Can You Handle Workplace Stress?

September 5th, 2017

When employers sit down with a candidate, they’re typically interested in answering questions that can’t be addressed by a resume review. They want to see how well the candidate communicates during a spoken conversation, for starters. And they’d like to learn a little more about the candidate’s plans for the future and the things that motivate him or her to excel. They also want to ask questions that can help them assess the applicant’s readiness for the challenges of the job.

Since most jobs offer some element of stress, you can expect your interviewer to ask you— directly or indirectly- how well you’re likely to manage these elements. Here are a few things to keep in mind when the conversation turns in this direction.

Don’t just say “great” and move on.

If your employer asks what seems like a yes or no question, don’t just answer yes or no. Of course you’re amazing under stress; lots of people are. But what are some of the specific moves and habits that help you keep your cool? Talk about these moves. What steps do you take when your plate gets overloaded? How do you answer when you’re asked to complete a task you can’t accept? When you fail, how do you respond and what do you do next?

Tell a story (or two).

People enjoy receiving information in the form of narratives and stories, and studies show that when we’re told something in the form of a story, we remember the details more accurately. So instead of just explaining how you keep your legendary composure when the pressure’s on, tell your interviewer about a time when this actually happened. Search your memory and choose a meaningful situation—Your employer won’t be impressed if you were stressed by a circumstance that most people wouldn’t find flustering. Then explain the challenges you faced, how you navigated them, and how the story ended.

If you have a system, explain it proudly.

Having a system— or a defined set of actions and principles you deploy when things get tough— can make a few things clear to your employer. First, if you’ve had time to develop complex coping tools, it means you’ve had real experience in the workforce and real experience with pressure. Second, your willingness to develop a system, stick with it, and work out the kinks can demonstrate patience and perseverance. Third, if your system is unique and personal, it demonstrates the self-knowledge and self-awareness that wise employers value.

Focus on the big picture.

Your industry may or may not involve saving lives, but you’ll gain points with most employers if you know how put pressure and high stakes into perspective. Explain how your response to stress isn’t just about you— No matter what comes your way, you always maintain a cool head and keep the needs of others in mind, including customers, coworkers, and stakeholders.

For more on how to ace tough interview questions and during your interview, turn to the Cleveland County job search experts at PSU.

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