Why employers ask ‘Describe a Challenge You Faced and How You Overcame It’

If you are unaware of the goal of a behavioral interview question, it can be difficult to respond. In almost every industry, hiring managers ask this question. Interviewers typically ask this question to see how you respond to challenges, pressure, setbacks, and failures. The hiring manager will most likely pay great attention to your response to observe how you dealt with the problem emotionally and practically, looking for signs of perseverance, creativity, positivism, and adaptability.

Explore some of your big accomplishments in previous employment as you consider how to respond to this question effectively. Almost certainly, you had difficulty while completing the project, completing an assignment, or managing an interaction. Finally, the narrative you give should have a happy conclusion, so start by brainstorming your accomplishments.

How to answer the “Describe a challenge you overcame” question in an interview?” with examples

When a potential employer asks you to discuss a struggle you overcome, for example, they are looking for evidence of how you handle pressure, setbacks, failures, and unanticipated hurdles. You have the option of telling a personal or professional story.

A strong response will demonstrate your problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. Let’s go through some outstanding answer tips, avoidable pitfalls, and some example answers.

For this type of question, the STAR approach is extremely beneficial where STAR stands for

  1. (S) Situation
  2. (T) Task
  3. (A) Action
  4. (R) Result

Each phase of your response will offer the interviewer, clear and relevant background information that creates the circumstance, discusses the task and associated problem, details the action you took, and concludes with a positive outcome:

1. Identify the situation
To answer this question, start by describing the circumstances that led to the obstacle you faced and eventually conquered. Make sure to be precise in order to let the hiring manager visualize themselves in the circumstance.

2. Describe the assignment.
Then, describe the task, assignment, or project that was particularly difficult. Include the other people involved and explain how the task was difficult.

3. Explain your actions.
After you’ve outlined what you needed to overcome, give a detailed explanation of what you did to solve the problem and finish the project or assignment successfully.

4. Show what you’ve learned.
Finally, describe how your activities benefited your firm, your consumers, or both. Remember, you’re emphasizing your individual contributions to the problem’s solution.

Examples/Sample Answers

Sample Answer 1:-
“In my previous work as a teacher, I had a kid who was often late to class. They told me that their previous teacher kept them late frequently and that they had no method of getting to class on time. I knew that couldn’t be the genuine issue because I had other kids in the class who arrived on time from the same class.

Instead, I invited the kid to lunch with me and used the opportunity to inquire about the underlying cause for their tardiness. The student told me that they liked to phone their mother in between classes, which caused them to be late. We devised a strategy to enable the student to maintain contact with their mother while still making it to class on time. “Rather than forcing them to disclose their private needs in front of other kids, I took the time to speak with them alone.”

Sample Answer 2:-
“The hardest hurdle I experienced at work, in retrospect, was when I was working on a huge project for a prestigious customer. Our organization had a long-term contract with this client, and I had never worked on their file before. Last quarter, I started their new project and was well into many aspects when they came back and changed the deadline by two weeks.

When my manager informed me of the adjustment, I became concerned since I didn’t think I’d have enough time to finish the project before the deadline. So I talked to my boss about several ideas for completing the project in a shorter amount of time. I’m glad I called out because my boss allocated another person to assist me with the job, and we were able to finish it on time for the client.”

Sample Answer 3:-
“I used to think I was invincible.” To be sure, I believe we all do while we’re young. However, one terrible day, I received a phone call informing me that one of my family members had died. This is the type of call that none of us wants to receive. It happened to a family member who I considered to be young. I’m not sure how much older he is than I am. We took care of the matter at hand. However, it forced me to reconsider how I was spending my life afterward. Every day, I choose to enjoy life to the fullest. That implies I should like my profession, the people I work with, and strive to create the best possible environment and contribute to society.”

Sample Answer 4:-
“When I was working at a software company, the management team asked me to act as a mediator between two employees who had personal concerns, despite the fact that I was not a supervisor in my previous capacity. They asked me to do this Because I had deep personal relationships with both of them, 

Despite my lack of dispute resolution experience, my employer’s HR team assisted me in preparing to work well with both co-workers. As a result, I can see how having a close friend intervene rather than the management team intervening alone was more effective in defusing a delicate scenario.”

Sample Answer 5:-
“My prior employment required me to plan a one-day business networking event at a conference center. The conference center had a fire a few days before the event, which meant the event could not take place there.

I needed to figure out whether the event could still go on or if we should cancel it. I convened an emergency meeting in my role as Event Manager as soon as I heard the news. We decided to try to find a new venue for the conference with the help of my assistant, the Marketing Manager, and the Operations team. We barely had two days to re-organize things, so it was difficult.

I overcome the obstacle by establishing a spreadsheet that included all of the parties with whom we would need to engage, ensuring that no one was overlooked — contractors, businesses, delegates, and the media. I allocated a team member to each stakeholder group and instructed them to call them in order to communicate the new information and ensure their satisfaction.”

Sample Answer 6:-
“I’ve always been a strong-willed worker, believing I can do anything and everything, for as long as I can remember. I used to work for a corporation that appreciated my work ethic and steadily increased my responsibilities. I discovered I was absolutely overwhelmed by the increased task one day. Not only was I putting in extra hours to get things done, but I was also exhausting myself. I recognized I couldn’t do it all by myself after some self-reflection, which was difficult for me to admit.

My supervisor was more than understanding when I expressed my worries. He eventually hired an assistant for me, which significantly lowered my stress and increased my output. I can now admit when I need assistance and that asking for it is not a sign of weakness, since everyone needs assistance at some point in their lives.”

Sample Answer 7:-
“At the age of 18, I began working in Café Coffee Day and was trained by older servers who had been there for several years. After a few months, I received word that I would be promoted to supervisor, putting me in charge of the people who had taught me.

I needed to make sure the older servers knew why they were being promoted and that they would treat me with respect in my new position.

When our shift ended, I asked the two members of staff if they may stay for an hour. I bought them both a cup of coffee and inquired about their reactions to my promotion. I addressed their concerns and informed them that I valued their time at the café and will require their assistance.

The two members of staff were grateful that I took the time to meet with them and that I respected their input and support. They treated me with great respect in my new position and provided excellent support. ”

Sample Answer 8:-
“Every week, as part of my English degree, we had to read three novels. Despite having had the reading list for the entire summer, I had not been able to read all of the novels and was finding it difficult to keep up. I came to realize that I was not alone in my situation.

I knew I needed to figure out a way to manage my workload if I was going to finish my essays on time. I convened a meeting in the kitchen of my halls of residence for the other students on my course who were struggling.

I made a weekly study schedule, blocking aside time between classes to focus as a group on each book. We spent this time reading story summaries, Cliff Notes, and critiques to learn more about the novel. We shared the audiobooks and film adaptations and listened/watched them together in the evenings.

Despite my discomfort with the strategy I was using to keep up with the course’s pace, I was able to participate in lectures and felt I had a good enough grasp of each book to finish the required essays. The other students were similar, and we all received a 2:1 or higher.

Sample Answer 9 Sample Answer 10:-
When our boss had to go for a delivery, I was the sole senior staff member on duty for the first time. While he was gone, I received a call from an enraged customer who complained about an error in their order and demanded to speak with the manager.

Although I have some experience dealing with irate consumers, our company’s policy was to delegate these calls to the manager. The client, however, desired a solution right away rather than waiting for a callback because he was unavailable. Thankfully, I had taken a conflict resolution course the previous year, and I was able to calm the customer and reduce their urgency. My manager may then speak with them about a proper solution afterward.

My boss was quite pleased with how I handled the phone call. Because of the effectiveness of my methods, he insisted that every team member attend the conflict resolution course so that they would be prepared to manage the situation if he was unavailable.

Answers You Should Avoid

The employer is interested in learning more about how you address a difficulty, thus saying something like “I don’t perceive anything as a challenge” would not help you. If you portray yourself as a person without defects, the employer will either believe you lack self-awareness or are simply lying.

Similarly, saying, “I’m great with finances, therefore at my prior work it became more harder to tolerate people around me who struggled,” does not paint a positive picture of you.

It’s critical to be humble in your response and to present oneself in the best light possible. Making sure you don’t respond too adversely is the inverse of this. Concentrate on the problems you’ve overcome rather than the ones you’re still fighting.

If you have trouble keeping your cool when dealing with a group of people, don’t tell your boss that you have a habit of storming out of meetings.

Keep it professional and demonstrate what sort of employee you would be; replies like “My employer was useless, so cleaning up his trash every day was a struggle” will not reflect well on you.

The jury is still out on whether or not using a personal challenge is acceptable.

This type of personal challenge example, where you have to look after other people, lead and manage a situation amid adversity, might be appropriate if you are new to the job market or if you are going for a role that requires you to have a high level of empathy – like a nurse, carer, or special needs teacher. As long as you answer using the STAR method and clearly demonstrate how you individually overcame the difficulty.

Tips for Success

1.) Prepare several responses rather than just one.
2.) Choose a challenge that requires you to collaborate with others to solve the problem rather than working alone. You must exhibit your ability to communicate and lead.
3.) Make sure your response is something the employer can relate to.
4.) Consider the buzzwords or phrases that will make the employer sit up and take notice. These are frequently derived through a review of the job description to determine what is expected of an employee in this position.

The first phase in the employment interview procedure is to answer these type of questions. Preparing with sample answers that would impress potential employers is a terrific strategy to ace an interview.

Employers will be able to see how you handle workplace obstacles and if you are the greatest fit for the job if you include particular specifics from specific circumstances. Furthermore, even under stressful times, past experiences can help a potential employer relate to you and see your best traits.

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Last Update: January 1, 2022