The hiring manager asks how you’d approach a stressful situation. And your first thought is: You mean—like this job interview?
Clearly, you know that’s not the best way to start your answer.
So, you go with the next thing you think of. And while it sounds good in your head, well-meaning replies can actually raise red flags for interviewers.
Here are three common answers that make you look bad—plus better options.
1. You Say: “I Just Put My Head Down and Push Through It”
You think this answer will make you look like the non-complaining hard worker you are.
Unfortunately, it raises two red flags.
First, it makes it seem like you’re someone who wouldn’t think to loop in your boss, even if there was a problem. (Are there times when you could handle it on your own? Possibly, but this tendency can lead to mistakes that could’ve been avoided through proactive communication.)
Second, the interviewer may fear that you’ll push yourself so hard you’ll burn out. And odds are, if they’re asking this questions, there will be a demanding workload.
“I stay motivated by thinking about the end result. I’ve found that even in the midst of a challenging situation, reminding myself of my goals helps me take a step back and stay positive.”
2. You Say: “I Don’t Get Stressed Out”
To you, this answer shows that you’re able to control your emotions. Or, maybe you’re trying to say that you capably manage your workload.
But it could make the hiring manager worry that you have low self-awareness. They don’t want to hire the person who’ll be snapping at his colleagues or making rushed decisions—and not even realize he’s not at his best.
“I like to practice mindfulness [or some other strategy] to stay even-tempered.”
3. You Say: “I Delegate”
If you’re interviewing for a management role, you’re going to want to talk about delegating. But this is not the way to do it.
That’s because, if you’re doing it right, you’ll be thinking about giving meaningful assignments to your team in relation to overall goals, not your personal workload. No one wants to work for a boss who hoards projects until she feels overwhelmed, and then assigns them elsewhere to “manage stress.”
“I realize that, as a manager, my response to stress will affect my whole team. My goal would be to model what I’d want my team to do, so I’d openly communicate that there was a high-stress situation and ask if anyone had the time to pitch in and help troubleshooting.”
Yes, it’s ironic that you’d be asked how you cope with stress in the midst of a high-stress situation like responding to interview questions. And if it makes you feel any better, you will get points just for being composed the whole time! But if you can go beyond that and explain how you handle pressure at work—while sidestepping any common wrong answers—you’ll stand out from the other applicants in the best way possible.