To answer the call center job interview question How do you handle stress, you need to do two things: First, you need to convince your interviewer that you can effectively adapt to stressful situations. Second, the way you deal with stress should be healthy and sustainable.

You could have a perfect command of the English language but if you’re not capable of handling stress on a daily basis, then the company is going to see you as a liability instead of an asset. Remember, call center jobs are stressful by nature.

What to avoid

1. Don’t sound as if you’re invincible.

Don’t say:

“I don’t really get stressed. I pride myself in being able to deal with any difficult situations that come my way.”

What’s wrong: This answer not only sounds arrogant and unrealistic but also shows a lack of self-awareness. Like it or not, everybody gets stressed!

2. Don’t mention unhealthy coping behaviors.

Don’t say:

“I handle stress by drinking alcohol to calm my nerves. The secret is to know the right amount so I feel relaxed without getting drunk at work.”

What’s wrong: Never say that you give in to bad habits when under stress. When talking about how you deal with stress, make sure it’s a habit that’s actually healthy and sustainable.

“For me, the most effective way to deal with stress is by following a strictly healthy routine. Every day, I eat clean, exercise, and make sure that I get enough sleep. This, by far, has been the most effective technique for me.

“Every time I get reckless with what I eat, don’t get enough sleep, or become too lazy to work out, I experience brain fog and feel cranky at work. But when I follow this strict routine, I can talk to any customer of any mood and feel capable of handling any issue.”

3. Don’t say you handle stress poorly.

Don’t say:
“When I’m stressed, I easily get overwhelmed and I tend to say things I’m not supposed to. However, I’m currently working on it by practicing self-awareness.”

What’s wrong: Don’t mention a time when you couldn’t perform well at work due to stress. That’s only going to discourage your interviewer. If you’re someone who blurts out unwanted statements when stressed, then you don’t want to work for a job that mainly involves talking to people.

Also, make sure that the way you deal with stress is specific, not generic. “Self-awareness” as an action plan is too ambiguous to be convincing. Instead, mention an action plan that’s clear, specific, and actionable.

“I deal with stress by dealing with it before it even happens: I plan. First, I take note of the common problems and imagine the things that could go wrong at work. I then lay out a solution for each problem. This way, I can go to work knowing that I have a prepared solution for each problem. The thought of being in control relaxes me, which in itself is a great stress reliever. Of course, there are times when I encounter unexpected problems. When this happens, I simply ask for help from my superiors and take note of the solution the next time I encounter them.”

What’s great: This shows that you’re methodical–that you follow procedures to a T, approach any situation logically, and that you’re more resilient to stress. In a call center workplace where stress is a natural state, a methodical agent is an asset.

Or tell a story about your actual experience with stress

Telling a story piques your interviewer’s interest and allows you to frame your answer more convincingly:

When I’m stressed, the first thing I do is identify the type of stress I’m experiencing. I classify stress into two kinds: productive and unproductive. For me, productive stress is the stress that aligns with my skill set. An example is the stress that comes from dealing with irate customers. I have a knack for dealing with people so even if irate customers are challenging, I thrive on it and usually love it. This is the type of stress that a good workout and a deep sleep can easily wash away.
And then there’s the unproductive stress. It’s the stress that isn’t beneficial to my growth. For example, I once worked as a data encoder. It was stressful for me because it didn’t align with my skill set. The thought of spending the entire shift interacting with nobody was just a constant struggle for me so I ended up quitting. And this is why I choose to work in customer service because this is the type of stress that I thrive on.”

Note: In this example, mentioning that you don’t like spreadsheets and pure paperwork is fine if you’re applying in a voice account that requires you to mainly talk to customers your entire shift.

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