Tell Me About a Time You Dealt With a High Pressure Situation

Most flight attendants will go the majority of their career’s without having to deal with a major emergency and high-pressure situations really don’t happen all that often.  Most of the time, you’ll be concentrating on your normal service delivery and routine customer service issues.

But airline’s don’t just employ cabin crew to serve passengers food and drink.  Your primary role will be for the safety and security of passengers, your fellow crew, the aircraft and of course, yourself.

An emergency situation could happen at any moment – whether it be a problem with the aircraft or severe turbulence, a medical situation, a violent passenger or even a fire in the cabin.  All of these situations require a quick response from trained professionals who can keep calm, working efficiently and in line with their training.

The airline will train you to deal with all of these situations.  You’re not only a flight attendant but a firefighter, police officer and paramedic.  But the airline has to trust that you can handle these responsibilities.  That you won’t shy away from dealing with these extreme incidents or lose your cool when others are depending on you.

It’s for this very reason that recruiters ask this important interview question.  It’s one thing to say you think you can deal with this situation and you believe you’re up to the challenge.  The recruiter can’t simply take your word for it.  They want you to draw on your past experiences to prove you are suitable for the responsibility that comes with being a flight attendant.

Ideally, you should use a situation that is similar to something you might have to deal with onboard an aircraft.  That allows the recruiter to easily imagine how you would cope as a flight attendant.  The most likely scenario would be a medical emergency that you may have dealt with in a previous job.

But don’t think you can’t answer this question if you don’t have this previous experience (and don’t, whatever you do, make up an example!).  You can draw upon loads of different scenarios to prove you can work and thrive in a high-pressure environment.

For example, a particularly bad-tempered customer, working in a retail store during a really busy period, an accident involving a co-worker or being involved in a high-profile function could all be easily used for this question.  Take some time to reflect on the situations you’ve been involved in during your previous employment and you’ll no doubt have at least one or two examples you can use.

As always, use the SOAR method to quickly and effectively answer this question:

  • First, briefly describe the SITUATION
  • Then, tell the recruiter what your OBJECTIVE was (so, in a First Aid incident, you might say your objective was to treat the casualty in accordance with your training and investigate the cause to make sure an accident didn’t happen again)
  • Now, describe in detail what ACTION you took.  Break this down into short bullet points so the recruiter can easily visualise how you helped.
  • Finally, explain what the RESULT was

When you’re describing the actions you took, think about the qualities the recruiter is looking for.  Did you stay calm?  Did you follow your training?  Were you working as part of an effective team?  Did you clearly communicate with colleagues, the public or the authorities?  How quick were you to react to the situation?  Did you consider the consequences of your actions?

Think about how you managed to stay calm and work so effectively when others might have struggled to cope with the situation.  How did you reflect upon the experience after it happened?  Consider what you might have done differently or what action you took to prevent the high-pressure situation from happening again.

Remember, the recruiter isn’t looking for someone who deals with emergency situations day-in, day-out.  They simply want to find candidates who are willing and able to cope should the need ever arise.

Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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