I've been asked 'what was most challenging about my last job/project' in all the interviews I had.
What types of information are the interviewers looking for when they ask this question?
This popular question elicits two kinds of very valuable answers:
along with others that are less valuable:
and finally this sort of thing:
Do not tell a story that matches the first answer. If you have a story that matches the second answer, get good at telling it. No matter how small the thing, a story where you're the hero is the best. But avoid
Running these stories past your peers may reveal if you think you're presenting the second one, but are actually presenting the last one and excluding yourself from consideration.
I usually go with a very radical and unorthodox approach:
I know it's not what one thinks of when trying to get through an interview, but honesty really is the best policy.
There are cliche questions like "what is your greatest weakness" but this one doesn't qualify. You're typically safe in being honest as long as you also use tact. It's like if your wife says "How does this dress look on me?" you can reply with "like a circus tent" or "it's not very flattering, the blue one looks better I think." Both have the benefit of being true but one is insulting.
And so it is with talking about difficulties at past employers. I try to be honest but I dial back on the bluntness. Some actual things I've said in response to this question (which are true):
And in every case I would explain how I overcame or compensated for that difficulty. They're not looking for what you found difficult as much as they are in you explaining how you approached a problem and how you were able to overcome it. As long as you're not insulting or badmouthing, you can be pretty honest.
Nobody expects you to have 100% positive things to say about your last project. They don't want you trashing it necessarily, but every project has difficulties.
In other words, Be honest but be tactful and respectful.
It probably doesn't need be mentioned (but I will) that one underlying purpose of any question in any interview is to make sure you're not an idiot, lacking basic social skills, or a potential HR problem. While they may also have other reasons for specific question, they're always looking out for people who may have any of the following answers to "what you found most challenging":
If you have any legal issues with your former employer, keep it to yourself. I realize that being sexually harassed might be your greatest difficulty, but bringing up any issues involving HR might make them consider you too much a risk. In those cases, choose your second-most difficult problem.
When an employer asks questions like "most challenging project/task", interpret it as "an interesting and challening project/task". They really want to hear a story. Give them the story. We all know, story shouldn't be boring.
Don't get caught up in trying to think about the actual most challenging thing you did, just pick something that was difficult. Pick something you succeeded at in the end, and make sure it isn't boring: interesting is a keyword here.
When an employer ask such questions they are looking for some specific details as well (relevant to the job). Explaining the full stack of an app isn't interesting. Pick a tough part and describe what you did.
For example, when asked said question, One could respond:
I worked on a financial trading system. We had several computers spread across various exchanges and needed to coordinate messages on multiple networks. The user needed a UI that responded quickly with many instruments open.
yawn says nothing, compare to:
On a finance project we had a real problem with writing tests. Multiple networks, and erratic markets, lead to some absolutely crazy scenarios. I had no choice but to somehow simulate this world in our tests. This lead to a YAML+M4 driven domain specific language that could create exchanges, behave as a user, and simulate acausal network activity (yes, that actually happened!).
Usually what the employer is looking for when they ask this question is proof that you can overcome a tough challenge.
For you, it's a time to bring up a real accomplishment - something that was very challenging that you figured out how to do. If you aren't sure if you did anything that was 'really challenging', try asking your co-workers. Chances are if you had a good working relationship with them, you helped them with something challenging at some point.
And if you truly can't think of anything that challenging, then be honest - but try to put it in a positive light. Say that you never really encountered a great deal of hardship on your previous job, but also explain why you never did - say that you were always really keen and could find answers to your problems very quickly, or that you were often the person people came to for help on difficult tasks (but only if this is true - I'm just giving these as examples).
The most important thing to make out of any interview is a good impression of yourself - so take this as an opportunity, and try to present yourself as someone who can handle 'challenging' tasks.