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Understanding the Stress Job Interview

In a stress interview, the interviewer intentionally uses various intimidation tactics to attempt to put pressure on you. Recognize the hazing in a stress interview for what it is — either a genuine test of your ability to do the job or terminal pranksterism by a dumb jerk.

Don’t take the horrors of a stress interview personally. Keep your cool and play the game if you want the job. Don’t sweat. Don’t cry. Your most reliable tactic is to speak with calm, unflagging confidence. You may have to practice remaining poised in the face of an interviewer’s stressful tactics.

Suppose that you’re in sales. Asking you to sell the interviewer something — like the office chair — is fairly common. But having you face blinding sunlight while sitting in a chair with one short leg is, at best, childish.

Stress interviews often consist of the following:

  • Hour-long waits before the interview

  • Long, uncomfortable silences

  • Challenges of your beliefs

  • A brusque interviewer or multiple curt interviewers

  • Deliberate misinterpretation of your comments and outright insults

Typical questions run along these lines:

Why weren’t you working for so long?
Your resume shows that you were with your last company for a number of years without promotion and a virtually flat salary; why is that?
Can you describe a situation when your work was criticized or you disliked your boss?
Would you like to have my job?
What would you do if violence erupted in your workplace?

If an interviewer crosses your personal line of reasonable business behavior, you may want to make a speedy exit.

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