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How to Answer “ Describe a Challenge you Have Overcome”.

At any stage in an interview, the interviewer would probably ask questions like “What challenges or obstacles have you overcome?”,  Tell me about a time you were faced with a challenge and had to overcome it or, “What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?”.

The reason most interviewers ask this question is to know how well you cope when you find yourself in a difficult situation. Sometimes, they are not focused on whether you were able to solve the problem; they just want to see how well you handled the situation.

Tips on how to answer “What Challenges Have You Overcome?”

Answering this question might be confusing as you would want to talk about challenges you’ve faced at work, personal challenges, or school challenges.

However, it is better to give an answer related to one aspect. If you have prior work experience, you could give an example of a challenge you faced while working in your previous jobs.

If you’re an entry-level job seeker and you have one specific personal challenge that you feel proud of overcoming, you can certainly talk about that personal challenge.

Find a challenging example that will show your competency in the job you are applying for.

When answering questions like these, show traits such as resiliency, patience, communication, ability to pause and think through, and the ability to stay calm in the face of challenges.

If you can combine several of these traits into your reply, you’ll be close to getting the job.

A typical example can be seen below;

In my previous job, I was tasked with organizing an onboarding event for newcomers in a conference center. A few days before the event, the conference center had a fire which meant the event could not go ahead in that location.

I had to establish whether the event could still go ahead, or whether we should cancel. In my position as Event Manager, I called an emergency meeting soon after I heard the news. With the support of my assistant, the Marketing Manager, and the Operations team, we decided to try and find another venue for the conference. This was challenging because we only had two days to re-organize everything.

I overcame the challenge by creating a spreadsheet that listed all of the stakeholders we would need to communicate with, so no one was forgotten – contractors, businesses, delegates, and media. I assigned a member of the team to each stakeholder group and tasked them with contacting them to relay the new information and make sure they were happy.

As a team, we managed to contact everyone in good time. We dealt with all of the issues surrounding the venue move and the event was a great success. Attendance rates were up 23% from the previous year.

Other examples of challenges you can bring up include;

  • Filling in for a coworker who is sick or fired.
  • Resolving issues/disputes between co-workers
  • A tough deadline you confronted
  • Repeatedly clashing with a staff member, or coping with a staff member who was tough to work with
  • Preparing for a vital speech or presentation

What to not say

You should avoid giving answers like I don’t see anything as a challenge as it won’t impress the employer.

It is advisable to not answer this question too negatively, instead focus on challenges you have conquered, rather than those you are still battling with.

Finally, be careful not to condemn others while answering this question, or mistakenly let the employer know some of your flaws like “I keep coming late to meetings because of this/that”.

Rather than dreading this question during an interview, see it as an opportunity to sell yourself and convince the employer that you are the right candidate.