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How Do You Handle Stress at Work: Job Interview Question

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There is no such thing as an easy job! Every job has some level of stress that varies and requires you to be worried. In fact, stress and pressure is an intrinsic part of almost every job. And for almost all employers, the perfect candidate is someone who stays calm and never explodes when the pressure is on or breakdowns into a hopeless, weak frame. They want someone who coolly evaluates situations, never loses focus, takes charge and simply gets the job done.

When employers ask you the classic interview question- how do you handle pressure and stress at work? You might find yourself struggling with an apt reply on the spur of the moment. It can also leave you tongue-tied for two possible reasons: it could be actually hard for you to come up with something that sounds like a major calamity and the example that you cite has to reflect well on you as well- You don’t really want to talk about a disaster that you were unable to handle and sort out!

Why do employers ask this question?

In times of economic recession efficiency becomes a pivotal point for organizations and employees are normally expected to take on more responsibilities and workload. Greater economic ambiguity means that longstanding techniques of functioning are defied, new practices and ideas are executed; all of which create irregularity in what was earlier a steady work atmosphere. Employers want to know if you can work efficiently in a fast varying environment and whether you are geared up to go that extra mile when necessary. When asked this question, you are basically being tested for your expertise in multiple ways which includes decision making and problem solving skills, organizational and time management skills and your capacity to work under pressure.

The actual implication behind the question:

Because of the different ways in which interviewers can ask this question, it’s extremely significant that you completely comprehend the difference between pressure and stress – because a lot of people use the two terms in a similar fashion. Being under pressure means being challenged to accomplish something which is either hard to attain in itself or within the time frame that has been established. Pressure is fundamentally positive and a highly inspiring factor for a lot of people. Stress, on the other hand, is not so constructive and arises when the pressure you are under surpasses your capacity to successfully meet the demands being made of you. It is basically what people experience when under immense pressure – and long-standing stress can cause various problems.

So how to tackle this question?

Hear the question carefully. Rather than taking it as an invite to whine and complain, find a way to relate it to one of your WINNING stories. Talk about a time you handled a major crisis and show how your common sense, initiative, forward-thinking and problem solving skills helped you to manage the problematic situation. A sample answer could be something like “”I’m not easily harried. In fact, my previous boss often referred to me as ‘unhassled.’ I know the significance of being flexible and I easily adapt to fluctuating situations and ever-changing priorities. And if I do feel stressed, I normally take a break or do a little exercise to clear my head. But if it’s something beyond my control which begins to affect my work, I normally prefer discussing it with my boss.” One particular instance which comes to my mind immediately is of my last organisation where a key client demanded that we finish his assignment 3 weeks ahead of the schedule. This seemed like an impossible job at first but instead of letting the pressure engulf me, I took immediate action. I looked at our other assignments and somehow managed to move some plans around. It was difficult at first but we managed to meet the client’s demand which made him extremely happy and satisfied.”

The key to articulating your answer to this question is to grab this opportunity and talk about a situation where you were under immense pressure – and you how rose to the challenge. Remember- employers are forever looking for candidates who have a calm head over their shoulders and who can apply practical methods under pressure. But if dealing with stress isn’t your thing, you might want to re-evaluate a job that is extremely deadline-driven or where you are constantly under stress to deliver. Some jobs are innately pressure driven so make sure you’re going for one that you can handle. Because finding the right job is all about the perfect fit between your personality, strengths and the role.

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