How do you cope with pressure?

This can be a very important question, depending on the job. Some jobs are all about pressure, and they're looking for a good indication that you're up to dealing with what they mean by pressure.

In high volume customer service jobs, where there's a lot of sensitivity, the need is to explain the kind of pressure, as well as the basic issues.

In sales, pressure is always performance based. That has to be addressed, for obvious reasons. You need to explain both the priorities and expectations. That also clarifies what you're expected to do, in context with the job.

In client based jobs, like investments, finance, and other very high pressure jobs, situations and performance are the criteria.

Some pressures are created by the realities of the organization and the way it functions. In government jobs, and in contract situations, pressure starts with things like guidelines, statutory requirements, and the terms of a contract, like completion deadlines.

These are really serious pressures, and can be job killers if anything goes wrong, because pressure comes from the top management level. In many jobs the interviewers need to see you know the score, and know what's expected in terms of performance.

These answers are a general guide only.

Don't forget, in your own job interview, that the job you've applied for has its own pressures Each job requires some explanation of situations and stress factors, and you have to address them in your answer.

High volume customer service

I'm used to very high volumes of customer contact, both in person on the counter and phone inquiries. The pressure is mainly from volume, but sometimes we get some complex situations, which, naturally, have to be dealt with appropriately.

The expectation from management is that all inquiries are dealt with quickly, correctly, and promptly. We cover a large range of inquiries, so we have to be familiar with the spectrum of issues. To deal with the pressure, I stay in control of the situation. I stay focused, and don't get distracted. I do everything I can to achieve good turnaround times, and ensure I'm doing my job properly and giving good service.

Sales

The important thing with sales is sales volumes. The pressure is to perform, naturally, and that's what I do. I understand the requirements from management for getting results. I make a point of beating sales targets, and I organize myself so I increase my performance by doing extra work, and I've improved my sales techniques by doing courses and getting advice from our senior sales people to enhance my performance on the sales floor. It's worked, too. I've increased my average sales quite a lot. If anything the pressure was a motivation for better results.

Client based jobs

In the investment and wealth management work I've been doing, pressure comes from clients. Their concerns are in terms of the performance of their investments, and sometimes from situations where they have to do some work on their investments and don't know how to do that. Sometimes these situations are extremely complex, and very sensitive.

This is pretty high pressure, because they're big clients, they invest a lot of money, and they are, naturally, expecting us to help. Management is very involved with our clients, and client retention is a big demand. So the only real way of handling pressure is meeting both client needs and management's demand for performance. I check everything, ask questions, and make sure I know what the client wants. That reduces the pressure a lot, and I can have confidence I'm doing things properly.

Government jobs

Pressure comes from the very high customer volumes where I work, and the fact that we're obliged by law to process customer claims in 14 days.

There are only three people in the section, and we have hundreds of customers and inquires every week. So it's all teamwork, dealing with the needs of the job. We do cope with the pressure, and deal with problems, all the time, and do the work efficiently, in these time frames.

Contract situations

Contracts create pressures and demands, and the only way to deal with them is to know what's required and anticipate the situations. Time frames must be met, contract specifications must be met, there really aren't any options. So I use those as the criteria for doing the work. I plan ahead, I make sure of my time frames and scheduling. I always work with a realistic, step by step operational approach. Pressures are reduced to easily identifiable and manageable situations.