When asked about an assignment that was too difficult to complete, you're being asked to honestly assess a professional shortcoming while also displaying your problem-solving capabilities. In many cases, the best candidates are those who regularly take stock of their performance and abilities, looking for ways that they might improve. Supplying an impactful answer to this question shows that you think along such lines.
Points to Emphasize
It's not necessary to come up with a significant work situation as your example—just make sure your response is honest and can be tied in with a good resolution.
- Take a positive approach to your response and remember everyone encounters challenges at times.
- Try to relate your response to the industry you're currently working in or applying for.
- Provide some details and insight to give context for your interviewer.
- Discuss what you learned from the situation and how it applies to your career overall.
Keep a good sense of humor when responding to questions like this. Show that you can take past difficulties in stride to display confidence.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
No one's perfect; don't be afraid that discussing difficulties at work will make you look unqualified.
- Suggesting you've had no assignments that were too difficult suggests you haven't frequently looked for challenges in your career.
- Keep your tone upbeat and don't appear down on yourself for past difficulties.
- Try to avoid discussing less-significant challenges (i.e., couldn't lift heavy boxes).
- Don't forget to talk about how you resolved the issue and what it taught you for the future.
It's okay to collect your thoughts, but avoid long delays. Thinking on your feet is a crucial skill in the eyes of many employers.
When forming your own response to this inquiry, consider this example as a starting point:
I can recall a situation at my last job where I was asked to rebuild our inventory system from the ground up in the week before receiving our largest shipment of the year. It was a job that required much more than three or four days' preparation, which I realized within the first few hours.
I sat down with the owner to discuss the difficulty and after deciding that the project couldn't be pushed back, we decided to hire temporary help to make it possible. The situation helped me to realize it's more important to be realistic about your own abilities and remain focused on company goals rather than trying to shoulder a load and creating potential for larger problems.
This response shows global thinking, displays how a resolution was met, and highlights the lessons that were taken away from the experience.