A Quick Guide to Conducting Stress Interviews

Onboarding new candidates is time-consuming and costly, but a stress interview can help ensure that potential employees can perform the job effectively.

Training Magazine

Finding the right candidate for the job is not a challenge for the faint-hearted. If a said job happens to be in a competitive industry, such as finance or customer care, the interviewer needs to get serious about the interviewing process.

Some roles rely more on essential skills, such as the ability to perform under pressure than on traditional qualifications. Fast-paced jobs can require a certain level of stress management. You need to be confident the person you are interviewing can handle the pressure.

The best way to ascertain whether a candidate is up for the challenge is by conducting a stress interview. Onboarding new candidates is a time-consuming and costly process, so you want to be sure your potential employee can perform the job effectively before you take them on.

What Is a Stress Interview?

A stress interview isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience for the candidate. It involves a series of questions designed to put them on the spot.

Stress interviews blend awkward and confrontational questions with a smattering of random and/or problem-solving questions. This is a more effective method of establishing personality fit and job role suitability than a traditional approach.

For example, a job that requires a lot of interaction with aggressive people will require a hefty stress interview to see how the candidate responds to confrontation.

Stress interviews, like regular interviews, can take place either in person, over the phone, or via video call.

What’s the Best Way to Conduct a Stress Interview?

Having deduced that a stress interview is the method of choice for your upcoming meeting with a candidate, how do you conduct it?

What follows are some simple, actionable tips to get the most out of the interview and, in addition, gain valuable insights into the candidate’s personality and suitability for the role. You also can understand how they might behave in certain difficult situations.

Businesses with rigid interview procedures in place are in a solid position to improve business processes. Not all tactics are used in all stress interviews. A mix of some of them should garner good results and meet the goal of putting the candidate on the spot.

Intimidation Tactics

This tactic involves asking direct and confrontational questions. These can highlight potential issues before employment, such as difficulty dealing with unpleasant interactions. Extreme reactions to stressful questions can suggest this might not be the right person for the role.

Questions might include:

  • What is so special about you?
  • Why haven’t you achieved more progression in your career so far?
  • Tell me how you would deal with a colleague you hated?

This line of questioning offers the opportunity to see how the candidate responds to aggressive communication. A candidate who gets flustered during questions or gets irate would be an immediate red flag.

If the interview is over the phone, it’s beneficial to record phone conversations with potential candidates to review them at your leisure and spot anything you missed at the time.

Disinterested Tactics

This is the direct opposite of the previous interrogation style of questioning. This method is demonstrated by showing the candidate a complete lack of interest. Examples include looking at the clock, yawning, and generally projecting boredom.

Sometimes, this approach can provoke antagonistic behavior from the candidate. After all, no one likes being ignored or feeling like they aren’t being heard. This approach aims to understand how the candidate deals with this and whether or not they can remain calm and patient in difficult environments.