Tell Me About a Challenge You Faced at Work

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What is actually the best way to answer question that ask you to describe a work challenge you overcame? This question is tricky, and employers likely want to see which challenge you select, and how you generally speak about yourself as you explain you story. These types of questions provide you wonderful opportunities to describe an instance in your life that will highlight your strengths, and further demonstrate why you are the most suitable candidate for the job. Because of this, it is very important to plan your answer carefully, and answer it correctly.

First and foremost, it is most important to answer the question directly and honestly. You do not want to appear like you had no idea this question was coming, or that you are simply circumventing their question to buy more time. Secondly, select a work-related challenge that is tailored to your audience, and will aid in indicating that you are well-equipped for this available position. Finally, while you should explain a situation where you acted competently, you should also communicate that you are not afraid to seek guidance or assistance from your supervisors.

Answering this question correctly is important, and your answer should be calculated. This said, it can be very difficult to formulate an answer that will encompass everything it should. We understand this difficulty. In order to assist you, we have described the best approach to take in more detail below.


Answer the Question Directly and Honestly

Remember; when asking this question, your future employer is interested in hearing a story about a challenge you faced. Do not take this time to simply describe your best qualities. Answer the question! It is wise to include why you considered your circumstance a great challenge in your answer, so you don’t appear to be sidestepping their question. Appearing as though you are avoiding the question can relay that perhaps you are not comfortable admitting you have been challenged. However, your interviewer specifically wants to know you can humbly accept that you were challenged, and more importantly, you handled it successfully.

Perhaps you were presented with a heavy workload on a time crunch, and you needed to stay overnight to complete the project. On the other hand, perhaps you were burdened with the need to let one of your workers go, and you feared their response would induce tumult. In any case, stating these reasons informs your interviewer you have thought critically about this question, are comfortable answering it directly, and are particularly insightful.


Select a Work-Related Challenge

It is likely your future employer is not interested in hearing a personal challenge you faced (e.g. loss of a loved one or getting robbed), unless it is directly relevant to the available position. They are much more concerned with the professional challenges you overcame. Select a challenge that is related to a previous work experience, or if this is your first job you will hold, ensure it is at least relevant to the work you will be doing. Also, it is very wise to select a challenge that will specifically demonstrate how you will succeed in this new position. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to elaborate more on your strengths that are especially pertinent to this position.

For instance, if you are applying for a managerial job, perhaps describe a challenge you overcame while managing workers. Maybe you needed to organize a very crowded event all by yourself, or maybe you needed to figure out a system to reduce workplace stress. This sort of tailoring your answer to your audience, and the work position, will further emphasize your qualifications, and additionally, impress your interviewer. It will demonstrate you selected your challenge strategically, and have thought about to best ways to go about answering the question.


In addition, selecting a world-related challenge that is relevant to the available position makes a bold statement that declares you admit you once were not fully prepared to handle your responsibilities, but you nonetheless acted competently and developed the skills necessary. Moreover, you now feel fully prepared to tackle this new job.


Explain You Are Not Afraid to Seek Guidance


Finally, do not be afraid to explain that you are willing to seek guidance when necessary. It is unrealistic to assert that you will know how to operate flawlessly upon moving into this new position because aside from the fact that this may make you lose favor with the hiring manager, it is simply not practical even in a real-life situation. Additionally, it will appear arrogant to act as though you will never need help. Do not make the mistake of discussing yourself in a superior light. In general, your overall goal with answering this question is to give your future employer the gist of how you will handle challenges that arise while working for them. Your interviewer wants to know they can rely on you to act competently, and make the optimal moves in order to better the company.


They don’t care much to hire somebody who is incredibly self-centered, and will place their interests ahead of those of the company. Of course, you should describe the steps you took to overcome the challenge, and do not discredit yourself, but do not aimlessly recite a self-appraising speech. Maintain a modest demeanor. It is wise to explicitly state that you would be willing to ask for assistance if you were faced with a challenge you were not completely comfortable handling by yourself. This will make you appear very practical and confident without needing to prove yourself or your capabilities. Do not allow your story to be so incredibly self-focused that it detracts from the manner in which you improved the company. You want to keep the focus specifically on how you overcoming the challenge made the company and workplace better.


As seen, there are many things to consider when describing a significant challenge that you faced and overcame. Answering this sort of interview question is particularly tricky, but when done correctly, can truly highlight you as the absolute best candidate for the position. Simply ensure you answer the question directly and honestly, keep it work-related, and explain you are not afraid to ask for assistance if necessary.