How do you work under pressure?—Interview question tips

interview question how do you work under pressure
Created by Cake

There are undoubtedly tough times for every company, whether it’s facing an economic downfall, combating an up and rising competitor, contending for the firsts of industry innovations, or answering to demanding stakeholders.

Companies want employees that can push through challenges with them, and that’s why “how do you work under pressure?” is one of the most asked interview questions. 

This might seem a difficult question to tackle because a lot of people have simply pulled through difficult times without realizing it. Reflecting on your experiences and knowing how to tell your story are crucial in preparing for interviews, and we’re here to help you do exactly that in this article. 

Other forms this question can come in:

  • How do you work under pressure?
  • Do you work well with stress?
  • What is the most stressful thing you’ve faced? 
  • Describe a time when you’ve been assigned an overwhelming task. What did you do? 
  • Tell me about a time when you had a stressful situation at work. How did you handle that situation?

Why ask “how do you work under pressure?”

Not only is ‘how do you work under pressure’ a way for employers to evaluate your mental strength in the face of demanding times, it is also a means to assess how well you can apply your technical knowledge and soft skills when a challenge comes about.

Some things that you can showcase in your answer include:

  • Application of position-required knowledge
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Logical thinking
  • Ability to stay calm 

This type of question also allows the employer a glimpse into your personality. After all, we are what we do. And an ideal candidate would be someone that they can see fitting in with their company culture or matching the vibe of their team. 

Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to communicate them naturally in your answer to the question “how do you work under pressure”.

If you’d done your research on the company you’re interviewing for, you probably have a guess of what kind of people they like to hire. Highlight those traits when you answer “how well you work under pressure” with examples. 

How to answer “can you perform under pressure?”

There are countless ways to answer this question. We have a few tips on composing a great response. 

📍Share your strategies dealing with workplace stress.

Reflect on your past experiences dealing with stress and identify what your action patterns were. What were the key factors in helping you overcome the difficulties? Maybe it was your time management skills, or your ability to define the problem, or your experience in prioritizing and allocating tasks, or perhaps all of the above. Share what your strategies are dealing with high-pressure situations. 

📍Provide a supporting example.

Elaborate on your strategies with a specific experience. Showcase how those skills come into play during a past stressful situation at work. 

📍Use the STAR method.

STAR (Situation/Task/Action/Result) is a framework in drafting answers to behavioral interview questions. By describing a specific high-pressure situation, task, actions you took, and results you reaped from the actions, you can easily paint a picture of how you had worked under pressure for the interviewer. 

📚 Further reading:  STAR Interview Method

📍Connect to the position you are interviewing for. 

Remember to connect the dots and share how you will apply the skills to this role. Recognize the similarities between your past job and this one. So you can provide examples of you working well under pressure.

For example, if the job you’re interviewing for involves facing uncertainties, you can list your past responsibilities that concern taking risks or facing uncertainty and how you handled those stressful situations at work. 

📍Be honest.

One thing to note is that it’s very important to always be honest in your answers! It reflects unprofessionally on you if you forge your answers based on what they want to hear.

If you don’t perform well under pressure, you can instead acknowledge what aspect of working under pressure you struggle with and what you have been or will be working on to overcome that. A lot of times, the potential a candidate shows can be just as promising as their ability.

📚 Further reading:  Work Efficiently Under Pressure: How-to & Tips

“How do you work under pressure?” - example answers

“How do you handle stress and pressure?”

🖋 For professionals:

“I have achieved some of my proudest results under pressure. As an account manager, I face endless issues and problems everyday, and I’ve found that getting familiar and comfortable with problems is a mindset that has helped me tackle and prioritize many stressful situations at work

Early on in my career,  there was an inventory management oversight on our client’s end where an entire order on 10 different products was mislooked. I immediately analyzed their demand and evaluated our own inventory to organize a swift shipment for a batch of the most important products for that customer. After that, I developed a system where I can proactively monitor important product demands and routinely check up with customers about the status.”

🖋 For freshers:

“In university, my interest in economics propelled me to take on a second major outside of statistics. Balancing two majors can be overwhelming, because I was often juggling a few papers and exams at once. I was never one to work well under pressure, so I sharpened my time and task management skills through trying out different productivity techniques. I have found that what works for me the best is breaking down my days into three chunks and my projects into smaller tasks. It allows me to efficiently finish tasks and confidently stay focused on the task on hand. 

I believe I can apply a lot of how I’ve handled stress and pressure during university to this research position, as it also requires deep work and different projects. I’m confident that my personal research on productivity will also help me make adjustments to help me work well under pressure.”

“How do you cope with pressure?”

“Something that helps me cope with pressure is to write everything down. To put it simply, identifying what that pressure is and tackling it. 

One of the first tasks I was assigned as an internal auditor at my previous job was to examine all the employee travel expenses and set up a better system for monitoring and reporting it. I took out my paper and pen, and listed every source of pressure that I was working under: failing my new manager’s expectations, fear that fellow coworkers would not like me, missing key expenses and analysis, etc. Then I made a to-do list accordingly: setting up a meeting with my manager a week before it was due to get his feedback, putting up a small reminder to self that professional work is separate from relationships with colleagues, and highlighting the key expenses first to make sure everything is covered, etc. 

This method helps me see clearly through high-pressure situations that may seem overwhelming and stay focused on my goals. I believe that stressful situations at work really pushes you to grow your skills and career.”

“How do you work under pressure to meet deadlines?”

“When I was still a student, I had a tendency to delay starting tasks until the last possible time. However, when I started working I knew things were a lot different. Every one of my responsibilities affects my team and other departments, so I worked on building a habit to set up my own deadline before the one I was given. It worked wonders for me because now I work so well under the stress of deadlines. It’s now a fun challenge for me to get ahead of my own timeline. A great bonus is that it gives me the luxury to be able to reflect on and revise my work if necessary.”

What not to say when asked “how do you work under pressure”

We want to also offer some pointers to help you stay clear of some mistakes commonly made with “how do you work under stress” answers. 

⛔️ Don’t say “I never get stressed.” 

You do. And everyone does. It will come off pretentious and ingenuine.

If they ask how you handle the stress with deadlines and you don’t particularly struggle with that, counter with reasons why that is not a problem for you or methods you apply so that it is not a pressure point for you. If you enjoy working under pressure, explain why you perform well under pressure or how pressure impacts you positively. 

⛔️ Don’t discuss your feelings in detail. 

When you’re having a great conversation or an instant connection with the interviewer, it’s easy to trail off the topic and get carried away. You might see the interviewer as a friend and want to rant about stressful situations at work. 

But refrain from doing that. Remember that the interview is for you to show your qualifications for the job and that your answers should offer your interviewer an insight to how your past experiences and abilities can fit into the position! 

Use the STAR method to effectively summarize the background of your story and state how you handle pressure and stress. Keep your answers short and to the point. 

⛔️ Don’t show that you’re stressed. 

Looking too nervous or anxious is not ideal for any interview, and it is especially so when you are telling the interviewers about your ability to work under pressure. We’ve found that mindset changes and preparation can help people stay calm during interviews. 

Researching and practicing interview questions significantly improves your confidence and the flow of your answers. And you can also try to think of an interview as simply a conversation to chat and assess the compatibility for both parties, or try remembering or imagining how you would express your thoughts regarding this vacancy with a friend. 

Now go perfect your response to that ‘how do you work under pressure’ interview question!

Take out your resume or work portfolio again and reflect on those high-pressure situations. Then follow our guidelines and get prepared to talk about how you perform under pressure! No pressure guys. We’re sure you can do this! 

Cake provides the best resume making tools & templates to help you create the perfect resume for your job hunt. Take your career journey to new heights - create a resume online (free download) now!

--- Originally written by Yohan Ke ---

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