes me feel less stressed as well.”
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s not always because of a situation you caused, like missing a deadline. Sometimes when you’re in a stressful environment, you soak up the stress around you. An answer like this one lets the interviewer know that you not only handle your own stress well, but you can also handle the stress of your teammates.
4. “I choose to handle stress by making sure I communicate clearly with those around me. For example, I was stressed about the expectations for a project my team and I were working on. Instead of reacting to the stress, I communicated with the project manager, and the clarity he gave took a lot of the pressure off of me.”
Communication is key to having a productive team, especially when that team is forced to work under pressure. Mentioning that communication is part of how you handle your stress lets the employer know you’re not going to stress about something until you have all the facts.
5. “When I’m stressed about work, I tend to spend a lot of time exercising to relieve stress. Going to the gym or going for a run helps relieve some of the stress, and it’s a positive outlet where I can let some of the stress go without reacting with my emotions.”
When you’re answering the question “how do you handle stress,” it’s okay to share an example from your personal life. Even if you handle stress well while you’re at work, showing that you have a positive way of relieving stress in your personal life will make you stand out from other applicants.
6. “Staying calm under pressure is one of my strengths. When I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I stop what I’m doing and take a deep breath. Pausing for a moment before I continue my work helps me put things in perspective.”
Even something as simple as taking a deep breath when you’re feeling stressed can make you seem like a well-rounded individual. The interviewer wants to know that you’re level-headed and that you’re not going to do anything rash when you’re working under pressure. Using an example like this one proves that you’re mindful enough to pause before reacting with your emotions.
7. “Stress is actually a motivator for me. I like to keep a strict schedule, and I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. Instead of letting the stress get to me, I choose to use it as a motivator to do my best work and get things done in an efficient way.”
No employer wants to hear that you don’t have any stress in your life, because they’ll know you’re not being honest. Every person experiences stress at some point, and for most people, it’s a part of their daily lives. If you want to show that you can handle the stress in your life in a positive way, talk about how it motivates you. Especially if you’re applying for a high-stress job, you’ll impress any employer by telling them that you use the stress in your life as a motivator to do better.
Some employees handle stress better than others, so it’s important for an employer to know whether the quality of your work will be affected when you’re stressed and if you already have systems in place to deal with the stress in your life. Although there are many ways you could answer this question, the interviewer wants to make sure that you’ve figured out how to manage your stress and not let it consume you.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.