How to Answer "What Are Your Challenges?" in an Interview

by Lisa McQuerrey

When a potential employer asks you what your challenges are in a job interview, he's trying to find out what professional areas present potential problems for you and how you affectively go about resolving them. Don't respond to this line of questioning by claiming nothing challenges you, as you'll come across as cocky. Instead, use the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving capabilities.

Behavioral Interviewing

Anticipate a hiring manager asking you behavioral questions about challenges. He might ask what has been your greatest professional challenge to date. The interviewer wants to know about a time you faced difficult circumstances and were able to address or resolve the problem satisfactorily. Choose an example that shows your creativity, professionalism and patience. “I once had a high-profile customer who threatened to cancel her contract with my company because of a late order that cost her significant revenue. Over the course of several personal meetings, I regained her trust by assuring her the problem would never happen again, significantly reduced the fees related to her contract, and personally apologized to her board members and accepted responsibility for the delay.”

Colleague Challenges

You might be asked specific questions about working with challenging co-workers. The interviewer is assessing how well you get along with others and how you resolve inner-office conflict when it arises. Never say anything bad about a colleague, which can make you look unprofessional. Instead, focus on the positive ways you compromise and respectfully manage differences in the workplace. “I once shared office space with an extremely disorganized colleague, and her paperwork often spilled over into my area, which was very frustrating. Rather than get angry, I offered to help her create an organizational system, which actually made both of us more efficient and resolved the tension in the office.”

Management Conflict

A hiring manager might ask you about a time when you dealt with a difficult boss. Again, don't speak poorly of former managers, but use the opportunity to demonstrate how you're effective in your job, even if you don't always agree with your boss. “I like to document conversation exchanges about critical projects, and it can be a challenge for me when my immediate supervisor doesn't feel that's a necessity. To combat this issue, after in-person meetings I always follow up with an email outlining what was discussed to ensure I'm on the same page with my boss and understand what he wants me to do. If there's any discrepancy down the road, I have the email in front of me so I can say, in a non-confrontational way, ‘I believe on this date we agreed to this process.’”

Professional Challenges

While you don't want to say anything in an interview that might make you look bad to a hiring manager, being honest about personal and professional challenges can endear you to an interviewer. This is particularly true if you explain how you overcome or handle problem areas. “While I enjoy the opportunity to work on team projects, I've been told I have a tendency to take over in some instances. To combat this, I’m careful to monitor myself to ensure I'm not overbearing, but rather, take on an effective team member position.”

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