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How To Answer Interview Questions About Challenges You’ve Faced At Work


To a certain degree, the gap between an adequate worker and a go-to employee is defined by how well you overcome challenges. That’s why potential employers make it a priority to learn about your response to obstacles. Your best chance to highlight this skill comes during the interview process. You’ll dramatically improve your chances of landing a job by perfecting your answer to questions about challenges you’ve faced at work. 

This dynamic creates a bit of irony. In the moment, you probably would have done anything to avoid those tense, frustrating, potentially adrenaline-inducing moments that turn a typical workday into a heart-pounding adventure. But while these challenges complicate your life in the present, they can open the door for opportunities later on. By learning how to expertly describe how you overcame these challenges, you can impress future employers and earn career advancement.  

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when answering questions about challenges you’ve faced at work: 

Understand What the Question is Really Asking 

Your potential employer is trying to get an idea of how you’ll respond to pressure. Most of the people who reach the interview stage can handle the basic qualifications of the position. Your interviewers want to take the inquiry a step further. As such, don’t get bogged down in routine problems and mundane situations. Frame your answer to properly highlight your best traits and show your relaxed demeanor in unusual circumstances. 

Prepare an Answer in Advance

Select a situation that puts your response in the best light. To do this, the story should fit a few criteria: 

    • Make sure the story you tell involves you overcoming the challenge. This point may seem too obvious to mention, but it’s not unusual for candidates to get stuck in meandering tales of office politics that don’t arrive at a clear point. 
    • Hone the story so that you get good at explaining the details in a relatively short span of time. You don’t have time to unfold a Game of Thrones-level plot. Pick something short and sweet. 
    • Confirm that the narrative has high enough stakes that your response has some weight. You don’t want the situation to seem boring or pointless. 

Relate the Narrative

Don’t focus solely on which story to choose. Also, perfect your ability to tell it. This is often framed as the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym standing for Situation, Target, Action, and Result. The strategy involves breaking your answer into four steps: 

    1. Quickly Set the Stage– This represents the “Situation” segment of the STAR plan. In it, you describe the challenge and outline the stakes. 
    2. Outline Your Goal in the Situation– In this step, you frame your state of mind as you face the challenge. The “Target” step of the STAR process; this allows you to show your interviewers how you assessed the situation and describe the process you used to develop your solution. 
    3. Detail Your Response– Recount the steps you took to overcome the challenge. This fulfills the “Action” portion of the STAR strategy. 
    4. Describe the Payoff –Let the interviewers know how things turned out. This is the “Result” part of the STAR process, explaining how your actions resolved the challenge you faced. 

Bring it Back to You

In describing how you overcame a challenge, you don’t want to sound like a mindless robot. Instead, you want the narrative to highlight a rare skill you possess. Choose a scenario that highlights something interesting about you: your creativity, your ability to lead a team, etc. Also, send your answer by tying the situation into the future. Use the question as a way to transition into a discussion of your problem-solving skills. 

An ability to overcome challenges makes you a valuable asset for any organization. The trick then becomes: how to put you in the best circumstances to let your skills blossom. A top-flight recruiting firm, like Recruiting In Motion, can make this easier.  

Looking to Partner With an Expert?

Contact Recruiting In Motion today to learn how they can locate the perfect placement to jumpstart your career advancement. 

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