While it's not the most common interview question out there, it's possible that interviewers may ask you to share what makes you angry. Having a sense of what sets you off—and, how easily you feel angry—can be helpful insight for interviewers, particularly in roles that require a lot of interaction with customers or co-workers.
This isn't an easy question to answer. Find out why interviewers want to inquire and how to craft a successful response.
What the Interviewer Wants to Knows
When interviewers ask what makes you angry, they are trying to determine how you might react to stressful situations in the workplace, and how you might handle your personal emotions without letting them affect your performance.
This is an example of a behavioral interview question, i.e., a question designed to show how you’d behave in a real-world situation at work.
Be prepared for employers to ask for specific examples of situations that made you angry, particularly in a professional environment.
How to Answer "What Makes You Angry?"
Your answer should contain two essential components:
- A description of the situation that angered you
- A summary of how you processed the event and handled your anger
You'll want to be careful in wording your response. You'll seem dishonest if you refuse to share what makes you angry. But you don't want to appear hot-headed or quick to anger, or come off as someone who is inclined to criticize others.
Try to present yourself as someone who, like most people, occasionally gets annoyed by certain situations, but doesn't lash out in an outburst of anger.
While you want to be careful about blaming others, you can mention certain office behavior that doesn't sit right with you, like if a co-worker complains too much or misuses company resources. The key here is to discuss things that either negatively affect the company—for example, those misused company resources—or that give you the opportunity to show how you deal with tough situations gracefully.
Answers that emphasize a measured, controlled response are the most effective.
Be thoughtful as you describe how you handle your anger. Try to respond in a way that implies that you recognize your anger, but do not express it emotionally or dramatically.
For instance, if you're discussing a coworker's unethical or irresponsible behavior, explain how you may have calmly confronted him or her, and then provided constructive feedback. Maybe you offered a suggestion and then walked away before things got heated. Whichever anecdote you can provide, make a point of illustrating how you are a level-headed, rational employee who doesn't let your emotions cloud the workplace.
Examples of the Best Responses
When I'm on a tight deadline and working to finish a project, I get frustrated if I run into roadblocks, like if my internet won't load or my partner is slacking off.
Why It Works: It's not unreasonable that this situation would anger someone and points to the candidate being eager to get work done. Note that the interviewee uses the word "frustrated" instead of "angry."
In my last job at ABC company, there was one time when I had a run of frustrated customers on the phone, who were quite rude. It was hard not letting that rub off on me, but after the fifth call, I took a one-minute break to walk around the block and remind myself that the customers didn't mean to make things personal.
Why It Works: This person shows an awareness of situations that lead to strong emotions, and also shows they've got a healthy, reasonable coping mechanism in place.
In general, I'm a fairly even-keeled person. Of course there are times when things do not go according to plan, or when it feels like someone is not pulling their weight, but I try to head off these situations by forming contingency plans and keeping the lines of communication open with my team. When I do feel fired up, I usually try to take a moment away.
Why It Works: This answer paints a real picture of the candidate's personality. While the person is not quick-tempered they do acknowledge sometimes getting angry and share how they cope with the situation.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
- Be authentic: It may feel tempting to say, "I never get angry at work." But this answer may be a bit hard to believe. Even the most even-tempered people have a bad day or feel anger. So be genuine in your response.
- Keep it upbeat: While you don't want to be dishonest, you also want to avoid sharing a long list of grievances or making yourself appear to be someone who is frequently angry.
- Be specific: If you're struggling to come up with an answer to this question, it can help to share an example of a time you were angry in the workplace.
Tips for Responding for Management Jobs
Prospective managers might be asked this question to determine if they are tough enough to deal with problem employees. In those situations, you might describe how you dealt effectively with frustrating underperformers. Follow these strategies:
- Be specific. For example, instead of just saying that Bob tended to be unreliable, say that Bob missed several deadlines that required other coworkers to make up his work to meet client expectations. Then, talk about the steps you took to remedy the problem.
- Don’t dwell on your frustrations. Talk about what was required to solve the problem and make the team more successful. Focus on behavior, not intrinsic qualities – it’s not that Bob was irresponsible or didn’t care about his teammates, it’s that he was late with his work. It is especially tricky if you have strong personal feelings about the behavior in general – for example, if you’re an obsessively punctual person who feels that anything after 15 minutes early is late, it might be hard to discuss a report or coworker who was always the last person into every meeting.
- Choose anecdotes carefully. Come to the interview prepared with some examples of things that made you angry in the past. Be careful not to discuss anything that still makes you furious whenever you think about it. The last thing you want to do is to give the hiring manager the impression that you’re someone who can’t let things go, especially when it comes to dealing with problem employees. They may decide that the problem is you and opt for another, cooler-headed candidate.
Typically, you should state how you communicated directly with subordinates about problem behaviors or performance issues, and then set up a plan for improving performance. The plan should include consequences for continued poor performance, and how you may have partnered with Human Resources to devise the plan.
What Not to Say
- Keep your reasons for anger work-related. That means, don't complain about commutes or interactions that don't take place at work.
- Don't blame others — especially not a supervisor. You don't want to seem like you're complaining about colleagues. Make sure to avoid being rude or mean in describing someone else's actions. And, whenever possible, don't bring up situations that involve supervisors, since employers tend to side with management and may perceive you as an easily disgruntled employee.
- Don't get heated. It can be really helpful to provide examples, and if that's what you do in your response, try to show how the situation got resolved in a good way. As you're sharing about your experience, don't get angry again or raise your voice.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a co-worker who wasn’t doing his / her fair share of the work. What did you do and what was the outcome?
- Describe a time when you didn't work well with a supervisor — what was the result, and how would you have changed the outcome?
- How would your co-workers describe you?
BE AUTHENTIC Everyone has pet peeves and things that make them annoyed, so don't try to dodge the question.
SHARE EXAMPLES In your response, share an example of a time when you were angry at work, and then describe how the situation was resolved.
STAY CALM As you describe the situation that made you angry, make sure you don't get heated or use overly emotional language.