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How to Answer "How Do You Handle Stress?" in a Job Interview

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Tips and examples to show recruiters your ability to handle stressful situations
Apr 7, 2023 4 min read

No matter what field of work you work in, every job comes with at least a little bit of stress.

That’s why, when it comes to interviews, recruiters want to make sure you can handle stress when a difficult situation arises.

So you need to make sure that you are good and ready for the moment you get asked “How do you handle stress?”.

To get you prepared the best way possible, we are going to look into the following questions:

  • Why do recruiters ask “How do you handle stress”?
  • What is the best approach to answer “How do you handle stress”?

And we are going to wrap things up with some great example answers for that questions to get you started on your own.

So, if you are ready to learn how to nail your answer for “How do you handle stress?”, stick around.

Why do recruiters ask “How do you handle stress”

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The most important part of a recruiter’s job is to make sure they pick the best candidate for each position they are trying to fill.

That’s why, if a position involves stressful situations, they would be especially interested in how you handle stress.

However, just like most interview questions, recruiters get more information than you would expect from a simple question.

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When asking “How do you handle stress?”, recruiters learn:

  • How do you handle stress in work environment and work place situations?

  • How do you cope with stress outside of work, since that can also affect your performance on the job?

  • Whether you feel motivated by stressful situations?

  • Do you tend to minimize stressful situations with planning and communication skills?

If you show the recruiter that you handle stressful situations well, you will most certainly be considered an asset, and get you one step closer to getting the job.

Best Approach to Answer “How do you handle stress”

Now that you understand why recruiters ask “How do you handle stress?”, it is time to figure out the best approach to get the best out of your answer.

And what you need to do can be separated into just four easy steps.

Think about how you handle stress

The first step you need to take is to really think about your methods for handling stress, and show the recruiter that they are effective.

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Some healthy methods for dealing with stress that you can use are

  • Stating positive

  • Using stress to motivate yourself

  • Accepting that some things are out of your control

  • Practicing yoga or meditation

  • Maintaining healthy habits

  • Improving time management

  • Making time for your personal life

  • Talking to a mental health professional

You can use any of these in your interview to show that you handle stress well, or think of any other healthy methods you use to do so.

Share examples of your coping techniques

But words are cheap, unless they are backed up with some kind of proof.

For that reason, you need to prepare yourself with a stressful work-related situation you managed to handle well.

Discuss what methods you used to handle your stress, and show the recruiter how they led to a positive result.

Keep in mind that you need to show the recruiter that you were at all times in control of your stress levels. No recruiter would like to hear that you cracked under the pressure at some point.

Show the recruiter that you can handle multiple tasks at once

Stressful situation are not something most people like, but they can in fact be a great teacher of some of the most important soft skills recruiters look for.

By dealing with stressful situations and having to handle multiple tasks at once, you have most probably gained most of these abilities:

  • Time management
  • Prioritization
  • Organization
  • Diligence

So you need to show the recruiter exactly that, and use your experience with stressful situations to get one step ahead of the competition.

Prepare yourself for follow-up questions

You are ready with your answer just by following the first three steps we discussed, but you are not done until you are ready for any follow-up questions from the recruiter.

They might be to expand or explain your answer in case the recruiter wants to know more details or understand the context of the situation you described.

Some of the follow-up questions you might encounter are:

  • How do you handle stress when you need to make tough decisions?
  • How do you manage stress when it involves other people?
  • Do you think there are healthy forms of stress?
  • Does stress ever cloud your judgment?
  • How do you handle stress when there are no clear answers?

Example answers to “How do you handle stress”

Now that you know how to answer “How do you handle stress”, we would like to show you some example answers to get you started on your own.

Example 1

I have spent the last few years in a management position, so I have come to terms with the fact that stress is part of the job. To make sure I handle stressful situations, I have stress management strategies that help me stay calm and focused. For example, when an important member of my team unexpectedly quit, I needed to use my prioritizing skills to manage the situation just right. By reorganizing my tasks, I managed to free up more of my time to look for a new suitable candidate for the position. I kept reminding myself to be patient, as hiring someone quickly might lead to more stressful situations if they are not the right person for the job. By keeping my focus and knowing my timeline and deadlines, I manage to stay calm and make rational decisions.

Example 2

I have found that stress can actually be a great motivator. I have learned to use pressure to stay focused on my tasks and make sure I deliver everything needed before the deadlines. When I have a tight deadline, I have found that my time management skills help greatly for me to stay on top of the tasks and prioritize them effectively. I have also found that communicating with my team helps me keep situations under control and manage my stress levels.

Takeaways

We are all done, now you know how to answer “How do you handle stress?” .

Let’s do a quick recap, just to make sure you get everything right, you need to:

  • Think about how you handle stress – and use any healthy method of your in your answer to show the recruiter that you handle your stress well
  • Share examples of your coping techniques – because examples can only back up your answer and show the recruiter real work-related situations you handled
  • Show the recruiter that you can handle multiple tasks at once – and make sure you emphasize on the soft skills you have developed
  • Prepare yourself for follow-up questions – as some might arise, and you would want to really show the recruiter that you handle stress well

Check out our examples one last time, and start working on your own answer for your next job interview.

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Volen Vulkov
Volen Vulkov is a resume expert and the co-founder of Enhancv. He has written more than 500 resume guides and deep-dive articles on how to create your resume and cover letter, that inspire job applicants to make a resume to be proud of. His work has been featured in Forbes, Zendesk, HubSpot, and Business Insider, and cited by top universities and educational institutions, like Thunderbird School of Management, Rochester University, University of Miami, and Udemy. Volen applies his deep knowledge and practical experience to write about career changes, development, and how to stand out in the job application process.
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