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Free Interview Questions

One of my favorite free interview questions is...

Describe the toughest challenge you ever faced and how you worked through it.

As a general rule, you want to share work related challenges, not personal challenges; wowever, there is a key exception which we will cover shortly.

Sometimes companies will substitute the word challenge with problem.

If your interviewer asks you, What was the greatest problem you ever faced?, turn it around by replying, My greatest challenge was...

Most interviewers will pick up on your subtle word change and give you a few Brownie points. I like the word challenge instead of problem because challenge is a more positive word.

Consider sharing challenges/problems you faced in 3 broad situations

  1. Your company was losing or wasting money
    • Spending too much on overtime
    • Poor quality or warranty issues
    • High overheads or cost of materials
    • Too much inventory
  2. Your company was inefficient or wasting time
    • Low productivity
    • Low morale
    • Negative or unmotivated workforce
    • Resistance to new technology
    • Lack of sales due to weak sales strategy
  3. Your company was negatively impacted by outside factors beyond anyone's control
    • Natural disasters
    • Recession
    • Competitor with new technology
    • Overseas competition
    • Large price spike in materials or commodities

It doesn't matter if you are a manager or not. What actions did you personally take to overcome a challenge?

Free Interview Questions, Part 2:

If you are in your early career, the only challenges you may have faced so far might be personal in nature.

Examples of appropriate personal challenges to share with your interviewer:

  • Earning your own way through college
  • Going back to college at night to earn your degree
  • Taking a temporary job beneath your competency level to pay some bills because of layoffs and downsizing, or a high unemployment rate in your field after graduating from college.
  • Learning a foreign language on your own
  • Military service

Avoid sharing the following personal challenges:

  • Health problems you overcame--especially cancer or heart attacks
  • Addictions like alcoholism
  • Depression or anxiety disorders
  • Long term care of a handicapped child, spouse, or parent
  • Bankruptcy or business failure

The above personal challenges are too controversial and could scare off a prospective employer.

Successfully overcoming these types of challenges is admirable, but most people won't be able to identify with you unless they've had a similar experience.

They just won't get it.

Treat these successes as personal victories. Only share them with friends and family who love you unconditionally.

Focus on the challenges of the job. You're being hired to solve their problems and help the company succeed.

Note: If you can't pass my Mock Job Interview Quiz you're probably not ready for your job interview.

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