Job Interview Question

What were the major challenges of your last job and how did you handle them?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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This is a tough job interview question to answer because the major challenges of your last job typically are going to be the key job skills that you’re bringing to the new one.  (The exception being if you’re a brand new graduate or transitioning careers).  Since most jobs you interview for build on the job you had before, you’re actually likely to be talking about the job skills that you’re going to take on in this new role.

You always want to be positive about your job skills.  If you successfully dodged the weakness question, you don’t want to get caught in this one.

The idea you want to go with here is to talk about a few of the major situational challenges you faced in your last role that you handled successfully—using your key job skills, if possible.

Or, you could even choose a challenge that you dealt with using your key job skills, plus some other supplementary skill that you bring to the table that makes you a unique and valuable employee.

zig ziglar quote on adversityYou want to use the STAR format to put it together.  (STAR stands for Situation or Task, Action you took, and Results you got.)  There’s nothing magic about the format.  It just ensures that you give a complete answer, and that you end on a positive note:  a result.

First, explain what the challenge was and why it was important.  Then take them through your thought process:  Did you have to research new information?  Did you have to call in additional resources? What resources did you bring in? Then, tell them how it ended up.  If you can quantify your result, do it.

If you can, choose challenges that highlight the top skills they want someone to have in this role.  You can have a story or two in your mind when you go to the interview if you are very familiar with the job description and the company. (This is yet another reason to do your homework and research the job and the company before you interview.)

With all behavioral interview questions, the hiring manager wants to know how you handled a past situation so that he can see how you might handle a future similar situation.  Keep this story positive, don’t badmouth anyone when telling it, and focus on the results you got from your actions.

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