A question about how you handle stress is one of the most common behavioral interview questions you will be asked, especially if applying for a management role or any other stressful job. Knowing if you can handle stressful events is important so the company knows if you are the kind of person they want to hire. Demonstrating effective stress management shows you can adapt to tough situations.
Here are 10 sample answers to “How do you handle stress?” that will impress any hiring manager.
5 Tips for Your Answer
Here are five great tips for delivering a good answer that is sure to impress potential employers.
- Keep a calm demeanor and remain composed. Be careful not to become stressed by the interview process.
- Try to include real-life examples of stressful situations from a previous job.
- Make sure your presentation is professional and that you do not appear to have rushed or become flustered before your interview.
- Discuss how you use looking after your physical health and/or meditation and mindfulness to manage your mental health and reduce stress levels.
- Include that a little stress is a good thing and that a challenging environment helps you to perform at your best.
5 Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes to avoid at your next job interview.
- Having poor body language. This can make you seem distant, disinterested, or uncertain.
- Being critical of a past team member or work environment.
- Talking about unrelated situations. Use your interview to demonstrate your good communication skills.
- Being late. Poor time management will show you cannot manage your time or meet tight deadlines.
- Being concerned about the ‘right answer.’ A good way to answer is to provide an example of where you managed workplace stress well in the past and what actions you took to manage that difficult situation.
10 Best Example Answers
Example #1: For High-Stress Jobs
I start by recognizing that stress is a part of life. It’s how we deal with it that makes the difference. There is good stress and bad stress. I find good stress pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps motivate me to do better work. In times of chronic stress, or if I notice negative feelings building up, I make sure to take time out at the end of the day for meditation or physical exercise. Maintaining my physical health is key to reducing stress hormones and not being overcome by job-related stress.
Key Takeaways: This answer is strong because it discusses the different types of stress and highlights that the right stress is a motivator. This answer also takes ownership of stress and acknowledges that you are responsible for your stress management practices outside of work.
Example #2: For Detail-Oriented Work
I handle stress by staying organized and keeping on top of my work. I make sure to break down my tasks into smaller, manageable chunks so that I don’t get overwhelmed. I also take time for myself every day to relax and unwind so that I can come back to my work feeling refreshed.
I also differentiate between acute stress and chronic stress factors, chronic stress requires the underlying cause to be addressed, and I would address this with a manager. Acute stressors arise with everyday tasks. To resolve this, I use a diary to manage my time and work from prioritized to-do lists to remove the most pressing tasks first.
Key Takeaways: This answer focuses on chronic stress and states it is different from acute stress. It directly accepts acute stress as a workplace reality. It also discusses that acute stress is handled through good time-management and planning practices rather than trying to avoid it.
Example #3: For Creative Work
Creative work can be exceedingly stressful because demand ebbs and flows. Sometimes, you have little to do, and other times, the pressure of a deadline looms. A bit of stress helps me to focus and concentrate, and some of my best work is produced in these stressful times.
To make sure I am always in peak performance to produce great work when the demand arises, I use downtime to write down my creative ideas or experiment with new concepts. This removes stress, gives me a creative outlet for ideas that I can’t experiment with on work tasks, and keeps my creative talent enjoyable for me. I also make sure that I take part in regular physical activity and eat healthily to keep my immune system strong and my mind clear and focused.
Key Takeaways: This statement recognizes that creative people can burn out and lose interest in their skillset if they become too stressed. It states that stress can help produce great work, but also explains practices undertaken to maintain a sharp edge on your creative skills.
Example #4: For Jobs That Require Fast Turnaround Work
I am not only good at working under pressure, but I also excel in high-stress environments. My best results are usually produced in high-pressure situations, and I thrive in high-demand, fast-paced environments. I am confident in my abilities and capable of handling difficult situations calmly. I am careful to manage my stress in my personal life and to look after my physical and mental health to ensure that I do not push myself into burnout.
In addition to working hard, I also play hard; I regularly take weekends away to indulge in my favorite hobbies and burn off any built-up work tension. I keep track of my current and upcoming deliverables and systematically work through my list in order of importance. By staying calm and coming to work refreshed, I can give my full focus to the task at hand and move through tasks efficiently.
Key Takeaways: The key strength in this answer is in highlighting that a fast-paced and stressful environment is a positive factor for you. It also discusses prioritizing tasks and working at tasks efficiently, which is important in fast-paced and stressful environments.
Example #5: For Jobs in High Change Environments
I enjoy environments that have pressure and challenge me to do my best work. I seek out environments that provide frequent change because I thrive on the novelty of new situations and enjoy applying my skills to varied situations. To excel in high-stress and changing environments, I make sure to keep an up-to-date diary, and I try to look ahead, predict potential changes and keep my eye on the big picture. I plan for possible eventualities ahead of time, and I work from a prioritized to-do list to always make sure the most pressing tasks are completed first.
Finally, I also make sure to take time for self-care. I do this by making the most of my personal time and making sure that each week I come back to work refreshed and ready to face new challenges.
Key Takeaways: This answer is strong for any role with a lot of change because it accepts stress directly and discusses trying to predict change ahead of time. It also discusses using personal time to alleviate workplace tension so that you can do your best work continuously.
Example #6: For Technology Jobs
It is the nature of technology to be rapidly changing, and due to the fast pace of the industry, stress comes with the territory. I make sure that I understand the overarching end goal of any project I am a part of so that I can better predict potential changes before they arise. I make sure that my work diary is kept up to date so that I can always see my capacity, and this makes adapting to meet new challenges and contingencies much easier. I also understand the need to prioritize work. Each day, I set out my expected deliverables, and I plan my work around the most important tasks first.
I find being well organized allows me to manage more tasks than most before the stress begins to arise, allowing me to be more productive. I also find that I work well in stressful environments, providing me with a driving force that helps to keep me highly focused on the task at hand.
Key Takeaways: This answer is good because it discusses managing your workload to ensure you can adapt to unexpected events. It also discusses how understanding the end goal of the project is important to be able to plan tasks properly and to spot changes coming before they arrive.
Example #7: For Jobs in Business Support Roles
One of the main ways that I handle stress is to first make sure that I am in the best mindset for any situation. I do this by managing what I eat and reducing my caffeine intake. I regularly exercise to look after my physical health, and I have a quiet morning routine to make sure I am in a calm mental state and can focus intently on my work duties.
Stress is unavoidable in any workplace, but one of the things I do is to try and minimize unnecessary stress. I do this by completing the most urgent tasks first by working from a prioritized list. I also plan ahead and make sure I know what is coming up the following day, week, and month to allow me to see potential needs or increased workload demands ahead of time and respond accordingly.
Key Takeaways: The strength of this answer is in discussing practices that ensure you can be highly focused on work-related tasks. This is particularly relevant to support roles where your performance affects other departments and teams. Further, this answer also discusses that while stress is unavoidable, you take steps to prevent unnecessary stress from arising.
Example #8: For Management Jobs
As a manager, I am not only responsible for my workload, but those under me will also have unexpected events occur and bring challenges to me. There are several things I do to make sure that I rise to the challenge and excel under this pressure. I keep an up-to-date diary so that I can always see as far ahead as possible. This allows me to plan my and my team’s work accordingly. By being organized, I am better able to see changes ahead of time before they arise, which greatly reduces the stress in my team.
I also make sure that I have a prioritized task list for myself and work through it systematically to make sure that pressing concerns are dealt with first. Finally, I make sure to look after my health and fitness, including mental health, as I understand that if I have an off day or take unplanned leave, it impacts my whole team and the company.
Key Takeaways: It is important in management or leadership roles to recognize that your performance is directly linked to your team and the company. This answer acknowledges that unplanned leave is disruptive to good work practices and that you take steps to avoid it as a manager and leader. It also discusses reducing stress for both you and your team, which fosters a more productive environment.
Example #9: For Customer-Facing Jobs
For me, customer service is all about problem-solving and being able to think on my feet. In high-stress situations, I take a deep breath and try to remember that the person on the other side is just like me – they’re probably just stressed out. I listen to them and address their concerns quickly to better serve other customers as well.
To make sure I have the time to spend with customers who require extra attention, I make sure to always be organized and prioritize my tasks on a to-do list. This reduces the frequency of stressful situations.
Key Takeaways: This answer directly accepts that customer service involves external stress created by customer interactions and that this cannot be avoided. However, by reframing the stress and understanding where the customer is coming from, you can calm the situation and yourself and address the concern professionally. It’s also important to be quick and efficient with good customers so you can afford more time with difficult customers.
Example #10: For Sales Jobs
As a sales professional, I understand that customers can become impatient or dissatisfied with solutions. I am always careful to stay polite and treat customers well, even when they are difficult. If time allows, I take a short break between customers if needed helps me to decompress and lower my blood pressure after a difficult interaction.
Finally, as the nature of the job is high pressure, I am practiced at staying positive and focused. I set myself daily, weekly and monthly goals I can see what to do next. I also do regular physical exercise and seek support from family members if the daily stress gets too much.
Key Takeaways: This answer is good because it discusses that sales is a customer-facing role and that the customer can bring stress into the environment. It discusses reducing stress by managing the customer relationship and managing your time.
There are many effective ways to answer questions about your stress response. Sometimes an interviewer will give you specific examples, such as a big project their company has worked on. In responding to these questions, try to think of a similar situation where you were under a lot of pressure with work stress.
The best way to deliver your answer is in a structured response, such as using the STAR Method. And be sure you discuss your soft skills such as time management and task planning and how a healthy amount of stress is important to help you do your best work. Finally, explain that you always maintain a positive attitude even when faced with high levels of stress.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, 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.