BANKING: Stress Interview


The stress interview can be just that-stressful. Encountered by many hopeful graduates entering the financial services industry, these types of interviews are made to assess one’s ability to survive under pressure. In many cases, the interviewer may create a calm and pleasant atmosphere, and then suddenly turn around, asking hostile questions, or ones that may not even seem relevant. The interviewer is going to expect you to possess the qualities and personality to handle stressful situations with the general logic that those who can’t handle stress interviews can’t handle stressful jobs.

These stressful and hostile questions can be coupled with bizarre and sometimes impossible tasks to test one’s problem solving abilities as sited in William Poundstone’s book, “How Would You Move Mount Fuji: How the World’s Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers”. In some scenarios, an interviewer may ask an applicant to open a window-a simple and casual request. However, the window cannot open. In this case, the interviewer assesses how the individual responds to the roadblock, a common tactic employed by the former Lehman Brothers. A more discreet tactic of stress interviews takes place before questions are even asked. Employers may ask the individual to take a seat at a long conference table, making note of where the interviewee sits. According to some Wall Street brokers, lions sit at the head, sheep sit on the side. Smith Barney was known for asking the famous question of how to measure four gallons of water, in three and five gallon containers.

Sample stress interview questions:

Why do you have such a low GPA?

- If your GPA is not as high as expected, talk about the other great things you have accomplished such as extracurricular activities, internships, on campus groups, etc.

Why were you fired from your previous position?

- Be honest as employers can easily find out this information. Calmly explain your side of the situation and what you have learned from it.

How many taxi cabs are there in New York City at any given time?

- While there is an actual answer for this, you are not expected to know it. Questions like this are asked to uncover how you approach a problem.

How do you handle rejection?

- Talk about an experience and the lessons you learned whether it be rejection from a professional organization, previous job. Always make sure to emphasize what you have learned from it and how you moved on.

Why were you out of work for so long?

- Fill in unemployment gaps with useful experiences. If you took time off to travel, talk about your experiences and the people you met, where you went, and what you saw. If you volunteered somewhere, talk about that. Make sure your interviewer knows that while you were not in the job market, you were still filling your time with constructive activities.

Sell me this computer on my desk.

- Often employers will spring this question on you especially if you are applying for a sales position. No matter what you say, remain calm and collected as this a tactic employed to test how you act under pressure.

What interests you least about this job?

- Don’t fall into this trap of naming activities because what you like least, your interviewer might like the most. Instead, make note of how you are interested in learning all aspects of the business and are open to new opportunities.

What kinds of people do you not like to work with?

- Employers don’t want people who are prone to conflict. While people don’t always get along, it is important to reassure your employer that you are a team player and can easily blend in with the company.

Do you feel you are overqualified for the job?

- If you feel you are overqualified, you wouldn’t be applying for the position.

What do you like least about your current job?

- Again, don’t fall into the trap of naming certain tasks. Remain positive about your experiences.

How many manholes are there in the US?

- Another question you are not required to have an actual numerical answer to, but be creative with how you approach your answer and always use logical reasoning.

Some tips to overcoming stress interviews include:

Don’t be too direct- don’t blame your coworkers, employers, friends, family, etc. The interviewer wants to see you own up to situations and demonstrate adversity when encountered with a problem.

Stay positive even when asked a negative question. Turn negatives into positives when asked about previous positions, detailing skills you have acquired that will help you in your new job.

Remain calm and collected. Interviewers are looking to throw you off and you should demonstrate your ability to cope with the desired position.

~Catherine B.

For full articles and more stress interview questions, check out:

Efinancial Careers, Associated Content, Human Resources, Indobase

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.