How do you handle stress and pressure?

By Barbara Peronefrustration

There’s  plenty of stress and pressure to go around these days, what with the flailing economy, thousands of people simultaneously searching for work and soaring prices on just about everything.

Due to this abundance of pressure and stress, future employers want to know how you are going to handle such problems on the job. And they’re going to ask you about it during your job interview.

One reason they are doing this – they don’t want any trouble. More importantly, they don’t want you costing them money in the form of absenteeism, on-the-job accidents, or Workers’ Compensation costs, which can occur when employees are ill prepared to handle stress and pressure on-the-job.

Future employers would “ like to know that you are going to react in a calm, rational fashion instead of erupting into a temper tantrum, screaming, hiding, or something else that would either alienate your co-workers or be otherwise unproductive” says Peggy McKee in her article How do you deal with stressful situations? To read Peggy’s full article, visit

So, what’s the best answer to this interview question?

There’s any number of answers you could give to this question. You could say you handle pressure by prioritizing your responsibilities to determine what you have to do first, says Alison Doyle in her article How Do You Handle Stress, Pressure? To read Alison’s entire article visit suggests you provide the Interviewer with brief examples of how you handled pressure and stress in the workplace, for example:

  • Show that you have an interest in working under any stressful situation that pushes  you to succeed and excel
  • Demonstrate how you’ve actually solved problems at your former jobs
  • Explain how you’ve effectively managed multiple projects simultaneously
  • Discuss how you’d anticipate problems before they become out-of-control

In her article, Peggy McKee suggests a slightly different approach to just answering the question. She says you should tell the interviewer a Situation/Task Action Result (STAR) story that shows how you’ve handled stressful situations in the past.

For example, you could say, “If a situation seems overwhelming, I mentally break it up into smaller steps, or doable goals, and just focus on reaching each one on the way to accomplishing the larger task. In fact, that’s what I did with XYZ project. We had a major issue with X problem, but I broke it down into ‘what needs to happen first,’ and concentrated on one step at a time. I was able to see more solutions to the larger problem; and, in fact, we got the entire project done in record time,” says McKee in her article.

“Above all, choose an answer that shows you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and you let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals,” says McKee.

Editor’s Note:  This is the first installment of a continuing series PSGCNJ started several months ago. To refresh your collective memories, the series concerned the top interview questions interviewers/hiring managers ask job candidates.

We hope to run one blog article each week that covers one top interview question. Each article will provide the best answer(s) to the question and explain why the interviewer/hiring manager is asking the question. So, keep watching …

Leave a Reply