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PowerCV Interview Preparation Series - Can You Describe A Challenge You Faced And How You Overcame It?

Updated: Jun 13

Another really tricky question when it comes to interview... But lets try to prepare something just in case this dreaded question pops up. I will also pop some example answers at the bottom of the article.

In the realm of interviews, one question often stands out as a pivotal moment: "Can you describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it?" This seemingly straightforward enquiry is a window into your problem-solving abilities, resilience, and determination. Mastering your response to this question can significantly enhance your interview performance and increase your chances of landing the job.

In this edition of the PowerCV Interview Preparation Series, we delve into crafting compelling narratives that demonstrate your ability to tackle obstacles head-on.

Understanding the Question:

Before diving into crafting your response, it's essential to understand the underlying purpose of this question. Interviewers aren't merely interested in the challenge itself; they're more concerned with your approach to overcoming it. They want to gauge your problem-solving skills, your ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, and your capacity for growth and learning from experiences.

Choosing the Right Challenge:

When selecting a challenge to discuss, opt for a scenario that is relevant to the position you're applying for. It could be a professional challenge from a previous job, an academic obstacle you encountered, or even a personal dilemma that taught you valuable lessons. Ensure that the challenge you choose highlights skills or qualities that align with the job requirements, such as leadership, teamwork, creativity, or perseverance.

Crafting Your Response:

Begin by providing context for the challenge, outlining the specific circumstances and any obstacles or constraints you faced. Clearly articulate the significance of the challenge and its impact, whether it was a project deadline, a conflict within a team, or a technical problem.

Next, focus on your approach to overcoming the challenge. Highlight the strategies you employed, the resources you utilized, and the steps you took to address the issue. Emphasize your problem-solving abilities, your ability to remain calm under pressure, and your willingness to seek assistance when needed.

Importantly, reflect on the lessons you learned from the experience. Discuss how the challenge shaped your skills, your perspective, or your approach to future obstacles. Demonstrate your capacity for growth and improvement, showcasing how you turned adversity into an opportunity for personal and professional development.

Examples of Effective Responses:

1. Professional Challenge: "In my previous role as a project manager, I encountered a significant budget shortfall halfway through a major project. Instead of panicking, I convened a meeting with the project team to brainstorm solutions. We identified areas where we could cut costs without compromising quality, renegotiated contracts with vendors, and reallocated resources where needed. Through effective communication and strategic decision-making, we not only managed to overcome the budget shortfall but also completed the project ahead of schedule."

2. Academic Obstacle: "During my final year of university, I faced a challenging research project that required extensive data analysis. However, I encountered unexpected difficulties with data collection, resulting in a delay in my timeline. Rather than being deterred, I sought guidance from my professors and explored alternative methodologies for gathering data. This experience taught me the importance of flexibility and adaptability in research, the importance of not being afraid to ask for help and ultimately, I was able to successfully complete the project and achieve a high grade."


The question, "Can you describe a challenge you faced and how you overcame it?" provides you with an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills, resilience, and ability to learn from experiences. By carefully selecting and articulating your response, you can leave a lasting impression on your interviewer and demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for the job. Stay tuned for more tips and insights in the PowerCV Interview Preparation Series, designed to help you to achieve career success.


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