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How to Ace a Stress Interview

Around 64 percent of UK employees face stressful situations at work, with most of them working overtime, through the weekends and holidays, according to a recent YouGov study.

Workplace stress is common and it often affects employee productivity. Hence, most employers prefer hiring candidates who are good at handling stress. To that end, some employers conduct stress interviews. The idea behind a stress interview is to put the interviewee into a stressful situation and observe the outcome. That way, the employer gets to presume how the candidate would perform at work under pressure situations.

As an interviewee, you never know when you are going to face a stress interview. It comes unexpectedly and in different forms. For instance, some interviewers may suddenly ask you an out-of-the-context question, while others may adopt an aggressive attitude during the interview. Let’s first take a look at some common types of stress interview techniques.

Intimidating you with cold behaviour

Some interviewers may try to intimidate you with a silent treatment. For instance, instead of smiling at you after you’ve introduced yourself to them, they may simply pick up your CV from the desk and look at it with a serious face. Or the interviewer may take a long pause before responding to you. These are all techniques to destabilise you.

Asking oddball questions

This is one of the most common techniques used by interviewers to stress an interviewee. For instance, the interviewer may suddenly ask you, “If you could be an animal, which would you be and why?”

Asking aggressive questions

In an attempt to intimidate you, some interviewers may ask you aggressive questions, such as, “what made you think you are a good fit for this position?” and “why were you fired from your previous job?”

Adopting an aggressive behaviour

Even worse, some interviewers may choose to behave with you in a hostile manner. For instance, they can talk to you rudely, interrupt you in the middle of your answer, make a face, or simply tell you, “That’s the worst answer to this question I’ve ever heard.”

Asking the same question repeatedly

As if your answer to a certain question was not satisfactory – the interviewer may ask you the same question repeatedly until you get impatient with her.

Asking hypothetical questions

The interviewer may also present you a hypothetical business situation or dilemma and ask you to provide a solution. It is a test of your business acumen, analytical skills and decision-making skills.

How to Ace it

First things first, understand that the interviewer has nothing personal against you. It’s just an interviewing technique that they are using to test your ability to stay calm under pressure situations. Here are some useful tips to ace a stress interview.

  • Ask for clarification – Don’t hesitate or be afraid to ask for clarification. If you are not sure about the intent behind their question, ask the interviewer what exactly they want to know. That way, you not only get a clarification from the interviewer but also some time to prepare your answer.
  • Be yourself – Know that the interviewers have an agenda. They are trying to provoke you. The best thing you can do now is to stay calm and composed, be yourself. Do not try to perform. Take a deep breath and concentrate only on the question they are asking. If required, take a completely different line in your answer.
  • Act normal – Just because the interviewer has adopted an aggressive attitude does not mean you too should do the same. Instead, act normal. Counter them by facts and answer calmly. If the interviewer asks, “Why were you fired?” – do not get agitated or say something like “What the hell are you talking about?” Instead, keep your calm and say, “I am sorry sir but I was not fired. I resigned from my previous job because I wanted to learn new things…etc.”
  • Pull back when required – Before the interview turns into a heated debate, pull back. Tell the interviewer that you have nothing personal against them. Your agenda is to help them solve a problem. If they do not like the way you want to solve it, they can simply refuse to hire you.

If you find yourself facing a stress interview, do not get choked up. Keep your calm and act normal. If required, take some time to recollect your thoughts before you answer, but never lose your confidence and composure.

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