Top Culture Fit Questions

How to Answer: How Do You Handle Pressure?

You’ve started preparing for your interview and you can clearly articulate what motivates you, and the strengths that you will bring to the team. But what do you do if the interviewer wants to get a sense of how you fare when things get tough: “So tell me, how do you handle pressure?” she asks.

This common interview question, which you’ll encounter during more interviews for an internship or entry-level job, is designed to test a few things. Employers want to know that you don’t let the stress of high-pressure moments (which are inevitable in any work environment) get to you and can still perform well. Additionally, your answer to this question allows employers to see how you get your best work done and how stress affects you.

To nail this question, it’s important to understand and explain the situations that can stress you out, illustrate how you manage your reaction to that stress, and then give a real-life example of how you dealt with stress. Your answer should be honest, but definitely with a positive spin.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing your answer.

Talk about a time when you faced serious pressure.

Think about a time in your life when you felt truly overwhelmed. If you’re an athlete, maybe this was during the run-up to a big game. Another great example is the pressure of finals that students face every semester. Whatever example you choose, outline the situation and explain why it was a high-pressure moment for you.

Pro Tip: Avoid examples where the pressure or stress was due in part to your own shortcomings (i.e. “I didn’t budget enough time ahead to study for the final exam, but buckled down and ended up doing well”). Instead, choose an example that shows how you were able to rise to a challenging occasion.

Give concrete examples of how you deal with the situation.

Once you’ve identified the moment of pressure, outline the steps you took to address it. Be sure to include the way you assessed the situation and the plan you put in place to get through it. Be specific and provide details that will help to highlight the outcome.

Show how these steps helped you meet your goals.

After outlining process you put in place to deal with the moment of pressure, talk about how you were able to resolve the situation and meet your goals.

Say something like: “I find that when I have multiple projects and deadlines at the same time, I’m at my most productive. I’m careful to prioritize tasks and to structure ways for me to manage my time and energy proactively. Last semester, I had three final projects and a presentation due in the same week. I knew that I would need to be diligent with every moment of my day to set myself up for success. I created a weekly calendar that outlined the time needed to complete each project, the time needed to practice the presentation in front of my peers and time for sleeping and going to the gym. Having it all planned out minimized unnecessary stress and allowed me to focus on execution, which was the most exciting part for me.”

By specifically highlighting how you’ve responded well to pressure in the past, you’ll show the interviewer that you’re ready to take on even the toughest parts of the job, getting you one step closer to closing the deal.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 7 Phone Interview Tips  and find answers to common interview questions such as What Excites You About This Industry?.