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Voice of Chinese HRs

Sometimes during an interview, when you feel it went quite well, HR suddenly becomes very serious and aggressive in asking you questions. No doubt, you have encountered ‘stress interview’. It comes in many shapes and sizes--from mildly disconcerting to downright aggressive. The interviewer isn't simply taking please in making you squirm; rather, the purpose is to put you on the defensive in order to see how you perform under pressure. The stress placed on an interviewee can be as simple as making him/her wait needlessly for the interview to start, or making them hurry to their appointment.  Alternatively, the person conducting the interview can attempt to introduce stress into the interviewing process itself.  This can be accomplished by becoming argumentative with the job applicant, or by exhibiting rude behaviours to the interviewee. Here are some types of stress interview tactics and how to handle.    


Type 1: Aggressive and painful question 

Interviewers tend to ask intimidating question to put you on the spot. For example, ‘Was your previous job too much for you to handle?’    

Response: Clarify the question and the nature of the answer desired first so as to get yourself some time to think. Then be open, honest and direct, but refuse to be emotionally intimidated.    


Type 2: Unexpected interview behaviours    

Some interviewers might ask the same technical question many times, pretending not to understand your answer. They intend to throw you off with this unexpected behaviour.    

Response: Be patient. Communicate what you are thinking and doing. Kindly imply the interviewer your concern.    


Type 3: Case interviews    

You are presented an open-ended working situation – usually a dilemma or set of hard choices. It tests your knowledge of relevant business issues, analytical skills, communication skills and ability to anticipate problems.    

Response: State assumptions, and ask for unknown information. Focus on the way in which you are solving the problem, not necessarily the ‘perfect’ answer.    


Type 4: Puzzle interviews or Brainteasers

‘How many sewer covers are there in London? ‘How many chopsticks do people consume in China every day? While you are not expected to know the exact answer, you need to demonstrate your ability to explain how you would like to research the answer.    

Response: Request more details if there’s missing information. Try to ask for elaboration before proceeding with your answer.    


In short, the key to handle a stress interview is to remain unemotional and clam throughout the interview. It is still seen as controversial since it creates a sensitive and emotionally charges relationship between candidates and the interviewer, and thereby the company.