"So tell me...

What was the biggest challenge you've faced?"

The interviewer stares right into your soul asking you about your darkest time and wants to know how much you've failed in the past!

Man with an evil smile

Except...that isn't really the case. But it certainly feels like it, doesn't it?

Let's break it down step-by-step so you can be ready when it's time to answer this question!

First off, why are they asking?

The interviewer wants to know your...

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  • Ability to tackle and overcome problems

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  • Ability to problem-solve

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  • Level of self-motivation

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  • Level of self-awareness

Step 1: List challenges you've faced

  • Focus on the challenges you've conquered

  • Be honest!

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If you haven't had professional work experience, think about some of the challenges you've faced:

  • in school or during after-school activities

  • when you volunteered

  • during any events you participated in

Step 2: Pick the challenges specific to the job description

Out of the list of challenges you wrote down, pick one or two that are related to the job position description.

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Example 1

If the job description says they need someone who can meet deadlines, you can say something like...

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One of the biggest challenges during my first year of college was struggling to meet deadlines and I tended to procrastinate. I came to a realization and now, instead of waiting until the last minute, I make my own deadline before the actual deadline. This makes sure I have enough time and am not scrambling at the end.

Example 2

If the job description says they need someone who has project management skills, you can say something like...

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One of my former managers was preparing for a 3 week business trip. She asked if I would be able to cover some of her responsibilities while she was away. Even though I have never been in leadership roles previously, I used my problem-solving skills and pushed all of our projects forward while encouraging the whole team. We were able to complete all the projects successfully and on time!

Part 3: Describe the challenge in detail

Here are some strategies and examples to help you explain more about your challenge while keeping it brief.

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CAR Technique

C — Context/Challenge "A challenge I faced during my first year of college was staying focused while doing my work."

A — Action "I realized that my room did not provide me with the optimal space to get any work done. Because of this, I used my college's library study room and cafes to get work done".

R — Result "By the end of the semester, I made the Dean's List."

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STAR Technique

S — Situation "In my last role as a program manager, there was a time when my team was short-staffed, facing a backlog of work."

T — Task "Not only did I ensure my team was still able to meet the deadlines, I also communicated our needs to management."

A — Action "I set a formal request of re-estimating the project timeline, shared progress updates with account managers, and kept my team informed."

R — Result "As a result, we re-prioritized the project timeline and were able to complete everything in our backlog. I learned how important communication is across all teams."

👉 Check out more about how the CAR technique can be used in a resume

👉 Learn more about how to use the STAR technique in an interview

Part 4: Show yourself in a positive light

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Two things to keep in mind:

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1. Talk about your strengths! Think about what you did to contribute to the solution.

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2. Talk about what you learned from the situation and how it made you a better person today.

Now it's your turn!

Professional woman saying,

Aryan got an interview opportunity for a customer assistant position. The job description highlighted that they are looking for someone who has clear written communication skills.

During the interview, the interviewer asked Aryan, "What has been the greatest challenge in your life so far?"

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Aryan is considering the following answers:

A: "One of the biggest challenges I faced in college was being able to manage my time. After evaluating and prioritizing my needs, I have been better since then at planning out my time, following my schedule, and meeting deadlines."

B: "Being able to speak up in public was the biggest challenge I faced when I was younger. I took a speech class in high school and worked hard to overcome my fear of public speaking. I came to enjoy giving oral presentations. Now, I would call myself a clear and effective verbal communicator."

C: "A challenge I faced in college was working through team projects. I realized it was due to lack of communication since we only met together once a week. I took the initiative to create a group Google Doc for better communication. It was more efficient, as we didn't have to wait for the following week to clear up any misunderstandings."


Which is the best response to the interview question?

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Get ready to answer this interview question with confidence!


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