March 29, 2023

Remember what is your biggest challenges in life?

You may not like to talk about the challenges, because it is depressing.

Thus, when your interviewer asks,

“Tell me about a challenge you faced at work.”

This can be quite tough to answer because you have to talk about a difficult time with a complete stranger.

But this is a very important question, which can help you score in your job interview.

In fact, this is a great opportunity to turn a big challenge into an accomplishment you have made.

This question comes in a few different forms, such as :

  • Tell me about a challenge you faced at work.
  • Tell me about a challenge at work and how you resolve it.
  • Tell me how you resolve a challenge.
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  • Tell me about a time when you encountered a major challenge at work.
  • Tell me about an accomplishment you are proud of.
  • Tell me about a professional challenge that you faced and how it was resolved.

Your employer takes this question very seriously, especially if you are a people manager, or in a role that requires you to make decisions.

In addition, this question can actually be answered in the same way as being asked:

“Tell me about an accomplishment you are proud of.”

This is your chance to showcase to your interviewer that you are different from other candidates.

A rare opportunity to make yourself known to the interviewer as someone whom they will like to hire.


Let’s look into the mind of the interviewer and see what are they actually asking. And explore the dos and don’ts when answering this question with some of the best examples.

Read on!

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Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

Firstly, your interviewer knows that there is always some form of challenges in life including in your workplace.

So, your interviewer is not trying to make you remember something bad that happens in your workplace, and make your interview miserable.

But instead, they want to know something very specific and want to see if you have what it takes to be a good fit for the position you are applying for.

The interviewers want to know:

  • What will you do when faced with challenges?
  • Did you help to solve the challenges? Or do you simply avoid them?

Your interviewers want someone who is resilient to challenges.

They want someone who knows how to handle challenges.

They want to be sure that you are the one whom they are looking for.

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Dos and Don’ts When Answering This Question?

When answering this kind of tricky question. There are always some dos and don’ts you should always remember. Here are some of the guidelines that can help you to customize your perfect answers to the question.

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The dos when answering “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work?” during an interview.

This question can be quite tricky, but there are a few guidelines that can help you answer this question the way that the interviewer wants.

Show What You Did

You want to show what you did when you are faced with challenges.

Your answer should answer these questions:

  • What challenges have you faced?
  • What difficult situation does the challenge cause?
  • How do you handle the challenge?
  • Why you did, what you’ve done when faced with the challenge?
  • Describe how you overcome the challenge.

Remember this interview is about you, so avoid mentioning what your other colleagues did, but what you did when facing the challenge.

Keep it simple

Keep your answer as simple as possible. Try to keep the fine detail out of the answer as your interviewer may not know what you are talking about.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Keep your answer to a maximum of 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Use easy-to-follow language and avoid jargon.
  • Structure your answer well in chronological order.

Remember, your interviewers only have 30 minutes to 1 hour with you. You don’t want to bore them with too many details. Your interviewers may or may not be from your industry and there are lots of words and jargon that they will not understand.

So, stay focused and avoid jargon when answering the questions, so that you will not lose your interviewer halfway through answering. 

Lesson Learned

After each challenge, there is always a lesson learned from it.

  • What did you learn from the challenge?
  • What did you learn from resolving the challenge?

If by resolving this challenge, you have changed your work style or workflow, mention it.

Tell the interviewers how this change has helped you to be more efficient at work.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Is there any lesson learned?
  • How to prevent such an incident from happening again?
  • Is there any change in your work style after this challenge and why?

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The don’ts when answering “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work?” during an interview.

There are many red flags to look out for when answering this question, and if you did make any of these mistakes, the chances of you getting hired for the job will be pretty low.

Place Blame

Don’t play the blame game. If you only know how to blame others, it doesn’t look good on yourself, and you won’t be able to learn from your mistakes. Therefore, you will probably commit the mistake again in the future.

Placing blame on others is a Mindset that we should avoid at all costs. 

So… what should you do? 

Admit the mistake that you have made and take responsibility.

We know, no one like to admit that they are wrong, or they’ve made a mistake because it doesn’t look good on them.

But we are all human, and humans do make mistakes from time to time. More importantly, it is how we handle the situation after we make the mistakes that truly matters.

The ability to learn from mistakes is something that all employers like to see in their employees.

Show your interviewers how you take up the responsibility and resolve the situation.

It will speak volumes about your character.

Talk about something unimportant

You want to show your interviewer your achievement on how you overcome the challenge and not the small issues you’ve faced at work.

A challenge is something BIG, thus minor issues show not be called a challenge.

Instead, prepare before the interview and think about a challenge that actually impacts the company. And how you’ve helped to resolve it.

This will showcase how you have actually achieved in solving the major challenge and help the company to grow.

You want to show that you are not just an average employee, but a high achiever that they will want to have in their team.

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How to Answer “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work?”

When talking about facing a challenge. You want to tell your interviewer about a professional challenge that you faced and how it was resolved.

With this answering guide, use this opportunity to show why you are the best candidate for the job.

Below are some examples of how to answer, “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work.”

Example Answer for a Marketing Manager

“As part of the marketing initiative, we sent out a newsletter on a weekly basis to our customers on our latest updates and promotions.

But when I first joined the company, our company newsletters are always sent late and sometime even with typo errors.

This reflects very badly on our marketing department and on our company’s image in general.

Thus, I’ve taken up the responsibility to help improve our situation.

By working with the rest of the marketing team, I reviewed the newsletter workflow. I have identified that the issue lies with the lack of systematic control and ownership of the task.

Working with the team. I’ve created automated scheduling of the newsletter to ensure it is sent on time, to each of our valued customers. And created a task list to allow clear visibility of task that is managed by each of the team members, including the ownership of the newsletter marketing.

Since the changes, our marketing newsletter has been one of the most effective ways for us to market our product to our customers.

This change has helped to increase our sales by 20%.

Example Answer for Finance Executive

“One year ago, our company was faced with a difficult financial period due to the market downturn.

Our vendors require us to perform repayment for their service but we are short on cash flow.

With the support of our management, I was able to negotiate mutually beneficial payment terms with multiple suppliers that were providing us with the raw materials to manufacture our products.

The success is mainly due to our long-term strong positive relationship with our vendor so that we are able to come to terms with our repayment agreement. From this experience, I have learned that it is important to think outside of the box.

Know what they want and create a solution around it, while ensuring our company’s priorities are taken care of. And to achieve this, developing and maintaining a good relationship with the vendor is the key.”


Example Answer for Sales Executive/ Professional

“I would like to say that my greatest challenge during my previous position is my lack of face-to-face sales experience.

I was mainly tasked with phone sales or online sales as a sales assistant.

Although I am good at talking on the phone, I am not comfortable talking face-to-face with my prospect. And this is a weakness, that I need to overcome for me to be a successful sales professional.

During my transition to a sales professional, I practice speaking to strangers at the bar and at networking events.

This helps me to be more confident and natural when doing face-to-face sales pitches. Within a year, I was awarded as one of the Top 10% in sales revenue.

Now, the favorite part of my job is being able to meet my prospects face-to-face. Because this helps in building better rapport. This allows me to serve them better, and provide them with the service which gives them the most value.

Meeting my prospect whom I am going to help is now something which I look forward most in my job.”

The simple formula for answering “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work?”

Do you see something common in all these examples?

All answering samples answered the things that the interviewer wants to know. And there are 5 steps in crafting the perfect answer:

  1. What are the challenges you face?
  2. How does this challenge affect you or the company?
  3. What did you do to solve this problem or challenge?
  4. How have the changes you’ve made helped to solve this problem or challenge?
  5. What have you learned from this?

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Key Takeaways

When answering the question “Tell me about a challenge you faced at work.”

Always remember these 3 key points:

  1. Show what you did in face of the challenge.
  2. Simplify the whole story into just a few sentences without any jargon.
  3. Lessons Learn from the challenge, or from resolving the challenge.

You can draft your killer answer by these 3 simple steps:

  1. First – Talk about how the challenge has caused a huge problem for you or the company (preferred).
  2. Then – Talk about how you have taken up the responsibility to solve the challenge that you or your company (preferred) is facing right now.
  3. Lastly – Tell your interviewer what solution have you come up with to overcome the challenges, and what lessons have you learned from them.
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When you put them all together you will get your killer answer to this question.

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