Stress Interviews

In stress interviews, the candidate is being tested on his/her abilities to handle pressure or adverse behaviours. The candidate is exposed to a hostile, disinterested or intimidating interview, whose purpose is to destabilise the candidate. The types of questions or behaviours that you may encounter include at a stress interview include:

  • Odd questions: "What percentage of the Earth's water is contained in a cow?"
  • Doubting your integrity:"I am sure you are hiding something from me. Are you sure you did not get sacked from your previous job?"
  • Showing contempt: "Is that all you can come up with? Let's move on"
  • Throwing you off balance: "How do you like me so far?"
  • Questions on difficult work situations: "How would you handle a situation where you knew that your boss fiddled his expenses?"
  • Hostile body language: The interviewer is not looking at the candidate, rolls his eyes, lays back in his chair, takes phone calls in the middle of the interview or lets his secreatary interrupt him for mundane matters
  • Quick fire: The interviewers asks questions in quick succession, not letting the candidate complete his/her answers
  • Big interview panel: The candidate faces a panel of many interviewers (6, 8, 10 or more) who constantly ask questions
  • Series of interviewers: Several interviewers come into the room one after the other, leaving no rest time for the candidate.
  • Letting the candidate ask the questions: "What can we do for you?","What do you want to know?"

Ways in which stress interviews can be handled include:

  • Depersonalise the process: you must keep in mind that this is all a game and that the interviewers are only playing a role to destabilise you. Once you have understood that none of this act is personal, then you can relax a bit more.
  • Maintain eye contact with the person asking the questions and keep your answers brief (typically 20-30 seconds) in order not to get interrupted.
  • Try to be yourself. Don't try to act back. Try to speak more slowly than you normally do so as not to let your frustration take over.
  • If you feel brave enough to do this, try to gain control of the space around you. For example, if there is a flip chart, walk up to it and write some points on it to back up your answers. It will make the interviewers slow down.

Stress interviews are a semi-sadistic way of recruiting people and there are better ways of determining whether candidates can handle stress (such as setting them a task which they should perform under pressure). However, if you want that job you must play the game. Even in stress interviews, not all interviewers are like those in the Apprentice. So take things in your stride and give it your best.