Stress Interview: Questions and Answers on-
How Do You Handle Stress?

Stress interviews are typically conducted by panels or professionals with years of interviewing experience. This can be a very difficult interview.

The Stress Interview
Individuals conducting stress interviews utilize an array of psychological assessments to determine how individuals react under pressure. During these types of interviews, the individual conducting the interview utilizes numerous strategies to make the interview difficult for the job candidate.

Interviewers typically do not notify job candidates that they will be participating in a stress interview since these interviews are used to determine how people react during uncomfortable, stressful, and unexpected circumstances. Many interviewers do this to see how people react without adequate preparation.

Stress interviews are usually conducted when filling stressful jobs requiring constant adaption to new circumstances.

Most Common Stress Interview Tactics
  • A common type of stress interview tactic is to employ painful or aggressive questioning. For example, an interviewer may ask an interviewee a direct, and often unexpected question, such as "why were you fired from your last job?" Or, "Was the stress of your last job too much for you to handle?" This tactic, and line of questioning, is designed to test your interviewing skills and assess your ability to calming address issues that are uncomfortable or somewhat painful to talk about.

  • Another common interviewing tactic is for the interviewer to adopt an aggressive attitude or behavior. This tactic is sometimes used to gauge how well you deal with aggression and fault finding behaviors.

  • It's not uncommon for interviewers to try and throw you off by exhibiting unexpected behaviors. For example, the interviewer may ask the same question again and again, pretending not to fully understand your prior answer. This tactic is used to see how patient your are or if you quickly become exasperated and impatient with the interviewer.

  • More and more interviewers are beginning to conduct brainteaser or puzzle interviews. In fact, this is one of the favorite interview techniques among management consulting firms looking to hire recent college graduates. A puzzle question may look like "How many tires are produced in the United States each year." While you're not expected to know the answer to this question, you are expected to have the ability to produce a logical and accurate estimate. This interview technique is designed to test your thought processing, analytical skills and ability to reason.

  • Last, but by no means least, are case interviews. In the case interview you are presented a made up or real-world business situation, or dilemma. It's your job to come up with a solution and explain to the interviewer how you would arrive at the solution. Case interviews test your analytical and quantitative skills, logic, knowledge of relevant business issues and concepts, ability to prioritize and your overall ability to effective communicate.

Other Stress Interview Techniques
Interviewers typically utilize numerous strategies to determine how a job candidate will react when faced with unfamiliar and stressful situations.

Often, interviewers act strangely or unorthodox while conducting stress interviews. The following are common behaviors exhibited by interviewers during stress interviews:

  • Acting hostile toward candidates
  • Appearing uninterested
  • Purposely refraining from eye contact with candidates
  • Constantly interrupting candidates
  • Refusing to listen closely
  • Excessive note taking
  • Arguing with candidates
  • Pausing for extended periods of time following responses
  • Asking uncomfortable questions
  • Asking similar questions
  • Purposely delaying interviews
  • Asking candidates whether they have anything to add following responses

Frequently, during panel interviews, an interviewer may act unusually while other participants act professionally.

How to Respond to Stress Interview Questions
Keep your calm and respond to an irritating question as you would any other, and you will demonstrate the ability to remain calm and handle stressful situations.

Rely on these strategies to effectively respond to questions:

  • Refrain from being offended. Interviewers are interested to see how you handle criticism.
  • Always act professionally, and keep your cool.
  • Answer questions clearly and do not backtrack on responses if it appears you did not provide the right answer.
  • You can buy time by clarifying the question asked or the nature of the answer desired.
  • You don't necessarily need to focus on the "right" answer, rather the way you go about solving the problem.
  • Be open, honest, direct and polite, but don't ever allow the interviewer to emotionally intimidate you.
  • Ask for information when it's lacking and state any assumptions you use.

How do you handle stress at work?
Interviewers frequently ask job candidates how they manage stress in their personal lives or respond to being assigned additional tasks when they are extremely busy or being overworked.

The following are strategies for response:

  • Express interest in working under stressful circumstances that will push you to excel
  • Discuss how you've prioritized work responsibilities in the past
  • Demonstrate how you've solved problems at work
  • Explain how you effectively manage multiple projects simultaneously
  • Discuss how you will anticipate problems before they become major

Common Stress Interview Questions
The following are common stress interview questions and types of stress interviews you may encounter. Answering and role playing each of these will prepare you for your next interview.

  1. Interviewer: "Assume you're a cell phone salesman and I'm a goat herder in Spain. How would you convince me I need to buy one of your cell phones? Also, please do so in Spanish." (Real questions asked by a Goldman Sachs executive to a recent MBA graduate -- me. My resume mentioned that I speak Spanish conversationally -- so I was told upon arriving for the interview that it would be conducted in Spanish!)

  2. See that paperclip on the table? Sell it to me.

  3. Please provide us an example of a work situation that really stressed you out to the max.

  4. Please give an example of when you worked with a team that faced a very stressful problem?

  5. Give us a work related example of how you've handled rejection?

  6. What is the worst thing you've heard about working with our company?

  7. How did you handle being fired from your last job?

  8. Is that the best answer you can give? (following your answer to a recently asked question)

  9. Interviewer: "I'm sorry but I don't know that I completely understand your answer. Could you please clarify?"

  10. Could you answer that question again? I don't feel like you're answering the question I asked.

  11. How well do you deal with stress?

  12. Do you enjoy working under stress?

  13. How many truck tires are there in the United States?

  14. How would you evaluate me as an interviewer?

  15. Why should I hire an outsider like you when I could fill this position with someone in our company who is familiar with our culture and products?

  16. Can you please explain why you've been unemployed so long?

  17. Why are manhole covers round?

  18. What kind of people do you struggle to work with?

  19. What kind of people struggle to work with you?

  20. Do you think you're more qualified than your boss?

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