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How to handle stress interviews?

How to handle stress interviews?

On InsideIIM and Quora, I have read a lot of interview experiences wherein the panel is constantly trying to trip up and counter-question the candidate. For instance, an IIT graduate was told to his face that ‘IITians are lazy and don’t score well in their undergrad exams’, requiring a justification for poor academics.

In another case, a candidate was reprimanded for beginning his interview with extracurricular achievements. In yet another case, the candidate was grilled on his work experience, while the panel kept insinuating that he lacked understanding of his own job (which was not true, at least as per the Quora answer).

When an interview goes in a direction that you did not expect, how do you remain calm and keep your wits about you to answer the panel’s questions with conviction? Have you had a stress interview during the MBA admission process, or otherwise?

3 Answers

Hi Chirag,
That’s a good question. It does happen at times. The only thing to keep in mind here is that it is just done to get you flustered. I understand that is easier said than done. When 3 serious professors are reprimanding you, it is hard to remember that they are playing with you. I hope the following points help:

  1. Every interviewer has already seen thousands of candidates earlier with nearly the same credentials as yours. She/he has been through that line of questioning multiple times. So they are not really looking for an answer or are genuinely challenging you. They are just seeing whether you have a valid answer and how you react under pressure
  2. There are some common themes for stress interviews. Poor grades, multiple jobs changed, not being to answer first few questions and so on. Just keep in mind that you need to have rehearsed these pain points before your interview. For instance, if you do have poor grades (trust me, so many of us do), have an answer ready. What did you spend your time on if not acads? That is all that is needed. You had different priorities and what your reasons were for that
  3. Go for mock interviews. That’s the best avenue for learning how to face being grilled. Since your mock interview is being taken by a stranger, he/she will not be abashed to ask tough questions. That helps in getting ready for it. The first stress mock interview is always a bit of a shock because you have never faced such ferocious questioning before. But it helps for actual interviews

Hope that helps. The main thing is to draw a list of the questions you think you may be grilled upon and have a good reason ready. Rehearse that reason and answer in mock interviews. As for any unexpected question that turns up, maintain your calm and know that the interviewer isn’t genuinely angry.
All the best!

Member of Student Team 4, InsideIIM

Jeetesh Varshney, IIM Udaipur answered 3 months ago

Hi Chirag,

Stress Interviews are in vogue and used by many interviewers during the selection process. Mostly the questions asked in a stress interview are the same which might ask during a structured interview. However, there may be a difference in the behaviour or demeanour of the interviewer. The interviewer during the interview may appear distracted, contrary, or indifferent to you. The primary purpose of stress interviews is to assess the reaction of the candidate towards the pressure of indifference, rejection, and overall stress. To sail through the interview, it is highly recommended that you concentrate on the question and not the manner in which it is asked.

Strange Question is a hallmark of a stress interview. The interviewer can ask you any strange and off the topic question. Remember to stay calm throughout the interview, because that is what the interviewer is looking for – a candidate who can remain cool, calm and collected.

Even last year at MDI, I faced the same kind of Interview and Interviewer asked very random and vague questions and countering my every point. But I tried my best to give the answer as straight forward as possible and don’t show them that you are nervous and keep your calm. One more thing doesn’t argue much as the thing will not help you anytime, but that doesn’t mean that you submit yourself completely. Just say Sir/ Madam as much as I am aware I think I am right but if you are saying than definitely, I look once again.

Hope it Helps!
All the best!

Member, InsideIIM Student Team 4 | PGP - IIM Udaipur, 2020

Anshula Seth, answered 3 months ago

great and nice post

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