Have you ever been asked in an interview: "Tell me when you had to handle the most stressful event in your professional life."

Are you stuck with no examples prepared beforehand? Are you wondering why they even want to know this? Worse, does getting asked this question stress you out?

Let's see how you can tackle this question and not get stressed when asked!

Understand the Question

What does the interviewer want to know about you when they ask this question?

They want to know 3 main things:

  1. Your ability to prioritize tasks

  2. If you remain calm under pressure

  3. Your adaptability to changing circumstances


You want to join a company that hires you for who you really are, not for someone you made up by lying in the interview.

With these 3 points in mind, you can construct a thoughtful answer.

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Next, Some Strategy...

It's best to have a prepared response before going into this type of behavioral interview question.

A great strategy for answering this question is to use the CARB method:

  • Circumstance — First, describe the stressful situation you were in and the task you were given.

  • Action — Second, explain the actions you took to handle the stressful situation.

  • Result — Third, discuss the result of the situation (i.e. increased efficiency by 50%, increased revenue by 20%).

  • Bring it back into context — Finally, express why this situation is relevant to the role you applied for. What did it teach you? Make sure to note the skills listed in the job posting.

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Time to practice the CARB method! The following are examples of prepared answers for an interview of a former teacher applying for a business development role:

A. This helped me develop skills that would be applicable in a business development role, such as the ability to set goals and identify customer needs.

B. My task was to improve student engagement and test scores in my classroom after a midterm was performed poorly and students didn't show much understanding.

C. Through consistent effort and a focus on student learning outcomes, I exceeded my goal and improved overall test scores by 15% from midterm to final.

D. I incorporated interactive group work, multimedia presentations, and hands-on activities into my lessons. I also provided individualized attention to struggling students.


Which statement best exhibits the "Bring it back to context" portion of the CARB answer?

An Example Answer...

Two women in a job interview at an office. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Check out an example to see CARB in action! (NOTE: the bolded phrases are transitions that can be used in any CARB interview answer)

Imagine you're interviewing for a sales role. You have experience teaching overseas to use as leverage:

During my time teaching, I was offered a job teaching a university-level science course that started 3 days after my previous job ended.

To manage this pressure, I created a detailed plan that involved breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

As a result, all of my students in the class wrote the globally recognized exam and got a university credit, compared to 49% across the globe.

This experience taught me how to make big tasks more manageable, create and achieve goals, and perform under pressure — imperative skills when working in sales.


Which of the 3 skills the interviewer seeks is present in this example? Select all that apply:

Take Action

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What should you do now?


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