Stress Interview Survival

It Happened to Me!

I was perfect for the Event Coordinator position at the local Country Club. After being called back for a second interview, I was ecstatic! Then things went downhill quick. They cancelled the interview five minutes before it was scheduled and rescheduled for Saturday morning. Prior to the interview, I waited an hour and a half to be called in to an office where the CEO was finishing a joke on the phone. He then asked me rude questions and seemed quite dismissive. At the end of the interview, I swore I would never ever ever ever work for this company. Later, I discovered I was a part of a hazing tactic referred to as a Stress Interview.

Although my experience above seems negative, I can assure you that the situation caused me to rethink everything I know about the interview process. Thus, I have become a better job candidate.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind if faced with a similar situation.

The Long Wait

Usually an interview is a two-way street. Not only is the employer testing how you fit into their company, but you are also determining if you want to invest your time and skills with them. So, when the interviewer makes you wait over 30 minutes to even begin the interview, it makes you reconsider if you want to work for a company who would treat their potential employee or future client in that manner.

On the other hand, you can use this to your advantage. Call them out on it without being disrespectful. "Mr. Smith, I understand you are a busy individual and while I appreciate you taking your time to meet with me, please know that I also view my time as valuable. That is why punctuality is a strength my past employers can verify is true to my character." You can then segway into how you have treated a past client's or coworker's time.

Prior to being called into the interview, take this opportunity to snoop. Make friends with the receptionist, read printed literature or study the plaques on the wall. Do not sit and fidget or play with your phone, These actions may make you seem disconnected or uninterested in the company and the interview. Remember, even though you have not yet been called into the interview, you future boss could still be watching.

The Interview Questions

Don't be alarmed if the questions thrown at you seem rude or if the interviewer seems uninterested in your responses or even cuts you off.

If the same question is asked more than once in a row, do not become frustrated and do not give a different answer. Instead, treat the situation the same as if you were in customer service and the customer repeated the question. It then becomes a great opportunity to expand on or reiterate your response.

Remember, there is a fine line between a stress interview and abuse. If at anytime you feel like you are a part of a hazing or feel bullied, it is ok to attempt to turn the interview around. Explain that you sense they are using a specific interview tactic and ask them if this is because they see their clients treating the staff in this manner and want to see how a future employee deals with difficult personalities. If that is the case, it gives you opportunity to insert examples on how you have dealt with past conflict.

Can You Truly Prepare?

If you are like me, you play over and over in your head the correct response to any interview question while coming up with ways to stand-out amongst other equally qualified candidates. Accordingly, companies had to find a way to correct the pre-rehearsed interview. discusses in one of their articles that the stress interview is a way to catch the interviewee off-guard to see what they are like outside of the polished interview.

Preparing for a stress interview is almost impossible. But because of its nature, the person asking the questions can almost be assured that you are truthful in your answers and not just telling them what they want to hear.

Your Experience

Have you ever encountered a stress interview?

  • Yes. I am an employer who successfully utilizes stress interviews.
  • Yes. I am an interviewee who has survived a stress interview.
  • Yes. But, the stress interview was not an obstacle.
  • No. I have not experienced or utilized a stress interview.
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I am Curious to Know Your Experiences.

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