Tell me about a time you were under a lot of stress and how you managed it
- 1 Tell me about a time you were under a lot of stress and how you managed it
- 2 Other interview questions that are similar
- 3 What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
- 4 How best to structure your answer to this question
- 5 What you should NOT do when answering questions
- 6 Tell me about a time you were under a lot of stress and how you managed it – Example answers
- 7 Other Interview Question and Answers
Other interview questions that are similar
- Describe an instance where you faced significant pressure at work or school and your strategy for coping with it.
- Can you recount a situation where you had to meet a tight deadline and the steps you took to ensure success?
- Share an experience when you had to handle multiple responsibilities simultaneously and how you prioritized them.
- Discuss a moment when you felt overwhelmed by challenges and your method for overcoming them.
- Reflect on a time when you had to adapt quickly to unexpected changes or obstacles and your approach to dealing with them.
- Can you talk about a period of intense personal or professional change and how you managed your stress levels?
- Explain a scenario where you were tasked with a high-stakes project and the techniques you employed to remain calm and focused.
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
Given this, when you’re asked to share a time you were under a lot of stress and how you managed it, the interviewer is looking beyond just a story of a tough time. They’re digging into how you handle pressure and adversity—key indicators of whether you’ll be able to do the job under stressful conditions (point 1), your motivation and resilience in facing challenges (point 2), and your problem-solving and interpersonal skills, which hint at how well you’ll mesh with the team and culture (point 3).
So, in your response, focus on conveying not just the situation, but also the actions you took and the results of those actions. Highlight your problem-solving skills, how you prioritized tasks, sought help when needed, and kept a cool head—all of which demonstrate your competence, drive, and ability to fit into diverse work environments. This approach turns your answer into a powerful testament to your candidacy, touching on all three aspects interviewers are keen to understand.
How best to structure your answer to this question
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? Your beliefs set the stage for demonstrating your passion and motivation during the interview, showcasing why you are not just capable but also eager to take on the challenges of the job.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. – Try not to spend too much time describing the situation. The bulk of your answer needs to be about you and what you did so keep the situation simple to understand and even simpler to describe. This ensures the interviewer can quickly grasp the context, allowing you to focus more on your actions and their impact, which are crucial to proving your suitability for the role.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter. By emphasizing your role, you clearly define your responsibility and initiative, illustrating your ability to take charge and contribute effectively to your team’s goals.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. – This should take up the bulk of your time answering the question. Detailing your actions demonstrates your problem-solving skills and decision-making process, directly showcasing how you apply your knowledge and skills in real-world scenarios.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold etc.). Quantifying your achievements not only adds credibility to your answer but also provides concrete evidence of your ability to deliver results, which is a key factor in the interviewer’s assessment.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What you should NOT do when answering questions
Do not avoid the question. Directly addressing the question shows you can face challenges head-on.
Do not downplay the situation. Acknowledging the stress highlights your resilience and problem-solving skills.
Do not overhype the situation. Keeping a balanced view proves your ability to assess and manage challenges effectively.
Do not give a one-sentence answer. Expanding on your answer showcases your communication skills and ability to reflect.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action. Focus on your actions to demonstrate how you contribute to solutions.
Do not have a passive role in the situation. Emphasizing your active role shows initiative and leadership potential.
Do not forget to mention what you learned. Sharing lessons learned indicates growth and a forward-thinking mindset.
Tell me about a time you were under a lot of stress and how you managed it – Example answers
Example Answer 1 (Detailed)
I’ve always believed that stress, while inevitable, can be a powerful motivator if managed correctly. It’s crucial to approach high-pressure situations with a clear head and a strategic plan, recognizing that the way we respond to stress can significantly impact the outcome of challenging scenarios.
During a particularly challenging period at my previous job, we were tasked with launching a new product within an incredibly tight deadline. This situation was highly stressful, not only because of the time constraints but also due to the high stakes of the launch for our company’s reputation and future revenue.
Feeling the weight of these expectations, I knew it was essential to manage both my stress and that of my team effectively. I took a proactive role by first mapping out a clear plan of action, breaking down the launch process into manageable tasks. Recognizing the importance of morale and mental well-being, I also scheduled regular briefings with my team to encourage open discussions about our progress and any stressors we were facing.
To mitigate the stress, I delegated tasks based on individual strengths and availability, ensuring no one was overwhelmed. I also introduced short, daily stand-up meetings to quickly address concerns and adjust plans as needed. This approach fostered a supportive team environment and kept everyone focused and motivated.
The result of our concerted efforts was a successful product launch that not only met but exceeded our targets. We managed to complete the project ahead of schedule, which significantly reduced the stress levels within the team. The success of this launch led to a noticeable increase in team confidence and cohesiveness. Personally, this experience taught me valuable lessons in stress management, teamwork, and the importance of leadership in navigating high-pressure situations.
This story exemplifies how my belief in the positive aspects of stress management, combined with decisive action and team support, enables me to thrive under pressure and lead teams through challenging circumstances.
Example Answer 2 (Shorter)
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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