Life would be boring without challenges. Or wouldn’t it? Maybe you’d love the plain sailing, and your entire life to resemble a pleasant stroll in a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But that’s not how things work in this world. Regardless of whether you dream big or just hope to get by, you will face challenges. And you will have to overcome many in your workplace. The better the job and the salary, the more challenges you will actually face. It is just logical that hiring managers wonder how you managed the situation in he past, how you overcame (or failed to overcome) some challenges you faced. But what do they want to hear from you?
More than anything else, they want to hear that you gave it your best effort. You embraced the challenge, and if you cannot embrace it (since it was extremely difficult and unpleasant), you at least accepted it, and tried your best to overcome it. Whether you eventually succeeded or not is of secondary importance really, since we never have things completely under control in life. You faced the challenge, did what you could, and eventually there was some outcome and you accepted it, and moved on.
Examples from your former jobs are best here, but perhaps this is your first-ever job application, or you cannot recall any challenges you overcame in your last job. In such a case it is perfectly all right to speak about challenges you faced in your personal life, at school, or even challenges you faced on a mental level (these are often the hardest to overcome), such as fear from something or negative thoughts you had to get rid off… Let’s have a look at 7 example answers to this interesting question right now. I tried to include on my list all sort of answers, for all sorts of situations. I hope at least one of them will resonate with you and help you recall some challenge from your life, and understand how to describe it in an interview to make the right impression on the hiring managers. Enjoy!
7 sample answers to “Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge” interview question
- I had only one job so far, and the biggest challenge was to get along with people on the shift. It was a hard manual job in a busy Italian restaurant, and the people didn’t have best relationships together. But it paid well, compared to a typical restaurant job, and that’s why they didn’t leave. I found it hard at first, because I am a friendly person and do not like conflicts. But I decided to embrace the challenge, and try to bring some peace to the workplace. I tried to change the things with my behavior, acting kindly towards everyone, never shouting, being positive in spite of the heavy workload. And it worked to some extent, because at least I felt good in the job, and had a nice relationships with most colleagues. And I also accepted that you cannot have a good relationship with everyone. I would say that I overcame this challenge, and it certainly made me stronger.
- My last job in sales was extremely challenging. Lot of traveling, meeting clients, endless phone calls, and ambitious goals the managers set for us. Many people quit after few weeks in the job. But as it is always the case in sales, the reward is sweet for those who persist. Hence I gave it my best shot, worked long hours, did more than the others did. It was tiring, hard physically and mentally. But I overcame the challenges of my job, and earned over one hundred thousand in a year from sales commission. Loved the experience, but everything has a beginning and an end. Now I am looking for a better life-work balance, and that’s why I am in this interview with you.
- This is my first job application, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t overcome any challenges in my life. I grew up in an incomplete family, which was a challenge of its own. The American dream is a thing of a past obviously, and with two jobs and lot of bills to pay every month, my mother couldn’t really devote as much time as she would like to to me. Hence I was on my own most of the time. Getting to school and back, doing my homework, helping with household chores, and so on. But as you can see I managed it, graduated from high school, and now finally I can start working and perhaps make my life better for both myself and my mum. Overcoming this challenge made me stronger as a person, and I have no doubt that it will help me in my professional career.
- The biggest challenge of my professional career so far was to transform a failing FP&A department of a middle-sized company. I came onboard when things weren’t working at all. The company made some wrong hires, other people left, and the finances were a great mess to tell the truth. But I didn’t let it to discourage me, partially because I like challenges in my professional career, and partially because I liked the final product of the company–custom made wooden beds, and saw potential in the market. Hence I started the transformation. Fired some people, started hiring new analysts. Worked for 60 hours every week for the first two months, mostly designing new processes and getting in order the mess my predecessor left in the department. Eventually after one year I managed to get the department back on track, and could leave the company. It was a great experience, and now I am looking for another challenge. Because in my view, challenges make our life interesting and help us grow.
- The biggest challenge I had to overcome was to actually quit smoking after 20 years of smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. Someone who hasn’t experienced it cannot tell how hard it is. After so many years you are indeed addicted, and quitting smoking can be compared to quitting drug addiction. But I had to make it, because my lungs were damaged and doctors warned me it was my last chance, unless I wanted to die in a few years time. And so I did it. It pained me, I dreamed of smoking all day long, couldn’t get it our of my head. I sweated, I could not sleep, but I held on. Eventually things got easier, and after three months I didn’t feel the need to smoke anymore. It took a lot of discipline to overcome this challenge, and I believe that once I managed to do it, I am ready to face any challenge in my professional career.
- Earning my degree in business management was a real challenge. Because while I am a hard-worker and ready to sacrifice almost everything for my success, I positively struggled with many subjects, accounting and mathematics in particular. Had to repeat the exams. Had to hire a tutor. Spent all my weekends studying, and despite of that, I had to repeat one year, so my study actually took me six years instead of five. But I eventually did it, earned my degree, and I cannot be more happy sitting here in front of you in this interview, finally applying for my first job.
- Being honest with you, I had to overcome fear of rejection. This fear had a real grip on me. And because of it, I struggled in relationships with women, I struggled in school, basically I struggled on all fronts. I also gave too much attention to what the others thought of me, which again made my life difficult, and sometimes also lonely and miserable. It was a big challenge, and for a long time I couldn’t face it. But I eventually decided I had to do something with it. Started visiting a psychologist, started working on my self-esteem, and step by step I got rid of my fear of rejection completely. What’s more, I do not care much what others think of me anymore, and focus rather on whether my actions are right, and whether I follow the right goals in my life…
So that’s it! I hope at least one of the answers resonated with you, and helped you to recall the challenges you faced in your life. I also hope you know how to describe it in your interview, and what attitude the hiring mangers are looking for in your answer. Wish you best of luck in your interview, and do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face:
- What challenges are you looking for in a position?
- Tell us about a time when you did something you were not proud of.
- What motivates you the most at work?