How to answer "How do you handle stressful or high-pressure situations?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

The question "How do you handle stressful or high-pressure situations?" is a common one asked by employers during job interviews. While it may seem quite straightforward, it holds significant weight in the hiring process. Employers ask this question to evaluate how a candidate responds to challenging situations. This question also helps them measure the candidate's problem-solving skills, resilience, and ability to remain calm under pressure.

Handling high-pressure situations is a crucial skill in most jobs. Employers want to know how prepared the candidate is to take on the stressors that come with the job. The ability to manage stress effectively is also a good indicator of whether the candidate will be able to meet deadlines and remain productive.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it's essential to show how you can withstand pressure and still achieve your goals. Here are some tips on how to answer the question:

  1. Give an example: Provide a specific example of a time when you faced a challenging situation. Explain the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. This demonstrates that you have experience handling stress and difficult situations.
  2. Explain your process: Elaborate on how you typically handle stress or high-pressure situations. You could talk about the strategies you have used in the past, such as delegating work, prioritizing tasks or breaking down the problem into smaller steps. Your answer should demonstrate your problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  3. Emphasize on results: It's important to showcase the results of your actions. Your ability to handle stress should have a positive outcome, such as meeting deadlines, increasing productivity, or finding a better solution. Talk about how you achieved your goals and what you learned from the experience.
  4. Stay positive: When discussing your experience, remain positive and confident in your abilities. Avoid speaking negatively or sounding pessimistic about the situation.

Sample answers

  1. Bad answer:

    Oh, I don't really get stressed out. I just don't let things bother me. I'm pretty chill about everything.

    This answer is bad because it sounds flippant and unprofessional. Stressful situations are a common part of most jobs, and it's unrealistic to suggest that you never experience stress. This answer also doesn't offer any insight into how you handle pressure.

  2. Good answer:

    I handle stressful situations by taking a step back and assessing the situation. I try to identify the root of the problem and come up with a plan to address it. I also prioritize my tasks and make sure that I'm focused on the most important things first.

    This answer is good because it shows that you have a process for managing stress. You demonstrate the ability to remain calm under pressure and to think critically in order to find a solution.

  3. Bad answer:

    I usually just try to power through and get everything done as quickly as possible. I don't really take breaks or prioritize my tasks. I just try to get it all done.

    This answer is bad because it suggests that you might be more prone to burnout. It's also not a very effective approach to handling stress because it doesn't take into account the need for breaks and prioritization.

  4. Good answer:

    I handle high-pressure situations by communicating with my team and my supervisor. I find that talking through my concerns with others helps me to gain perspective and come up with a solution. I also try to stay organized and keep a clear list of priorities so that I don't feel overwhelmed.

    This answer is good because it shows that you recognize the importance of teamwork and communication in managing stress. It also demonstrates your ability to stay organized and focused even when things feel chaotic.

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