How Did They Handle Stress?

Stressed employee

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This is a superb area to discuss in an interview. Let’s first ask what “stress” means to our candidate.

“Robert, give me an example of a stressful situation you experienced in your previous position.”

Robert says he was often asked to stay late (without being paid) and help out his supervisor. He didn’t want to tell his supervisor “no” and often just quietly did what he was asked to do.

“Okay, I understand that. Give me another example of a stressful situation in your previous job. You can go back to jobs previous to the last one if you like. Just anything that you considered stressful.”

Robert mentions a job he had a few years ago when his boss gave him, what he considered, very unrealistic deadlines.

“How did you handle that, Robert?”

“Well, I didn’t really handle it very well. I just worked as hard as I could and got as much done as I could.”

“Did you tell your boss at that time that you felt the deadline was unrealistic?”

“No. I felt that wouldn’t go over very well.”

“Okay, how about one more instance of where work was stressful for you.”

Robert thinks that over for a bit and then says, “In my last position, I felt I was working for too long a period of time without a pay raise. After awhile, that started to get somewhat stressful.”

What have we found about Robert from these three questions? We have discovered that Robert would rather work under stressful circumstances than communicate to a supervisor or to the boss. Robert was fearful of communicating his concerns to management.

So, now that you know all of this, are you prepared to hire Robert?

Perhaps Robert has many other very positive qualities but you’re bothered by what you find out in this part of the interview.

What to do?

Well, if you like Robert and decide to hire him based on his other qualities, I would recommend telling him the following:

“Robert, the job is yours with one proviso. If you feel that unrealistic targets are being given, or that you’re often being required to do things that go well beyond your job description, then I want you to agree right here and now that you will communicate your concerns to the appropriate person. And if I’m the one giving you unrealistic work assignments, then I want you to come to me and communicate this. Do you agree, Robert?”

And of course Robert is very happy to have the job and to know he can keep the stress at a minimum by working with people who prefer more communication, not less.



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