Handling a Stress Interview

 Recognising a Stress Interview

A Stress interview is no more stressful than a conventional interview. The difference lies in the method of questioning and that identifies a Stress interview from the other:

  • The Stress interview has the panel rapidly shooting questions at you while the conventional interview gives the candidate more time to answer the same questions. Panel members tend to ask the next question even before you finish answering the first one.
  • The Stress interview tends to have questions worded in such a way as to make the candidate uncomfortable. For e.g. do you think that it is correct on the part of an advertising agency to create campaigns to sell cigarettes, in the face of growing knowledge that cigarettes cause cancer, in a market where the client is king? An answer to such a question has pitfalls either way you answer. If you say that it is ethically wrong for an advertising agency to do so, you are saying that the client is not the king thereby implying that in the future you may act against your client’s interest – a complete “no-no” in the corporate world and if you say that you think its okay for an advertising agency to create such campaigns it shows that you are not in touch with social concerns and realities. A conventional interview on the other hand would have asked this question without the trap. Taking the same example: do you think that advertising agencies should create ads for cigarettes?
  • The Stress interview asks you questions from many fields at the same time while a conventional interview asks you questions subject by subject. For example, in a stress interview the first question could be about your academics, the second about General Knowledge and the third one about your favourite Hollywood actress! And the fourth could be about academics again. A conventional interview tends to ask you few questions about the same topic say academics before moving to the next issue on hand. Thus, a conventional interview tends to take a linear pattern while a Stress interview is more lateral.
  • The Stress interview asks questions such as to allow the panel to check your ability to react under pressure while the Normal interview evaluates your ability to give rational and cohesive responses. In that sense, questions in the Stress interview tend to be more topical and tactical while questions in the conventional interview are more insightful and analytical. Take for example: Do you think that there should be an India-Pak cricket series when elections are right around the corner? – the question is analytical and is typical of a conventional interview. When the question is asked as follows: Do you think that the India-Pak cricket series is being used by the BJP as a publicity gimmick to help the party during the coming elections? – the question is looking for your reaction – typical of a Stress interview!

How to handle a Stress interview
The Stress interview is merely a method or technique to judge the candidate’s ability to react under pressure. So, how do you handle it? By removing the Stress from the interview! And you do that by slowing down the pace of the interview. Here are a few pointers on how to do just that:

  • Once you have identified that you are facing a stress interview, in the first few minutes, answer each question thrown at you as fast as you can in your calmest manner. Once you have answered a few questions this way, for the next question thrown at you, take a deep breath and pretend to be considering an answer. Since, you have already answered the initial questions rapidly, the panel would most likely be satisfied and give you time.
  • Once in a while ask the panel the question – could you please elaborate on the question? Most panel members are only too happy to talk and this tactic should buy you time.
  • Choose a complicated/tricky question to give the following response – Say: “I think this question deserves some thought before answering” and then pause.
  • Slow down the pace of your words.
  • Take a sip of water before answering a question. The panel cannot deny you that!
  • And finally no matter what – remain cool and calm.

It is quite possible that some panel member might get on to the fact that you are trying to slow down the pace of the interview and ask you whether you are using delaying tactics. Turn the tables on the panel member by smiling with a glow of surprise and saying,” Oh yes, I’m doing just that.” And see the reaction that follows! Your Stress interview will dissolve in appreciative laughter!