How to Screen a Candidate for the Ability to Perform Under Pressure


Over the years I have helped countless startup founders develop their candidate screening processes. 

In this 5-minute video, I share an approach that will help you assess how someone will perform under stress.
The cost of a new hire not working out is astronomical, and this will help ensure that your next hire is a win.

I am not a recruiter, I am a former startup founder turned executive coach, which gives me a different perspective.


In addition to the right skill and culture fit, you want to hire people who thrive at a 7-9 stress level and don’t crack when it spikes to 10.

I just finished a session with the Founder/CEO of a company that is hiring two executives. They have a million in seed investment and one shot at making this work.

My suggestions are meant to be a starting point, to get you thinking about the questions you should ask to figure out in advance how a candidate will perform under stress.


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In service,

YouTube Transcript 

Hey there! I just
finished up the coaching session with
the CEO of a fast-growing startup who’s
been frustrated by a number of hires
that he made that cracked under the
pressure and stress and so we were
working through what are some Screaming
methods during interview process to help
you know whether they’re gonna crack or
thrive under pressure and I wanted to
share that with you I wrote it up so
along with this video they’ll be the
write up that you can follow this isn’t
meant to be a thorough instruction but
rather a starting point some prompts to
get you thinking about what are the
questions you should ask during an
interview to help you know whether this
person is gonna thrive under pressure
so essentially you want to hire somebody
who is actually thriving at the seven
eight nine stress chaos level and can
operate in that state for weeks on end
often months on end
you also want that person to be able to
spike to attend whatever attend is in
your world without cracking and be able
to come back to the standard seven eight
nine so one of the questions that I came
up with that you could start with and
this is also meant to get you start
thinking about what kind of questions
you should ask is during the interview
ask them so you know as you can imagine
this is a fast growth startup it’s
pretty can be a pretty stressful
situation so to make sure that this is a
fit for for you I want to ask you some
questions about how you function under
stress so let’s just start by having you
tell me about your most stressful work
and listen to what they’re saying and
then you can ask these probing questions
so like how long did that last who was
working with you on it you want to get a
sense of whether there were solo under
stress or leading a team under stress or
part of a team and they were carrying
dependencies a team depended on those
are all quite different scenarios mm-hmm
and what was hardest about that for you
what did you like about it just getting
a sense of how they handle that
situations mm-hmm what I like is what
might be some ways your personality
shifts when you’re under stress we all
shift our personality styles under
stress and many different personality
measuring types like myers-briggs and my
favorite Enneagram will show you how you
perform under stress or how your
personality shifts under stress be good
to know if they know about that I want a
candidate that knows themselves and can
speak clearly about who they are and how
they function you could go a little bit
deeper saying oh by the wave you know
your personality type via Enneagram or
myers-briggs or any other system see if
they do if they don’t know their own
personality type in any system that
tells you that they haven’t done all a
lot of self-reflection or
self-development work it’s pretty hard
to avoid that it’s hard to avoid doing a
personality typing process with that
when you’re doing self self development
but if you do that have yours ready to
share so know your myers-briggs are my
favorite Enneagram in fact if you go to
nine types calm you can get your
Enneagram type in about 10 minutes or
less with their free online assessment
so you should be able to talk about
yourself to be more relatable so yeah
that’s a prompt to get you thinking
think about the last person you hired
that wasn’t so good about stress under
stress what did they what do you wish
you asked them what do you know about
the people that on your team that are
really good under stress
how would you have how would they have
answered the questions and this will
give you pretty much what you need to be
able to at the very least on an 80/20
level assess a candidate’s ability to
thrive under stress last but not least
you want to be super thorough about and
honest about what it takes to succeed in
your environment in your company’s
environment and let’s also be very
realistic anybody you hire has to live
up to your expectations
of them and it’s up to you to be very
honest about your expectations I don’t
see this happening nearly enough you
have these implicit expectations that
for one reason or another
you’re not making explicit and then when
they don’t live up to your implicit
expectations you start to resent them or
there’s just conflict in the
relationship I say just lay it all on
the table up front you know if you’re
you know have have anger issues like be
clear about that was like hey under high
stress I can get frustrated and be
pretty short-tempered
I’ve even been known to yell however I’m
I’m committed and clear on not
belittling or making anyone wrong I just
get overwhelmed with frustration and I I
tend to go ah something like that just
be be honest about what they’re stepping
into because you want them to be okay
with it and of course you’re also not
gonna try and scare them away alright I
hope this is helpful
good luck on those hires I know it’s a
high risk land so high risk to bet on
somebody so much goes into that and
hopefully this helps you make that
decision a little bit more effectively


alright Cheers

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