Interview Questions: Can You Work Under Pressure?

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April 3, 2020
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min read

Being able to work under pressure is a great skill to have. When you are interviewing for a job, plan on being asked if you work well under pressure. Since this interview question is so important, we'll help you understand why it's asked so commonly and how you should answer it.

Why are you asked if you can work under pressure?

It's hard to think of a job where how you handle pressure doesn't come into play. Hiring managers ask interview questions to learn as much as they can about you and how you would handle day to day tasks. So if it's a fast-paced environment, chances are you will have to answer what is your ability to work under pressure during your job interview.

The interviewer is looking to hear more than just a "yes I work well under pressure." The best answer a candidate can provide shows the hiring manager that you have more than just one great quality. For example, it can show that you have quick decision-making skills, strong problem-solving abilities, and excellent time and organizational skills.

How do you answer if you can handle working under pressure or not?

There are a few things to think about when answering this question in a job interview. The best answers are well thought out. Below are a few ideas to take into consideration when answering if you work well under pressure.

Be honest

Hiring managers can often tell when you aren't being honest when answering interview questions. You know how you handle stressful situations, so use examples from your past experiences to make your point. Share a time you were confronted with challenges and how you kept calm to solve the problem.

If you do not perform well under pressure, don't lie to the interview conductor. Employers will respect a candidate that admits there are areas they need to improve. It's better to say you are working to improve how you handle being stressed. Remember, the best answer is an honest one.

Give examples from previous jobs

Everyone has dealt with stress in the past. The best way to show how you handle it is by telling the interviewer about a time you overcame a stressful situation. Avoid giving generic answers that don't involve a personal story.

Rather, explain a past situation where you were under pressure. A few ideas of good high-pressure examples are:

  • Tight deadlines
  • High profile projects
  • Not enough resources or people
  • Scope of the project changed at the last minute

By talking about a stressful position you were able to thrive in, it shows the hiring manager you can handle the pressure. Describe previous work experience that relates to the job you are interviewing for.

It's okay to share a less than perfect example

You can also mention a time that you didn't do well under stress but how you have grown from the experience. After you give an example of how the pressure was challenging, say you now have a better way to effectively manage stress. Share that you were able to ask for help and use the resources around you.

All workers need help and it's not a negative to discuss it. Often candidates are scared to share a negative experience. Most hiring managers will tell you they appreciate the honesty and it shows confidence in the candidate.

Stay calm

Job interviews are stressful, so hiring managers are looking to see how you react to this question. Talk calmly and confidently when answering it. By handling the pressure of your job interview, you are showing that you know how to work under stress.

Final thoughts on answering if you can handle pressure at work

Part of every job involves stress. During your career, you may be faced with more than one task that makes you feel like you want to scream. Use your job interview to show that you know how to focus and get the job done.

Always be honest even if the answer isn't perfect. Try to stay calm and believe in yourself. Your next job is around the corner!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of how to demonstrate the ability to work under pressure during an interview?

To demonstrate your ability to work under pressure in an interview, you can share specific examples from your past experiences. Describe a challenging project with a tight deadline, explain the steps you took to manage the situation, and highlight the successful outcome. Mention any strategies you use to stay focused and calm, such as prioritizing tasks or using stress-reduction techniques. This shows the interviewer that you have practical methods for handling pressure effectively.

How can I prepare to answer the question "Can you work under pressure?" before an interview?

To prepare for this question, reflect on past situations where you've successfully managed pressure. Think about the skills and strategies you employed, such as time management, prioritization, or teamwork. Practice articulating these experiences clearly and concisely. You can also prepare a few STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) responses to structure your answers effectively, ensuring you convey your ability to handle pressure in a compelling way.

Is it acceptable to admit that working under pressure can be challenging during an interview?

Yes, it is acceptable to acknowledge that working under pressure can be challenging, but it's important to follow up with how you overcome those challenges. Employers appreciate honesty and self-awareness. Explain the steps you take to mitigate stress, such as breaking tasks into smaller, manageable parts or using relaxation techniques. Emphasize your commitment to delivering quality work despite the challenges, as this demonstrates resilience and a proactive attitude.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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