Stress Interviewing

Premise: How well you handle the stress of the interviewing process is a good predictor of how well you may do on the job and how good a fit you will be for our company.

Strategy: Starting out rather calm, the process leads to more and more difficult and probing questions.

  • Can you work under pressure? (yes/no)
  • Good, I’d be interested to hear about a time when you experienced pressure on your job.
  • Why do think this situation arose?
  • When exactly did it happen?
  • What, in hindsight, were you most dissatisfied with about your performance?
  • How do you feel others involved could have reacted more responsibly?
  • Who holds the responsibility for the situation?
  • Where, in the chain of command, could steps be taken to avoid that sort of thing happening again?
  • What did you learn from the experience?

Other Questions

  • Tell me about a time when… Or I’m interested in finding out about…
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • With hindsight, how could you have improved your progress?
  • What kind of decision is most difficult for you?
  • What area of your skills do you want to improve at this time?
  • Are you willing to take calculated risks when necessary?
  • See this pen I’m holding? Sell it to me.
  • What is the worst thing you have heard about our company?
  • How would you define your profession?
  • Tell me about the time you put your foot in your mouth.
  • What kind of people do you like to work with?
  • What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with?
  • I’m not sure you are suitable for the job. Are you?


“These are great questions.” Then offer your response followed by: “What do you think?” Or “How do you define __________? Give me an example of _________ that you have in mind? Do you need another example or further clarification?”

Stay relaxed but focused understanding that how you respond is as important as what you say.

Additional recommendations in Chapter 13. The Stress Interview (pages 107-124) from Knock ‘em Dead with Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions by Martin Yate.