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Interview Question: "How Do You Work Under Pressure?"

March 30, 2020

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The ability to work under pressure is an extremely valuable quality. During a job interview, it’s likely you will be asked how well you work under pressure. Giving a good response may increase your chances of being hired. This is your opportunity to show you are likely to perform well even under difficult circumstances.

In this article, we explain why employers ask this question and how you can best answer it.

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Why employers ask about working under pressure

Performing well under pressure is both a personal and professional quality and can make a difference between an average employee and an excellent one. Many jobs involve moments when, for varied reasons, unexpected situations occur and a quick decision is needed. The ability to stay calm, think logically and act correctly in such a scenario is a major asset for any employee.

Convincing your potential employer that you can do a good job under pressure can also suggest other qualities, such as quick decision-making, organizational and time management skills, as well as problem-solving abilities. It can set you apart from other candidates.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

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How to answer the question “How do you work under pressure?”

Even if you are confident about your ability to work under pressure, the goal of your answer is to convince your employer of that. Here are some things you need to consider when preparing to answer this question:

1. Use the STAR method

STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. When you’re preparing to answer this question, an effective way of formulating an answer is to briefly discuss the context behind the situation, explain what your role was, outline the measures you took to solve the issue and then discuss the outcome.

You need to show that you have a good record of working under pressure. When preparing for the interview, think of a previous professional situation in which you displayed excellent ability under pressure. Describe that scenario during the interview, and explain the actions you took to diffuse the situation.

In addition to listening to your response, the interviewer may also evaluate your thought process, previous experiences and your ability to formulate an argument. Instead of a quick reply that you can handle pressure well, a thorough answer in the STAR method may better convince your potential employer that you possess the ability to work well under pressure.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Work Life Balance

2. Be honest

It’s best to be completely honest when discussing your abilities in a job interview. Try to think of ways in which you can use the truth to your advantage. Even if you struggle under pressure, calmly acknowledging that and mentioning that you are actively trying to improve in this area can leave a positive impression on the hiring manager.

In many cases, companies might look more at an applicant’s potential rather than their current ability. Showing that you are aware of your shortcomings and are willing to work on them may give a positive impression.

3. Stay calm and collected

Interviewers often observe nonverbal cues. Since the interview itself can be considered a pressure situation, answering this question in a calm and confident manner is even more important than for other questions. As you verbally express your confidence, your tone and demeanor should be fully aligned with your words. This manner may help you gain the interviewer’s trust and help them feel confident that the rest of your answers are also truthful.

Related: 5 Tips for Balancing Work and Family Effectively

4. Mention your ability to manage stress

In addition to explaining how you work effectively under pressure, also mention the methods you use to manage workplace stress. This part of your answer may show the interviewer that you can handle the effects of constant pressure and indicate that you are able to perform well. Since constant stress can have a negative effect on overall productivity, employers value team members who can find ways of relieving work-related stress.

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Example answers

Here are three sample responses to the “how do you work under pressure” interview question that you can use to help you prepare your own answer:

Example 1: Showing how you successfully dealt with pressure in the past

“Throughout my career, I have done some of my best work under pressure. I find that routine makes us complacent, and I am always looking for challenges that push me to give my best and to quickly come up with working solutions.

One time I was supposed to deliver a project to a client in five days. A colleague who was working with another client had the same deadline, but he had to take a leave of absence due to personal reasons. I was forced to take up both projects at the same time, but I did not let the stress affect me. Instead, I came up with a very detailed time management plan and found new ways to boost my efficiency that enabled me to deliver both projects on time.”

Related: 8 Steps for How to Stop Overthinking at Work

Example 2: Showing how you learned to handle high-pressure situations

“I am not naturally efficient under pressure, but it is something that I have learned with experience. I had quite a few exams in college where pressure got to me and I did not perform to the best of my abilities. __After realizing that I needed to improve, I actively looked for stressful situations in my career, with the purpose of getting better in these circumstances. I’ve developed several personal strategies, and I now see pressure as a motivating factor and a challenge, so when these situations arise, I approach them with a positive mindset.”

Example 3: Explaining how you deal with pressure

“I tend to embrace working under pressure because it forces me to become the best version of myself and act in a quick and decisive manner. At my last job, I was told that a major client was arriving from overseas in just five hours, and I had to create a presentation for her arrival. I quickly overcame that initial sense of panic, took a deep breath and collected my thoughts, trying to figure out the best way of working on such short notice.

Those five hours were both intense and stressful, but I managed to create a powerful presentation. I know stress tends to build up, but I eliminate it through yoga and meditation. Reading also relaxes me after a long day at work, refreshing my mind and making me ready to take up new challenges the next day.”

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