Many key functions such as memory, attention, and concentration all suffer when people are under a lot of stress at work. Relentless email communication and constant distractions add pressure to a normal workload, leading to elevated levels of stress. How do you handle stress?
Employers really want to know the answer to this question. They want to know that you have the ability to handle anything that the company can throw at you, and rather than ask you “can you handle stress?” they’re going to want to see examples.
Behavioral Interview Question: What have you done in the past to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you or your colleagues to handle?
This type of question is becoming more and more common as the workplace generally becomes more stressful. Interestingly, it is not just a question about stress. It is also a question about:
- Initiative – Do you take charge and try to reduce the damage of the situation?
- Coworker Value – Do you believe it’s your responsibility to help your coworkers?
- Systematic Review – Do you have a process to asses which tasks are most critical?
While the interviewer wants to know that you’re not easily overwhelmed, they also want to better understand your priorities and your work ethic. Give them an example of a time you took control immediately, and how you helped others, show that you can show you’re a team player.
“There was a time a while back when three of the registers broke during peak hours. Lines were backed up 10 people long. I was on one of the broken registers, but as the fastest cashier, I immediately took over for one of the slower cashiers. While I was ringing people up, I also called for baggers and had the cashiers that were not on a register bring people to the self-checkout section and help them with their orders to move it along faster. It never became too stressful, but I know it could have, so I knew it was important to take over and speed things along.”
For an office environment you could use:
“While working at Company X, I was leading a project team put together to achieve X,Y,X. The team was struggling to focus on the strategic development of the plan because they were constantly uninterrupted with minor tasks, ad hoc meetings and their normal message communications. They became focussed on the smaller tasks rather than tackling the really important components of the project. As a result the project started to fall behind schedule and everyones stress level elevated significantly.
I gathered the whole team and together we evaluated each persons workload. I reiterated the teams objective and we reduced or eliminate assignments that were not consistent with the teams objective. I then asked everyone to schedule uninterrupted work time into their diaries and I did the same. We agreed to limit email communication after hours and agreed to eliminate unnecessary meetings without agendas. The whole team felt less pressured and more focussed bringing the project back on schedule within a few weeks.”
In both examples you talk about yourself in a positive light, you’re not really bragging, you helped your coworkers, and you came up with solutions. You weren’t overwhelmed by the stress and the situation you described doesn’t make it sound like you were overreacting to the situation (which would imply it was stressful). Overall, it’s a great way to show that you work well under pressure.
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