‘How do you handle stress and pressure?’ Now there’s an interview question that may actually put stress and pressure on you! But take a deep breath.
It’s important that a hiring manager asks this because they need to understand how you will cope with potentially challenging environments. It’s one of the most common interview questions because almost every job will have its own flavor of obstacles and pressure.
So knowing that it’s almost certain that you’ll get asked this in your upcoming interview, how should you answer? There are a few different routes you could take. In fact, we’ve laid out several example answers to help you.
If you remember one thing from this article, know that it’s more about how you explain
What is the interviewer really looking for?
When they ask you, “How do you handle stress and pressure?” the interviewer wants to know what you would do in potentially stressful work situations and the impact that may have on how you perform in the role. They want to see that you know yourself and that you are prepared for there to be some stressful situations in the future.
A couple of additional tips to keep in mind regardless of which answers you choose:
- Provide a specific example to back your answer, preferably from your previous job. It’s powerful when you can show them your approach to stress management, not just tell them.
- Maintain calm, confident body language. If you get worked up answering this question, then they have a pretty good idea of how you handle stress (hint: not that well).
- Some interview guides recommend the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result), but I find that to be a bit cold for this question. Instead, use your soft skills to connect personally with the recruiter and try to learn with your own follow-up questions.
How not to answer ‘how do you handle stress and pressure?’
Here are the big no-no’s when it comes to answering ‘how do you handle stress and pressure?’
- Don’t say that you cannot handle stress and pressure. That’s an automatic red flag for a potential employer because every job is a high-stress job some days.
- Don’t mention that the stressful situation made you stressed. Instead, talk about being in that energy of pressure and stress and remain calm and focused.
- Be careful how you respond in terms of the particular role it is. If it’s a multi-tasking project management role, and you share that you have trouble juggling many tasks and that makes you stressed, you’ll not be seen as a fit candidate for the role.
Interview Question: How Do You Handle Stress and Pressure? (17 Examples!)
Below are 17 sample answers to this common but challenging behavioral interview question. Choose which one seems most suited to your particular experience, personality, and role that you’re applying for.
Example 1: “Prioritizing my responsibilities and using time management to handle my tasks is how I best deal with stress, as I know it could easily get out of hand if I didn’t have a clear action plan. Knowing what is most important and then working from there helps me to take it one step at a time and stay calm even under tight deadlines.”
Recommended Course: Productivity Masterclass (Skillshare)
Example 2: “Communication is one of the best ways that I know to manage stressors in a high-pressure environment, as I find that most stress is due to confusion and not feeling clear about what to do.
Talking things through, constantly communicating about what needs to be done, and asking people what they need to get their job done is a way that I’ve previously handled stressful situations in a leadership role, keeping the whole team more calm.”
Example 3: “Actually, when I have the pressure of a deadline, I find that my work is more efficient and even more creative. So I use this bit of stress as a motivator, and I don’t generally feel that what might be a stressful situation actually creates much stress within me.”
Example 4: “Personally, I manage my stress levels by working out and meditating. I find that if I spend time outside of the work environment focusing on my awareness and creating a calm internal state, I am far more grounded during the day no matter what happens.”
Recommended Course: Flourishing in Stressful Times - with Tara Brach (Udemy)
Example 5: “Being in a dynamic environment that is fast-paced and under deadlines is where I get my best work done, as I feel more inspired by the high energy that is needed on the job.”
Example 6: “One of the most effective ways that I’ve found to deal with a stressful situation at work is to take a step back and see the situation from a more objective viewpoint. It’s far easier for me to then see what needs to be done and stay out of the energy of stress, keeping calm and clear to move onto the next step.”
Example 7: “In my past responsibilities, I couldn’t let stress affect my work, as I had a role that required problem-solving and level-headed energy. I’ve learned that being highly organized is the key to dealing with workplace stress.
I rely on setting a structured schedule and having contingency plans when that isn’t going to work. So I have backup schedules and plans, which keeps me prepared when things unexpectedly change.”
Example 8: “I believe that working as a team with others is the key to managing stress and pressure in work. Whether it’s my co-workers, supervisors, or managers, I know that if we all band together to see what can be done, we come to a solution far more quickly and easier.
So, I see self-awareness and communication between key people in a company as the best way to handle stressful situations. Having trust in the team is how I stay calm and collected.”
Recommended Course: Managing Team Conflict (LinkedIn Learning)
Example 9: “Although I do enjoy some stress in any role to keep me motivated with the challenge, I know that there needs to be a balance of healthy stress and not too much pressure leading to chaos.
I think the best way I’ve found to keep balanced in the face of impending over-stress from a difficult situation is to look at the facts and keep an objective, impartial point of view, rather than getting pulled into my personal opinion. Looking at the situation from the outside, I can see far more clearly what needs to be done without getting stressed.”
Example 10: “Having the right tools on hand is the best way that I’ve found to stay grounded even if a situation has some pressure and potential for stress. I rarely feel stressed because I use tools like scheduling calendars, daily task lists, and communication software to always be informed of what’s happening. I also have planning procedures to always have a backup plan if unexpected things happen.”
Example 11: “I’ve actually felt that some of my best work has come from feeling a little pressure. So I don’t feel that it’s a problem for me to have a little stress and pressure in a role, it doesn’t make me feel chaotic or confused, but actually keeps me feeling clear and inspired.”
Example 12: “An example of how I dealt with a stressful situation was when I noticed that my co-worker was having a hard time with all the tasks she needed to get done that day, and it made her frazzled, and I could see she was struggling but didn’t want to ask for help.
Instead of watching that and feeling her stress, which would put more stress on me and everyone else, I knew that we had to come together to help our team member. So I asked the team what they could do to help take some load off for her and take some of her tasks on. Being attentive to the environment helps me manage stressful situations.”
Example 13: “Planning is the best tool I can think of to diffuse stress. As long as there is more than one plan to get something done – so always having a backup plan or two – I feel like I never get stressed or overwhelmed. There is always a way to make it work.”
Recommended Course: Conflict Resolution And De-Escaltion (Udemy)
Example 14: “I find that listening to my co-workers and customers/clients is actually the best way to deal with their stress and my own. In this way, I’m not overwhelmed with confusion and expectations not being met. Instead, I’m present to what’s happening, and I can best solve what needs to be solved in a way that is responding to that I’m listening to, rather than reacting to stress.”
Example 15: “Having a deadline is one of the best ways I create effective and high-quality work, so I love an environment with some pressure. I know how I work best and how to deal with challenges when they arise, so I don’t get affected by stress even in a high-pressure environment.”
Example 16: “I feel that when we can react to the situation, not the energy of stress, we will never have a problem in environments with a lot of pressure. Because we can stay more clear and see the bigger picture rather than get overwhelmed with energy. So I always think about that – situations, not stress.”
Example 17: “I’m skilled at handling multiple tasks and projects and love working in this dynamic environment. I just feel like it is a part of my personality to be able to balance what some people may see as a stressful way of working and feel motivated by multitasking.”
Recommended Course: Decision Making In High Stress Situations (Linkedin Learning)
To learn more, check out my other tricky interview questions guides for job seekers: