“What makes you angry?”
This behavioral interview question doesn’t come up very often, but it can be challenging to answer when it does.
Let’s go through how to put together the type of response your interviewer is looking for, and maximize your chances of getting the job!
Variations of This Question
Interview questions about anger can vary, but they basically all mean the same thing:
- What makes you upset?
- When was the last time you were angry at work?
- How do you manage anger at work?
- What angers you?
- What upsets you?
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
The recruiter or hiring manager wants to know how well you manage your emotions in the workplace when things don’t go your way.
No employer wants someone who flies off the handle, stomps their feet, walks off the job, or otherwise reacts poorly to bad situations. When things inevitably go wrong, they need to know you’re the type of person who will hold it together.
It’s also about your emotional maturity and self-awareness. Your answer shows the interviewer you have the ability to recognize what makes you angry as well as the self-control to manage it.
Self-awareness is important to employers because it means you’re able to learn from past experience and will continue to do so.
How to Answer: “What Makes You Angry?”
1. Tell Them What Makes You Angry
Start by telling them something that makes you feel angry or frustrated.
While it’s tempting to avoid giving a direct answer to a question like this, it’s important to embrace the question head-on
Before actually telling them what makes you angry, you can mention you’re a generally calm and collected person, and that it takes a lot to get you worked up.
Whatever you choose to say, make sure it’s something most people will be able to understand and relate to, and it’s something that’s not likely to occur often (or at all) in the job you’re applying for.
Things that make you angry might include:
- A customer being rude to you
- Team members missing deadlines
- Unresolved safety issues on the job
- Technical issues preventing you from working
- A coworker who repeatedly interrupts you
- A vendor who fails to come through
You can also give some insight into why this particular thing is such an emotional trigger for you.
For instance, if a rude customer makes you angry, you might explain that you always make an effort to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and you only ask the same in return.
Here’s an example:
“I don’t typically get angry at work; I am generally easy-going and don’t get riled up easily. But I do feel frustrated when a coworker misses a deadline that delays my work as well. It’s important to me to finish projects on time, and I don’t like it when someone else prevents that.”
2. Give a Real-Life Example to Add Context
Next, describe a time you experienced an incident at work that made you angry, making sure it’s congruent with what you said earlier.
This shows the interviewer you have some experience with navigating these types of issues, which means you won’t be shocked or overly upset when it happens again.
When telling your story, use words like “annoyed,” “irritated,” or “frustrated,” rather than stronger words like “mad,” “livid,” or “seething.”
Using more neutral language indicates you don’t fly off the handle or respond irrationally over normal workplace occurrences.
Here’s an example:
“One time, my coworker and I were supposed to have the wiring completed on a project by a certain deadline. My coworker fell behind and said he’d stay late to finish his part but ended up not finishing on time. The project was delayed and I was frustrated over the entire situation.”
3. Talk About How You Overcame It
Finally, explain how you managed your emotions and resolved your anger.
This is important because the interviewer wants to know that when annoying incidents happen in this new job, you’ll respond in a calm and professional way.
Detail what you did to maintain your professionalism in this situation even though you might have been tempted to let everyone know how you were feeling.
The focus here isn’t necessarily how you solved the problem; it’s how you remained calm and handled your negative feelings. So talk about the specific actions you took to manage your exasperation.
These steps might include:
- Walking out of the room for a short time
- Taking a few deep breaths
- Using grounding techniques
- Spending a few minutes outdoors
- Getting something to drink
- Using a “fidget toy” or similar stress reliever
Here’s an example:
“I recognized how I was feeling and told him I needed a few minutes. I went outside and reminded myself that we’d only be a day late and our boss would understand. I was then able to go back in and ask how I could help him catch up. We managed to finish everything by lunchtime.”
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
Sample Answer #1: Condescending Customer
“I’m not one to get flustered easily, but if a customer becomes very condescending, I tend to feel defensive and irritated. I take pride in my customer service skills and try hard to help everyone, so I feel hurt when a customer is rude to me.
Recently, I was having trouble resolving an issue to a customer’s satisfaction, and he told me I didn’t know how to do my job well. I was frustrated and embarrassed.
I politely asked if I could place him on hold, then I counted to 10 and took a few sips of water to calm myself down. I then picked up the phone to continue the conversation as though he hadn’t made the rude comment. My patience paid off, and I did end up solving his problem.”
Sample Answer #2: Technical Issues
“I’m very patient and forgiving, so I don’t typically get frustrated with coworkers or customers. One thing that does annoy me, however, is when technical issues prevent me from doing the tasks I need to do. I rely heavily on technology, so it’s stressful when it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.
Recently, the computer program I use just wasn’t working properly. I noticed I was getting a bit annoyed, so I knew I needed a break before I got too upset.
I restarted my computer and chatted with a coworker for a few minutes while it rebooted. After a lighthearted conversation, I felt much better. When I went back to my desk, the reboot was done and the program was behaving as it should.”
Sample Answer #3: Interrupting Coworker
“I usually don’t get angry at work because I don’t get drawn into office drama. The only thing that irritates me is when I’m interrupted unnecessarily. Since I work with numbers, interruptions break my focus and it often takes a while to get that back.”
At a previous job, I had a coworker who had a lot of questions about the work, and since I sat closest to her, she usually asked me. One day, she interrupted me five or six times before lunch, and it really got under my skin.
I took a minute to look out the window and breathe, then collected my thoughts so I could politely explain to her that I needed to focus. She took it well, apologized, and was a lot more conscious of my time moving forward.”
How NOT to Answer
Don’t Say You Never Get Angry
Don’t avoid the question by saying you don’t feel angry at work.
This will come across as disingenuous because everyone feels this way sometimes. Disregarding the question also prevents you from being able to demonstrate your ability to handle negative emotions.
Instead, describe an incident when you were mildly upset or irritated, using the three-step approach above.
Don’t Describe a Situation You’re Still Angry About
If your emotions are still running high over an incident, avoid talking about it during the interview.
You might start to feel upset or angry when retelling the story, and you need to keep your emotions in check.
Focus your answer on an event that didn’t elicit a strong emotional response so you can keep your tone calm and even.
Don’t Badmouth Anyone
One of the worst things you can do is talk negatively about another person, especially if the person is a former or current boss or supervisor.
Your interviewer doesn’t want to know why you don’t like a certain coworker or how you believe your boss has mistreated you. This can paint you as a person who struggles with authority or who can’t work well with others.
Talk about actions or events that bother you, but don’t talk poorly about a specific individual.
- Recognize the question even if it’s phrased differently
- Describe what annoys you at work
- Share an example from your current or previous job
- Explain how you resolved your negative feelings
- Don’t pretend you’ve never gotten upset at work
- Don’t get emotional while telling the story
- Don’t speak poorly of an individual