How to Deal With Stress While Hiring

I’ve always been fascinated at human behavior – even before I moved from Engineering to Sales almost 20 years ago, I was always watching how people reacted to situations. Many people get their motivation (and persuasion) from getting angry, or passive, or funny. This fascination continued to grow as I moved into sales, and particularly when I got into a position to hire. Hiring salespeople is particularly challenging because good salespeople know exactly how to handle most interpersonal situations and can interact extremely well with different types of people.

Hiring is certainly much more of an art than a science. There are so many things that go into hiring the right candidate – culture, ability, timing. How do you find out how the salesperson will react when the customer tells me their deal that was “in the bag” has died? Or the developer who gets a customer call at 3am for something that she doesn’t feel is worthy of being woken up?

What things can you do to test “ability to handle stress”? I believe it’s one of the most important attributes an employee brings to the company. Unfortunately, I’ve determined that there is no silver bullet. Putting a job candidate in a bit of a stressful situation during the interview itself can help, but this tactic can’t measure all the different stressors an employee will face on the job. In addition, part of me feels a bit disingenuous doing something in an interview I’m highly unlikely to do in real life.

To address this, I like to listen carefully to certain interview questions and try to expand on their answers to go deeper into their emotional depth:

  • What’s the worst thing that has happened to you in your career?  How did you deal with it?  How long did it take you to reach a resolution?  What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
  • Describe your day – are most days similar or different?  Describe your “routine” – or lack thereof.
  • Name the attributes of the people you tend to get along with the best in your company, and the attributes of the people you get along with the least.

Stress is the #1 reason why people struggle or fail at a company, and yet we don’t have an accurate way of measuring how people handle stress, and more importantly, we don’t tend to have ways to help our employees cope with stress once on the job. This could be a top area for disruption.

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