A typical interview question that’s asked to determine what you are looking for in your next job, and whether you would be a good fit for the position, is, “What challenges are you looking for in a position?”
This question can be a way to show how you are qualified for the job. You can also use it to demonstrate that you are motivated by challenges and can handle difficult tasks.
It's always a good idea to have examples ready to share with the interviewer of how you have handled challenging situations at work.
Get advice for what to say—and what not to say—in your response to this question.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
Your answer to this question will help give interviewers a sense of what kind of employee you would be: Are you a clock watcher, or someone looking to grow your skills and take on new responsibilities?
This question helps interviewers get a sense of what motivates you beyond salary and the need for employment.
Plus, it's also a good way for interviewers to assess how you'd fit in at the company. For instance, if one of the challenges you're looking to take on is leading a team, and you're applying for an entry-level position, interviewers will be able to know that your ambitions outstrip the role's possibilities.
How to Answer Questions About Challenges
Demonstrate Your Skills
An effective way to answer a question about the challenges you are seeking is to discuss how you would like to be able to utilize your skills and experience effectively if you were hired for the job.
This question can be a great way to point out particular skills and qualities that you possess.
For example, you might say, “I recently got my certificate in 2021, and I look forward to applying those skills,” or “I've been polishing my presentation skills, and I look forward to crafting compelling ones for your department.”
You can also mention that you are motivated by challenges, have the ability to effectively meet challenges, and have the flexibility and skills necessary to handle a challenging job. For example, you might say, “I'm motivated when there is a challenging deadline. I dive right in so the job is done with time to spare to polish the project.”
This answer demonstrates your organizational and time management skills. It also shows the employer that you can handle tight deadlines.
Connect Your Answer to the Job
Whether you use your answer to demonstrate your skills or to express that you are motivated by challenges, connect your answer to the requirements of the job. Focus on the types of challenges that you will be given on the job and demonstrate your ability to handle them well.
To help prepare an answer to this question, look back at the job listing and highlight skills and experiences that are necessary for the position.
In your answer, focus on those skills that you are most passionate about and/or have the most experience with.
You can continue by describing specific examples of challenges you have met and goals you have achieved in the past. For example, after saying you are motivated by a challenging deadline, you can give an example of when you used your time management skills to complete a project ahead of schedule.
Examples of the Best Answers
In my last job, I took on many additional responsibilities over the years, including editing company web pages on the office’s content management system. I look forward to using my web editing and publishing skills in this position.
Why It Works: This response shows interviewers both that the candidate takes on challenges and that the candidate has key skills that will be helpful in the role at hand.
I know your organization emphasizes setting high goals for each team, and I look forward to being part of a team that aims high. I have a lot of experience with teamwork and working on big projects with tight deadlines. My ability to work well in a team, and to manage my time, will make me a strong team member in this environment.
Why It Works: This response shows the candidate's interest in being challenged and responding to big goals. It also reveals that the candidate has an awareness of the company culture, which shows they've done their homework.
I thrive at the challenge of working on multiple projects concurrently. At my last job, I often juggled up to three projects at a time, many with overlapping deadlines. I never missed a deadline. I do some of my best work when I am able to manage multiple tasks at once.
Why It Works: This answer reveals the candidate's work style, and points out some of their hard-working characteristics. This would be a great response for a fast-faced role; for a more low-key environment, this response is less advantageous for the candidate.
I know the position requires addressing customer issues, and I am motivated to ensure that our customers have all of their problems resolved. I have had success with customer service: I filled in on the customer service complaint desk for six months when they were having a high volume of calls, and an employee was on leave. During that time, I received 98% positive customer ratings.
Why It Works: In this response, the candidate draws a connection between a skill they possess and one that's needed in the role.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
- Show off your motivation. One of the reasons employers ask this question is to try and figure out what makes you tick. Go ahead and share what motivates you in your response.
- Give examples. Use this as an opportunity to share challenges you've taken on in the past. You can also mention specific challenges you're currently taking on (think: getting a new certification or taking a professional development class) or ones you're interested in pursuing in the future.
- Stay relevant. It's to your advantage to match your answer to the industry expectations and the company at hand. That is, if you're applying for a role at a company that prioritizes work-life balance, you might give a different response than if you're applying for a job in an industry where 70-hour workweeks are commonplace.
What Not to Say
- Don't be negative. This may seem obvious, but you don't want to say that you don't welcome challenges or aren't looking for a challenge. Keep it positive!
- Don't be off-base. Tailor your answer to the role and its responsibilities. Remember, this question is helping interviewers determine if you're a good fit. If you're looking for challenges that are outside of the role's scope, it could make interviewers hesitant to hire you.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- What will you accomplish in your first 60 days?
- What motivates you?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- It's very effective to give examples of challenges you'd faced in past roles—or ones you're looking forward to in this role.
- It can be helpful to answer this question in terms of what motivates you, or by highlighting skills you have (or skills you're looking to learn).
- Keep your answer focused on the needs of the role at hand.