Job Candidate, how stress resistant are you?

There are many jobs that require a candidate to be able to work under pressure and who is able to cope with different levels of stress. Some people will be able to cope well while others might be struggling a lot. I’m thinking of jobs which require to finish certain tasks within certain deadlines with a certain outcome, such as: journalists, recruitment consultants, translators, builders, architects, software developers etc. But also jobs in Finance, in which you need to keep a constant eye on how financial markets on a global scale are developing, can be very stressful. When there is a lot of money at stake and you can’t really have full control over external circumstances you need to be able to cope accordingly. Also running your own business, no matter in what industry, will put a different level of stress on yourself and not everyone is suitable for that challenge. But we need to realise that pressure and stress nowadays are normal aspects of life. They are unavoidable and at some point in life everyone has to deal with it, the question is how well we are able to do it.

It is a fact that in the UK for example stress-related sickness absences cost companies an estimated 4 billion Pounds annually. A survey conducted among 270 line managers stated that 88 % felt to be under a moderate or high level of stress at their job. 39 % of them claimed that this had got worse over the past year. Stress-related illnesses can include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, headaches, migraines, diabetes and obesity.

If you need to find out how stress resistant a candidate is there are two strategies you can apply.

A) You can ask specific questions, such as:

  • How do you deal with pressure in your current job? Give me specific examples.
  • Tell me about an unexpectedly stressful situation you experienced at work. How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever had a feeling of frustration and impatience when dealing with a customer? What was the situation?
  • What are the highest-pressure situations that you’ve face in recent years? How did you cope?
  • Think of your most productive work experiences. What stress levels were you under? Did that add to or hinder your productivity?
  • Did you ever face unrealistic goals? How did you react to it?
  • What was the most stressful work situation you have ever faced?Why was it stressful for you and how did you handle it?
  • Can you give me an example when you did not handle a stressful situation well?
  • Describe a time when you had to juggle a number of projects and priorities. What were they? How did you juggle them?
  • Can you illustrate an episode in which your team was under a lot of stress? What steps did you take to help them through this? Did you succeed?

B) You can apply various stress interviewing techniques to get a real insight.

Bear in mind that the purpose of it is to stress the candidate and in the process to find out how well a candidate can handle certain situations under pressure. It has nothing to do how you as the interviewer perceive the candidate as a person. Unfortunately the candidate not always realises that in the process. However, your task as a recruiter is to shatter the interviewee’s self esteem in order to find out if that could affect his performance or attitude during the interview. Now some examples in more detail:

# 1 - Planning for a panel interview in which two or three interviewers ask more than one question in a row. Find out how well the candidate can handle these questions fired at him. Was he able to finish the answer to each question? Did he remember all of the questions without asking to get it repeated one more time?

# 2 - Telling the candidate very straight forward that you don’t like him/her. This is to test the person’s reaction. (Not everyone might be able to take this question in an impersonal way!)

# 3 - Using provocative words and questions. By talking in a provocative or even aggressive tone (no matter how well or poorly the candidate answered the questions) you will make the candidate feel awful and horrible. Interviewers in the past used to say things like “THIS is your answer?”, “Are you serious?”, “Is there nothing else you can think of?”.

# 4 Asking wild card questions. These are questions that come fully unexpected to the candidate and might also be completely unrelated to the job. Example: “If you were a tie, what pattern would you be?”

# 5 - Continuously interrupting the candidate when speaking. That makes the person feel as if he would have given a very poor answer and they were not able to finish their thought.

# 6 - Asking to hold an impromptu presentation. In this case you don’t give the candidate a lot of time to prepare for it. Who would not be stressed in that case?

# 7 - Using negative body language. Rolling your eyes, continuously looking at your watch, and acting impatiently is never a good sign and should make the interviewee feel as if you would be annoyed by the job candidate.

Some recruiters consider stress interviews to be effective, while others consider them as not always appropriate. Whatever the case is, recruiters should bear in mind that an interview is always a two way process. Also candidates can assess the company and ask themselves whether they would want to work for someone who makes them feel uncomfortable, inferior, embarrassed or insecure.

Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author, and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 18 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India.