Why are job interviews so stressful

Stress interview: how to master the test

As if the interview wasn't stressful enough. So now a stress interview too! Applicants hate stressful questions in job interviews - partly rightly, but partly also due to poor preparation or misconception, such as the power-hungry recruiter who stifles the candidate.

Of course, everyone wants to present themselves from their best side in the interview, and a lot depends on how the interview goes. The future job, for example. Such a stressful interview, in which applicants are put under targeted pressure or thrown out of the concept, also offers undreamt-of opportunities ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Stress interview: why this provocation?

First of all, you have to be very sober and factual: Stress interviews are the exception to the rule, a special form in job interviews. Most companies and HR professionals forego such a stress interview for good reasons:

  • The applicant is already excessively nervous and insecure.
  • The previous conversation was informative and informative enough.
  • The HR manager does not expect any new or relevant knowledge.

Why do HR professionals resort to stressful questions?

Here, too, you have to say in advance: Very few do this to harass, humiliate or embarrass applicants. Sure there are exceptions. HR with a veritable profile neurosis. But as always with exceptions: They confirm the rule. Rather, a stress interview is about getting to know the applicant better and taking a look behind their well-built facade. In a job interview as well as in an assessment center.

Because of the great importance and the anticipated nervousness, many candidates today are extremely well prepared for such conversations. Every possible question is researched beforehand, facts and figures are memorized, tasks are prepared, answers are laid out. An applicant coach may even help with the finishing touches. All of this has its justification - but it can also lead to the authenticity being fluttered.

The personnel decision-makers present are increasingly getting the impression that they are being presented with one thing above all else: a perfect masquerade and a good show. Please don't get this wrong: It is highly recommended for applicants to prepare for an interview in order to increase their job chances and to strengthen their self-confidence.

HR is interested in the real personality

What is of particular interest to recruiters in the interview is the candidate's personality: Does he or she fit into the team, to the corporate culture - and precisely: How does he or she react when he or she cannot prepare perfectly? Because that's exactly the rule in the job: things happen. But the team still has to stay cool and work together. That is why it is quite normal for job interviews to specifically ask about conflict situations, length of stay, terminations or contradictions in the résumé.

This is where the stress interview comes into play: the conversation partner is deliberately thrown out of the concept, provoked and put into a stressful situation. Effect: The facade begins to crumble and allows insights into the people behind it with their characteristics and abilities, but also weaknesses - those that applicants naturally like to keep quiet or gloss over. This turns the stress interview into the first work sample.

The stress interview primarily helps potential employers with the selection of staff. But candidates can also use it for themselves: Those who react confidently here and parry the attacks can recommend themselves for the hiring and prove that they are up to the demands of the job.

Stress interview: structure and procedure

Interviews are usually structured in such a way that applicants go through five classic interview phases: small talk, getting to know each other, self-presentation, questions and closing. The order may vary in some places.

  1. Phase 1: small talk
    Duration: approx. 5 minutes
    ➠ Brief greeting
    ➠ Introduction by name
    ➠ Ask about arrival & condition / drinks
  2. Phase 2: getting to know each other
    Duration: approx. 15 minutes
    ➠ Employer introduces himself
    ➠ Company / culture / products
    ➠ Description of the position and position
  3. Phase 3: self-presentation
    Duration: approx. 10 minutes
    ➠ Previous professional career
    ➠ Major milestones and successes
    ➠ strengths related to the job
  4. Phase 4: Inquiries
    Duration: approx. 10 minutes
    ➠ Questions about the content and requirements of the job
    ➠ Questions about expectations & performance measurement
    ➠ Questions about development opportunities
  5. Phase 5: completion
    Duration: approx. 5 minutes
    ➠ Thanks for the interview
    ➠ Further steps / deadlines
    ➠ Farewell

Do I have to put up with all questions?

The difference in the stress interview is that after a short warm-up phase, the personnel decision-maker suddenly changes his behavior radically and confronts the applicant: The questions become sharper, there is further research, suggestive follow-up, sometimes insinuating, ridiculing, provoking. The whole thing often resembles a cross-examination - verbal attacks included.

Admittedly, you shouldn't put up with all of it, some interviewers overshoot the mark, for example when they ask illegal or inadmissible questions that never have to be answered anyway.

However, it is permissible if the HR manager lets it through several times in the stress interview, for example, that he has strong doubts about the skills and qualifications of the applicant. The stress interview example is the (suggestive) question: “Don't you agree that you are unsuitable for the job? You have no relevant experience at all! " Sure, that should do one thing above all: unsettle.

Such provocative questions are often supplemented with trick questions, analogy questions that seem to have nothing to do with the job, so-called funnel questions or even brain teasers that candidates should grit their teeth on.

It becomes particularly perfidious when the provocations and out-of-the-air accusations are garnished with sarcasm and irony and force the candidate into an apparently endless spiral of justification. Then the fun finally stops. This is sheer psychological terror and clearly indecent and illegitimate. You have to set limits here.

Stress questions examples

As usual, you can download an extensive list of some examples of stressful questions here as a free PDF in order to prepare for the job interview. Typical stress questions are, for example:

    Trick questions

  • Have you also applied elsewhere?
  • How would you describe yourself in one word?
  • How do you know you did a good job?
  • When was the last time you broke rules and why?
  • How do you feel about being guided?
  • What did you dislike most about your previous job?
  • Have you already considered starting your own business?
  • Motivational questions

  • Why haven't you found a new job yet?
  • Why do you want to quit your previous job?
  • What do you think of your last boss?
  • What did you earn before?
  • What salary do you imagine?
  • How long would it take for you to make a significant contribution to us?
  • Are you ready to move?
  • Weaknesses questions

  • What negative thoughts would colleagues say about you?
  • What is your biggest mistake - and what did you learn from it?
  • Which three positive character traits are you missing?
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • When did you perform below average and what?
  • What do I need to know about you?
  • Provocations

  • Why did you study for so long?
  • Surely the information in your résumé is embellished?
  • How did you get the idea that you would fit into our company?
  • And that should distinguish you from the other applicants ???
  • So many internships - and yet you were never taken on?
  • Isn't it more likely that you have been advised to leave the company?
  • Why have you never worked far from your home town?
  • What is your shoe size?
  • And should I believe you?

But if you get involved, you should at least observe a few rules of the game. This includes not interrupting the interviewer, staying calm and using confident body language. But applicants are never allowed to do two things: justify themselves and attack themselves. Anyone who acts like this is disqualified immediately and jumps into the trap set.

Stress Interview Behavior: How to React Correctly

The stress interview is initially just a move by the HR manager to lure potential employees out of the reserve and thus to get as real and unadorned information about the candidate as possible. Anyone who is aware of this alone is relaxing. This is especially true for those who did not intend to play a role or pretend to be someone they are not anyway.




Of course, you don't have to put up with an attack on your personality, but you do need to scratch a little on the paintwork. After all, you want and are allowed to do this in the conversation - for example, when it comes to the questioning phase (see our dossier on this).

How should I react to provocations?

If it becomes too colorful for you, if limits are exceeded or if you feel so massively harassed or even personally insulted, you have the option of complaining about it and ending the interview early in the second step - but please kindly. At least you have manners!

In all other cases, you should first do the opposite of what the HR manager expects: Don't panic, but let yourself go to the changed framework of the conversation and show that you can handle the situation. Confident contradiction is entirely permitted. Think, for example, of formulations such as ...

  • "That is your view, but you can also see it this way: ..."
  • "You were probably wrongly informed."
  • "I think that has nothing to do with the job."
  • "Please respect that I can't comment on that."

5 tips on how to stay confident and work

  1. Stay calm
    In the stress interview, many applicants tend to answer prematurely due to the increased nervousness and to talk about their heads. If questions are asked that are intended to provoke or unsettle you, the best way to take the pressure off is by smiling and briefly switching to the meta level: “You want to get me off the hook? Let me explain that to you again… ”Then take the time to answer slowly and in a calm voice. The faster you blurt out a rash answer, the greater the chance that it will be unconvincing. You can also openly state that the question is an unusual one - this will give you a few more seconds to come up with an answer.
  2. Do not be sloppy
    It is only human not to want everything to be offered to you, but it will not do you any good if you answer sloppily and insolently. With a reaction like this, you only show that you are not up to the pressure - and you probably will not be up to the job if the going gets tough. But it should be said once again that of course you don't just have to put up with everything. If a point has been reached for you personally where you feel too attacked or even decide that you are no longer interested in the position with such a personnel selection, you can address this - but in a friendly and professional tone, please.
  3. Say your opinion
    In stress interviews, the HR manager usually takes the lead and leads the conversation, but that does not mean that you should only answer meekly and agree with each of the points and theses put forward. Many people increasingly play a defensive role under stress, so you can impress and convince if you continue to confidently express your opinion. It is your right to have a different opinion and to address it. I understand your point of view, but I am more of the opinion ... or I would rather see it that ... are just a few of the possibilities that you can use to show that you can think clearly and question things even under pressure.
  4. Don't fall for silence
    A particularly nasty trick some HR managers use is to remain silent during the stress interview. Suddenly there are no more questions, there is silence - and that is exactly what causes immediate stress and doubt for many applicants. Why doesn't he say anything anymore? Shouldn't he have to ask more questions? Or: did I do something wrong? It is wrong to just start talking in this situation in order to close the gap in the conversation or to look around nervously and tense. The best reaction is: keep silent yourself. Exercise a confident posture, keep eye contact and wait for the HR manager to speak again.
  5. Don't go too far
    If you are unsure about the answer to a question, you will be happy to go a long way to find an explanation or justification for your statements. Instead, try to answer briefly and concisely. In this way you can prevent yourself from putting yourself under even more pressure, since extensive explanations always provide many options for inquiries. Instead, represent your points self-confidently and at the highest level with short reasons or, even better, examples. That seems confident and lets the HR manager feel that you are not being intimidated by the situation.

Stress interview trick: keep silent yourself

This, too, is a typical unsettling tactic used by HR professionals: silence. After you've given an answer, the interview leans back, looks at you expectantly - and is silent. Classic case of rhetoric mikado: whoever moves first has lost. Most of them cannot stand this silence, start fiddling or sliding on the chair, get under pressure and chat. Voilà, that was the plan ...

Parry this trick by also remaining calm, maintaining eye contact and smiling. Pauses in conversation are not a problem at all. Instead of chatting about your head and your career, you'd better start asking your questions after a while. You can find numerous examples of this in this free PDF.

[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]

Even more interview tips

➠ Job interview: all the tips

Job interview process
➠ Interview preparation
➠ Application questions + answers
➠ Job interview clothes
➠ Introducing yourself
➠ self-presentation
➠ End the interview

Interview types
➠ Second interview
➠ Assessment Center
➠ Job interview English
➠ Video interview
➠ Telephone interview

Typical questions
➠ These 100 questions can come
➠ 25 trick questions + answers
➠ Stress issues
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What was your last salary?
➠ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
➠ Why did you quit?
➠ Inadmissible questions
➠ Inquiries to HR managers

Tips & Tricks
➠ Practice interview
➠ Interview mistakes
➠ White lies in the job interview
➠ body language tips
➠ Overcome nervousness
➠ Where to put your hands?

organization
➠ Confirm the interview
➠ Postpone the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Follow up after the conversation