Describe a Time When You Needed to Cope With a Stressful Scenario

Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: August 30, 2022
Describe A Time Where You Had To Cope With A Difficult Situation

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During an interview you may be asked traditional and behavioral interview questions. The ‘describe a time when you needed to cope with a stressful scenario’ inquiry is behavioral. This type of query typically gives interviewers a unique insight into how you apply your skills in specific situations. A traditional question usually focuses on concrete facts about your education or experience. Behavioral questions, on the other hand, highlight what you did in the past to get an idea of how you may act in the future.

This type of inquiry is beneficial for you because it gives you a chance to highlight the personality traits, expertise and skills you have that make you a good fit for the company at hand. To this particular question, interviewers may be looking for a response showing your ability to perform under pressure, think critically and cope with difficult situations. There are different ways this same question can be asked. You might hear ‘tell me about a time when you encountered a stressful situation and needed to use your coping skills’ or ‘talk about a time when you were faced with certain problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.’ Behavioral inquiries can be challenging, but you can prepare a standout answer with a little preparation and the right answering method.

How to Answer the Question

1. Use the STAR Method:

The first thing you have to do as you prepare to respond to any behavioral interview questions is think of a story that highlights the desired skills and abilities. This can be easier said than done, but if you practice your answers ahead of time to some commonly made inquiries, you may find it is easier to reply to other questions as well. To make answering this type of query easier, you should use the STAR interview method. This method suggests your response includes three distinct parts:

  • Situation/Task: Give a brief background of the task you had to complete or the situation you were in.
  • Actions: Explain what steps you took to make the situation better.
  • Results: Highlight what happened thanks to your intervention.

Keeping this method in mind as you practice and during the interview may help you give well-thought-out and impressive answers to even the most challenging of behavioral inquiries. Because different questions may be asked during interviews, you cannot know exactly what will be queried during a particular interview. That is why practicing this answering method is important to your performance during the face-to-face meeting.

2. Take the Question Head On:

When the hiring manager poses a challenging query, you may be tempted to skirt around the answer. You want to show yourself in a positive light, so you don’t want to highlight a time when you felt overwhelmed by your job. You can highlight positive skills while talking about a situation that was less than ideal. Your next job is likely going to come with a few challenges, and the hiring manager wants to make sure you will be able to handle the stressful situations as they come along. Your reply should show you have practiced methods to reduce stress and stay calm even in challenging scenarios.

3. Highlight Your Adaptability:

As you answer this type of inquiry, you want to be sure to highlight the skills and abilities that are most tied to the question. In this case, that would be adaptability. Adaptability is important for the workplace because conditions may change and a successful employee should be able to adjust with those changes. Part of adapting is analyzing a situation. You need to know the appropriate response when something challenging presents itself. Your analysis may help you realize what changes would be best for you and the rest of your coworkers. You can also highlight your adaptability by discussing your resilience, calming methods and ability to meet the changing needs of a business.

Sample Answer

When I first started my last job, the company was in a transition mode. During the interview, I had been told I would be expected to use a computer program I was already familiar with. However, by the time I actually started, many aspects of the job had changed because of the company-wide transition. Now I was supposed to use a computer program I had no prior experience with, but my direct supervisor expected me to know what to do. Rather than allow myself to get overwhelmed by the sudden change, I sized up the situation and decided to go to my supervisor’s office to ask about the new program. I let him know I would be able to pick up on the program quickly, but I would require some training. After I talked with him, I was able to get trained quickly and the job became much less stressful.

No matter what kind of inquiries you are responding to, it is very beneficial to practice your answers to common queries before the actual meeting. When you practice answering behavioral interview questions, use the STAR method to organize a standout answer.

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Describe a Time When You Needed to Cope With a Stressful Scenario

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