2 Best Answers To "How Do You Handle Stress" In An Interview

Are you preparing for the interviewer ask you, “How do you handle stress in the workplace?” or “How do you handle stress and pressure in the workplace?” Then you’ve come to the right place.

Answering this question requires a special touch and focus on the right things in order to not display your weaknesses and also answer the question in the way that the interviewer is looking for.

Let’s go ahead and get right into it.

What The Interviewer Wants To Know

All work environments have stress in the workplace. When an interviewer asks you questions related to how you cope with stress, it means they are trying to learn more about your experience.

Those who are experienced have methods for dealing with stress and pressure in the workplace. Those who aren’t, usually don’t have the methods intact.

When we answer this question, we don’t want to tell the interviewer our methods. But we should know what those are before we go into the interview.

Methods For Managing Stress In The Workplace

Here are some of the most professional methods for handling stress and pressure in the workplace. While some of them seem as though they might be telling the interviewer that you aren’t dedicated to your job (like the fact that you appreciate downtime and vacations) it is actually a very professional answer. Employers provide vacation time for a reason. They want you to use it.

Here are some of the best methods used by top professionals:

  • Make sure I’m aware of my stressors.
  • Develop healthy responses to stressors.
  • Establish healthy boundaries with my workload.
  • Take time to recharge and use vacation days.
  • Take time to communicate with management.
  • Get support, and learn to ask for help when needed.

Again, it’s important that you recognize this is not part of your interview answer. But it’s important to remember that these are your core methods in case the interviewer wants clarification. For example, if they ask how you’d tell someone else to manage their stressors.

What To Avoid In Your Interview Answer

The worst mistake you can make when answering this question is trying to focus too much of the attention on yourself. The reality is that stress and pressure in the workplace are a good thing. It means that the company is progressing forward. And sometimes progress means friction or stress.

When answering your question, you want to avoid things like, “I’m looking for a low-stress job” or “I find myself having a lot of anxiety so I want a very stress free job”. Anything that might indicate that you are more concerned about your own needs than the companies.

Additionally, avoid long answers that contain working scenarios where you felt as though stress could have been avoided. The question the interviewer is asking is how you manage stress. They don’t want to hear about how you think a more stress-free environment should be created. This could also make you feel agitated, in which case your body language would change and cause the interviewer to feel uncomfortable.

What Your Answer Should Contain

A good answer to this question can be a small example of previous experiences and how you handled stress in that particular scenario. Though, this is different then if they ask “Describe a challenge you overcame”.

Related: 4 Example Answers To “Describe A Challenge You Overcame”

Your answer should be one that focuses on the company benefit alongside your ability to manage stress during a challenging time within the company. Remember that challenging times are a good thing for the company. It means progress.

Make sure your answer contains:

  • A short use-case setting up the scenario.
  • A way that you directed your stress towards achieving a goal.
  • A way that you kept the company goals top of mind.
  • The method for how you interacted with the rest of your colleagues.

What If They Ask About “Pressure” In The Workplace

If the interviewer asks how you handle pressure, you can use the same framework that we’re setting up here. The only calibration that you’ll want to make to your answer is to ensure that you describe where the pressure was coming from. Was it a tight deadline? Was it the fact that you were behind on sales goals? Be sure that you describe where the pressure was coming from and how you were able to cope with that pressure and alleviate it. All while keeping the company goals top of mind.

2 Best Answer To “How Do You Handle Stress In The Workplace”

Here are two best example and sample answers to “how do you handle stress” when the interviewer asks.

Example one

“At one of my previous positions, there was a time when we were behind on some of our reports. These reports were important for our clients. If we didn’t have them or get them out, there’s potential we could lose business. We were getting pressure from leadership to get them done quickly. It meant working a Saturday to get it done. I stayed focused on the scenario at hand vs. feeling pressure and pushing back. I kept the annual goals for the company in mind and pushed forward with the team. We got it accomplished in one Saturday. Afterward, I asked my manager if I could take Monday off to take a small breather after the stressful day. They loved that. I stay focused on our tasks at hand and direct my stress towards the challenge.”

Example two

“The best part about feeling pressure is knowing that it’s going to accelerate something. Either the opportunity for myself of our team to show off our skill sets. Or the ability for the company to accomplish a major milestone. In this way, I appreciate the moments where we feel stress and pressure. Though, I’ve learned how to manage my workload so that afterward, I can use stress-reducing methods to take a break. Meaning, take a vacation day or learn how to balance my workload to make the next day a little more relaxing. This is how I manage myself to not get burnt out.”

Bonus: Example Answer To "How Do You Handle Stress" For Nurses

If you're a nurse, there are a few ways that you might want to structure your answer to this question. Primarily, you want to talk about your ways of handling stress in high-stress environments. Here's what an example answer might look like:

"Handling stress in an ER environment can be very hard. Or even in a cancer ward or ICU. The best way I've found to handle stress is to ensure that I'm not overloading myself. Pacing myself throughout the day so that I can be sure that I have complete attention and ability to treat each patient. If I feel as though I'm becoming overly stressed and it's clouding my judgment, then I'll take a few minutes to drink water, eat a snack and get back on track."

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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