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Give me an example of a challenge you overcame in your last position.

1 of 25 Competency Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated on January 25th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

Demonstrate your positive approach to problem-solving. Show that you are proactive and competent when it comes to challenging workplace situations. Perhaps you went over and above to meet a tight deadline while taking over the responsibilities of a co-worker who was out sick. Another example could be that you trained yourself on a new software that was difficult to understand.

In your answer, focus on the steps you took to overcome the challenge, rather than the challenge itself. The interviewer wants to hear that you are determined and able to problem solve.

Professional Answer Examples
Answer example

"The biggest challenge that I overcame in my last position was that I was brand new to the industry. I had sales experience; however, I knew very little about the oil and energy industry. I took my evenings and weekends to study hard on industry background, and trends. It didn't take me long to feel comfortable and confident when speaking with potential clients. All it took was some time and dedication!"

Answer example

"When starting my last role, there were 35 critical leadership openings in the business. It was causing a huge challenge for the businesses to function and meet their key initiatives. I worked closely partnering with talent acquisition to accomplish the successful hiring and training of all roles."

Answer example

"My last challenge was to complete product testing within a deadline that was very tight. I was able to keep the test cells running 24 hours a day by monitoring their status from my laptop at home and by asking team members on later shifts to stop by and make sure they could hear it running."

Answer example

"In my last position, I was tasked with fixing a very broken website. So, I not only learned WordPress, but shopped other providers and learned that WooCommerce was not the best fit for our needs, and migrated the site over to Shopify. I had to teach myself some basic code, as I had minimal resources or support within my organization. In any event, I got the site up and running and working better than ever!"

Answer example

"When I first arrived in my position, the inventory management in our store was out of control. Clothing was stashed in the back room, in every nook and cranny imaginable. I decided to take hold of that project immediately, setting a new standard for the floor sales staff."

Answer example

"I would say the biggest challenge I overcame in my previous position was my lack of outside sales experience. I had inside sales and account management but had never done a cold pitch. At first, it was uncomfortable, but as I became more confident in the company and my knowledge of the industry, I learned what an asset I could be in outside sales. By meeting prospects face-to-face, I could assess not only their sincerity and level of interest but also connect on a personal level. What's ironic is the thing that gave me the greatest pause about taking the position became my favorite part of the job. It's something I look forward to continuing to do daily with your organization, should I be offered the position."

Answer example

"The district was running a referendum to pass what would get cut from the budget and had a list of proposed cuts; elementary Spanish was at the top of the list. Being told that, purely for budgetary reasons, my job and department would be gone was quite a challenge. We saved the program, in large part due to the support of my current and former students and their families."

Home Health Aide
Answer example

"One of the most difficult situations that I have had to face on the job was a patient who suffered from dementia. He would frequently become agitated, restless, and sometimes angry. I would patiently remind him of a conversation in a way that suggested something rather than making him feel like he was forgetting. I also encouraged him to leave notes to himself for the purpose of recollection. Eventually, his state deteriorated and he needed more full-time care than I could offer but we certainly made his situation work well for him as long as we could."

Landscape Architect
Answer example

"At my last position, I had to complete a project on a very short notice, as revised by the client. Notwithstanding the amount of work involved, I got to work immediately. I used numerous lists to keep track of the daily duties to be performed, and delegated some duties to ensure all expectations could be met. The project was completed by the deadline and the client was highly satisfied."

Family Physician
Answer example

"The thing that scares me the most, I suppose, is that I will miss something that could make a difference in a patient's life. I don't necessarily mean a life or death situation. However, sometimes missing a diagnosis because of a lab error or because I wasn't aware of a certain medication the patient is on can make a big difference in a plan of care. I want to be vigilant in my practice as a physician so that my patients know they can count on me."

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Answer example

"A difficult situation I faced recently was working with an elderly client that had just suffered ​a stroke. After working with her for many months it was still hard to get potential employers to see past her age and it took longer than expected to place her in meaningful employment. The client and I had effective and positive sessions and I provided assistance and encouragement the whole way."

Answer example

"My biggest challenges in my most recent position are surrounding the demographics of the schools I supervise. Often, our young students are coming to school hungry, not properly clothed for the cold weather and have low attention spans because of issues associated with their home life. I have initiated a few programs such as a breakfast club and a clothing swap to try to offer some relief. Those initiatives have proven to help significantly. My teachers are telling me new success stories every week and I am thrilled to have made an impact on this common problem."

Study Abroad Advisor
Answer example


CNC Operator
Answer example

"The most difficult challenge I've faced while operating a machine would have been last year when we got a new milling machine. It wasn't programmed correctly and it was a bit out of my scope. I spent some time reading the manuals, online forums and other content until I was able to figure it out."

Audio Engineer
Answer example

"As an audio engineer in the news industry, breaking news often creates much tension and stress in the control booth. Producers are changing their minds constantly and I am given multiple various orders while I am also listening to the speakers. During these times, I remain calm, and my first priority is making sure all of the audio that comes out is crisp and loud, despite the changes behind the scenes."

Assistant Principal
Answer example

"One of the most difficult situations I've ever faced was when one of our senior teacher's wife passed away. He taught biology, and we had to find a couple of different substitute teachers for his year of sabbatical. The students had a tough time that year, and we had to give them extra encouragement."

Surgical Technologist
Answer example

"One of the major challenges that I faced in my last position was with the overall organization of the OR. The schedule's weren't always properly laid out and the coding system wasn't always adhered to. I did the best I could to fill in the data and documentation when I could. I felt that the smallest changes could really help and they often did."

Veterinary Assistant
Answer example

"When I volunteered at the animal shelter, I had a dog that had vomited and pooped all over his cage and rolled around in it. I cleaned him up and his cage. He was a large Rottweiler mix and very sick so it was a challenge to move him as well."

Answer example

"My most challenging project to date was writing a biography for a famous politician. It was hard to overcome bias and prior knowledge the public had about this person. However, I found that the more time I spent with the person, the more I was able to write in the way that he deserved to be portrayed. I took a creative approach and removed a lot of the political jargon, replacing it with stories and angles that the everyday person could appreciate."

Territory Sales Manager
Answer example

"I faced major challenges when working as a/an (X position title) for (X company). I was responsible for (X duties) and one day I (X examples of major challenges/problems and how you handled them). I nevertheless remained calm, collected and professional and did not let these challenges affect my performance."

Bacteriology Technician
Answer example

"We had a task at work to accomplish as a team. It wasn't the fact that the task itself was difficult, it was getting everyone to contribute and work as a team. I was able to identify people's strengths and assign tasks accordingly. Once I took the lead and guided the team, the project ended up being very simple and we finished ahead of schedule."

Answer example

"When I worked for one of my previous companies, they had just gone public and had no auditing department. I had a little experience from a previous position and offered to take a look when we failed the first audit we undertook. I found that lack of internal controls and documentation was the root cause. I then had to create the entire auditing department. This lead to my promotion as Internal Audit Director. I hired a team and we got the company back on track. It was by far the most stressful and difficult project I've ever had to undertake because of my limited experience, and the company's budget for hiring was small."

Addiction Nurse
Answer example

"While I have never personally been affected by addiction, I do have loved ones who have been. In fact, my brother is part of the reason I decided to become an addiction counselor. He has battled with addictions of one kind or another for years. From alcohol to methamphetamine, the effects that these addictions have had, have been far reaching."

Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Answer example

"My most recent difficult project was organizing an AA meeting last minute because our regular venue had a roof leak. I was able to delegate tasks to include calling clients, calling counselors, reserving chairs and arranging coffee and donuts for the meeting. The meeting went so well, and I had so much positive feedback that I decided it would be a great place to have our future meetings."

Veterinarian School
Answer example

"For me, I think facing a situation that involved animal mistreatment or cruelty would be one of the most difficult things to encounter, purely because of my love and respect towards animals. I will find it difficult to understand how someone could mistreat animals, and am sure these types of situations can be very testing."

Voice Writing Reporter
Answer example

"I once was a voice reporter for a court case and I had never covered court before. It moved very fast and used terminology I was not yet familiar with. However, I reviewed my work after the court was over and made sure to correct any errors I found. In the future, I want to make sure I research topics I am unfamiliar with before I transcribe them."

Warehouse Clerk
Answer example

"In this warehouse clerk role, I expect the greatest challenge will be the heavy amount of warehouse data input, requiring knowledge, speed, and accuracy. In my current role, we have a robust inventory management system with over 10,000 SKUs. It was a challenge to learn all of the functions and product options; however, in just one short month, I was breezing through the system and even learned shortcuts which led to more efficient customer interactions."

Athletic Director
Answer example

"In my last position we did not have a great turnout for our women's sporting events. To solve this, we created a new marketing campaign with a slogan that caught everyone's eye. We began to get local media coverage, as our teams started to win more games. Slowly and steadily, the school spirit increased, and we saw a 40% attendance increase in just three months."

Answer example

"In my career there have been many difficult situations but what I would like to mention here is one incident where a loan application came to me and we had a very little time to process it. We had to do everything quickly which required the cooperation of the whole team. One of our team members decided to quit the job at that same time, because of which we were in an even worse situation. That is when I decided to overtake the work that other team member was handling. With proper team work and coordination we finished the project on time and also got the contract."

Voice Over Artist
Answer example

"I once struggled to push myself in voice overs because it was hard for me to get out of my own voice and transform into a new role. However, I studied acting and learned how to transform my voice for various roles."

Written by:

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 06/29/2018
Last modified on: 01/25/2019

More Interview Questions

View user-submitted Answers

Give me an example of a challenge you overcame in your last position.
Rude customers, coworkers not pulling their weight.
Every day is a challenge in Penneys, it is one of the busiest retails shops in Ireland at the moment. Unfortunately, its hard to please every single customer, it's difficult to give them all the attention they need, but I always manage to give them my full attention if they require my help.
We were often challenged of ensuring no other utilities were affected while digging in to the ground to locate and then repair a water break. We were also challenged on some tasks that needed to be scheduled around the operating hours of the various commands around the base.
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