Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)
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By Mike Simpson
When candidates prepare for interviews, they usually focus on highlighting their leadership, communication, teamwork, and similar crucial soft skills . However, not everyone gets ready for problem-solving interview questions. And that can be a big mistake.
Problem-solving is relevant to nearly any job on the planet. Yes, it’s more prevalent in certain industries, but it’s helpful almost everywhere.
Regardless of the role you want to land, you may be asked to provide problem-solving examples or describe how you would deal with specific situations. That’s why being ready to showcase your problem-solving skills is so vital.
If you aren’t sure who to tackle problem-solving questions, don’t worry, we have your back. Come with us as we explore this exciting part of the interview process, as well as some problem-solving interview questions and example answers.
What Is Problem-Solving?
When you’re trying to land a position, there’s a good chance you’ll face some problem-solving interview questions. But what exactly is problem-solving? And why is it so important to hiring managers?
Well, the good folks at Merriam-Webster define problem-solving as “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem.” While that may seem like common sense, there’s a critical part to that definition that should catch your eye.
What part is that? The word “process.”
In the end, problem-solving is an activity. It’s your ability to take appropriate steps to find answers, determine how to proceed, or otherwise overcome the challenge.
Being great at it usually means having a range of helpful problem-solving skills and traits. Research, diligence, patience, attention-to-detail , collaboration… they can all play a role. So can analytical thinking , creativity, and open-mindedness.
But why do hiring managers worry about your problem-solving skills? Well, mainly, because every job comes with its fair share of problems.
While problem-solving is relevant to scientific, technical, legal, medical, and a whole slew of other careers. It helps you overcome challenges and deal with the unexpected. It plays a role in troubleshooting and innovation. That’s why it matters to hiring managers.
How to Answer Problem-Solving Interview Questions
Okay, before we get to our examples, let’s take a quick second to talk about strategy. Knowing how to answer problem-solving interview questions is crucial. Why? Because the hiring manager might ask you something that you don’t anticipate.
Problem-solving interview questions are all about seeing how you think. As a result, they can be a bit… unconventional.
These aren’t your run-of-the-mill job interview questions . Instead, they are tricky behavioral interview questions . After all, the goal is to find out how you approach problem-solving, so most are going to feature scenarios, brainteasers, or something similar.
So, having a great strategy means knowing how to deal with behavioral questions. Luckily, there are a couple of tools that can help.
First, when it comes to the classic approach to behavioral interview questions, look no further than the STAR Method . With the STAR method, you learn how to turn your answers into captivating stories. This makes your responses tons more engaging, ensuring you keep the hiring manager’s attention from beginning to end.
Now, should you stop with the STAR Method? Of course not. If you want to take your answers to the next level, spend some time with the Tailoring Method , too.
With the Tailoring Method, it’s all about relevance. So, if you get a chance to choose an example that demonstrates your problem-solving skills, this is really the way to go.
We also wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!
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Top 3 Problem-Solving-Based Interview Questions
Alright, here is what you’ve been waiting for: the problem-solving questions and sample answers.
While many questions in this category are job-specific, these tend to apply to nearly any job. That means there’s a good chance you’ll come across them at some point in your career, making them a great starting point when you’re practicing for an interview.
So, let’s dive in, shall we? Here’s a look at the top three problem-solving interview questions and example responses.
1. Can you tell me about a time when you had to solve a challenging problem?
In the land of problem-solving questions, this one might be your best-case scenario. It lets you choose your own problem-solving examples to highlight, putting you in complete control.
When you choose an example, go with one that is relevant to what you’ll face in the role. The closer the match, the better the answer is in the eyes of the hiring manager.
“While working as a mobile telecom support specialist for a large organization, we had to transition our MDM service from one vendor to another within 45 days. This personally physically handling 500 devices within the agency. Devices had to be gathered from the headquarters and satellite offices, which were located all across the state, something that was challenging even without the tight deadline. I approached the situation by identifying the location assignment of all personnel within the organization, enabling me to estimate transit times for receiving the devices. Next, I timed out how many devices I could personally update in a day. Together, this allowed me to create a general timeline. After that, I coordinated with each location, both expressing the urgency of adhering to deadlines and scheduling bulk shipping options. While there were occasional bouts of resistance, I worked with location leaders to calm concerns and facilitate action. While performing all of the updates was daunting, my approach to organizing the event made it a success. Ultimately, the entire transition was finished five days before the deadline, exceeding the expectations of many.”
2. Describe a time where you made a mistake. What did you do to fix it?
While this might not look like it’s based on problem-solving on the surface, it actually is. When you make a mistake, it creates a challenge, one you have to work your way through. At a minimum, it’s an opportunity to highlight problem-solving skills, even if you don’t address the topic directly.
When you choose an example, you want to go with a situation where the end was positive. However, the issue still has to be significant, causing something negative to happen in the moment that you, ideally, overcame.
“When I first began in a supervisory role, I had trouble setting down my individual contributor hat. I tried to keep up with my past duties while also taking on the responsibilities of my new role. As a result, I began rushing and introduced an error into the code of the software my team was updating. The error led to a memory leak. We became aware of the issue when the performance was hindered, though we didn’t immediately know the cause. I dove back into the code, reviewing recent changes, and, ultimately, determined the issue was a mistake on my end. When I made that discovery, I took several steps. First, I let my team know that the error was mine and let them know its nature. Second, I worked with my team to correct the issue, resolving the memory leak. Finally, I took this as a lesson about delegation. I began assigning work to my team more effectively, a move that allowed me to excel as a manager and help them thrive as contributors. It was a crucial learning moment, one that I have valued every day since.”
3. If you identify a potential risk in a project, what steps do you take to prevent it?
Yes, this is also a problem-solving question. The difference is, with this one, it’s not about fixing an issue; it’s about stopping it from happening. Still, you use problem-solving skills along the way, so it falls in this question category.
If you can, use an example of a moment when you mitigated risk in the past. If you haven’t had that opportunity, approach it theoretically, discussing the steps you would take to prevent an issue from developing.
“If I identify a potential risk in a project, my first step is to assess the various factors that could lead to a poor outcome. Prevention requires analysis. Ensuring I fully understand what can trigger the undesired event creates the right foundation, allowing me to figure out how to reduce the likelihood of those events occurring. Once I have the right level of understanding, I come up with a mitigation plan. Exactly what this includes varies depending on the nature of the issue, though it usually involves various steps and checks designed to monitor the project as it progresses to spot paths that may make the problem more likely to happen. I find this approach effective as it combines knowledge and ongoing vigilance. That way, if the project begins to head into risky territory, I can correct its trajectory.”
17 More Problem-Solving-Based Interview Questions
In the world of problem-solving questions, some apply to a wide range of jobs, while others are more niche. For example, customer service reps and IT helpdesk professionals both encounter challenges, but not usually the same kind.
As a result, some of the questions in this list may be more relevant to certain careers than others. However, they all give you insights into what this kind of question looks like, making them worth reviewing.
Here are 17 more problem-solving interview questions you might face off against during your job search:
- How would you describe your problem-solving skills?
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to use creativity to deal with an obstacle?
- Describe a time when you discovered an unmet customer need while assisting a customer and found a way to meet it.
- If you were faced with an upset customer, how would you diffuse the situation?
- Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot a complex issue.
- Imagine you were overseeing a project and needed a particular item. You have two choices of vendors: one that can deliver on time but would be over budget, and one that’s under budget but would deliver one week later than you need it. How do you figure out which approach to use?
- Your manager wants to upgrade a tool you regularly use for your job and wants your recommendation. How do you formulate one?
- A supplier has said that an item you need for a project isn’t going to be delivered as scheduled, something that would cause your project to fall behind schedule. What do you do to try and keep the timeline on target?
- Can you share an example of a moment where you encountered a unique problem you and your colleagues had never seen before? How did you figure out what to do?
- Imagine you were scheduled to give a presentation with a colleague, and your colleague called in sick right before it was set to begin. What would you do?
- If you are given two urgent tasks from different members of the leadership team, both with the same tight deadline, how do you choose which to tackle first?
- Tell me about a time you and a colleague didn’t see eye-to-eye. How did you decide what to do?
- Describe your troubleshooting process.
- Tell me about a time where there was a problem that you weren’t able to solve. What happened?
- In your opening, what skills or traits make a person an exceptional problem-solver?
- When you face a problem that requires action, do you usually jump in or take a moment to carefully assess the situation?
- When you encounter a new problem you’ve never seen before, what is the first step that you take?
Putting It All Together
At this point, you should have a solid idea of how to approach problem-solving interview questions. Use the tips above to your advantage. That way, you can thrive during your next interview.
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Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .
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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)
By Biron Clark
Published: November 15, 2023
Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.
But how do they measure this?
They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.
Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”
It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation.
Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication , listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.
Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences.
It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.
Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving
Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.
- Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
- Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
- Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
- Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
- Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
- Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
- Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
- Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
- Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
- Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
- Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
- Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
- Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
- Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
- Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
- Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
- Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
- Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area
Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers
- Coordinating work between team members in a class project
- Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
- Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
- Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
- Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
- Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
- Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
- Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first
You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.
Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”
Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.
Example Answer 1:
At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.
Example Answer 2:
In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.
Example Answer 3:
In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.
Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method
When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.
STAR stands for:
It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.
Finally, describe a positive result you got.
Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.
Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way. We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online. Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.
What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?
Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.
Below are good outcomes of problem solving:
- Saving the company time or money
- Making the company money
- Pleasing/keeping a customer
- Obtaining new customers
- Solving a safety issue
- Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
- Solving a logistical issue
- Solving a company hiring issue
- Solving a technical/software issue
- Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
- Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
- Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
- Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients
Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.
Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.
Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.
Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.
You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.
If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.
Related interview questions & answers:
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Tell me about a time when you failed
About the Author
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15 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions
In an interview for a big tech company, I was asked if I’d ever resolved a fight — and the exact way I went about handling it. I felt blindsided, and I stammered my way through an excuse of an answer.
It’s a familiar scenario to fellow technical job seekers — and one that risks leaving a sour taste in our mouths. As candidate experience becomes an increasingly critical component of the hiring process, recruiters need to ensure the problem-solving interview questions they prepare don’t dissuade talent in the first place.
Interview questions designed to gauge a candidate’s problem-solving skills are more often than not challenging and vague. Assessing a multifaceted skill like problem solving is tricky — a good problem solver owns the full solution and result, researches well, solves creatively and takes action proactively.
It’s hard to establish an effective way to measure such a skill. But it’s not impossible.
We recommend taking an informed and prepared approach to testing candidates’ problem-solving skills . With that in mind, here’s a list of a few common problem-solving interview questions, the science behind them — and how you can go about administering your own problem-solving questions with the unique challenges of your organization in mind.
Key Takeaways for Effective Problem-Solving Interview Questions
- Problem solving lies at the heart of programming.
- Testing a candidate’s problem-solving skills goes beyond the IDE. Problem-solving interview questions should test both technical skills and soft skills.
- STAR, SOAR and PREP are methods a candidate can use to answer some non-technical problem-solving interview questions.
- Generic problem-solving interview questions go a long way in gauging a candidate’s fit. But you can go one step further by customizing them according to your company’s service, product, vision, and culture.
Technical Problem-Solving Interview Question Examples
Evaluating a candidates’ problem-solving skills while using coding challenges might seem intimidating. The secret is that coding challenges test many things at the same time — like the candidate’s knowledge of data structures and algorithms, clean code practices, and proficiency in specific programming languages, to name a few examples.
Problem solving itself might at first seem like it’s taking a back seat. But technical problem solving lies at the heart of programming, and most coding questions are designed to test a candidate’s problem-solving abilities.
Here are a few examples of technical problem-solving questions:
1. Mini-Max Sum
This well-known challenge, which asks the interviewee to find the maximum and minimum sum among an array of given numbers, is based on a basic but important programming concept called sorting, as well as integer overflow. It tests the candidate’s observational skills, and the answer should elicit a logical, ad-hoc solution.
2. Organizing Containers of Balls
This problem tests the candidate’s knowledge of a variety of programming concepts, like 2D arrays, sorting and iteration. Organizing colored balls in containers based on various conditions is a common question asked in competitive examinations and job interviews, because it’s an effective way to test multiple facets of a candidate’s problem-solving skills.
3. Build a Palindrome
This is a tough problem to crack, and the candidate’s knowledge of concepts like strings and dynamic programming plays a significant role in solving this challenge. This problem-solving example tests the candidate’s ability to think on their feet as well as their ability to write clean, optimized code.
4. Subarray Division
Based on a technique used for searching pairs in a sorted array ( called the “two pointers” technique ), this problem can be solved in just a few lines and judges the candidate’s ability to optimize (as well as basic mathematical skills).
5. The Grid Search
This is a problem of moderate difficulty and tests the candidate’s knowledge of strings and searching algorithms, the latter of which is regularly tested in developer interviews across all levels.
Common Non-Technical Problem-Solving Interview Questions
Testing a candidate’s problem-solving skills goes beyond the IDE . Everyday situations can help illustrate competency, so here are a few questions that focus on past experiences and hypothetical situations to help interviewers gauge problem-solving skills.
1. Given the problem of selecting a new tool to invest in, where and how would you begin this task?
Key Insight : This question offers insight into the candidate’s research skills. Ideally, they would begin by identifying the problem, interviewing stakeholders, gathering insights from the team, and researching what tools exist to best solve for the team’s challenges and goals.
2. Have you ever recognized a potential problem and addressed it before it occurred?
Key Insight: Prevention is often better than cure. The ability to recognize a problem before it occurs takes intuition and an understanding of business needs.
3. A teammate on a time-sensitive project confesses that he’s made a mistake, and it’s putting your team at risk of missing key deadlines. How would you respond?
Key Insight: Sometimes, all the preparation in the world still won’t stop a mishap. Thinking on your feet and managing stress are skills that this question attempts to unearth. Like any other skill, they can be cultivated through practice.
4. Tell me about a time you used a unique problem-solving approach.
Key Insight: Creativity can manifest in many ways, including original or novel ways to tackle a problem. Methods like the 10X approach and reverse brainstorming are a couple of unique approaches to problem solving.
5. Have you ever broken rules for the “greater good?” If yes, can you walk me through the situation?
Key Insight: “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission.” It’s unconventional, but in some situations, it may be the mindset needed to drive a solution to a problem.
6. Tell me about a weakness you overcame at work, and the approach you took.
Key Insight: According to Compass Partnership , “self-awareness allows us to understand how and why we respond in certain situations, giving us the opportunity to take charge of these responses.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with a problem. Candidates showing high levels of self-awareness are positioned to handle it well.
7. Have you ever owned up to a mistake at work? Can you tell me about it?
Key Insight: Everybody makes mistakes. But owning up to them can be tough, especially at a workplace. Not only does it take courage, but it also requires honesty and a willingness to improve, all signs of 1) a reliable employee and 2) an effective problem solver.
8. How would you approach working with an upset customer?
Key Insight: With the rise of empathy-driven development and more companies choosing to bridge the gap between users and engineers, today’s tech teams speak directly with customers more frequently than ever before. This question brings to light the candidate’s interpersonal skills in a client-facing environment.
9. Have you ever had to solve a problem on your own, but needed to ask for additional help? How did you go about it?
Key Insight: Knowing when you need assistance to complete a task or address a situation is an important quality to have while problem solving. This questions helps the interviewer get a sense of the candidate’s ability to navigate those waters.
10. Let’s say you disagree with your colleague on how to move forward with a project. How would you go about resolving the disagreement?
Key Insight: Conflict resolution is an extremely handy skill for any employee to have; an ideal answer to this question might contain a brief explanation of the conflict or situation, the role played by the candidate and the steps taken by them to arrive at a positive resolution or outcome.
Strategies for Answering Problem-Solving Questions
If you’re a job seeker, chances are you’ll encounter this style of question in your various interview experiences. While problem-solving interview questions may appear simple, they can be easy to fumble — leaving the interviewer without a clear solution or outcome.
It’s important to approach such questions in a structured manner. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to employ in your next problem-solving interview.
1. Shine in Interviews With the STAR Method
S ituation, T ask, A ction, and R esult is a great method that can be employed to answer a problem-solving or behavioral interview question. Here’s a breakdown of these steps:
- Situation : A good way to address almost any interview question is to lay out and define the situation and circumstances.
- Task : Define the problem or goal that needs to be addressed. Coding questions are often multifaceted, so this step is particularly important when answering technical problem-solving questions.
- Action : How did you go about solving the problem? Try to be as specific as possible, and state your plan in steps if you can.
- Result : Wrap it up by stating the outcome achieved.
2. Rise above difficult questions using the SOAR method
A very similar approach to the STAR method, SOAR stands for S ituation, O bstacle, A ction, and R esults .
- Situation: Explain the state of affairs. It’s important to steer clear of stating any personal opinions in this step; focus on the facts.
- Obstacle: State the challenge or problem you faced.
- Action: Detail carefully how you went about overcoming this obstacle.
- Result: What was the end result? Apart from overcoming the obstacle, did you achieve anything else? What did you learn in the process?
3. Do It the PREP Way
Traditionally used as a method to make effective presentations, the P oint, R eason, E xample, P oint method can also be used to answer problem-solving interview questions.
- Point : State the solution in plain terms.
- Reasons: Follow up the solution by detailing your case — and include any data or insights that support your solution.
- Example: In addition to objective data and insights, drive your answer home by contextualizing the solution in a real-world example.
- Point : Reiterate the solution to make it come full circle.
How to Customize Problem-Solving Interview Questions
Generic problem-solving interview questions go a long way in gauging a candidate’s skill level, but recruiters can go one step further by customizing these problem-solving questions according to their company’s service, product, vision, or culture.
Here are some tips to do so:
- Break down the job’s responsibilities into smaller tasks. Job descriptions may contain ambiguous responsibilities like “manage team projects effectively.” To formulate an effective problem-solving question, envision what this task might look like in a real-world context and develop a question around it.
- Tailor questions to the role at hand. Apart from making for an effective problem-solving question, it gives the candidate the impression you’re an informed technical recruiter. For example, an engineer will likely have attended many scrums. So, a good question to ask is: “Suppose you notice your scrums are turning unproductive. How would you go about addressing this?”
- Consider the tools and technologies the candidate will use on the job. For example, if Jira is the primary project management tool, a good problem-solving interview question might be: “Can you tell me about a time you simplified a complex workflow — and the tools you used to do so?”
- If you don’t know where to start, your company’s core values can often provide direction. If one of the core values is “ownership,” for example, consider asking a question like: “Can you walk us through a project you owned from start to finish?”
- Sometimes, developing custom content can be difficult even with all these tips considered. Our platform has a vast selection of problem-solving examples that are designed to help recruiters ask the right questions to help nail their next technical interview.
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Depending upon your industry, you may be asked to answer problem-solving questions at some point during your interview with a hiring manager. These questions are common in IT, engineering, and other technical sectors where strong data analysis and problem-solving competencies are essential. However, once in a while, you’ll be asked to field a problem-solving interview question even if you aren’t in a strictly technical discipline.
Here’s how to prepare so that you’ll be able to “think on your feet” should a problem-solving question be asked.
Why Companies Ask Problem-Solving Questions
Problem-solving questions often fall into the category of interview questions without a right (or wrong) answer . Companies seek proactive, solutions-oriented employees for many of the jobs they are filling, and are more interested in the approach you’d take to solve a problem than they are in you providing the “correct” answer.
These types of questions are good examples of situational interview questions . Employers try to predict how you could solve a work problem for them in the future, based upon how you have either done so in the past or are currently doing so in the interview.
These questions may also be asked to assess your command of a key industry-specific process or technology. This holds true especially for interviews conducted by tech employers . If you are in a technical field, be ready to discuss how you would solve common project development, implementation problems, or obstacles.
Techniques for Answering Problem-Solving Interview Questions
How you should answer a problem-solving question will depend upon whether you are participating in a solo or a group interview .
Tips for Problem Solving in a Solo Interview
If you are asked to solve a problem in a solo interview, it’s an excellent strategy to demonstrate how you are able to follow the five primary steps in problem solving :
- Analyze the factors that caused the problem.
- Brainstorm possible solutions.
- Evaluate the cost and potential viability of these solutions.
- Implement a plan.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your intervention.
Alternatively, you may be asked how you solved a problem in the past. The Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) interview response technique is a highly effective way to structure a detailed anecdote in response to a situational or a behavioral interview question. In this technique, you describe:
- A Situation (S) in which a problem arose
- The Task (T) —in this case, a problem that you had to solve
- The Action (A) or process you initiated to solve the problem
- The Results (R) of your problem-solving action
Tips for Problem Solving in a Group Interview
If you are in a situation where several candidates are being interviewed together, you may be asked to work together as a team to complete a problem-solving or work simulation. Afterwards, it is common for interviewers to ask the group to describe the process they took to address the problem.
The STAR interview response technique can work well in this situation.
During the problem-solving portion of the work simulation itself, remember to be a good listener as well as an innovative team collaborator.
If you have the opportunity to lead (without steamrolling) the group, recognize each person’s contributions as you later describe your collective problem-solving strategy to the interviewer.
Sample Problem-Solving Q&As
Here are a few examples of how to answer problem-solving questions. Use them as models in formulating your own responses as you practice for your interview .
How would you deal with an unanticipated understaffing situation?
This problem seems to occur every holiday season, so I’ve developed strategies to ensure that we have adequate staff coverage. The most important trick, I think, is to be proactive. I keep a current list of personnel who are willing to come in at a moment’s notice to fill others’ shifts—especially around major holidays (when people are likely to call in sick). Each time an employee agrees to cover someone else’s shift, I make a point to recognize them with a big “thank you” sign I write on our office whiteboard. This keeps morale high enough that I can generally find someone at a moment’s notice to come in. I also try to cross-train most of our staff so that they can cover for their colleagues when necessary. As a last resort, I’ll cover their shift myself if that’s required.
Why It Works: This candidate shows that they understand that it’s sometimes necessary to have multiple strategies in their “toolbox” to address unexpected problems in the workplace. The candidate describes how they are capable of examining options and coming up with a plan.
What would happen if you realized that you and your team wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline for your deliverables? What would you do?
This actually happened nine months ago, when our team was prepared to go live with a new product. A month before launch, we learned that one of our primary part’s shipment would be delayed. I immediately tried to contract with another supplier—although I sourced one, they couldn’t promise that they’d be able to deliver by our deadline. However, I was as transparent as possible throughout the situation, alerting management and our different department heads about the issue. Fortunately, the R&D engineers were then able to do a quick redesign that allowed us to use another part we could access quickly—and that turned out to be 20% cheaper than the original part! We met our deadline and saved costs at the same time.
Why It Works: This answer uses the STAR technique to describe how the candidate solved a work issue in the past. It’s especially effective because they also quantify one of the results of their actions with a percentage.
Answers to problem-solving questions can be more impactful if you quantify your contributions with numbers, dollar figures, or percentages .
How would you deal with a difficult subordinate who publicly questioned your authority?
First, I try to analyze the situation rather than the employee’s words to see what might have caused their discontent. I would then speak with them privately, giving them the chance to air their grievance and myself the opportunity to work with them to find a solution. Sometimes, all it takes to soothe an employee is to let them know that their opinions are respected. However, if the employee continued to spread negativity and diminish department morale, I would put them on official notice to expect a formal performance review at the end of two weeks, at which point we would discuss their future with our department.
Why It Works : With this response, the interviewee describes the logical problem-solving process they use when handling escalated issues with personnel, including how they make contingency plans if the initial interventions don’t work out.
- Why are you the best person for this job? - Best Answers
- Tell me about something that’s not on your resume. - Best Answers
- How have you handled a challenge? - Best Answers
Describe Your Process Explain to your interviewer the steps you would take to solve a workplace problem.
Use Examples Provide detailed illustrations of how you have successfully solved problems in the past.
Practice Makes Perfect Brainstorm your own answers to questions about problem solving, then practice delivering these responses.
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5 problem-solving questions to prepare you for your next interview
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What is problem-solving, and why do hiring managers care so much about it?
How to answer problem-solving questions
Common problem-solving questions and answers, things to avoid when answering problem-solving questions, how to prepare for problem-solving interview questions, problem solved.
“How would you approach telling a manager that they’ve made a mistake ?”
Hard problem-solving questions like these can catch you off guard in a job interview. They’re hard to prepare for if you don’t know they’re coming, and you might not even see why they’re relevant to the job.
Even the most experienced interviewees might feel like they’re giving a bad interview if they stumble on questions like these.
Preparing and practicing hard questions is one way to ease your fears. Learn to dissect what a hiring manager is really asking and answer problem-solving questions with confidence.
What is problem-solving, and why do hiring managers care so much about it?
Problem-solving is holistically understanding a problem, determining its cause, and identifying creative solutions . Many, if not most, job descriptions ask for problem-solving skills because regardless of industry, they’re an asset in the workplace.
Startups and tech companies like Google famously pose critical thinking and problem-solving questions in job interviews . But hiring managers from all industries use unique questions like these to understand your problem-solving skills. It’s not about the answer you give, or whether it’s correct, but the way you come to that conclusion.
In job interviews, problem-solving questions pose a potential problem or situation typical to the job you’re interviewing for. Your response shows your ability to respond to common problems, even on the spot. Depending on the question, it can also indicate other skills like:
The average business spends $4,700 hiring one new worker , so it wants to make sure you’re the right fit for the job. Even if you have the right skills and experience on paper, hiring managers need a comprehensive idea of what kind of worker you are to avoid choosing the wrong candidate.
Like standard behavioral interview questions , problem-solving questions offer interviewers a more well-rounded view of how you might perform on the job.
Problem-solving questions encourage you to give answers about your past experiences, decision-making process , and ability to arrive at creative solutions . Learning how to answer questions in an interview means learning how to tell a good story , so your answer should have a clear structure, unique topic, and compelling journey to demonstrate your competencies.
The STAR method is a common technique for answering problem-solving interview questions clearly and thoughtfully. The acronym stands for situation, task, action, and result. It provides a simple structure that gives your response a smooth beginning, middle, and end.
Here’s how to use the STAR method to describe past on-the-job experiences or hypothetical situations:
Situation: Start with a problem statement that clearly defines the situation.
Task: Explain your role in the situation. What is, or would be your responsibility?
Action: Recount the steps or problem-solving strategies you used, or would use, to overcome the problem.
Result: Share what you achieved or would hope to resolve through your problem-solving process.
Every job requires problem-solving on some level, so you can expect at least one job interview question to ask about those skills. Here are a few common problem-solving interview questions to practice:
1. Give us an example of when you faced an unexpected challenge at work. What did you do to face it?
What’s a hiring manager really asking? Employers want to know that your problem-solving has a process. They want to hear you break down a problem into a set of steps to solve it.
Sample answer: I was working in sales for a wholesale retailer. A regular client wrongly communicated the pricing of a unit. I realized this immediately, and rather than pointing out the error, I quickly double-checked with my supervisor to see if we could respect the price.
I informed the client of the error and that we were happy to keep the price he was given. It made him feel like he'd gotten a fair deal and trusted my authority as a sales rep even more. The loss wasn't significant, but saving face in front of the client was.
2. How would you manage a frustrated client?
What’s a hiring manager really asking? They want to gauge your ability to stay cool and be patient in stressful situations, even when dealing with difficult people . Keep your answer professional, and don't use the opportunity to bad-mouth a past client. Show that you can stay respectful even if someone isn’t respecting you.
Sample answer: I've had plenty of experience dealing with unhappy clients. I've learned two important things: their frustration isn’t a personal attack against me, and we have the same goal to solve the problem. Knowing that helps me stay calm, listen carefully to the client's situation, and do my best to identify where the situation went astray.
Once we identify the problem, if I can handle it myself, I communicate exactly what we’ll do for the client and how. What steps we’ll take depend on the client, but I always start by proposing solutions to show I care about a path forward, and then keep them updated on my progress to implementing that fix.
3. Describe a time you made a mistake at work. How did you fix it?
What’s a hiring manager really asking? No one is above making an error. Employers want to know that you own up to and learn from your mistakes instead of getting frustrated and walking away from the problem.
Sample answer: My first managerial position was at a public relations agency. When I was promoted to work on client outreach, I struggled to learn to delegate my old responsibilities, which were writing social media copy. I was afraid to let go of control, and I was micromanaging . One day, I wrote out some copy, sent it out, and quickly realized I was using the wrong style guide in my haste.
The client noticed, and we had to work to regain their trust, which put a strain on the entire team. I took full responsibility and used that moment to understand that I wasn't trusting my team's abilities. I apologized to my team for overstepping boundaries and worked to let go of my old role completely.
4. Have you ever had a difficult time working with a team member? How did you deal with the situation?
What’s a hiring manager really asking? Even the most independent job requires some teamwork, whether it’s communicating with clients or other team members. Employers want to know that you can solve interpersonal problems, know when to escalate and help maintain a positive work environment.
Sample answer: At my last job, we were fully remote. I had a coworker that wasn't very communicative about their process, which led to redundancies in our work and miscommunications that set us behind. I asked them to have a one-on-one meeting with me so we could analyze where we were failing to communicate and how to improve.
It wasn't a comfortable process, but we developed a better practice to collaborate and improve our ability to work as a team , including weekly meetings and check-ins.
5. Tell me about a time you created an innovative solution with limited information or resources.
What’s a hiring manager really asking? They want to test your resourcefulness, which is a valuable soft skill. Using a “ Tell me about a time” question lets you demonstrate out-of-the-box thinking and shows that you don't quit when things get difficult.
Sample answer: I worked in project management for a software developer. We were frequently going over budget and needed to limit spending. I instituted a new workflow app across departments and made everyone track every step of their process. We ended up finding information silos between design, sales, and product development.
They were all using different platforms to communicate the status of the same project, which meant we were wasting time and money. We centralized communication and improved operational efficiency, solved our budget problems, and increased productivity by 30%.
Problem-solving questions offer deep insights into the kind of worker you are. While your answer is important, so is your delivery. Here are some things to avoid when trying to answer problem-solving questions:
Don’t clam up: It's okay to take your time to reflect, but never abstain from answering. An interviewer will understand if you need to pause and think. If you’re really stumped, you can ask to return to that question later in the interview.
Avoid generic answers: Generic answers show a lack of creativity and innovation . Use the opportunity to explain what makes you and your problem-solving process unique.
Don’t lose confidence: How you answer is as important as what you answer. Do your best to practice confident body language, like eye contact and strong posture. Practicing ahead of time can help alleviate pressure while you’re answering.
Try not to rush: Rushing through an answer could make it unclear or incoherent, which might reflect poorly on your ability to keep a level head. Practice mindful breathing and pace yourself. Answer slowly and deliberately.
Preparing for an interview will make you feel more comfortable and confident during the hiring process. Rather than thinking of answers on the spot, you can pull from different responses you're already familiar with. Here are some tips for practicing and improving your answers:
Create a list of problem-solving examples from throughout your career. Consider varied past experiences that play into important skills, like time management, project management, or teamwork, to show that you're a well-rounded candidate.
Whenever possible, give metrics to show results. For example, if you improved productivity, share percentages. If you upped sales, share numbers.
Carefully study the job description and connect the skills you find with specific ways you’ve used them.
Identify what you’re good at and choose experiences that play to your strengths.
When talking about mistakes or errors, always finish with the lesson you learned and how you plan on avoiding the same mistake.
Provide details that a hiring manager can recognize within the position they’re hiring for.
It’s normal to feel nervous about a job interview, especially if you’re expecting difficult questions. Learning how to overcome that challenge is the perfect way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.
Like everything else in your career, practice makes perfect, and learning to answer tough problem-solving questions is no different. Take the time to recall moments in your career when you overcame challenges, and practice telling those stories. Craft an answer that hiring managers will be excited to hear.
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18 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Sample Answers
Every day we face a ton of issues — from a glitching app to a misplaced important document. Some are tiny ones and rarely have an impact on our work. Other events tinder to push a manageable problem into a likely crisis (unless you take decisive action).
So it follows that companies are looking for people with strong problem-solving abilities — candidates with strong analytical, critical thinking, and conceptual skills. You need to demonstrate these on your resume and during the job interview to land a solid job.
In this post, we provide a set of common problem-solving interview questions employers use to screen candidates (with sample answers included!). But first, let’s recap the basics!
What Are Some Examples of Problem-Solving Skills?
As the name implies, problem-solving skills indicate your ability to effectively resolve different issues and move past various bottlenecks in your day-to-day work. Essentially, it’s a collection of conceptual and critical thinking skills , indicative of your strong cognitive abilities, creative thinking, and proactive approach to work.
Common examples of problem-solving skills include:
- Data analysis
- Issue resolution
- Conflict management
- Strategic thinking
- Process optimization
- Deductive reasoning
- Strategic planning
- Industry analysis
How Do You Show Problem-Solving Skills in an Interview?
Problem-solving skills are rather hands-on. They indicate your ability to tackle an array of challenges in different situations. Therefore, the best way to show your strong problem-solving skills in a job interview is by using contextual examples. When answering interview problem-solving questions, first describe the general situation. Next, talk about the task (problem) you’ve had. Then explain what actions you took. Finally, conclude with an outcome (result) gained.
The above approach is called the STAR interview method . It’s a highly effective approach to excelling at different types of problem-solving interview questions that we are covering in this post!
6 Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers Examples
The universe of problem-solving interview questions can be conditionally broken down to:
- Situational interview questions — such as when the interviewer asks you to explain your response/actions in a certain setting.
- Case challenges (studies) — context-rich, modeled business scenarios you are given some time to review and respond to.
- Tests and exercises — shorter puzzles or quiz-style questions you need to complete within a certain time.
Some interviewers also like to throw in a couple of weird interview questions , aimed at challenging your on-the-stop problem-solving skills. For example, Jeff Bezos once asked an interviewee to try counting the number of windows in Seattle.
What stays the same in every case is the purpose of such questions: An interviewer aims to understand your thought process and logical reasoning abilities.
To help you successfully do just that, we’ve made a list of common problem-solving skills interview questions with sample answers you can use to model your responses.
1. Tell Me About The Time You’ve Faced a Major Challenge At Work
This question can be more context-specific. For example, the interviewer may prompt you to talk about meeting an unrealistic deadline, resolving a professional mishap, or dealing with another type of out-of-the-ordinary work situation. In every case, you must not just describe the problem, but clearly communicate what you’ve done to resolve it.
“My sales team spent 6+ months preparing for a major demo for this manufacturing client. It was an important strategic deal for Acme Inc. Two days before the presentation, the main Account Manager fell sick with COVID-19 and couldn’t do the meeting. Since I worked closely with him, I volunteered to moderate the presentation and facilitate the discussion. We’ve notified the client team about the changes and I’ve invited their management to a quick lunch a day ahead to meet up and “break the ice”. Then helped conduct the negotiation. We’ve successfully closed this deal.”
2. What’s Your Standard Approach to Resolving Blockers at Work?
The answer to this problem-solving interview question will be somewhat different for regular employees and managers.
- As a regular employee, you should focus your reply on your personal time-management and organizational skills .
- As a manager, you should lean more towards your administrative and leadership skills .
Below is a sample answer from a manager’s perspective:
“I’d describe my management style as a facilitator. As a UX Design Lead, I spend a lot of time prioritizing our backlog in line with the company-wide product roadmap and collecting regular input from other teams. Based on it, I set different levels of priorities for design tasks and map dependencies between them. Then I communicate the main priorities in this Sprint to the design team every 2-3 months. Weekly, I go through the work backlog to analyze progress and reach out to individual members on status reports. If the person is stuck, I try to figure out the root cause for that first, then get back to them with different suggestions on how to move forward.”
3. You Have Two Vendors: One Has Lower Prices, Another Proposes Faster Shipping. Which One Would You Pick?
Many interviewers like to pose short case study-based questions as a prompt for you to describe your approaches to decision-making. In most cases, there’s no right or wrong answer to them. Instead, the interviewer wants to understand how you access different options when making operational calls. Give them a walkthrough.
“I’d check two metrics first — planned deadlines and current budgets. If a later delivery doesn’t affect the manufacturing schedule, I’d go with a cheaper vendor. If the materials are time-sensitive, I’d approach the CFO regarding the matter and explain why paying a higher supply price is more favorable than risking manufacturing delays (and bearing direct and indirect costs of that). To make my case, I’d use ERP data and a business intelligence app to model different scenarios.”
4. You Need to Proceed with the Project Execution, But You Lack Important Data. What Are Your Next Steps?
For most companies, the current economic realities are rather volatile — from ongoing supply chain disruptions to rapid changes in consumer preferences. Thus, operational decisions have to be taken fast, often with incomplete data.
By posing this question, the interviewer likely wants to assess your general business acumen skills , as well as approaches to strategic planning.
“As a marketing manager, I fully understand that good data may not always be available. In such cases, I try to generate my own data and test assumptions. First, I try to split test different types of creative and run them by a sample target audience group. Based on the response rates (e.g. average click-through rates), I then select the main creative to use in the campaign.”
5. A Customer Asks for a Certain Product, But It’s Out of Stock. They are Unhappy. How Would You Respond?
For customer-facing roles, you may be probed with a problem-solving interview question presenting some sort of a customer issue. Such questions are common in hospitality, restaurant, and retail industries among others.
Your goal is to showcase your stellar customer service skills and ability to manage potential conflicts effectively.
Sample answer .
“First, I’d ask the customer if they’d be open to some alternatives — and provide a range of similar products we currently have in stock. If neither works for them, I’d look up the restock information and offer to put them on a notification list. Or, if they are open to that — suggest placing a backorder. If they are still not happy, I’d politely ask them to wait for a moment and approach the manager about the possibility of issuing a discount for them or offering free expedited shipping once the product is back in stock.”
6. You Are Last to Leave the Office, But Can’t Find Your Keys. It’s Late and No One Else is Around. What Would You Do?
This is another sample situational interview question, prompting you to talk about your approaches to responding to unexpected circumstances. The other party wants to understand whether you’d be following the protocol or acting erratic (or unprofessional).
Here’s how you should answer this question:
“Well, I’d first re-check if I haven’t misplaced my keys and search all my belongings. If I truly don’t have them on me, I can’t leave the office without properly securing it, right? So I’d try calling my manager to see if they could help — or another employee, whom I know to leave close by. I believe one of them would be able to come and help me out or direct me towards the right HR person to contact about this.”
Even More Problem-Solving Interview Questions To Practice!
- You’ve hatched a detailed plan, but there were some last-moment changes. How would you respond?
- Your colleague proposes an alternative plan. The team can’t decide between the two ideas. What would you do?
- How do you usually handle workplace conflict between employees of the same level?
- What is your approach to collecting data before the project kick-off? Please describe your usual steps.
- What was the biggest professional problem you’ve managed to successfully overcome? How did you tackle it?
- A senior colleague is looking for your recommendation on X. How would you prepare it?
- You and your team are stuck in a traffic jam. You are running late to an important client meeting. What would you do?
- What would you do if you got stuck on an office balcony without your cell phone?
- During a regular equipment inspection, you’ve found that one machine is behaving oddly. How will you do the troubleshooting?
- Can you count how many tennis balls would fit into this room?
- What does “being resourceful” mean for you?
- Could you exemplify your “self-sufficiency” abilities? How do you ensure high personal performance?
How to Approach Problem-Solving Interview Questions?
When presented with any type of a problem-solving interview question your main goal is to narrate how you’ll use your analytics, situational analysis, and critical-thinking skills to best navigate the matter. You should always clearly communicate what you plan to do and why. Then highlight the outcome you’d aim to achieve.
Remember: the interviewer doesn’t expect you to come up with a highly elaborate multi-step roadmap. They just want to hear how you’ve solved similar issues in the past and how you might react to new challenges!
Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more
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Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)
- How To Answer Tell Me About Yourself?
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- What Are Your Career Goals?
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- Where Are Your Current Duties?
- What Are Your Learning Goals?
- Intrinsic Vs Extrinsic Motivation
- What Is Your Desired Salary?
- What Makes You Unique?
- Why Are You The Best Person For This Job?
- Reasons For Termination
- What Are Your Work Values
- How To Make A Hard Decision?
- What Are You Most Proud Of?
- Personal Code Of Ethics
- Problem Solving Interview Questions
- Taking Initiative Example
- How Do You Prioritize Your Work
- Explain Gaps In Employment
- Most Rewarding College Experience
- What Is Your Work Style
- Tell Me About A Time When You Made A Mistake On The Job
- Tell Me About Gaps In Employment
- What Are You Passionate About
- What Skills Would You Bring To The Job
- Who Is Your Mentor?
- How To Answer Tell Me About A Time You Disagreed With Your Boss
- How To Answer Common Screening Questions
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Summary. Problem-solving questions are used to focus on a candidates past experience with managing conflicts and overcoming obstacles in the workplace. When answering these questions, be sure to make your answer relevant to the position that you are applying to and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to provide examples from previous experiences.
Are you in the process of searching for a new job ? If so, you might be getting ready to meet with a hiring manager or a recruiter for a job interview. And if you’re like the majority of job candidates, this stage of the job search process is probably making you feel a fair bit of trepidation.
And no wonder! The interview is a completely necessary step for any job search, but that doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking to meet with a prospective employer and answer questions about your personality , skills, and professional background.
Being able to solve problems is a skill that almost all job positions need.
Problem-solving questions assess a candidate’s ability to think on their feet, handle pressure, and find creative solutions to complex problems.
Make sure your answer to a problem-solving question tells a story of you as an effective team player.
What Is a Problem-Solving Interview Question?
How to answer a problem-solving interview question, eight examples of common problem-solving interview questions and answers, interviewing successfully, curveball questions, problem-solving faq.
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A problem-solving interview question is a question that focuses on a candidate’s past experience with managing conflicts and overcoming unexpected obstacles in the workplace.
Problem-solving questions can come up in many different forms. As a general rule, however, they will be aimed at uncovering your ability to handle stress and uncertainty in a wide variety of contexts.
When you’re answering problem-solving interview questions, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:
Make your answers relevant to the position that you’re applying to. Always bear in mind that the fundamental goal of any interview question is to provide a hiring manager with a glimpse inside the mind of a candidate.
By asking you a problem-solving question, your interviewer is trying to understand whether or not you’re the type of person that could be relied upon under pressure or during a crisis. Every role, furthermore, comes with its own particular type of pressure.
Be honest about your strengths ( and weaknesses ). Hiring managers tend to be quite good at reading people. Therefore, if you give them a bogus response, they’re very likely to see through that – and to subsequently consider you to be untrustworthy.
Of course, it can be tempting at the moment to fabricate certain details in your response in the attempt to make yourself seem like a better candidate. But inventing details – however small – tends to backfire .
Tell stories that will portray you as a team player. Hiring managers and employers are always on the lookout for job candidates who will collaborate and communicate well amongst a broader team.
Be sure to provide examples of moments in which you took charge. Leadership skills are another key quality that hiring managers and employers seek out in job candidates. And being presented with a problem-solving question, as it turns out, is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your own leadership skills.
Now that we understand the basic principles of problem-solving interview questions and how to respond to them, we’re finally ready to break down some real-world examples. So without any further preamble, here are eight examples of common problem-solving interview questions (as well as some examples of how you might answer them):
Can you tell me about a time when you encountered an unexpected challenge in the workplace? How did you go about dealing with it?
Explanation: With this question , your interviewer will be attempting to get a sense of how well you’re able to adapt to unexpected difficulties. The critical thing to remember when you’re answering this question – as we briefly discussed above – is to recall an incident that will be directly relevant to the role and the organization that you’re applying to.
Here’s an example of a high-quality response to this question:
“I remember a particular day at my previous job when an important deadline was pushed up at the very last minute. As the project manager , it was my responsibility to implement the necessary steps that would enable us to meet this new and truncated deadline. “Many of my peers began to hang their heads, resigning themselves to their belief that there was no hope to meet the new deadline. But I’ve always prided myself on my ability to adapt and thrive within a dynamic and quick-paced work environment – and that’s precisely the personal skill set that I channeled on this occasion. In the end, I reorganized my team’s priorities so that we were able to accommodate the new deadline.”
How would you say you typically respond to problems in general, and in the workplace in particular?
Explanation: This question is primarily designed to gauge a candidate’s ability (or lack thereof) to remain cool, calm, and collected under pressure. The ideal response to this question, in other words, will include a brief personal anecdote that illustrates your level-headedness and your ability to make rational, clear decisions during times of uncertainty.
“I would say that one of the primary qualities that sets me apart from the crowd of other candidates is my ability to remain calm and centered when conditions in the workplace become chaotic. “Looking back, I think that I first began to cultivate this ability during my tenure as a product manager working with a major Silicon Valley start-up. That was a particularly stressful period, but it was also quite instructive – I learned a great deal about staying positive, focused, and productive after an unexpected challenge presented itself. “These days, when I’m confronted by an unexpected problem – whether it’s in my personal life or in my professional life – I immediately channel the conflict management skills that I’ve been honing throughout the duration of my career. This helps a great deal, and my skills in this regard are only continuing to improve.”
Can you tell me about a time when you’ve had to settle a workplace dispute between yourself and a manager or colleague?
Explanation: Always keep in mind that one of the fundamental goals of any problem-solving question is to help a hiring manager gain a clearer sense of a candidate’s ability to work with others.
This question, in particular, is designed to give your interviewer a clearer sense of how well you’re able to communicate and compromise with your colleagues. With that in mind, you should be sure to answer this question in a way that will display a willingness to be fair, empathetic, and respectful to your teammates.
“I recall an incident in my last job in which one of my colleagues felt that I had not provided him with adequate resources to enable him to be successful in a particular project. I was acting as team leader for that particular project, and so it was my responsibility to ensure that everyone in my team was equipped for success. Unfortunately, I had to learn through the proverbial grapevine that this particular colleague bore some ill will toward me. I’ve never been one to participate in idle gossip, and so I decided to speak with this person so that we could begin to find a solution and address his grievances. So I crafted an email to him asking him if he would be interested in joining me for coffee the following day. He accepted the invitation, and during our coffee break, we were able to talk at length about the damage that he felt had been done to him. We devised a mutually agreeable solution on the spot. From then on, we had no significant problems between us.”
Are there any steps that you’ll regularly take during the early stages of a new project to ensure that you’ll be able to manage unexpected problems that occur down the road?
Explanation: This question, above all, is designed to test your ability to plan ahead and mitigate risk. These are both essential qualities that employers typically seek out in job candidates, particularly those who are being vetted for a management or leadership role.
When you’re answering this question, it’s important to emphasize your ability to look ahead towards the future and anticipate potential risks. As with the previous examples that we’ve already examined, the best way to communicate this ability is to provide your interviewer with a concrete example from your previous work history.
“I live my life – and I conduct my work – according to a single, incredibly important motto: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I’m a firm believer, in other words, of the primacy of careful planning. Without it, projects are almost always doomed to fail. “In my previous role as a marketing content writer with a major software company, I strived to apply this motto to my work every single day. “Here’s an example: About a year ago, I was responsible for overseeing and launching a new content strategy aimed at driving up consumer engagement. From the very outset, I understood that that particular project could be run off the rails if we did not take into account a considerable number of factors. “I won’t bore you with all of the nitty-gritty details, but the point is that this was a particularly sensitive project that required diligent and careful risk assessment. “Having realized that, my colleagues and I devised a comprehensive and flexible strategy for managing many risks that we envisioned would be awaiting us down the road. That initial step – looking ahead towards the future and mapping out the terrain of potential hazards – proved to be an essential measure for the success of the project.”
Do you consider your problem-solving capabilities to be above average?
Explanation: Hiring managers are always on the lookout for job candidates that stand out from the crowd. It’s even better when they can find a job candidate who knows that they stand out and who expresses that knowledge by being confident in their abilities.
At the same time, it’s never in a job candidate’s best interests to come across as egotistical or arrogant. When you’re responding to a question like this (that is, a question that’s focused on your ability to assess your own talents), it’s important to do your best to come across as self-assured but not pompous.
“Yes, all things considered, I would say that I have a talent for risk assessment, problem-solving, and risk mitigation. “That said, I can’t claim complete ownership over these abilities. In most cases, my demonstrated success in managing risk and solving problems in the workplace can be attributed at least as much to my team members as it can to me. For me to be able to be a successful problem-solver, it helps to be surrounded by colleagues whom I can trust.”
How would you describe your typical immediate reaction to unexpected challenges? Do you prefer to jump straight into the problem-solving process, or do you more commonly take some time to analyze and assess the problem before you dive in?
Explanation: This question is aimed at gauging your patience levels. This one can be a bit tricky because employers will sometimes prefer different responses – it all depends on the type of position and employer you’re applying for.
If you’re applying for a role in a quick-paced working environment that demands swift action , it will benefit you to describe your problem-solving strategy as unflinching and immediate.
If, on the other hand, the role you’re applying to does not demand such immediate action, it will probably be better to describe yourself as a more removed and relaxed problem solver.
But as always, you should never lie to your employer. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle of these two types of problem solvers and will thereby have no difficulty painting ourselves honestly as one or the other.
However, if you’re definitely one type or the other, then you should describe yourself as such. This will make it much more likely that you’ll end up in a position that will be maximally rewarding both for you and for your employer.
“In most cases, my response to an unexpected problem will entirely depend on the nature of the problem at hand. If it demands immediate action, then I’ll dive right in without hesitation. “If, however, I determine that it would be more beneficial to take a step back and analyze the nature of the problem before we begin to meddle with it, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. “Generally speaking, I would say that I prefer the latter approach – that is, to take a step back and think things through before I begin to try to find a solution. In my experience, this makes it much easier for everyone involved to arrive at a practical and sustainable solution. “That said, I’m also perfectly capable of jumping straight into a problem if it demands immediate attention.”
Can you tell us about a time in which you had to explain a technically complicated subject to a client or customer? How did you approach that process, and how did it turn out?
Explanation: Strong communication skills are essential in the modern workplace. That means that employers tend to seek out job candidates that communicate well with their colleagues and individuals who have varying professional backgrounds and skill sets, including clients, customers, and third-party professionals.
“I recall an incident from many years ago – while I was working as a software engineer for a prominent robotics company – in which I found myself in the position of having to describe incredibly complex engineering details to a client. “This client had no prior experience in software engineering or artificial intelligence, so I had to relate this esoteric information more or less in layman terms. “Thankfully, I was able to employ some useful metaphors and analogies to communicate the information in a manner that this client could appreciate and understand. We went on to establish a successful collaborative partnership that flourished for four years.”
How would you rate your ability to work and succeed without direct supervision from your managers?
Explanation: Employers always tend to place a high value on job candidates who are self-motivated and can maintain high levels of productivity without constant supervision.
This is especially true now that the COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly made it necessary for so many millions of employers to transition to a remote workforce model. This question is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to stay focused and motivated while working remotely or without supervision.
“I’ve always considered myself – and my resume and references will support this – to be an exceptionally self-motivated individual, even when I’m working from home. “In fact, like many employees, I often find that my productivity levels tend to increase when I’m working remotely. I strive to set a positive example for my colleagues, even when we’re not all working under the same roof.”
Generally speaking, the best strategy for success in interviewing for a new job is doing your research beforehand. That means that you should be intimately familiar with the role, department, and company that you’re applying to before you step into the room (or log on to the Zoom meeting ) on the day of your interview.
When you preemptively take the time to carefully research the organization as a whole – and the responsibilities of the job opportunity in particular – you’ll minimize your chances of being caught off guard by an unexpectedly difficult question .
Still, there is only so much background information that you can uncover about an organization and a role before a job interview. No matter how carefully you prepare and how much background research you conduct, there are very likely going to be curveball questions during your job interview that you can’t predict.
In fact, many employers prefer to ask curveball questions (in addition to more run of the mill job interview questions) because they provide an insightful glimpse into a job candidate’s analytical thinking skills – not just their ability to memorize and recite answers to more common interview questions .
To that end, many hiring managers will ask job candidates to answer one or more problem-solving questions during a typical job interview. In contrast to traditional interview questions (such as: “Why do you think that you would be a good fit for this role?”
Or: “What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement up to the current moment?”), problem-solving questions are specifically designed to assess a job candidate’s ability to think on their feet, handle real pressure, and find creative solutions to complex problems.
They’re also commonly referred to as analytical skills interview questions because they’re designed to gauge a candidate’s ability to make analytical decisions in real-time.
What are problem-solving skills?
Problem-solving skills include skills like research, communication, and decision making. Problem-solving skills allow for you to identify and solve problems effectively and efficiently. Research skills allow for you to identify the problem.
Communication skills allow for you to collaborate with others to come up with a plan to solve the problem. Decision making skills allow you to choose the right solution to the problem.
Why do interviewers ask problem-solving interview questions?
Interviewers ask problem-solving interview questions to see how candidate will approach and solve difficult situations. Interviewers want to see how you handle stress and uncertainty before hiring you for a position. Problem-solving is an important part of the everyday workday so they need to be sure you are capable of solving problems.
How do you solve a problem effectively?
To solve problems effectively you should first break the problem down and try different approaches. Breaking the problem up into different parts will help you have a better understanding and help you decide what your next step is going to be.
Once you see the different parts of the problem, trying different approaches to solve the problem can help you solve it faster. This will also help you determine the appropriate tools you need to solve the problem.
U.S. Department of Labor – Interview Tips
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Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.
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Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions & Answers
Master your responses to Problem Solving related interview questions with our example questions and answers. Boost your chances of landing the job by learning how to effectively communicate your Problem Solving capabilities.
Problem-solving is an invaluable skill that transcends industries and job titles. It’s the engine that drives innovation, facilitates adaptability, and enables individuals to navigate complex challenges in their professional and personal lives. Whether you’re stepping into a role that requires analytical thinking on a daily basis or simply looking to enhance your problem-solving prowess, mastering this skill can set you apart in today’s competitive landscape.
This article delves into the art of effective problem solving, offering insight into some of the most common questions interviewers pose to uncover a candidate’s problem-solving abilities. We’ll provide strategies for demonstrating your critical thinking skills and preparing responses that highlight your proficiency at tackling obstacles head-on.
Common Problem Solving Interview Questions
1. how would you approach a situation where the standard solution to a problem is no longer effective.
Innovative thinking and adaptability are key when problem-solving in dynamic environments, as standard solutions may not always be applicable due to changes in technology, market conditions, or other external factors. This question also reveals how a candidate perceives and responds to failure, their resourcefulness, and their commitment to continuous improvement.
When responding to this question, start by acknowledging the importance of understanding why the standard solution is no longer effective. Discuss your process for analyzing the problem, which might include gathering data, consulting with experts, or reviewing feedback. Then, highlight your ability to generate alternative solutions, perhaps by brainstorming or employing creative thinking techniques. Emphasize your willingness to test new ideas, learn from the outcomes, and refine your approach based on the results. It’s also beneficial to mention any relevant past experiences where you successfully navigated a similar challenge.
Example: “ In approaching a situation where the standard solution fails, my initial step is to conduct a thorough analysis to understand the underlying reasons for its ineffectiveness. This involves a critical evaluation of the problem, examining new variables or changes in the environment that may have rendered the traditional approach obsolete. I prioritize data-driven insights and may leverage advanced analytics to discern patterns or anomalies.
Once the root cause is identified, I innovate alternative strategies, drawing on a combination of lateral thinking and industry best practices. This creative process is iterative and collaborative, often involving input from cross-functional teams to ensure a comprehensive perspective. I then pilot these solutions on a small scale to assess their efficacy, rigorously monitoring key performance indicators and being prepared to adapt swiftly. My focus is on developing a resilient and scalable solution, learning from each iteration to refine the approach until the desired outcome is achieved. This methodology has proven successful in past challenges, leading to sustainable improvements and enhanced problem-solving frameworks.”
2. Describe your process for identifying the root cause of complex issues.
Identifying the root cause of complex issues is crucial, ensuring a targeted and effective solution rather than a temporary fix. This question delves into the analytical and systematic thinking abilities of the candidate, revealing their approach to problem-solving. It also demonstrates how the candidate prioritizes tasks, manages resources, and applies critical thinking skills to navigate through layers of information and potential distractions to pinpoint the underlying problem.
To respond effectively, outline a clear, step-by-step approach that you use to diagnose issues. Begin with gathering all relevant information, followed by breaking down the problem into smaller, manageable parts. Describe how you analyze patterns or discrepancies, perhaps using specific methodologies like the “5 Whys” or fishbone diagrams. Mention any collaborative efforts, such as brainstorming with a team or consulting with experts, and highlight the importance of testing hypotheses to confirm the root cause before moving on to developing solutions.
Example: “ null”
3. What steps do you take when you have to solve a problem under tight deadlines?
The ability to manage stress and think critically under tight deadlines is a valuable skill in nearly every job. This question seeks to understand how a candidate prioritizes and maintains a clear head, systematically approaching the problem, and utilizing time management skills to deliver solutions without sacrificing quality or accuracy.
When responding, outline a clear, concise strategy that you follow. Start by quickly assessing the situation to understand the problem’s nature and its urgency. Then, prioritize the tasks that need immediate attention while considering the resources at hand. Explain how you would break down the problem into manageable parts, set achievable milestones, and if necessary, delegate tasks to ensure efficiency. Mention any tools or techniques you use to stay organized, such as time-blocking or the Eisenhower Matrix. Be sure to include an example from your past experience where you successfully implemented this approach to solve a problem under a tight deadline, highlighting the positive outcome that resulted from your methodical process.
Example: “ When faced with a problem under a tight deadline, my initial step is to quickly evaluate the scope and impact of the issue to prioritize effectively. I then break down the problem into smaller, more manageable tasks, setting clear, achievable milestones. Utilizing tools like the Eisenhower Matrix helps me to distinguish between tasks that are urgent and important, ensuring that I focus on those that will have the most significant impact on resolving the problem.
For instance, in a past situation with a critical system outage that needed to be resolved within hours, I swiftly gathered the necessary stakeholders and identified the root cause. By dividing the recovery process into immediate actions, such as system stabilization, and subsequent steps, including a thorough post-mortem, we were able to restore functionality within the deadline. This methodical approach not only resolved the issue promptly but also helped prevent future occurrences, demonstrating the effectiveness of a structured problem-solving strategy under pressure.”
4. Can you give an example of a time when you had to think outside the box to resolve a challenge?
Creativity often becomes a necessity when conventional methods fall short in problem-solving scenarios. This question assesses a candidate’s ability to demonstrate adaptability and innovative thinking, particularly when faced with unique or persistent issues. A candidate’s ability to think outside the box is indicative of their potential to add value to the company by overcoming obstacles in unconventional ways that may save time, resources, or create new opportunities for growth and development.
When responding, select a specific instance that showcases your resourcefulness and originality. Clearly articulate the problem, the range of solutions considered, and the rationale behind the chosen course of action. Emphasize the positive outcome or learning experience derived from it. This narrative should highlight your analytical skills, creativity, and willingness to take calculated risks when necessary.
Example: “ Certainly. On one occasion, I was faced with a challenge where the conventional solutions were either too costly or time-consuming, which could have led to missing critical deadlines. The issue was a bottleneck in data processing that required a faster, more efficient method than the existing workflow. After analyzing the process, I realized that by repurposing an existing tool from a different project and integrating it with a custom script I developed, we could automate a significant portion of the task.
This unconventional approach was not immediately obvious because it required combining tools in a way they were not originally intended to be used. However, by focusing on the end goal rather than the traditional usage of the tools, I was able to create a solution that not only resolved the bottleneck but also improved the overall efficiency of the workflow. The result was a 40% reduction in processing time, which allowed us to meet our project deadlines with a solution that was also more cost-effective than the alternatives. This experience reinforced the value of creative thinking and the importance of looking at problems from multiple perspectives to find the most effective solution.”
5. In what ways do you prioritize problems when multiple issues arise simultaneously?
Discerning which issues demand immediate attention and which can be deferred is a critical aspect of effective problem solving. This skill ensures that resources are allocated efficiently and critical situations are handled promptly. This question sheds light on a candidate’s ability to analyze the severity and impact of various problems, manage stress under pressure, and make judicious decisions that align with the organization’s objectives.
When responding, candidates should demonstrate a systematic approach to prioritization, such as using the Eisenhower Matrix (urgent-important matrix) or MoSCoW method (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have), to evaluate and tackle problems. They should also cite examples from past experiences where they successfully managed concurrent issues, explaining the rationale behind their prioritization and the outcomes of their actions. It’s important to convey adaptability and a willingness to reassess situations as they evolve, ensuring that priorities are always aligned with the most current information and organizational goals.
Example: “ When faced with multiple issues simultaneously, I employ a strategic approach to prioritization, often leveraging the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize problems based on urgency and importance. For instance, I address urgent and important issues first, as these typically have immediate consequences and high impact on key objectives. Next, I tackle important but not urgent tasks, which are critical for long-term success but don’t require immediate action. This ensures that pressing matters are resolved promptly while still advancing strategic goals.
In one scenario, I was confronted with a critical system outage (urgent and important) alongside a request for a new feature implementation (important but not urgent). I immediately mobilized the team to resolve the outage, as it affected our core service delivery. Concurrently, I planned for the feature implementation by scheduling it for the next sprint, ensuring that resources were allocated effectively without compromising ongoing operations. This dual-focus approach not only restored service swiftly but also maintained progress on product enhancements, demonstrating adaptability and a keen understanding of the dynamic nature of problem-solving.”
6. Share an experience where you successfully applied a theoretical concept to a practical problem.
Bridging the gap between abstract ideas and real-world applications is the essence of applying theoretical concepts to practical problems. This translation from theory to practice demonstrates an individual’s ability to understand underlying principles and adapt them to meet specific challenges. It’s a testament to one’s analytical thinking, creativity, and pragmatism.
When responding, outline a specific situation where a theoretical concept was the key to resolving a practical issue. Detail the thought process behind choosing the appropriate theory, how you adapted it to the situation, and the steps taken to apply it. Conclude with the outcome, emphasizing the positive impact and what you learned from the experience. This approach will demonstrate your critical thinking skills, resourcefulness, and ability to deliver practical solutions underpinned by solid theoretical knowledge.
Example: “ In a project where we faced significant time constraints and resource limitations, I applied the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, to prioritize our efforts. Recognizing that 80% of effects often come from 20% of causes, I conducted an analysis to identify which aspects of the project would yield the highest value. This involved categorizing tasks based on impact and effort, and then focusing our resources on the critical 20% that would drive the most significant results.
By doing so, we were able to streamline our workflow, eliminate inefficiencies, and allocate our limited resources to the areas that would have the most substantial impact on the project’s success. The outcome was a timely completion of the project with a high-quality deliverable that exceeded stakeholder expectations. This experience reinforced the importance of strategic prioritization in problem-solving and has since become a staple in my approach to tackling complex challenges.”
7. What techniques do you use to ensure all potential solutions are considered before making a decision?
A comprehensive approach to problem-solving that goes beyond quick fixes is essential, requiring a methodical evaluation of various solutions. This reveals a candidate’s capacity to be thorough, consider the wider implications of their choices, and their propensity for innovation and creativity in problem-solving. It also provides a window into their ability to prioritize and manage risks, ensuring that decisions are made with a balance of speed and caution.
When responding to this question, outline a structured approach such as the following: First, define the problem clearly. Next, brainstorm possible solutions and use tools like lists, mind maps, or decision matrices to organize and compare them. Then, conduct a risk-benefit analysis for each viable option, considering both short-term and long-term consequences. Consult with relevant stakeholders when necessary to gain diverse perspectives and expertise. Finally, after careful consideration, select the most effective solution while remaining open to revisiting and adjusting the decision as new information or feedback becomes available.
Example: “ To ensure all potential solutions are considered, I employ a systematic approach that begins with a clear definition of the problem. This sets the stage for a comprehensive brainstorming session where I generate a wide array of possible solutions. I then utilize decision-making tools such as decision matrices to organize and prioritize these options, taking into account various criteria relevant to the problem at hand.
Following this, I perform a risk-benefit analysis on each of the shortlisted solutions, weighing their potential impacts in both the short and long term. This is complemented by consulting with stakeholders to incorporate diverse perspectives and expertise, which often reveals considerations that might otherwise be overlooked. The final step involves selecting the most effective solution, while maintaining flexibility to adapt the decision based on evolving circumstances or new insights. This structured yet adaptable approach ensures a thorough evaluation of all options and leads to informed, strategic decision-making.”
8. Detail how you’ve handled a scenario where team members disagreed on the solution to a problem.
Navigating team disagreements can reflect deeper dynamics such as power struggles, communication breakdowns, or diverse perspectives. This question helps understand how a candidate resolves conflicts and builds consensus. The approach taken in such situations reveals the candidate’s leadership qualities, emotional intelligence, and capacity for fostering a collaborative environment.
When responding to this question, outline a specific past experience, emphasizing the steps you took to mediate the disagreement. Begin by explaining how you listened to all parties involved to understand their perspectives. Then, discuss how you evaluated the differing opinions, possibly suggesting a compromise or guiding the team to a data-driven decision. Highlight your communication skills by detailing how you kept the dialogue constructive and focused on the problem, not the individuals. Finally, reflect on the outcome and what you learned from the experience, demonstrating your growth and ability to handle similar challenges in the future.
Example: “ In a previous scenario where team members had conflicting views on a solution, I initiated a structured discussion to ensure each viewpoint was thoroughly understood. I facilitated a session where each member presented their approach, highlighting the pros and cons, and then we collectively analyzed the potential outcomes through a SWOT analysis. This method allowed us to visualize the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with each option.
After synthesizing the information, I steered the team towards a consensus by focusing on our shared objectives and the data at hand. We agreed to integrate the most compelling elements of each proposed solution, creating a hybrid approach that maximized our strengths while mitigating risks. This collaborative effort not only resolved the disagreement but also fostered a sense of ownership and unity within the team. The outcome was a well-rounded solution that outperformed our initial expectations, and the process reinforced my belief in leveraging diverse perspectives to achieve superior problem-solving.”
9. When faced with a problem, how do you assess the risks associated with each potential solution?
A careful evaluation of potential risks is a crucial component of problem-solving, ensuring the chosen solution doesn’t create additional problems or escalate the situation. This question determines if a candidate has a systematic approach to decision-making that includes risk assessment, which is crucial for minimizing negative outcomes and safeguarding company interests.
When responding, it’s essential to convey that you have a structured method for tackling problems. You might mention specific techniques like SWOT analysis (assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) or decision matrices that help you weigh the pros and cons of each option. Share a relevant example where you successfully navigated a complex problem by analyzing the risks and benefits before implementing a solution. Highlight your ability to stay objective, the tools or criteria you use to predict potential issues, and how you balance risk with reward to make informed decisions.
Example: “ When faced with a problem, I employ a methodical approach to assess the risks associated with each potential solution. I start by identifying the core issue and then brainstorm possible solutions. For each solution, I conduct a SWOT analysis to evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This not only helps in understanding the inherent risks but also in recognizing the potential benefits and strategic advantages.
To illustrate, in a recent complex project, I was confronted with a critical decision that had significant time constraints. I utilized a decision matrix to quantify the risks and benefits, assigning weights to factors such as cost, time, resource allocation, and potential for scalability. This allowed me to objectively compare the options based on predefined criteria. The chosen solution balanced risk with reward effectively, leading to a successful outcome. My approach ensures that decisions are not solely based on intuition but are backed by a rigorous analysis of the potential impacts.”
10. Have you ever encountered a problem where the data was ambiguous or conflicting? How did you proceed?
Dealing with ambiguity and conflicting data requires a balance of analytical skills and intuition. This question assesses a candidate’s ability to dissect complex information, weigh evidence, and make informed decisions even when the path is not clear-cut. It also provides a window into the candidate’s process for validating data and their approach to risk assessment.
When responding to this question, structure your answer to first describe the context and nature of the problem, emphasizing the ambiguity or conflict in the data. Follow with the steps you took to address the issue, which might include verifying the data sources, seeking additional information, consulting with colleagues, or employing statistical methods to discern trends and patterns. Conclude with the outcome, focusing on the decision made and the rationale behind it, as well as the lessons learned from the experience. This response should showcase your systematic approach to problem-solving and your ability to remain composed and solution-oriented when faced with uncertainty.
Example: “ Yes, I have encountered situations where data was ambiguous or conflicting. In one instance, the data sets from two different sources regarding customer behavior were contradictory. The first step was to conduct a thorough data validation process to ensure accuracy and integrity in the data collection methods. After confirming that both sources were reliable but still presented conflicting information, I proceeded to perform a deeper dive into the data.
I used statistical analysis to identify patterns and outliers, and I cross-referenced the results with qualitative insights from customer feedback. This triangulation approach allowed me to unravel the inconsistencies and understand the context behind the data. By combining multiple methods, I was able to isolate the variables causing the discrepancy and develop a more nuanced understanding of the customer behavior in question.
The outcome was a comprehensive report that reconciled the conflicting data and provided actionable insights. The process highlighted the importance of not taking data at face value and the value of a multifaceted approach to problem-solving in the face of ambiguity. It reinforced the lesson that rigorous analysis and a willingness to delve into the details are crucial when navigating complex data challenges.”
11. Tell us about a time you had to solve a problem without precedent or guidelines.
Navigating uncharted waters with confidence and creativity is a hallmark of effective problem solvers. This question seeks to understand if a candidate can think independently and innovate when there’s no roadmap to follow. It’s about the ability to remain calm under pressure, use one’s initiative, and demonstrate resourcefulness in the face of the unknown.
When responding, outline a specific situation where you faced an unprecedented challenge. Describe the steps you took to understand the problem, how you gathered information or resources despite the lack of guidelines, the thought process behind your solution, and the outcome. Emphasize your thought process and the soft skills you utilized, such as creativity, critical thinking, and perseverance. Showcasing your ability to learn from the experience and apply those lessons to future challenges will also strengthen your answer.
Example: “ In a project where we were tasked to optimize a complex system, we encountered an erratic behavior that was not documented nor previously observed. With no guidelines to address this issue, I initiated a methodical approach to understand the underlying factors contributing to the anomaly. I started by isolating the variables and conducting a series of controlled experiments to replicate the problem. Through this process, I utilized critical thinking to hypothesize potential causes and systematically tested each one.
Upon discovering that the issue was linked to an obscure interaction between two independent modules, I devised a novel solution that involved reengineering a component of the system to mitigate the interference. This solution not only resolved the immediate problem but also improved the overall robustness of the system. The success of this approach was evident in the enhanced performance metrics and the prevention of similar issues in the future. This experience honed my problem-solving skills and reinforced the importance of a structured and analytical approach when tackling unprecedented challenges.”
12. Illustrate your method for keeping stakeholders informed throughout the problem-solving process.
Keeping stakeholders informed is a critical communication skill for problem solvers. It’s a delicate balance of providing enough detail to maintain transparency and not overwhelming them with technical jargon or inconsequential updates. This ensures that the outcome aligns with their expectations and needs.
When responding to this question, outline a clear, structured approach that demonstrates your ability to assess who needs to be informed, how often they should receive updates, and what level of detail is appropriate. Emphasize your understanding of different communication methods and how to tailor your approach to different stakeholders. Provide examples from past experiences where your communication strategy led to successful problem resolution and positive stakeholder relationships. Show that you can differentiate between various stakeholder needs and adjust your communication style accordingly.
Example: “ In approaching stakeholder communication during the problem-solving process, I adhere to a structured communication plan that aligns with the project’s complexity and stakeholders’ interests. Initially, I identify key stakeholders and their information needs, determining the frequency and depth of updates required. For instance, technical stakeholders often require detailed progress insights, while business stakeholders might prioritize impact and timelines.
I employ a mix of communication methods, such as regular status reports, dashboards for real-time updates, and scheduled meetings for in-depth discussions. In a recent complex project, I established a weekly email digest for broad updates, complemented by bi-weekly meetings with the core team for tactical problem-solving. For urgent issues, I used direct communication channels to keep relevant stakeholders informed and involved in decision-making. This approach ensured transparency, built trust, and facilitated a collaborative environment, ultimately contributing to the successful resolution of the problem at hand.”
13. Describe a situation where you had to adapt your problem-solving strategy due to changing circumstances.
Flexibility in thinking and action is required when adaptability is necessary, and initial plans don’t pan out due to unforeseen obstacles or new information. This question delves into a candidate’s ability to pivot and continue working towards a solution without becoming derailed by change.
When responding, focus on a specific example that showcases your agility in problem-solving. Outline the original issue, the initial strategy you employed, and how the changing circumstances influenced your approach. Detail the steps you took to adjust your plan and the outcome of your efforts. Emphasize your thought process and the reasoning behind your decisions, including how you balanced persistence with flexibility. Highlight any lessons learned and how the experience has equipped you to handle similar situations in the future.
Example: “ In a project where the goal was to optimize a manufacturing process, the initial data analysis suggested that adjusting machine parameters would yield the desired efficiency gains. However, after implementing the adjustments, unforeseen fluctuations in material quality began to affect the production line’s consistency. Recognizing the dynamic nature of the problem, I shifted the focus from machine settings to supply chain management.
I conducted a rapid root cause analysis that identified the variability in material quality as the primary issue. Collaborating with suppliers, I developed a quality assurance protocol and integrated it with the procurement process. This adaptation not only stabilized the production but also improved the overall product quality. The outcome was a more robust and resilient system that could adapt to variations in input materials, leading to sustained improvements in efficiency and a reduction in waste.
The experience underscored the importance of monitoring all variables in a system, not just the most apparent ones, and reinforced the value of a flexible, holistic approach to problem-solving. It also highlighted the necessity of continuous communication with stakeholders to ensure that solutions are comprehensive and aligned with broader organizational goals.”
14. How do you balance intuition and analysis when tackling a new problem?
Navigating the balance between trusting one’s gut and relying on data-driven analysis is a key aspect of problem-solving. This question digs into the candidate’s problem-solving methodology and their ability to integrate different approaches to arrive at the best solution.
When responding to this question, first acknowledge the importance of both intuition and analysis. Give a specific example of a problem you faced and describe how you used data to inform your understanding of the issue. Then, explain how you supplemented this with your intuition, perhaps drawing on past experiences or hypothetical outcomes, to make your final decision. Emphasize your flexibility in shifting between these two modes of thinking and your ability to use them in tandem to solve problems effectively.
Example: “ Balancing intuition and analysis is crucial for effective problem-solving. In one instance, I was confronted with a complex issue where initial data was scarce. I began with a thorough analysis of the available information, using statistical tools to identify patterns and potential causes. This analytical approach provided a solid foundation, but the data alone was inconclusive.
At this juncture, I leveraged my intuition, which was honed through years of experience in similar scenarios. I hypothesized several plausible solutions that fit the emerging data profile. My intuition served as a guide, suggesting which avenues were most promising for further investigation. I then conducted targeted analyses to test these hypotheses, which ultimately led to identifying the root cause and implementing a successful solution. This process exemplified how intuition can provide direction when data is incomplete or ambiguous, while analysis helps validate or refute the intuitive insights, ensuring a robust and informed decision-making process.”
15. What’s your approach to ensuring that a solved problem doesn’t recur?
Implementing preventative measures and ensuring long-term success are part of effective problem-solving. This question delves into a candidate’s foresight and dedication to continuous improvement. Effective problem solvers know that addressing the root cause and learning from issues is essential to prevent recurrence.
When responding, outline a structured method that includes analyzing the problem thoroughly, implementing a solution, monitoring the results, and adjusting as necessary. Emphasize the importance of documentation, sharing knowledge with the team, and creating standard operating procedures if applicable. Highlight any past experiences where you successfully employed such strategies to not only solve a problem but also to ensure it did not happen again.
Example: “ My approach to preventing the recurrence of a solved problem begins with a root cause analysis to understand the underlying issues fully. Once the solution is implemented, I establish metrics and monitoring systems to track the effectiveness of the corrective actions. This continuous monitoring allows for the early detection of any signs that the problem may resurface, enabling proactive adjustments.
I also prioritize the documentation of the problem-solving process, including the rationale behind chosen solutions and the steps taken to implement them. This documentation serves as a reference for future incidents and is integrated into training materials to educate the team. By doing so, the knowledge becomes part of the team’s collective expertise. Furthermore, when applicable, I develop standard operating procedures to formalize the new practices that prevent the problem’s recurrence. This holistic strategy ensures sustainability and improves the overall resilience of the systems or processes involved.”
16. Can you recall a problem you solved that had significant positive impact on your previous organization?
In positions that directly affect the operational efficiency, strategic direction, and financial success of an organization, problem-solving is especially critical. This question sifts through a candidate’s experience to find instances where their actions led to measurable improvements.
When responding to this question, focus on a specific challenge you faced, articulate the steps you took to address it, and quantify the outcomes where possible. Start by setting the scene to give context to the problem, then describe your thought process and the actions you implemented. Conclude with the results, emphasizing any positive changes that ensued, such as cost savings, increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction, or enhanced productivity. This approach showcases your problem-solving skills and your value as a results-oriented professional.
Example: “ Certainly. In a previous project, I identified a recurring bottleneck in the product development process, which was causing significant delays in product launches. The root of the issue was a lack of integration between the design and prototyping phases, leading to repeated cycles of revisions and approvals that were not time-efficient.
To address this, I initiated a cross-functional workshop with stakeholders from design, engineering, and production teams to collaboratively develop a more streamlined process. We implemented a concurrent engineering approach, allowing for design and prototyping stages to overlap and for real-time feedback. This adjustment led to a 30% reduction in time-to-market for new products and a subsequent increase in competitive advantage and customer satisfaction. The improved process also resulted in a cost saving of approximately 15% per project due to reduced waste and more efficient use of resources.”
17. How do you maintain objectivity in problem-solving when facing personal biases?
Managing personal biases is a vital skill in problem-solving because biases can cloud judgment and lead to less effective or unfair solutions. The question tests the candidate’s commitment to fairness and ability to separate personal feelings from professional responsibilities.
To respond, one should highlight their awareness of inherent biases and discuss specific strategies they employ to mitigate their impact. This could include seeking diverse perspectives, relying on established processes, using data to inform decisions, and regularly reflecting on and challenging one’s own assumptions. Sharing a concrete example where you successfully overcame a personal bias to solve a problem can demonstrate your ability to maintain objectivity in practice.
Example: “ In maintaining objectivity during problem-solving, I first acknowledge the inevitability of personal biases. To counteract this, I systematically integrate checks and balances into my decision-making process. This involves actively seeking out diverse perspectives to challenge my initial assumptions and ensure that a range of viewpoints is considered. I also place a strong emphasis on evidence-based decision-making, where data and facts form the backbone of the solution, rather than subjective opinions.
On one occasion, I recognized a cognitive bias towards a familiar technology that I was inclined to favor for a project. To maintain objectivity, I conducted a blind evaluation of multiple technologies, focusing solely on performance metrics and compatibility with project requirements. This approach led to the selection of a more efficient and cost-effective technology that I had not previously considered, ultimately benefiting the project outcome. Regular self-reflection and a commitment to continuous improvement in my problem-solving approach help me to minimize the influence of personal biases and make more balanced and impartial decisions.”
18. Give an example of how you measure the success of a solution post-implementation.
Evaluating the impact and effectiveness of a solution to ensure it meets the desired objectives is a crucial part of problem-solving. This question tests your commitment to continuous improvement and your understanding that a solution’s value is ultimately determined by its real-world performance.
When responding, describe a specific situation where you implemented a solution to a problem. Detail the metrics or KPIs you established to evaluate its success and how you collected and analyzed the data. Share the outcome of the evaluation and, if necessary, any additional steps you took to refine the solution. This demonstrates your analytical skills, your ability to follow through, and your commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes.
Example: “ In addressing a recent operational inefficiency, I developed a solution that streamlined the process flow. To measure the success post-implementation, I established clear, quantifiable KPIs that were directly influenced by the solution. These included throughput rate, error rate, and time to completion. I utilized a combination of data analytics tools and user feedback to collect relevant data, ensuring a robust evaluation from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective.
Upon analyzing the data, I observed a 25% increase in throughput rate and a 40% reduction in error rate, while time to completion decreased by 15%. These metrics surpassed our initial success criteria, indicating a significant positive impact. However, user feedback revealed some minor usability issues, which I promptly addressed through iterative refinements. This not only optimized the solution further but also demonstrated my commitment to continuous improvement and stakeholder satisfaction.”
19. In what way do you leverage technology to enhance your problem-solving capabilities?
Harnessing the power of technology to analyze data, automate processes, and visualize solutions is often required in modern problem-solving. This question serves to assess a candidate’s familiarity with relevant software, platforms, and methodologies that can contribute to more efficient and effective problem-solving strategies.
When responding to this question, it’s important to highlight specific technologies you’ve used to tackle challenges. Discuss how you’ve utilized software for data analysis, project management tools to track progress, or collaboration platforms to brainstorm solutions with a team. Share a concrete example that demonstrates your ability to integrate technology into your problem-solving process, and explain how it led to a successful outcome. This shows that you are resourceful and forward-thinking in your approach to overcoming obstacles.
Example: “ To enhance my problem-solving capabilities, I leverage technology by employing advanced data analytics tools that allow for a deeper dive into the root causes of complex issues. For instance, I’ve utilized machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and predict potential problems before they escalate, enabling proactive rather than reactive solutions. This integration of predictive analytics has not only streamlined the problem-solving process but also significantly improved decision-making accuracy.
In addition, I harness the power of collaborative platforms to facilitate brainstorming and idea-sharing among diverse teams. By using these tools, I’ve successfully orchestrated virtual workshops that brought together cross-functional expertise, leading to innovative solutions that might not have emerged in a traditional meeting setting. This approach, underpinned by technology, has repeatedly proven to be instrumental in breaking down silos, fostering a culture of collaboration, and driving successful outcomes in complex problem-solving scenarios.”
20. Describe a scenario where you utilized cross-functional collaboration to address a complex issue.
Cross-functional collaboration exemplifies a candidate’s ability to understand the multifaceted nature of complex issues and their capability to harness diverse expertise to forge solutions. This approach not only leads to more innovative outcomes but also exemplifies leadership qualities and adaptability.
When responding to this question, candidates should select a scenario that highlights their role in facilitating and encouraging teamwork across different business areas. They should articulate the challenge clearly, detail the collaborative process, and explain how they engaged with others to leverage their unique skills. It’s important to emphasize the outcome of the collaboration and reflect on what was learned from the experience.
Example: “ In a scenario where our product launch was jeopardized by unforeseen supply chain disruptions, I spearheaded a cross-functional task force to mitigate the risks. This involved engaging with procurement, logistics, marketing, and product development teams. By fostering an environment of open communication and shared goals, we collectively identified alternative suppliers and adjusted our production timelines.
I facilitated brainstorming sessions that leveraged the procurement team’s expertise in vendor management, logistics’ insights into transportation challenges, and product development’s flexibility in adjusting specifications. The marketing team, meanwhile, crafted communication strategies to manage customer expectations. This synergy not only resolved the immediate crisis but also resulted in a more resilient supply chain strategy. The product launched with minimal delay, and the experience underscored the value of cross-departmental agility and proactive planning.”
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8 Problem-Solving Interview Questions You Should Ask
Employers need professionals who can cope with change. Especially in a modern workplace that is fast-paced and dynamic, problem-solving skills are more critical now than ever. Of course, having the right people starts with who and how you hire.
To find the best problem solvers, hiring managers rely on problem-solving interview questions and skills tests. In the interview, asking various behavioral-type questions can help assess a candidate’s ability to analyze complex situations, think critically , and develop innovative solutions.
In this article, we’ll explore eight different types of problem-solving interview questions and answers, how to identify any red flags in candidate answers, and a quick-fire list of tips to ensure you bring the best aboard your organization.
TL;DR – Key Takeaways
- Problem-solving interview questions are designed to assess a candidate’s ability to think critically , analyze situations, and find innovative solutions.
- Hiring managers use problem-solving questions in the job interview to evaluate critical skills and competencies such as analytical thinking, decision-making, adaptability, creativity, collaboration, and communication .
- A predictor of future job performance is past performance. By understanding how they have dealt with problems in the past, you can get a better picture of how they might apply those skills to your organization.
- Red flags to watch out for during the job interview include a lack of specific examples, vague or generalized answers, limited adaptability, poor decision-making, lack of collaboration or communication skills, and limited initiative or creativity.
- Tips for using problem-solving questions to screen candidates include asking job-specific questions, encouraging candidates to use the STAR method, asking different types of problem-solving questions, and preparing responses .
- Interviews are great for top-level evaluation of problem-solving skills. But if you want to get to the bottom of candidates’ job-specific competencies and have reliable data to compare top candidates, try skills assessments instead! See our test library for inspiration.
What Are Problem-Solving Interview Questions?
Problem-solving interview questions are a type of behavioral question used to assess a candidate’s ability to think critically, gather and analyze data, and work through logical solutions. There often is no right or wrong answer , but a strong answer will check the boxes by explaining how they would come to a solution by walking through all the relevant steps.
For example, a problem-solving question might be to ask the candidate to describe a time when they had to change their planned course of action at the last moment. The interviewer is not only interested in hearing about how the candidate solved the specific problem but also in learning more about their problem-solving approach and what they did to manage the unexpected change.
It is often thought that past employee behaviour can predict the future. That’s why problem-solving interview questions are often designed to elicit specific examples from the candidate’s own work experience. By talking through concrete examples, interviewers can better understand the candidate’s problem-solving abilities and how they might apply those skills to the job at hand.
Want to know more about behavioral interview questions ?
Why Interviewers Ask Problem-solving Interview Questions
For most hiring managers, the interview is a critical step in the hiring process. In addition to using skills assessments to screen candidates for problem-solving skills, they need to ask problem-solving interview questions to get a deeper understanding of this skill.
Probing questions help hiring managers to evaluate candidates’ critical thinking skills , providing insight into how well they might perform on the job. This approach enables interviewers to understand the candidate’s problem-solving competency and the methods that they adopt.
Interviewers will be looking to understand their capacity to analyze information, generate innovative ideas, adapt to unexpected obstacles, make sound decisions, collaborate with others, and effectively communicate their ideas.
Therefore, an effective problem-solver will also demonstrate a range of other important skills, such as analytical thinking, decision-making, adaptability, creativity, collaboration, and communication.
8 Examples of Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers
Now for the main course of this article. We’re going to dive into eight types of example problem-solving questions that you can use during interviews, explaining why they are relevant and what makes a strong answer.
1. The challenging situation
Recall a difficult problem or challenging situation you encountered in a previous role. How did you analyze the problem, and what steps did you take to arrive at a solution?
The reason: Assesses a candidate’s ability to handle complex and challenging situations as well as their problem-solving approach, communication, and decision-making skills.
The answer: The candidate should share a specific instance of a problematic situation they faced in a previous role and describe their problem-solving approach. Specifically, how they analyzed the problem, including what information they gathered and resources they used to arrive at a solution.
Bonus points: If they can highlight any obstacles they faced and how they overcame them, as well as the positive outcomes of their solution.
2. Problem-solving process
Walk me through your problem-solving process . Explain your personal approach to problem-solving by taking me through the steps you typically follow.
The reason: To better understand a candidate’s problem-solving approach and methodology.
The answer: A solid answer consists of a brief description of the candidate’s personal problem-solving approach , highlighting the steps they typically follow, different options they would consider, and resources used to make informed decisions.
Bonus points: If they also mention any tools or techniques , such as the scientific method or SWOT analysis, and provide examples of times when their approach was successful.
Share an instance where you needed to make a quick decision to resolve an urgent problem. How did you decide on a course of action, and what was the outcome?
The reason: Test a candidate’s decision-making and problem-solving skills in stressful and unexpected situations.
The answer: The interviewee should describe how they gathered relevant information quickly, considered various options, and arrived at an informed decision all within a limited space of time.
Bonus points: If they can demonstrate competence in handling stressful situations , especially if the role may require it.
4. Creative thinking
Give me an example of a time when you had to think outside the box to solve a problem. How did you approach the situation differently or creatively, and what was the outcome?
The reason: Understand a candidate’s ability to think creatively and innovatively when faced with a problem.
The answer: The interviewee should describe a specific situation where they used creative thinking to solve a problem. They should explain their unique approach and any unconventional ideas or solutions they came up with.
Bonus points: If they can demonstrate exactly how their creative solution contributed to a successful outcome.
Describe a situation where you had to work with a team to solve a complex problem. Detail your role and contributions to the team’s overall success in finding a solution.
The reason: Understand a candidate’s ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others when solving difficult problems.
The answer: How do they narrate a particular scenario where they worked with a team to collectively solve a complex problem, specifying their role and that of the team in arriving at a solution.
Bonus points: If they can recognize the role of others and the strength of the team over the individual in solving the problem.
6. Overcoming obstacles
Can you share an example of a project or task where you had to overcome unexpected obstacles or challenges? How did you adapt and find a solution?
The reason: Handling unexpected obstacles or challenges and their problem-solving skills.
The answer: To answer this question, the interviewee should share a particular project or task where they faced unforeseen challenges or obstacles, how they adapted to the situation and found a solution.
Bonus points: If they emphasize any creative or innovative methods they employed.
7. Dealing with recurring problems
Give me an example of a time when you identified a recurring problem in a process or system. What steps did you take to address the issue and prevent it from happening again?
The reason: This question assesses a candidate’s ability to identify and solve recurring problems and improve processes.
The answer: The job seeker should recount a specific instance of a recurring problem they detected in a process or system .
Bonus points: If they can explain exactly how they got to the root of the problem and the steps or measures they took to prevent its recurrence .
Tell me about a situation where you had to prioritize multiple tasks or projects with competing deadlines. How did you prioritize and allocate your time to ensure the successful completion of all tasks?
The reason: Tests a candidate’s capacity to organize, prioritize, and multitask to complete multiple assignments or tasks in a timely manner.
The answer: The interviewee should illustrate a specific instance where they successfully managed multiple projects or tasks simultaneously , elaborating on how they prioritized their workload and managed their time efficiently.
Bonus points: If they highlight any project management tools or techniques used, and if the project or task was delivered on time.
Now that we’ve gone over the best possible answers for these questions, let’s look at some of the negatives and red flags to keep an eye out for.
Red Flags for Interviewers Assessing Problem-solving Skills
HR managers should be aware of red flags during an interview that could indicate weakness in a candidate’s problem-solving skills.
Red flags to watch for include:
A lack of specific examples
If a candidate has a hard time recalling specific past problem-solving examples, this may signal they lack relevant experience or have difficulty remembering events.
Vague or generalized answers
Candidates who give vague, general, or unclear answers without describing the specifics of their problem-solving process may lack the ability to solve problems effectively. Is the candidate trying to avoid the question? When probed further, are they able to get more specific?
If the individual is unable to describe situations where they persevered through obstacles or utilized alternate solutions, it may display an absence of resilience, unwillingness or incapacity to be adaptable.
Poor decision-making skills
Candidates who lack the ability to explain their thought process, take into account alternative perspectives, or make unwise decisions likely possess weak decision-making skills. Look for candidates who contemplate decisions carefully, consider the pros and cons, and can articulate their reasons for choosing their final course of action.
Lack of collaboration or communication skills
Poor communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills can hinder problem-solving, especially in situations where input or feedback from stakeholders is required.
Limited initiative or creativity
Problem solvers who stand out demonstrate initiative, creativity, and a drive to think unconventionally. Those who cannot offer examples of inventive problem-solving or use only traditional techniques may not possess the ability to come up with creative solutions.
Tips For Using Problem-Solving Questions To Screen Candidates
Before you run off and start asking all of the above problem-solving interview questions, there are a few more factors to consider. To be specific, context is king when it comes to speaking to interviewees during the job interview. And the below tips will help you to understand them better.
- Always be sure to ask job-specific questions
- Start with a robust, written job description that details all the required skills, competencies, and experience to compare with the candidate’s answers
- Keep a look out for generic answers
- Do they use the STAR method to structure their thinking/answers?
- Ask different types of problem-solving questions
- Reword the question if a candidate is having trouble answering it
- Ask how they handle a situation that doesn’t have an easy outcome or answer
- Inquire if they have ever had disciplinary action taken against them and how they handled it
- Ask them team-related questions
- Prepare responses that you can play off of their answers
- Check if they have ever tried to inspire their team
- It’s not out of the ordinary to ask the candidate out-of-the-box questions (How would you escape a blender?) to understand how they solve problems
You’re almost ready to integrate problem-solving questions into your job interview workflow, but there’s just one last topic to cover: Is there a piece of software that can help you to streamline the problem-solving interview process?
Yes, yes, there is.
Evaluating problem-solving skills beyond the interview
While interviews are a useful tool for recruiters and hiring managers to gauge candidates’ competence, they’re not quite sufficient for assessing candidates’ full skill set. That’s especially true when the role requires mastery of a certain technical or power skill, like problem-solving.
A better, more effective way to evaluate candidates ‘ abilities is to combine structured interviews with job-specific skills assessments. Here are some of the reasons why:
- It allows for more objective evaluation. Interviews inherently favor candidates with advanced communication skills, charisma, and confidence. But! Just because a candidate interviews well, doesn’t mean they have what it takes to succeed in the role. Sadly, the interviewer’s perception of a candidate is almost always highly influenced by the candidate’s interviewing skills. Incorporating a skills assessment can help you assess candidates’ actual abilities in role-specific tasks.
- It offers a practical demonstration. Interviews often rely on a candidate’s self-reporting of their skills and past experiences. However, candidates may overstate their abilities or have difficulty articulating their skills in an interview setting. Skill-specific assessments give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in a practical, real-world context. This allows hiring managers to see the candidate’s skills in action, which can be a more reliable indicator of their ability to perform in the role.
- It guarantees consistent metrics. Assessments provide a consistent set of metrics to compare all candidates. This can help to eliminate bias and ensure fairness in the hiring process. Interviews can be more subjective and may vary greatly depending on the interviewer or the specific questions asked. Having a standardized assessment ensures that all candidates are evaluated on the same criteria.
- It helps to predict job performance. Research has shown that work sample tests, which are a type of skill-specific assessment, are one of the best predictors of job performance. They can provide valuable insights into how a candidate might perform in the job beyond what can be learned from an interview alone.
- It makes the hiring process more efficient. Skill-specific assessments can also make the hiring process more efficient. If a candidate performs poorly on an assessment early in the process, this could save time for both the candidate and the company by indicating that the candidate may not be the right fit for the role.
Interested in exploring a skills-based hiring approach? Take no risks – start with our free account to browse all available assessment templates .
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.
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Problem Solving Mock Interview
To help you prepare for your job interview, here are 25 interview questions that will test your problem solving ability.
Get More Information About Our Problem Solving Interview Questions
Question 1 of 25
Tell me about the most challenging problem you have encountered in your professional career.
How to Answer
Everyone has had their share of challenges in their career. The interviewer knows that you are not perfect; however, they need to know that you can professionally overcome work-related roadblocks. Maybe you had a significant project that almost went sideways. Perhaps you had a conflict in the workplace that you could have handled more professionally. Explain your approach to resolving the issue and be sure to highlight the steps you took to reach that resolution.
"The most challenging problem I have encountered in my professional career was with my most recent employer. I had an incredibly important project that made up the majority of my annual budget. The client was challenging to work with as he was rarely available for comment, due to extensive international travel. I needed this deal to work out so, for the 6-month span of the project, I made my work hours reflect his time zone. This shift allowed us to communicate via Skype on a daily basis which meant a fair share of late night and early morning calls for me! It was a sacrifice, and I would do it again. I understand that sacrifices need to happen to gain successful outcomes."
"The most challenging problem that I encountered in my career was when my former company experienced a major merger. It was a lot to adjust to but, after some time, I was able to get a good pace again."
"The most significant challenge I have faced as a manager would be the labor dispute and lockout that our company went through in 2016. Many of our permanent employees are union based. We could not come to a new collective agreement, and so I ended up having to utilize a lot of temporary staffing options during that time. It was a lot of re-training, and strain on the company culture overall."
"The biggest challenge that I face as a marketer, and it's an ongoing challenge, is to manage my expectations on projects. I lean on the side of perfectionism and often put more pressure on myself than even a client would. The positive side of this; however, is that I always deliver an immaculate product."
"I'd say the most challenging problem I have encountered was when my manager suddenly resigned. I was then in charge of the department. Now, I was mostly ready for the responsibility, as the assistant manager in the department. However, I had never completed inventory reconciliation, and on the first day, this was my first task. I was asked to give projections so that our buyer could stock us for next season. I had no idea what to do, so I researched until I came up with the answer. Also, other managers in other departments helped to guide me. Ultimately the work paid off because our next season projections were perfect. Since then, I've learned more effective ways to do our inventory management and projections, but I don't think I've ever learned anything as quickly as I did that week."
"The most challenging problem I've encountered is the misstep of taking my current role. The initial pitch to me on company growth and my duties is not my reality. This factor has been a challenge to my career growth. I know that even if it was a misstep, there are lessons to be learned, and I approach each day with interest and a positive attitude to try to learn those lessons and grow professionally."
"The most significant challenge I've faced is nearly having my department eliminated due to budgetary cuts. I was lucky to have an active parent community rally behind me and the department which saved the program, in the end. The other challenge that comes to mind was getting back into the swing of teaching after taking a few years off to be home with my children. There was a learning curve on getting up to speed with curriculum and the lesson planning, but my love for teaching made it all that much easier!"
25 Problem Solving Interview Questions & Answers
1. tell me about the most challenging problem you have encountered in your professional career., 2. in your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver.
Employers want to know that you have a methodical approach to problem-solving. Consider the skills and qualities that help you successfully face problems. Perhaps you have a keen eye for detail. Maybe you can see opportunity when others can only focus on the issue. Share your strengths as a problem solver, and your ability to come up with innovative solutions. Strong problem solvers are: - Systematic thinkers - Open minded - Okay with being wrong sometimes - Always researching and exploring - Able to identify the core problem - Able to reverse engineer a challenge to avoid future issues - Able to come up with multiple avenues that work well for all stakeholders - Are do-ers and not worriers
"I am a great problem solver because I can compartmentalize all aspects of a problem before studying it. I also like to bring more experienced team members in to add to the solution. I will never try to be a hero and solve a complicated problem without tapping into the resources around me."
"What makes me a great problem solver is that I have a keen ability to research, read, and explore so that my recommendations are based on fact and study rather than guesses."
"I have been told that I am an excellent problem solver and I believe this is because I have a bit of an engineering mind. I can take the issue, work backward to solve it, and then use that resolution as a basis for avoiding future issues to come up. I am also a big-picture thinker which allows me to come up with various resolutions per problem."
"I am a great problem solver because I do not allow stress to cloud my judgment and mute my creativity. I am a keen observer with a great memory which allows me to recall unique solutions or ideas."
"I am a great problem solver because I draw from the experience of others, whether solicited advice or through my prior observations and then I improve upon that, where possible. My memory and years in the industry have exposed me to many types of situations and problems, so I feel I have a vast amount of experience to draw from, allowing me to be creative and effective in the way I approach any challenge. Not to mention, I'm not afraid to ask for help or advice along the way. I know that I don't know everything, so I like to ask for input when I feel I am not fully equipped to do the job alone. There is no shame in that."
"I believe I am a great problem solver because I am sure to gather as many facts as possible, I look at the problem and its potential solutions from multiple angles, and I am not afraid to make a creative decision, that might seem off the beaten path."
"I consider myself a great problem solver and believe my skills are in my emotional intelligence. I can be really in tune with the tone of the group, who is feeling what, and how they are each best reached. This skill applies to both adults and children, so it is beneficial both inside of the classroom and out! By being aware of what is at the heart of the matter and how each person needs his or her needs met, I'm able to accomplish a lot while avoiding many common landmines."
Anonymous Interview Answers with Professional Feedback
3. Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem and went beyond regular expectations to fix it.
Your innovative approach may be exciting and unconventional, but can you implement it realistically? Ideas are one thing, but putting them into practice and providing measurable results is where you can add genuine value. Think of a time you worked long hours and made sacrifices to overcome a challenging problem. Demonstrate your impact and the significance of your solution.
"During our busy tax season I noticed that one of our primary spreadsheets was not formulated properly. I am not an expert with Excel; however, with everyone being in peak stress mode - I decided it was something I could learn on my own. I watched a few online tutorials and ended up resolving the issue without the need to involve the rest of the team."
"When I worked as an admin assistant at my last job, I was in charge of purchasing office and kitchen supplies. I noticed we had been spending quite a bit of money on paper and plastic-ware. I compared the cost of disposables to the cost of buying permanent dishes and utensils for the kitchen. It turned out we were able to save the company hundreds of dollars each year by simply investing in dishes and silverware!"
"I had a staff member who was stealing supplies. Rumors were going around that she was dishonest; however, there was no evidence. I carefully waited and, after two days, the rumored infractions were caught on camera. At that point, I was able to terminate her employment. I went beyond regular expectations by gaining evidence before terminating her. I knew this would prevent a human resources issue down the road, and it also saved my company from having to pay this employee any severance pay."
"Our agency performed a major client launch last month that tested well. Upon implementing, I noticed that their new website was not functioning correctly. I wanted our client to be happy with our services, so I worked late into the night with our IT team to troubleshoot the site and ensure that by morning, there were no more kinks to work out. In the end, our client was thrilled with my dedication, and they ended up writing an amazing review online and even mentioned me in the review!"
"I managed a coat department previously and, depending on the season; these coats were very high ticket items. I had two salespeople who were consistently battling for the sale. It was unbecoming, to say the least, and impacted the department's morale. To incentivize everyone to go for the sale, I made a sales contest on non-coat merchandise. The more items they upsold, despite being a smaller sale, the more tickets they received towards various other compensation incentives like gift cards or extra time for breaks. The other sales reps felt reinvigorated, and it pushed my two coat-fighters to step outside of their perceived territory."
"In my first role, there was a regular lane of shipments that was difficult to cover. The issue didn't cause us to fall short as far as the customer was concerned. However, we were in danger of potentially having the customer poached due to waiting times. After several late nights attempting to come through for a key customer, I got tired of running in a hamster wheel. I decided to find some carriers that could assist. Long story short, after staying late many days and making some creative calls to find a backhaul, I was able to secure a new carrier, at a great rate, and keep the customer happy."
"When I was reworking lesson plans, I noticed that there was a gap between the programs and some policy. So, rather than hand them back to the team to fix, I took it upon myself to write the remaining lessons and tweak the existing ones to make them cohesive. It took about seven days of working on my own time, but it was worth it when I saw the lessons in action during the school year."
4. Tell me about a time where you had to analyze a set of data and then make a recommendation.
Talk about your attention to detail and sharp focus when it comes to data and statistics. You may not consider yourself a highly analytical person. However, this is a skill that you have indeed exercised in the past.
"I worked for a financial firm last year and had a client who was looking for investment recommendations. I gathered data on the stocks they were interested in, sorting through 12-month trends and further historical data to determine the most promising returns. The client was happy with my findings, and my manager was quite impressed with the research that I conducted."
"My boss recently asked me to make a case for Oracle on Demand versus SAP Business ByDesign. Our business was growing so fast, and we needed a new CRM fast. I called both companies who took me through a webinar and a couple of online tutorials. I then gathered the data and made an informative PowerPoint presentation. My boss was very impressed with how thorough I was, and I was happy to learn something new!"
"Each time I onboard a new client, I analyze a set of data before I make any recommendations on their strategy. This data includes their current analytics, primary sales sources, key customers, and more. I have a formula that I follow for the most part to help me assess and then give the best strategic recommendations that I can."
"My current employer wanted to know the exact impact our social media campaigns were making. I gathered our Facebook analytics for him and created a short PowerPoint presentation from the data. My recommendation was to increase our keywords in the geographical areas where our ads received the highest click-through rates. My research and recommendations certainly helped as our Facebook reach grew exponentially."
"As department manager, I'm responsible for forecasting what our sales will be for the upcoming season so that our buyer can accurately purchase the proper inventory. I have to look at our current inventory, last year's trends, YOY growth, and what the industry is doing as a whole, especially with the impact of online retailers. I then make a recommendation and forecast that will either set us up for success or not. If I under or over forecast, we end up with not enough inventory or too much to sell through and the cost is either opportunity in missed sales, or having to discount unnecessary items. To date, I've been nearly exact in my predictions."
"When doing annual reviews with my clients, I would analyze the past year's shipments, trends, and overall data. I would then make recommendations for improved efficiencies, rates, and better service contracts in the upcoming year. I would make not only carrier recommendations based on service level and pricing, but also made suggestions on new routes or ways in which we could be creative, like consolidating the shipments in our warehouses, to save cost when possible. I managed two of the most significant accounts in the office, so my recommendations were fundamental to our bottom line, and I'm happy to report that they were consistently adopted, resulting in more business."
"I am responsible for analyzing the results of our unit tests given across the department quarterly. I had not only to compile the results and make recommendations as to what units to keep and what to remove for the following year but also diagnose what ineffective and how we could remedy that. This task is a critical one as it shapes the future of the department and our efficacy as teachers."
5. When a problem requires a quick solution, how do you respond?
When it comes to complex problem solving, decisions are not always readily reached. It takes practice, experience, and confidence to learn what sorts of decisions yield the best results. Walk the interviewer through your process when it comes to making quick decisions. Do you rely on past experiences? Perhaps you go with a gut feeling. Maybe you have read case studies that you lean on in these instances. Problems that require you to act quickly can be emergency situations such as knowing where the fire extinguisher is and grabbing it fast enough to put out a small grease fire in the company kitchen. Other quick decisions could be if you are asked to take on a new responsibility and are only given five minutes to decide if it's something you are prepared to take on. Going with your gut is a skill, and the more you learn to trust your intuition, the easier it becomes to make these types of decisions. Demonstrate that you are confident and able to react swiftly when the need arises.
"Our Controller recently came down with pneumonia on a week where we had a major client presentation to give. He sent me what he had prepared, and I had to fill in the blanks. As an Analyst it was a bit out of my wheelhouse, being in a client facing role, but I adapted quickly, and reminded myself that my team needed me."
"When an urgent problem arises at work, I always try to respond in a calm and assuring manner. I am a natural leader which means that my team often looks to me for answers. One instance of my fast-thinking was just last week when we had an administrative employee no-show on a significant day for us. I called a temp agency, and they had the position filled in just one hour."
"In logistics, there are often split-second decisions that can either get the freight to a customer on time or cause a shut-down of a production line. Sometimes, these decisions have to be made after hours. On more than one occasion, I've received a phone call from our central dispatch asking me how to handle a late driver. I have to remember the details of the particular shipper or receiver, my customer, and the actual load in question but also get creative with how they can make sure to meet customer expectations. Due to the urgent nature of the business, as well as the drivers, it has to be a very quick decision to be successfully resolved. Luckily, due to following my gut, I've been able to make very fast, split-second decisions in the best interest of the branch and customer."
"As a Marketing Director, I need to make a multitude of decisions, on the fly, for varying projects. I rely partially on the instinct that I have built as an expert in the marketing industry and part in past experiences that may be similar. I am sure always to exude an air of control when making decisions."
"I thrive under pressure and always have, so when I'm given a time-sensitive situation to address, I light up and get down to business. I am more impactful and even more creative when I have little time to do much besides jump in and take charge. This ability to make fast decisions is especially helpful in my role as manager when there is an inventory, personnel, or customer issue."
"Just like with negotiations, I react swiftly in emergency situations. Perhaps my skills come from my years as a parent, having to think fast and put out fires! If a quick solution is required, I will do a fast overview of the facts and make a decision based on risk factors considering the potential financial loss."
"I am certainly a take charge and tackle a project kind of gal - as a teacher and a mom, too! I feel I have a powerful and accurate intuitive sense and I follow it instinctively. It's very rarely steered me wrong."
6. When it comes to problem solving, are you a strong collaborator?
Show off your teamwork skills by giving an example of when you successfully collaborated with your coworkers. Be sure to demonstrate how you communicated your thoughts or opinions. Highlight how your contributions, or ability to ask for help, made a difference. Explain how you are a team player who enjoys working alongside others.
"Last month, I recruited a couple of coworkers to help me solve a problem for a client. We were looking at their financials, but something didn't add up, and I didn't have the analysis background that these two co-workers had. Together we molded our areas of expertise and created a bulletproof financial plan for our client. I enjoyed the collaboration and would do it again in a heartbeat."
"I am most certainly a strong collaborator! Being an executive assistant, I am often in need of strong collaboration to complete a project for the VP who I support. I love learning new things from my coworkers and those who I report to."
"I love having impromptu brainstorm sessions with my team. It keeps everyone on their toes! When an issue comes to light, I will approach the problem with the entire team and open the floor, at the end of the meeting, for suggestions."
"In marketing, it is imperative to collaborate and gain different sides of the story, and new opinions. I try to seek out my team's opinions on projects all the time. I find everyone has something to contribute and can help me see a problem or strategy in a way that I may not have ever considered."
"I would consider myself an active collaborator and believe that two heads are almost always better than one. Three is the best, in my opinion. This way the team is odd-numbered, so if there's a dispute you can take a vote on it! Multiple viewpoints are almost always a great idea."
"I am a strong collaborator. I am always willing to listen to others' opinions, hear their perspective, and work together to build a solution that will fit for everyone. I am always looking to draw from others' experience and expertise to bring about the best solution for the client and the branch as a whole. When drafting a pitch for a client, I am always sure to bring on a manager or carrier sales rep so that I will have multiple perspectives to help bring us to the best collaborative solution."
"I believe I'm a skilled collaborator and am confident that my coworkers would agree. I come to our bi-weekly department meetings full of ideas and with an open spirit, ready to collaborate with the rest of the team. We always have engaging discussions that result in great takeaways for the teachers as well as our students."
7. When you cannot seem to find the right solution to a problem, how do you deal?
Sometimes, problems just seem too impossible to solve, at first glance. Your creative problem-solving skills may be at a stand-still from time to time, and the interviewer wants to know how you deal with that. Taking a brief break and stepping away from the problem can help you to see things from a different perspective. When you are in a rut, you can waste time plugging away at something, resulting in a decline in productivity. Discuss with the interviewer how you handle being in a rut like this.
"If I am stuck on a particular problem, I will take a break from trying to figure out what's wrong and ask a coworker for advice. Getting another person's perspective when you start to feel like you're hitting a wall can help one to see a problem with a fresh set of eyes. As humans, sometimes we overthink! The biggest hurdle can be asking for help, and I am not above asking for help when I'm stuck."
"If time allows - I will sleep on it! When faced with tough decisions where an answer does not come to me easily, I will take a moment to feel the issue out. When necessary I will also bring in the opinion of the administrators in a different department."
"If I cannot come to a solution that feels right I will check in with other leaders whom I work with and, depending on the situation, my business mentor. It's important to check in with those that I admire as they have unique ideas and some have more industry tenure as well."
"As a marketer, I am hired to find the solution for others. As you can imagine, when that solution seems elusive, it is incredibly challenging for me to accept. For this reason, I love brainstorm sessions with my team. I will also look to the outside in the form of resources online such as blogs and forums by other marketing professionals."
"It can be frustrating when a solution does not come fluidly. However, sometimes trying a solution and seeing it fail, will lead you to a lightbulb moment. I am an active person, so I like to walk and talk things out. Usually, as I do that, I don't filter my ideas. This way, something slips out that I would have edited out as "ridiculous" if I were writing down a list. I have found that this free-flowing problem-solving session often leads to the most creative and impactful solutions which I would have nixed from the get-go had another not failed."
"If I'm stuck on a problem, I try to take some time away from the issue, ideally by taking a step away from the screen and get my blood flowing. Walking away seems to help me get reinvigorated and more creative. I also find it valuable to talk it out with someone, even if that person is not a stakeholder in the situation."
"If I am stuck in a rut or can't seem to figure out the best approach, I am fortunate enough that I have so many other tasks and classes that I can focus on. Usually, if I clear my mind and fill it with something else, a great idea hits me when I least expect it. If I am stuck on a problem and cannot take the time to step away, I usually rely on my students to help me shake it off!"
8. When faced with a problem, how do you decide on the best solution?
There may be more than one solution to a problem, and the interviewer would like to know how you make a final choice when you're in a situation like that. Effectively comparing and contrasting, or weighing the pros and cons, is essential when choosing the best way to solve a problem. The interviewer wants to see that you are capable when it comes to calculating risk vs. reward. Think about a time when you have compared the risk and reward to a potential solution.
"If I have a problem with multiple solutions, I always go back to the classic pros vs. cons method. I fully understand that although no solution is perfect, and some solutions offer lesser sacrifice while others pose potential loss. I have been trained to take the solution that is 'closest to the money' which means that if I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I will choose the solution that is most beneficial to the company's bottom line."
"When it comes to problem-solving, I will always weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. I will also bounce my thoughts off of some co-workers if I still feel conflicted after that."
"My decisions are always based on three factors. One, what is best for the company. Two, what is best for our clients. Three, what will boost employee morale. Now, not all decisions will be popular with all three groups, and I do keep that in mind. In those instances, it is my job to watch our bottom line but ensure customer satisfaction at all times."
"Rock, paper, scissors! Kidding - of course! Our team will collaborate on tough decisions, and we often vote. Majority wins in our office for many creative decisions."
"When I face a problem, I am sure to draw on previous experiences both as a customer and an employee in retail. I then use these experiences to make the most informed decision that I can about the problem at hand. Generally speaking, if I've already seen or experienced a very comparable situation, I can be impactful and exact in my approach by drawing from those experiences."
"As I consider a problem and its solutions, I make a note of what my gut tells me what to do. Then I take a step back and reflect on times that I have faced the situation before. I recall the actions that I took, the outcome, and then pivot as necessary. I trust my instinct because I am heavily knowledgeable in this industry, but I believe in relying on fact as well."
"I am typically a follow-my-gut type of person, so I follow my instinct when possible. I make a note of what my initial inclination was and then I make sure to compare and contrast solutions. Once I have identified the best solution, I check in to see if it feels right. More often than not, my initial instinct is correct. Of course, I am sure to be analytical as I weigh out each decision."
9. How do you prioritize multiple projects when they all seem equally important?
Prioritizing is a skill that requires practice. There are many approaches you can take. Here are some suggestions: 1) Make a list. By thinking through and writing down each item that needs completion, you can see it on paper. 2) Mark what is urgent or essential. Take into account deadlines and meetings. 3) Order each task based on effort and estimated value. 4) Consider due dates and how long it will take to do each item. When answering this question, show the interviewer that you have a system in place that helps you to think through what needs to happen, and when. The better you can prioritize, the more productive you will be, making you an asset to their company!
"I aim to be as effective and efficient as possible and make sure I can use all minutes of a day for a project. I have a few things going at once most of the time. I am the lead on some, the delegator on others, and the reviewer on another, for instance. This way, by splitting up the work to the appropriate parties, both my team and I can be the most efficient with our time."
"I often have multiple projects due at a time, since I am the assistant to three different executives. I ask my executives to rank their need from 1-5 in the level of urgency, including its due date. I start my work on that list. If there is more than one urgent need, I will work overtime, or through my lunch, to ensure that I deliver everything on time."
"I had to utilize creative problem solving last month when we found ourselves short-staffed and unable to hire new employees due to budget cuts. I changed our schedule to include some split shifts and received approval for a small amount of overtime spending. The problem is solved, at least temporarily, until our company comes out of our spending freeze."
"In my current department, we are very systematic in our customer delivery promises; however, that is not to say that doubling up on client deliveries does not happen. When situations occur where I have to prioritize, I will do so by the size of the client and budget. It may seem unfair at times; however, our largest clients with the most significant spend always rule out."
"I prioritize based on urgency and time required for the project. I have a list of what needs to be done, by when, and how long I estimate that it will take to accomplish. I am great under pressure, but try to make sure that I don't get myself or my team into a sticky situation by not allotting enough time for any particular project."
"I love to keep running lists of everything that I need to do, big or small. Mostly because I love crossing things off of the to-do list, but also because it helps me keep track of everything. Lately, I've started utilizing a free project management software that I use to make those lists, categorize the tasks, and mark them by the level of urgency. I take care of the most time-sensitive issues first and then move along to the equally important, but perhaps less time-sensitive to-dos. I also estimate how long each task will take, so if I have a few minutes in between projects, I can tackle the quick to dos and use that time effectively, rather than use it to figure out 'what's next.'"
"I follow the tried and true practice of making lists and assigning each item a priority and tackling the list that way. I love to check things off my list, as it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Also, I am a believer in following my intuition. If I feel that something lower on the to-do list needs to be bumped up in priority, I will tackle that right away. As a teacher, there are always a lot of simultaneous to do items, so in addition to prioritizing, I have to be good at multitasking; something I find I do quite well as both a teacher and a mom."
10. Tell me about a recurring problem that you run into in your current position, and how you handle it.
The interviewer wants to see that, despite this recurring problem, you take action to find a resolution. They want to make sure they aren't hiring a chronic complainer who is easily defeated! Be careful to avoid complaining about your current (or most recent) position. A recurring problem could be a glitchy software system, an employee who is regularly late, or even an unpredictable work schedule. Remain optimistic in your reply!
"A recurring problem that I have in my current position is the fact that our client management software is not user-friendly. Any entry that I need to make is incredibly time-consuming which poses a real problem when a deadline is present, or when we have clients waiting for an answer. I have found that the best workaround for this is not to allow my paperwork to build up. The more proactive I am, the better I can keep ahead of schedule."
"A problem that I am currently running into is a lack of office supplies. My boss has been running very lean, financially speaking, since our industry took a downturn. I have to time my ordering with client invoices at this point. This situation has certainly helped me to become more aware of spending and budgets, that's for sure!"
"The greatest issue in my current position is that we have so much employee turnover. It started to feel like I was constantly training new staff. I came up with an employee referral bonus program which greatly helped. For every successful referral, our employees get $400 plus another $400 after their referral stays for three months. I believe this has been successful because the quality of our employees has greatly increased."
"In my current office, we have more clients than we can handle - which is a great thing! However, it's been tough to find the best marketers to join our team because we are a small organization. This hiring situation has meant a lot of overtime hours, which I am certainly happy to do for the most part. I do look forward to working with a bigger team, like yours."
"Unfortunately, a recurring issue in my current company is employee tenure. It's just really part of the industry as we need some holiday and seasonal associates and they typically don't want to stay on, or we don't have the budget to keep them on. This turnover means we are continually becoming a new team and learning how to work with our new coworkers. Scheduling often has a learning curve with a new team, too, because you have to take into account the availability of all parties, and who works well together. That said, it's something I'm used to. I make it a bit of a personal challenge or game for myself. How quickly I can learn their available days, how fast I can learn who works best together."
"A recurring issue at my current job is lack of reliable inventory that my clients are requesting, which can be incredibly frustrating. I am working hard to land a client, get them to buy into our program, both literally and figuratively, and then we fall short of expectations when our inventory doesn't meet their standards. That said, I continue to go out, land new clients, and try to source the proper inventory for them."
"A recurring issue revolves around my lack of a classroom and the friction that can arise at times because of it. Without the flexibility of my own classroom, I sometimes find myself in an awkward situation since I have to abide by the other teacher's rules, which sometimes conflict with mine. I do my best to follow the teachers' class rules, and make sure that we have a good understanding."
11. Tell me about a time when you failed to solve a problem. How did you overcome the failure?
'Success is bouncing from failure to failure without losing momentum,' or so they say. Your resilience shines through when you can learn from your mistakes and keep going. Give an example that shows you can accept fault and learn from challenging experiences.
"I failed to meet an important deadline in my first job out of college because I didn't know how to prioritize properly. I kept letting other menial tasks get in the way rather than focusing on finishing the project. I learned how to manage my time wisely by setting reasonable goals and reminders on my calendar. This technique helped me to manage my time more effectively."
"Last month we were having issues with our GoToMeeting application, and it was right before a major client meeting. I was on a call with the service provider, trying to troubleshoot and unfortunately, did not deliver a fix on time. After the initial frustration, I decided to talk to my boss about having backups in place. Now, we have Skype, and Google Hangouts set up for these emergency situations."
"I was asked to solve our issue of employee turnover which ended up being much more difficult than I originally thought. My initial goal was to improve turnover by 70% but in the end, only reached 40% improvement. Although I did not reach my goal, I am still happy that my action plan made a difference."
"I had a customer who was not happy with my delivery, and I chose to take care of the situation without involving my boss. It wasn't that I was trying to sweep the situation under the rug, I just honestly thought I had been successfully dealing with the situation on my own. Unfortunately, I was wrong because the client sent a nasty email to my boss a short time after. I should have gone to my boss right away and filled him in. It's something that I've learned from, and I'm ready to involve my boss with every sticky client situation."
"In a previous role as a personal shopping assistant, I was tasked with taking on a notoriously difficult client. She spent a lot of money in the store in the past but was very demanding. This challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to prove myself. A few months in, I made the misstep of mentioning something she'd complained about at an earlier date. Apparently, she was offended that I brought it up, even though I meant it very innocently. I owned up to it immediately to my manager and came up with a plan to win her back. I wrote a snail-mail card apologizing to her and let several weeks pass before reaching out in any other way. By the time I did, two months later, she was perfectly lovely, dismissed my apology as though she didn't know what I was talking about, and we moved along in a better fashion than we had prior."
"In my first role out of college, I was working to solve a lane issue with a carrier that kept falling through. I went through every solution I could come up with including pitching consistency, to leveraging my current relationships, and asking for favors. Those favors and workarounds ran out, and we fell short of client expectations. While I did all that I knew how at the time, I still fell short, and it was disappointing. In retrospect, I would have involved more people in supervisory positions earlier on in the process to learn from their shared experiences."
"The problem I've failed to solve that still keeps me up at night is a successful inclusion of one of my students with an IEP. He loves Spanish and in a one-on-one setting excels at it, but cannot handle the behavior expectations in class because he gets too excited. I've tried multiple approaches to get him to regulate, and participate, but so far nothing has allowed him to participate in the class without disrupting the other students and causing a meltdown for himself. This fact weighs on me since I want him to experience inclusion at all times. As a result, he comes to my office a few days each week, and we have our Spanish class together. I feel this exemplifies who I am as a teacher. I will go the extra mile for my students to make sure they get their fair shake at life."
12. What sources do you look to when you need to solve a complicated problem?
The interviewer wants to know that you can think outside the box, or even ask for help when you are stuck on a complicated problem. Maybe you look to a mentor or boss for advice. Perhaps you have handbooks, manuals and systems you turn to for help. Offer some relevant examples based on your industry. If you work in the medical field, you may turn to textbooks, online research, colleagues or even patient's history to find the right solution. If you work in customer service, you may ask the customer what they need to find the best way to solve the problem. Show the interviewer that you are knowledgeable and equipped to handle these types of scenarios.
"When I am faced with a complicated problem, I will look to the resources that my current company has provided me. The answer is almost always in there. If it's more of a moral dilemma vs. a knowledge-based dilemma, I will ask my supervisor for his thoughts and opinion since I value him as a mentor and expert in our industry."
"I have a variety of manuals and online tutorials that I lean to when I need to solve a complicated problem. Usually, the issues are surrounding Excel troubleshooting, so it is easy to find answers without involving anyone else and interrupting their day."
"I have a business mentor that I turn to for significant problems. She and I are in the same industry; however, she is much more tenured than I am. I recommend that everyone have a mentor. Even though I run a team of my own now, there are times when I do not have the answers."
"When I need to solve a complicated problem I will turn to marketing forums and blogs that I follow. There is a plethora of information on the internet, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of them!"
"To solve a complex issue, I will reach out to a manager or mentor from a previous role to ask them how they've handled such issues in the past. I am always ready to dive back into our handbook, but these types of scenarios are often not covered there, which is why I value a human, experiential approach. I know that there are so many folks in the industry who have so much to teach me and have probably already "been-there-done-that," so I love to utilize them as a resource."
"If there's a complicated problem, I'll write out what I think the possible solutions would be. Then, I will weigh those potential solutions against one another and list the complications that may arise as a result of each choice. Also, I am always open to input or suggestions from those with more experience than I. I will often turn to my organizations' training resources, as well as talk the problem out with coworkers or my boss."
"I have a vast cohort of teachers with whom I work currently, or have worked in the past, so if I am stuck on a problem or feel I need some additional help, I reach out to these educators. If nothing else, they're there to lend an ear and let me bounce my ideas off of them. They almost always have some real-life experience in a very similar situation. I value this collaborative, supportive group that I've amassed over the years."
13. After you implement a solution to a problem, how do you test the effectiveness of that solution?
The interviewer wants to see that you have strong follow-through skills and the ability to use data and analytics to support your decisions. The only way to test the effectiveness of a new solution is to keep a close eye on the immediate, and often longer-term, results! Depending on the situation, you can use data, run reports, and compare/contrast your findings. If you have records of the data before your problem-solving solution, you can track the results of your new solution and analyze in a month, or beyond. It can take time to see the results, so having a method for measuring them is essential. Give an example of a time you implemented a solution and found a way to measure the results to check its efficacy.
"Last year, our company was having a very high rate of turnover due to employee burnout during overtime hours worked. I implemented a third shift which alleviated the need for excessive overtime. Yes, it did increase our payroll costs by 33%; however, it decreased our turnover which was costing us more and more every year. From the analytics I have been watching, the change will pay for itself by the end of year two."
"One solution that I recently implemented was the use of Google calendar with the executive that I support. She was rarely updating her Outlook calendar because she found it to be too difficult to do on her smartphone. Since this implementation, we have minimized our crossed wires significantly! I have measured the effectiveness of this new calendar strategy by marking down any appointments that need to be rescheduled. So far, for the month, the number of reschedules is down by 80%."
"I always look at the data to gauge the efficacy of policy or new solution. I am big on numbers as they do tell the full, and true, story. I love the reliability of spreadsheets and numbers!"
"Once our team comes up with a new marketing strategy for a client we will conduct two focus groups. One test group will be on the original marketing plan and the second, on the plan that we want to pitch. The use of focus groups is the best way for us to measure if our new strategy will be effective enough to justify the changes for the client."
"I like to collect data, as well as anecdotal assessments of new policies. It's great to have data to confirm if it was or was not effective, but I am a firm believer, too, in getting the team on board. Plus, as you implement a solution, sometimes those doing the actual day-to-day work with customers or in the actual implementation have a more accurate understanding of what's going on or what could be improved. Therefore, I am sure to ask the staff how they think it's going, if it's impactful, or what they still see as an area for growth."
"To test the effectiveness of any solution, you have to be objective and see if it genuinely addressed the problem it set out to solve. Everything in our business runs on KPIs, so when we introduce any initiative, we can see how it is or is not impacting those measurements. One example of this was when I assigned specific accounts to my team of buyers, instead of just attaching as they came up. The idea was to get a buyer to become an expert on that account, their buying habits, and therefore be more effective in the long term at sourcing for their needs. At first, it didn't seem all that impactful, as the close rate was still around 42% overall. However, over the course of 10 weeks, we saw an uptick in close ratios on the assigned, dedicated accounts versus the randomly distributed ones, resulting in 53% close ratio. It's something that became so effective that other sales pods adopted it as their practice as well."
"For me, numbers play an important part in teaching but do not paint the full picture. So, after implementing a change, it is certainly important for me to collect data from our unit tests to gauge the efficacy of the lessons we're teaching and the lesson plans we are using. However, I also am sure to check-in with the students on a more regular basis to check for comprehension. Testing is only truly reflective of the way some students learn, whereas others are terrible test takers, even though they've learned the material. That is why I like to take a two-pronged approach."
14. When a major problem arises, what is your first reaction?
The interviewer wants to know if your reactions to problems reflect maturity and professionalism. How you react will significantly determine how you fit with their existing team. Perhaps your computer crashes, and you realize you may have just lost all of your hard work. Or maybe you are limited on time and have a deadline rapidly approaching. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you take a very methodical approach to problem-solving, rather than reacting impulsively when a problem occurs.
"When a major problem arises, my first instinct is to take a step back and absorb what just happened. I then go into 'brainstorm' mode, jotting down potential ways to resolve the issue. From there, I can use a pros and cons list to determine the best course of action for a fast and amicable resolution."
"I have taught myself to become much calmer with my first reactions when problems arise. Now, I will step back and review my options for solving the problem rather than allow myself to become frustrated. If I feel that I cannot solve the issue on my own, I will ask for help from my superiors."
"Depending on the situation, I will gather my resources and team and collaborate on making the necessary happen on a shortened timeline so that we can deliver our results in the most efficient manner possible. Usually, we learn something about ourselves, the team, or a more effective approach to the next problem in the process."
"When a major problem arises, my first instinct is to jump in and fix the issue. I am a do-er and also think in a reverse-engineering manner. I start with the desired result, and work my way backward from there, figuring out where the snag occurred."
"I am resistant to stress but cannot completely avoid it. When a major issue arises, I will take a quick walk, if possible, so I can best assess how to address the issue while clearing my head. Then, I get to work. I delegate whenever possible so that I can oversee the effectiveness, but am not at all afraid to jump in and do the dirty work myself."
"In the event of a significant problem or setback, my first reaction is to freeze in disbelief for a moment or two while I gather myself, then I jump into action. I know that I need to work harder and faster to recover the time and effort lost. My salesperson mind goes into overdrive until the issue comes to a resolution."
"My first inclination in the event of a major problem is to roll up my sleeves and jump in to fix it or help mitigate some of the potential blow out. This initial reaction is especially true when the problem involves a student's feelings or wellbeing."
15. What steps do you take when you have to make an immediate decision without all the relevant information?
Sometimes we have to make decisions without all of the pertinent information at our fingertips. The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of taking educated guesses and that you are confident enough in your abilities that you can make a firm decision without all pieces of the problem being present.
"When I need to decide without all of the information, I weigh the pros and cons and come up with a solution that makes the most sense. Common sense can take you a long way! Next, I may ask the opinion of someone I trust to see what they think. Even though I trust my decision-making ability, I still think it's important to get a second opinion when it comes to situations involving money or decisions that make a significant impact on others."
"Being organized, I do have a checklist that I follow on all policy-related decisions and changes. If I do not have all necessary information to make an important decision, I can usually find answers in our company resource database, or I will consult an administrator more tenured than I."
"Immediate decisions are required of me on a daily basis. For instance, what do I do when a forklift driver doesn't show up for their shift? How do I react to a chemical spill in the warehouse? I find that the most effective method for making immediate decisions is to forget about what you don't know and focus on what you do know. That's the best anyone can do, and there is no sense wasting time on the what ifs, especially in my industry when the safety of others could be at risk."
"In my current company, we have a rule always to do what will make the client happiest. So, when I am in a situation where I need to make an immediate decision on a client file, I will ask myself what I would want if I were the client. Then, I jump into action to make that happen."
"Often when a customer is worked up, I only have a piece of the puzzle to go off of, whether because they haven't given the full story, or I'm pulled in by the associate who heard the full story. In either case, it's something I'm accustomed to and deal with daily. As far as customer problems go, they tend to follow the same general pattern, so I assess quickly what category the problem seems to fall in, and go from there."
"I am a strong believer in following my gut, and for the most part, it has not steered me wrong. I try to gather as much information as possible, but when all of the pieces are not accessible, I assess the situation using my prior knowledge of similar situations, and I follow my intuition. If I'm not certain or feel conflicted, I don't hesitate to bring in another person to help me come to the best decision for the company."
"I feel comfortable making an immediate decision, even if I don't have all of the relevant information, for the most part. I have great confidence in my situational knowledge as an experienced educator. One example that comes to mind was the class when there was a behavior outburst. I immediately leaped into action to diffuse the situation the best way I knew. By acting quickly, I can prevent the situation from further escalating."
16. How do you deal with distracting coworkers who stand in the way of your progress?
Even the most well-meaning coworkers can distract you from getting things done at work from time to time. The funny and entertaining coworkers who like to chat online and send YouTube videos are often the ones who can get in the way of your productivity if you let them. How do you respond? Show off your ability to set professional boundaries, when needed.
"I typically just set a kind, but clear, boundary and tell my coworker that I need to focus. I will offer an alternate time for a catch-up, over lunch for example. It is important for the sake of workplace culture to set aside time to be social with coworkers, so I usually just let them know when I'll be available for a quick break in the day."
"I understand working relationships are significant, and I'm sure to make time for them so that I can be useful but also enjoy myself at work. With that said, I know where these relationships fall regarding prioritization of my day. I make sure that others know that, too, without being off-putting."
"I am always interrupted by my team - that is par for the course being a manager. To deal with any lost time, I will simply stay late or come to work a bit earlier the next day. My day is unpredictable, and I have accepted that fact."
"I am very open with my colleagues and will let them know if they are a distraction. Currently, I can take my work home as well so if there is a part that I cannot get past due to distractions; I will take a day to work from my home office."
"I try to make the workplace as fun as possible, within reason. I love to make it a place people want to go to, instead of dread. That said, there are always the people that ruin it for the rest of the team by taking advantage. To combat this, I make it very clear what the expectations of allowed and prohibited behaviors are, and am sure to reinforce those expectations."
"There are always going to be co-workers who are there for the gab, rather than the work, or who are content just being in their position with no intent of advancing through the ranks. Early in my career, this bothered me. Why weren't they motivated to grow and learn? Then, I realized that it's important to have those people since a company can't have all its people always vying for the top. If there's a distracting coworker, I try to make my priorities clear and engage kindly and courteously with them as humans, and then get back to work. I am sure to remain friendly, while also firm, as needed, to communicate that I am here for work first as a priority."
"Very rarely do I find that my coworkers successfully distract me- even in a department meeting, I find I'm able to remain on task. I was always taught to ignore the behavior you wish to cease. If my coworkers are distracting and seeking attention, I try to ignore it as much as possible and only address it when it's detracting from a productive work environment."
17. Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot to solve a problem.
Troubleshooting is like reverse engineering - it takes skill, effort, and patience. You have to understand the problem to know how to work backward from it to find a solution. Knowing how to solve problems with technical equipment is always a solid skill, and a great way to demonstrate your example. Show that you are insightful in your approach.
"Last week, while operating the ultrasound machine, I was receiving a repeated error. I entered in a few different codes, but that didn't solve the issue. I then did a hard reset, removing all power sources. Then, I referred to the online manual for additional suggestions. It took a little time and patience, but I was able to resolve the issue without calling a technician."
"We do not have an IT department in my current office so whenever an issue arises, I am the person that my team calls. Troubleshooting is fun for me - it's like a new challenge every time. Google and IT forums are often my best friend!"
"We had a major complication in our system and our entire production line shut down. Our network administrator could not be reached so I had to go old-school and manually enter the orders so that my team could continue with production. The entire debacle lasted half of a day, and my system worked well as a placeholder."
"One of our clients called me in a panic, saying that Facebook rejected their ad campaign that we so carefully crafted. I researched on ad policy forums and learned that it was not approved because we did not set our demographic targets to people only over the age of 21. The ad was for a craft beer company, and we did not put into consideration the legal age in most states. Once I was able to narrow down the issue, I tweaked the ad, and it was approved."
"One horrific day at work, our systems went down entirely. We had no backup for how to check customers out, so I had to dig in the deep recesses of the back room and find the card imprint machines, and we wrote out tickets by hand and made imprints of the cards. I tried all the usual tricks to get our registers up, but couldn't get them to come online as it was a network error. I found the way around it with the handprint cards and then opening the cash drawer with a key."
"In a troubleshooting situation, I approach it like a maze and work backward. There are usually multiple factors contributing to any one issue, so I try to discern what they are, weigh those out and try to conclude what the potential best solution is. As far as technically speaking, my go-to in many situations, as rudimentary and childish as it may be, is often turn it off and turn it back on. Ha. I know it sounds too simple, but it often works best."
"I do everything I can to test out the technology before I bring it into the classroom- the day is so packed that we don't have any time to spare on figuring out technology if it acts up. I also always have a backup plan in mind in case the smart board or whatever we're utilizing that day doesn't cooperate, so we don't lose precious learning time." However, I believe that troubleshooting applies to more than just technology. Problems that occur offline also need troubleshooting as they arise, including figuring out a lesson plan and how it works or doesn't. It's all about working backward to see what issues, if any, may arise in its implementation during a dry run. By preparing in advance and being aware of what issues may come up, I'm able to flush out problems that would have otherwise arisen during the class time. "
18. Tell me about a time when your analysis of a problem was deemed to be incorrect. What would you have done differently?
Everyone makes mistakes when analyzing a situation. The interviewer isn't concerned with perfection; instead, they want to know how you deal the aftermath of rejection! Sometimes you can't correct your mistakes, but you can certainly learn from them. Highlight your ability to learn from your mistakes and move on, professionally.
"It was my first job as a physician's assistant, and I was trying to diagnose a patient who had severe pain in her abdomen. After running some tests, the doctor and I believed she was suffering from a gallbladder problem. We treated her, but she came back to the ER a week later. It turned out she had a problem with her pancreas. Even though we misdiagnosed her initially, we were able to use this mistake to help us identify the real problem. I've learned that sometimes making a mistake is a part of the process of solving a more complicated problem."
"I was asked recently to work on balancing an accounts receivable report. Math is not my strongest suit; however, I was confident in my ability to make it happen. Through a bit of research, I carefully worked on the document and was quite proud of my result. It turns out, I skipped a few important steps, and my work was, in fact, incorrect. I took it as a learning opportunity but also realized that my strengths are in other areas of business. I should have asked for the project to be placed with someone else, but I do not regret trying."
"We had incredibly high turnover rates when I first started in my current role. Going in guns blazing, wanting to make a strong first impression, I did a complete overhaul of the training manual thinking that was the problem. It turns out the training manual was just fine. The culprit to the turnover was one employee who was a complete bully on the job. The moment I terminated that person, the issue was solved. At least now I have a fancy new training manual! Moving forward, I now poll my team regularly for job satisfaction. I encourage a transparent workplace culture where people feel safe bringing their issues to me."
"I had a client, earlier in my career, who was not seeing the same results from their Facebook advertising as they once did. I changed the headlines, increased the budget, and even did multiple A-B tests. What I failed to see were the strategic algorithm changes that Facebook had made, which directly affected the visibility of my clients' ads. Now, I have alerts and subscribe to a couple of blogs solely dedicated to these changes, so I never miss a beat."
"Unfortunately, this happened not too long ago where I misjudged a customer complaint. The associate needed to escalate the conflict to a manager but did not accurately portray the customer's concern, and I jumped into action based off of the limited information given. Due to not gathering enough information from the customer herself or clarifying the misunderstanding with the associate, I took a misstep with the customer and did not resolve the issue as quickly as I would have liked. Ultimately, I was able to clarify the situation and get to a resolution that worked for everyone, leaving the customer happy. However I have some regrets. It was a learning process, and something I have been sure not to repeat since. Were I to do it again, I would clarify the situation with the customer, rather than taking the associate's word for it."
"When pitching an existing client on increased volume next year, I had made a recommendation on the most effective carrier for a lane. I based this recommendation on historical data and projected future rates. However, a merger occurred after the time of the pitch, and their prices skyrocketed since they were the only viable carrier for that area. Without competition, they didn't have to remain competitive in their rates. While I could not have predicted the merger, I could have quoted out with a higher margin on our part so that if there were some snag like this, we are covered. Since we lock in the rates for the customer, we took a loss each time they moved freight this way. As a backup method, whenever possible, I attempted to send the freight another way, so that we would lose some money but not take as large of a hit. That was a big learning experience for me and has helped me be better prepared to pitch other customers in a more effective, CYA type way."
"While teaching, the kids told me that I needed to quiet down at one point. I assumed it was the teacher whom I shared a wall with, that planted the seed, which was irksome. This type of situation had happened before. This time, however, I was wrong. I asked her to avoid delivering messages to me through the students, and she said she had not. Apparently, the students knew she had a headache that day, so they were all watching their volume level. I was glad that I did address the situation with the teacher, but made sure not to be accusatory or make assumptions about motives again."
19. Tell me about the most challenging aspect of your previous job. How did you overcome it?
Sometimes the most significant workplace challenge is a difficult task that puts you outside of your comfort zone. It could be something that requires skills you haven't mastered yet or qualities where you are not the strongest. Explain to the interviewer why it was difficult but be sure to spend more time highlighting the actions you took to overcome the challenge.
"The most challenging aspect of my last job was troubleshooting some of the older technology. We needed some serious upgrades, but they weren't in the budget. Learning how to work around this problem was quite a challenge, but I learned how by referring to old manuals and online forums. I ended up to become one of the stronger users of this program, in our entire office! I quickly became the go-to person when anyone had questions about the technology."
"In my current role, we have global offices that span four time zones. It is an incredible challenge to be continually calculating the difference in my mind when I call or email on updates for projects, for instance. I now have each locations time added to my desktop, my smartphone, and four individual clocks on my wall. These small and inexpensive changes made all the difference."
"The most challenging aspect of my previous job was the constant need to pivot when it came to trends in the industry. We would gain footing, and then the next greatest product would arrive. It made it difficult to feel loyalty to any of it. I started to express loyalty to the company's ability to discern great products instead of narrowing in on the products themselves. This shift in thought helped with mine and my teams' performance when it came to sales."
"My previous role was with a small agency where budgets were always a concern by the clients. Although I liked the clients, they were usually independent businesses with less than ten employees. They had a hard time thinking big-picture. I overcame this by coming up with a questionnaire that would address their greatest pain points and needs for their business. I would then focus on their small goals versus what I felt their company could be. Some business owners are more comfortable being comfortable, versus ruling the world, and that's okay! I just needed to wrap my marketing brain around that."
"The most challenging part of my prior role was navigating the landscape as the newest manager on the team. I needed to work on gaining the trust and respect despite my being green. I worked hard to build individual relationships with each associate and forge a bond with them. I also shared information about myself, including my experience in the industry, and who I am as a person. I know that this made me more human, approachable, and also solidified my credentials, so I know how to get the team on my side."
"The most challenging part of my previous job was relying on another team to be efficient. I am all for teamwork, but for me to be paid, this team needed to deliver timely and quality work. Meanwhile, their goals and metrics remained disconnected to any sales outcomes. This situation made it tough to motivate them. In the short term, I sat down with them and explained why it was vital for myself them, and the company that we work together on the same timeline. I incentivized them with coffee or store gift cards. Bigger picture, I sat down with the management of both teams and shared the issues we were having, suggesting a solution that would tie their KPIs and financial incentives to our outcomes, to make them invested. In the end, the short- and long-term approaches proved useful."
"I think the most challenging aspect of my current job is the fact that I share a classroom with another educator. Without having my space, other obstacles come up such as teachers trying to influence how I run my class, or them holding small conversations with their aides during my teaching time. I make sure to address this up front with the classroom teachers- that while it is also their room, please treat it as though it were mine during the 40 minutes that I am teaching. If there is ever an issue, I am sure to address it quickly and directly, so we can move past it."
20. When faced with a problem, are you more likely to jump into solving it, or are you the type to carefully assess the issue first?
The interviewer would like to know more about your problem-solving skills, and your personality. Discuss how you tackle problems when they arise, and keep your answer work-related if you can. Whether you are the type to jump right into solving a problem or you are more methodical in your approach, highlight to the interviewer that you are capable of handling issues professionally while using sound judgment.
"When faced with a problem, I am more likely to jump right into solving it. I believe that you cannot leave a problem to fester or become bigger than it already is. You have to take ownership of the issue, and involve yourself in the resolution right away. With that said, I am responsible for my decision making and certainly don't jump in blind. If I am unsure of what action to take, I will ask my leader for advice."
"I am careful and calculated in every step taken when it comes to problem-solving. This effort is because as an administrator, one error in judgment can throw off the timing of an entire project. I would say that I am the particular type who thoroughly assesses situations."
"As a manager, responsible for a team of 18 individuals, I need to be very calculated in most decisions that I make. I cannot act on the fly, or by emotion alone because others are relying on me."
"In marketing, I feel that I often have to do both. Some smaller decisions simply cannot be over-thought and others, especially when it comes to strategy, will need extra thought. I can provide both sides when appropriate."
"I think it depends on the situation at hand, honestly. In a familiar situation, I am ready to jump right in and tackle the problem. However, when the stakes are high, or tension is high, I am more inclined to take a step back, slow down, and be more tactful in my approach."
"I'm a "roll up my sleeves" kind of person. I see a problem, envision a solution, and begin to tackle it, figuring it out as I go and asking for help along the way. I think it can become a 'bury your head in the sand' issue, or the team will have the bystander effect, thinking someone else is going to take care of it, so I jump in and take action. I rally the troops, gather the appropriate supplies or resources as needed, and get to work."
"I'm the type of teacher who jumps in, head first and gets the work done. I know that the longer I wait to address a problem, the bigger it becomes, so I make sure to get right to it. This approach applies to interpersonal issues as well as curriculum missteps."
21. Give me a recent example of a valuable lesson you learned from a problem you faced at work.
One of the best aspects of problem-solving is that you always have the opportunity to learn from the experience. Seeing problems as opportunities to grow, is what makes you an excellent employee! Show the interviewer that you can learn valuable lessons when there is a problem at hand. Use a work-related example, if you can.
"Last month our sales team was facing a major challenge when we lost one of our primary distributors. I took action and started cold-calling, other potential distributors. I brainstormed with my team in some other ways that we could avoid a negative impact on our bottom line. We were quite successful in our recovery, and I would say that the biggest lesson I learned from the experience is that you are often only successful if you have motivated people in your corner."
"The most valuable lesson I learned from problem-solving at work is that not everyone will see your solution as the best one. Accepting change is difficult for some people, so I have found that not everyone will be on board right away."
"I recently had an employee express their disinterest in the job and the company. Rather than coach them out, I selfishly wanted to 'save' the employee. I put in extra hours mentoring and training her, just to see her quit anyways. It's a valuable lesson as a manager to put your energy into those who want to be there. Other efforts are often just a temporary fix for the inevitable."
"Marketing is always shifting so I often learn new, valuable lessons. One lesson I recently learned was to double check the documents that I send out for any needed updates. A lot of the manuals and how-tos that we send clients are evergreen; however, some are not. I accidentally sent an old social media guide to a client, and they ended up being incredibly confused. My lack of attention to detail at that moment was a bit embarrassing but lesson learned!"
"A recent learning experience was when I misjudged what the customer was upset about, and I didn't take the time to learn what it was that she was looking for. It reminded me to slow down, go back to the basics, and not assume that all situations fit the mold of the 'typical' customer. It was a perfect reminder that though I've seen most everything, I need to remember that each person and situation is unique."
"A recent valuable lesson for me has been not putting all of my eggs in one basket, as the old saying goes. Over 64% of my sales came from one group of stores, and they've always been a big contributor to the entire company's sales numbers. However, they were put on "hold" recently by their corporate, due to some restructuring issues. This event threw me for a loop. I was in real danger of not hitting my monthly sales target, and therefore I would have fallen short on my quarterly quota as well. I had to work extra long hours and hustle my other clients and fence-sitters to get them into "buy" mode to make up for the void in my numbers. It took a ton of effort, long nights, and creative pitches, but I was able to make up for the gap. I learned just how important it is to diversify my portfolio so that I don't find myself, or the company, in this position again."
"When working on curriculum development, I learned an important lesson. Two of our teachers wanted to keep a lesson in, because of personal connections to the lesson, but the other three were quite against it, with me being the uncertain one. I saw the validity in both sides. So, rather than find ourselves with a divisive issue on our hands, I proposed that we have a "freebie" lesson when we each got to pick one that we thought would culturally enrich our students. I learned that by thinking outside of the box, the team and our students would all benefit."
22. When change occurs in the workplace, it can create new problems. Do you see these as inconvenient problems, or opportunities to learn?
When a change occurs in the workplace, often problems arise due to new implementations and procedures, or unforeseen kinks needing to be worked out. Do you approach these problems positively or do you resist the change? Talk to the interviewer about how you can adapt to the inevitable issues that come with the change in the workplace.
"I fully understand that when the change occurs in the workplace, some new problems may arise because of it. I embrace workplace change because it often gives me the opportunity to learn a new skill or even teach a colleague a new skill."
"As an executive assistant, I see change all the time. Policy changes, travel changes, issues in scheduling, and the like. Although they are often inconvenient or threaten to throw my day off, I am always prepared with a Plan B. Each time these situations occur, I learn something new."
"Change is inevitable when you work with people because you cannot control everyone's reactions in a day, or whether they even show up to work. Recently I had a major shift in my team and, overnight, went from being completely confident in my team to the need of reassessing our strategy. I saw this as an opportunity to stretch outside of my comfort zone. I embrace change and learning opportunities."
"One change that we always go through in this industry are shifts related to social media platforms and online trends. These tools are ever evolving, and when you think you have it - poof - changes are made. I don't mind this, however. I believe that each shift is a chance to learn something new."
"I like to approach every day and situation as an opportunity to learn and grow, so even though it's uncomfortable, I like to think that there's something valuable to take away from any situation that involves change."
"I'm all about taking everything in stride and jumping on opportunities for growth and improvement. My latest job has been a year-long exercise in that: a start-up that pivoted entirely from the direction it had been going in when I was brought on, with an entirely new team and even intended client base. I decided to take it as a growth opportunity. I took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work learning and adapting to the new product, clients, and management. I think that the experience will serve me well in the future since I became quite flexible and learned a lot about myself and sales in the process."
"I am adaptable to change. As a teacher, I have to be open to change! Nothing stays the same in education and students challenge everything. I am capable of pivoting when needed and am not thrown off my game, easily."
23. Rate your problem solving skills from 1-10. How do you justify your rating?
The interviewer wants to know how you would rate your problem-solving skills. Of course, you want to give yourself a healthy rating; however, it's crucial that you remain realistic. Try to avoid giving yourself a 10, and nobody is perfect, and you do not want to come across as overly confident or someone who has no room for feedback and improvement. Alternately, avoid giving yourself too little credit. You do not want to paint the picture that you are a problem-solving dud! Try to remain in the 7.5-9.5 range while staying honest and accurate. Everyone has room to learn and improve! Be sure to justify your score as well.
"I rate my problem-solving skills as an 8/10. I will, on occasion, have times when I am not as efficient as I would like to be but all in all, I do feel that my problem-solving skills are above average. My supervisor and co-workers will attest to my fast reflexes when a problem arises, and they would also say that I remain calm under pressure."
"I will rate myself an eight because I value problem-solving but, just like most people, I have things to learn. Some ways to ensure that I can effectively solve issues are by utilizing multiple knowledge resources when looking for answers."
"I will rate myself an 8.5 because I consider myself a strong problem solver, especially when it comes to important matters that affect my team. Solid problem-solving skills are the foundation of success in business. I am always striving to be a better problem solver, so I leave the rest of the scale as an aspirational measure."
"Problem-solving is at the heart of what we do in marketing. We have to solve branding and sales issues for our clients all the time. I am an exceptional problem-solver, and quite creative with my strategies. For that reason, I will rate myself as a 9/10 and always improving."
"I'd rate my problem-solving skills as an 8/10. I believe I'm always a willing learner who brings creativity to the table, no matter what the situation. I am still full of ideas on how to solve a problem, and yet I am also open to the opinion and input of others. I like to collaborate but am not afraid to take charge and make it happen. There's room for growth, which is why I give myself only an 8!"
"I would say I get a solid 8.3 on a scale of 10. Seems weird to give myself something like a .3, but I think of it as an 83%, which is a B minus teetering on a solid B. It's a solid grade, with definite room for improvement, since I'm certainly not perfect. The reason for the B-/B grade would be that I'm quick to take action and figure out the solution as I go, but sometimes I could benefit from taking a moment to pause and reflect or gather other contributors before taking action. That said, I believe I get the best outcome possible when faced with a challenge."
"I would say I'm a strong problem solver and would rate myself an 8/10. I follow my gut and problem solve creatively, but know there is still room for improvement. I think my teamwork and problem strategies highlight my strengths in problem-solving. I can hear what people find essential and flush out the things on which we can compromise. Then, I come up with a great outcome that makes the teachers happy and is in the best interest of our students."
24. What do you think might be the greatest challenges faced in this job? How will you overcome these challenges?
Even though it may seem like a dream job, the interviewer wants to know that you have realistic expectations of the role and that you will not be blindsided if problems or challenges present themselves. Keep your answer simple. It is okay to ask for clarification on the position if you do not fully understand what challenges are in store for you.
"I think the greatest challenges in this role will be to learn the proper operation of the equipment. Another challenge will be the physical aspect of the position as I will be required to stand and walk around most of the day. I will be sure to pay keen attention to training and ask questions along the way. In regards to the physical component - I will get used to the additional activity after just a couple of days, I'm sure."
"I believe that the greatest challenge in this job will be to learn the ins and outs of your systems. I am familiar with SAP; however, will need to navigate some modules that will be new to me. If you don't mind, I would like to gain a head start on these by studying online for the next weekend or so."
"As a new manager, the biggest challenge is always to earn the trust of my new team. I plan to do this by getting to know everyone through genuine interest and conversation. I do understand that solid trust develops over time, but it's important to me to get started on the right foot."
"The greatest challenge is going to be getting to know your clients and their preferences. Every client has their quirks that need to be kept the top of mind during projects. I plan to read as many project notes as possible before diving into face-to-face meetings. I intend to come across to your clients as well-prepared and earnest."
"I think the added responsibility of running one of the highest volume departments in the store will be an adjustment, but it's a welcome challenge. I am looking forward to tackling it head on and growing through the challenges, because I know on the other side of those challenges, of that responsibility, lies the biggest opportunity yet."
"I would say the greatest challenge I'll face in this role is learning the industry ins and outs to be perceived as an expert when making the pitch to new clients. I want to be sure to immerse myself in the industry jargon, attend as many seminars and conventions as possible, and I've already begun subscribing and reading the leading industry publications so that I can get into the nitty-gritty of how it all works. Of course, I will also seek out mentorship opportunities where I can learn from folks who have been in the industry for years. I find they love to share their knowledge and it gives me a leg up."
"I believe the greatest challenge faced in this new position would be getting accustomed to the new curriculum. I am accustomed to my lesson plans and the curriculum I've had a hand in developing over the last ten years, so something new will have a bit of a learning curve, but welcomed. I am looking forward to a new challenge and to tackle a new set of lessons!"
25. What steps do you take to solve a problem?
The interviewer would like to know that you understand the importance of taking calculated steps when problem-solving in the workplace. Most candidates want to sound like go-getters, and their first instinct would be to say that they jump right in. Jumping right in can cause costly mistakes and oversights. Assure the interviewer that you will workshop the issue before diving in! Here are some steps to take: 1. Identify The Problem. Proper problem solving involves ensuring that you are very clear on the nature of the problem. Be sure that you fully understand the core of the problem before trying to repair it. 2. Identify The Stakeholders. Ask yourself, what the best case resolution will be for all stakeholders, not just for yourself. Ask yourself what is best for the company, your coworkers, and your clients. 3. List Your Options. The third step is to figure out what your options are when it comes to your course of action. Write them down if you need to. 4. Evaluate Your Options. Take a look at your list of potential actions and see if you can solve the problem using just one, or a blend of them. 5. Execute! Finally, execute your well-researched action plan. Be sure to set up a follow-up time to ensure that your solution worked.
"When I need to solve a problem, I first stop to ensure that I understand the issue at hand. Once I do, I will think of potential fixes and the pros and cons of each. Whichever solution or a blend of solutions is best for the customer; I will choose that option."
"My current company is very team-focused, and we train everyone to problem-solve with "what is best for team morale" being the question at hand. I have been with the company for twelve years so most problems I have a pretty clear idea of what will work for us, but when I need to workshop an idea, I will call in my team and have a brainstorm session."
"Problem-solving in Marketing can be unique because you have to truly balance the customers' pain point with the solutions that are currently available. Also, some clients like trying new marketing methods and others want to remain conservative, using only tried and true advertising methods, for instance. When I approach a problem, I first identify the personality of the client and their business and research options from there."
"Problem-solving in a retail environment is challenging in the sense that the issue is often something that needs to be fixed immediately, like a faulty product or an upset customer. When faced with a problem, I ask questions first, to ensure that I fully understand the core of the issue. Once I fully understand the core of the problem, I can more easily troubleshoot from there."
"Every customer is different, with unique needs, so when I need to problem-solve, I am often coming across a brand new problem or a different version of a problem I have seen before. Our company is big on chasing the money, and so I have been trained that every solution I choose must have the business' bottom line top of mind. My process is to understand the issue, address who the stakeholders are, and create a solution where everyone feels they won in some small way."
"Problem-solving in the classroom is a challenge because it is often on the fly. Or, a student will ask a question in a new way and I won't necessarily have the answer! When a problem arises, I like to involve my class, have a brainstorm session, and discuss as a group what we could do. This method turns an issue into a conversation where we have the opportunity to come up with some unique solutions."
Problem-Solving Interview Questions & Answers
By Megainterview Team
- Updated July 13, 2023
- Published March 9, 2020
A job interview is a great moment for interviewers to evaluate how candidates approach challenging work situations . They do this by asking problem-solving questions. These types of questions are commonly asked during interviews since problem-solving skills are essential in most jobs. In any workplace, there are challenges, and when hiring new personnel, hiring managers look for candidates who are equipped to deal with this.
Problem-solving questions are so-called behavioral interview questions . Behavioral interview questions are strategic type of questions that require you to provide an answer that includes an example situation that you experienced in your career. These questions focus on specific work situations that you experienced and how you responded.
A basic example of a behavior question about problem-solving is ‘ tell me about a time you solved a problem at work .’ As you can see, the interviewer is looking for you to explain a situation and how you approach it, and how you solved it. Furthermore, the interviewer is interested in what you learned from that experience. Answering behavioral questions requires some work because you need to provide the interviewer with a strong answer to convince them that you’re the right person for the job.
The rationale behind asking problem-solving questions is to discover how you approach complex and challenging situations and if you can provide an effective solution. Interview questions about your past behavior might sound challenging, but they are actually a great opportunity for you to show that you’re a fit for the position. With the right preparation, you can use your answers to problem-solving questions to your advantage.
What Are Problem-solving Interview Questions?
Basically, problem-solving skills relate to your ability to identify problems, issues, obstacles, challenges, and opportunities and then come up with and implement effective and efficient solutions. However, this is a broad definition of problem-solving abilities. Depending on the position and field you’re applying for a position in the interviewer can focus on different aspects of problem-solving.
Examples of problem-solving competencies are:
Taking initiative means that you step up to the plate when needed and that you take action without being asked to do so. People who take the initiative demonstrate that they can think for themselves and take action whenever necessary. Furthermore, you actively look for opportunities to make a difference in the workplace.
Creative thinking means that you’re able to look at something in a new way to find a solution. People who are creative have the ability to come up with new ways to carry out their tasks, solve problems, and meet challenges. Creative people are original thinkers and are able to bring unorthodox perspectives to their work.
Resourcefulness is the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome challenges in your work. Furthermore, people who are resourceful are original in their ways of thinking to overcome challenges.
Analytical thinking skills
These skills refer to the ability to gather data, break down a complex problem, weigh pros and cons, and make logical decisions. People who possess analytical thinking skills help the company overcome challenges and are able to spot potential issues before they become actual problems.
Determination can be described as the firmness of purpose or resoluteness. Specifically, people who are determined are persistent and do not give up easily or when they have a setback. Determination gives these people the motivation to push through and keep moving forward.
People who are result-oriented have their full focus on getting to the desired outcome.
Problem-solving behavioral interview questions
As discussed in the introduction, problem-solving questions fall into the behavioral category of interview questions . These questions ask you to provide specific examples of past work experiences. For interviewers, understanding your past professional performance is the best way to gauge your future job performance.
Behavioral questions are focused on the desired skills or competency area, such as in this case, problem-solving. Other common competency areas for which behavioral questions are used are teamwork , communication , time management , creative thinking skills , leadership , adaptability , conflict resolution , etc.
Behavioral job interview questions usually start with the following:
- Give me an example of
- Tell me about a time when you
- What do you do when
- Describe a situation where
Examples of problem-solving behavioral interview questions:
- Give me an example of a time you had to solve a difficult problem at work.
- Tell me about a time when you identified and fixed a problem before it became urgent.
- What was the best idea you came up with at your last position?
- Describe a situation where you find a creative way to overcome an obstacle.
As you can see, the questions mentioned above require you to discuss your past behavior in a professional work environment. The reason for asking behavioral job interview questions instead of just asking traditional ones is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is your past performance in similar situations .
The interviewer wants to discuss previous work situations and wants you to elaborate on them to get to know you better. Solid interview preparation will help you give the answers that the interviewer is looking for. This starts with doing your research and thoroughly reviewing the job description . Doing so can help you understand what type of problem-solving skills are required to successfully perform the job you’re interviewing for.
By preparing example scenarios to questions you expect based on your research , you can give exactly the information that he or she is looking for. In other words, you need to relate your answers to the job requirements and company culture of the organization where you’re applying for a position.
To answer behavioral questions about your problem-solving skills, you need to ensure that you provide the interviewer with specific details about the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that came out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer. The STAR method is discussed in more detail later on in this article.
Why Interviewers Ask Problem-solving Interview Questions
Problem-solving skills are required in most job positions. This means that a lot of hiring managers will try to assess your problem-solving skills during your interview. The main reason for asking you about situations in which you used your problem-solving skills is to get an understanding of how you work.
The interviewers want to get questions answered, such as:
- Are you results-oriented, and are you proactively involved in your work?
- Do you look for different ways to contribute?
- Are you an individual that others can count on to increase team performance?
- Are you a self-starter, or do you need someone to give you instructions?
Most likely, the interviewers look for a self-starting person with general problem-solving skills that can be used in different situations. A proven track record of solving problems such as those required in the position you’re interviewing for will definitely help convince the interviewer. Therefore, make sure you prepare answers to questions you expect in advance.
For example, someone who works as a customer service representative should be able to deal with a frustrated or angry customer . They need to be able to solve these problems and know how to handle such situations. Other examples of positions where problem-solving skills are essential are, for instance, accounts or project managers. They need to be flexible in their approaches and should be able to handle a change in deadlines. Another example is, for instance, a logistic manager who should be able to fix an inefficient logistics process.
The Interviewers’ Goal When Assessing Your Problem-solving Skills
There are several underlying reasons why interviewers use behavioral questions to assess your problem-solving skills. The main one, of course, is that they want to hire a person who’s able to perform the job.
Instead of hiring the person that they ‘like’ they need something better to figure out which candidate is the right fit for the job. By analyzing your behavior in past situations that are similar to the ones that are required in the role that you’re applying for, they try to do just that. Below we discuss a couple of important elements employers consider when making a hiring decision.
Costs of making a bad hiring decision
Employers want to make sure that they hire the right person for the job. For a company, making a bad hiring decision is not only about losing money, but it can also lead to a decrease in productivity and morale. Hiring a bad candidate could lead to leaving a bad impression on customers/clients, but also with coworkers.
Furthermore, time will be lost if the company needs to search for another candidate after a bad hire. Therefore, employers do everything to avoid such situations. Behavioral questions are regarded as a preventative way to make sure that the right person with the right fit for the company is hired .
Specific details of your behavior
By asking behavioral questions about your problem-solving skills, the interviewers try to uncover specific details of your behavior. They want to find out if you are able to clearly identify a problem and if you are able to come up with an efficient and effective solution when needed.
Of course, they got your resume already and maybe even a motivational letter or letter of recommendation . Still, the interviewer can only assess your hard skills and educational levels based on these documents.
Essential soft skills , such as problem-solving, are easier to assess during job interviews with the help of behavioral interview questions. Therefore, include real-life work scenarios in your answers that demonstrate how you have used the skills required for the position that you’re interviewing for. The interviewer wants to assess if you possess the skills required to perform the day-to-day tasks and deal with challenges that you will encounter in the workplace.
Your (past) behavior as a predictor of your future job performance
Questions about your problem-solving skills and the answers you give are used to determine the chances of your future success in the job that you’re interviewing for.
Specific behavioral problem-solving questions such as ‘ tell me about a time you had to solve a problem at work. What steps did you take before deciding on how to solve the problem, and why? ‘ give the interviewer more insight into your professional behavior and in turn, your future job performance .
Another way to assess your behavior is by asking hypothetical questions. If you, for instance, do not have certain experience yet, the interviewer could ask you a question along the lines of ‘ What would you do if you were caught off-guard by a problem that you had not foreseen? Which steps would you take to address the problem? ‘. As you can see, this question is hypothetical in nature. The interviewer wants to hear which steps you would take to address a possible complexity in your work. Based on your answer, the interviewer will assess if your approach is suitable for the position for which you’re interviewing.
It’s therefore important that you prepare for frequently asked interview questions that you can expect during your interview. By preparing the right example answers on how you have solved problems in your previous jobs and how you would solve problems in the job you’re applying for, you can provide a concise answer without missing important details.
Avoid making a wrong hiring decision
Questions that gauge your professional behavior help employers assess your future job performance. In other words, this helps them make a better hiring decision. A perfect resume or cover letter is not enough to impress seasoned interviewers.
By asking behavioral problem-solving questions, the interviewer tries to uncover your previous work patterns. The information in your answers gives them more insight into your approach to critical situations and if this approach matches the ones required for the position you’re applying for.
By preparing the right way, you can make sure that your example answer situations include aspects of the most important job requirements. Of course, the interviewer is looking for candidates that fit the job description , so make sure that your answers relate to the job requirements.
What Interviewers Look for in Successful Candidates
In short, interviewers look for candidates who have the right work approach to succeed within their company and in that particular position. This is also why we can’t emphasize the importance of being able to demonstrate your skills through solid example scenarios enough .
The right preparation will help you get there. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are capable of taking on the day-to-day tasks required for the position and have the potential to grow . For example, if you are able to work in and deal with transitions in fast-paced environments such as financial markets . And can you handle the complex situations that you will encounter? Are you able to deal with such transitions effectively? In this case, you need to show adaptability and problem-solving skills through example scenarios of how you did so in the past.
Problem-solving behavioral questions are used to get insights into how you approach problems at work, if you take the initiative, and if you possess the right creative and critical thinking skills . Basically, the interviewers want to get the following questions answered:
- Do you take the initiative?
- Can you communicate effectively?
- Are you able to adequately respond to problems or issues that occur during your work?
- Can you perform in stressful and unexpected situations?
- Are you able to adjust to changing work environments?
- Can you assist your coworkers or team when needed?
- Are you flexible in your approaches to situations at work?
Red Flags for Interviewers Assessing Your Problem-solving Skills
When answering questions about your problem-solving skills, there are certain things you need to look out for. Below we discuss a couple of warning signs that interviewers consider when you answer their questions. Ensure that you avoid these at all costs to avoid making the wrong impression.
1. Not answering the question or not providing enough detail
If you answer a question with ‘I can’t recall a situation where I encountered such a problem ,’ this is considered a red flag. This could mean that you did not prepare well and that you’re not taking the interview seriously. Furthermore, the interviewer could interpret such an answer as you may avoid dealing with challenging situations.
If you cannot provide specific details or examples about what you claim in your resume or cover letter, this can be considered a red flag too. If you, for instance, claim that you have successfully solved problems and used critical thinking skills in your work, you need to make sure you’re able to back this up through clear examples of times you did so. Failing to do so could lead to a quick elimination of your candidacy for the position. If the interviewer has trouble verifying your employment history, this is considered a warning sign.
2. Canned responses to questions
Preparing answers is key to success for any interview. However, this means preparing original, effective, and relevant answers that are related to the position you’re interviewing for.
Generic answers to behavioral problem-solving questions such as ‘ tell me about a time you had to solve an issue with a customer ‘ are considered warning signs. An example of a generic answer to that particular question is ‘t his one time I had to deal with an angry customer who had complaints about the pricing of a product. I calmed her down and made the sale ‘. As you can see, this answer does not provide much insight into your problem solving skills, thought process, and how you approach the situation.
If you give a generic answer, you can expect more follow-up questions from the interviewer. However, it’s better to prepare strong answers to impress the interviewer that you actually possess the required skills for the job.
3. Answers that focus on problems, not solutions
The reason for asking specific behavioral-problem solving questions is to assess how you approach and solve problems. It’s, therefore, important that your answers focus on the solution, not the problem . Of course, it’s important that you are able to spot and identify problems, but finding a solution is essential. If your answers focus on problems too much, you can come across as too negative for the job.
Negativity, in any form, in your answers, is considered a red flag. This can be talking negatively about a problem you had to solve but also talking inappropriately about previous employers or co-workers. Negative undertones never impress interviewers the right way. Therefore, focus on how you solve problems and put yourself in the best light possible.
4. Too stressed or uncomfortable during an interview
Interviewers know that almost everybody is slightly uncomfortable when put on the spot during a job interview. However, when you’re too stressed to provide a good answer, this can be viewed as an indicator that you do not handle stressful situations well. Of course, remaining calm under pressure while still being able to solve problems is essential for positions in which problem-solving skills are required.
5. Failing to respond effectively
Failing to respond effectively to interview questions comes across weak. It’s therefore important that you prepare for your interview by thoroughly analyzing the job description and try to understand what kind of problems you will be solving in the position that you applied for. This research will help you choose the right examples from your past that are most likely to impress the interviewer.
Therefore, research the job and organization and make notes of the required skills and experiences you think the company values. This allows you to tailor your answers to your situation.
Also, think about possible follow-up questions the interviewer might ask you. Because you already know what examples you will use in your answers to questions you expect , if you prepare the right way, you can figure out which follow-up questions are likely to be asked. For instance, if you’re preparing for the interview question, ‘ tell me about a time you solved a problem at work ,’ you can expect the interviewer to follow up with, ‘ what steps did you take to solve the situation?’.
6. Not taking responsibility or minimizing the significance of a problem
When a problem is identified but not addressed, this could quickly escalate into a bigger problem. Employees who do not take responsibility or those who leave things for later might not be result-oriented and engaged in their work.
Another way of taking responsibility is to show self-awareness. It’s common for interviewers to ask you about a time that you failed, especially in situations where you needed to solve problems. They are interested in what went wrong in a work situation, if you took responsibility for your actions, and what you learned from that situation. Not taking responsibility for, for instance, a project that may have failed , is considered a warning sign.
Self-awareness and being to reflect on situations is an important characteristic to possess in the workplace. Interviewers want to hire candidates that can admit errors or who made thoughtful mistakes trying to solve problems in the past and tried to fix them. Employers know that candidates are human and make mistakes, just like everybody else. It’s important that your answers show that you take responsibility for situations and describe the actions you took to repair any problems or challenges.
Frequently Asked Problem-solving Interview Questions
Below you can find commonly asked behavioral problem-solving questions . These questions are divided into regular questions and hypothetical questions. Learn everything you need to know about common interview questions that are frequently asked during job interviews .
Problem-solving interview questions:
- Tell me about a time you faced an unexpected challenge at work and how you dealt with it.
- Describe a time a customer approached you with a problem or concern. How did you respond?
- Tell me about a time you had to change your planned course of action at the last moment. How did you re-evaluate your priorities?
- What was the best idea you came in in your last position?
- Tell me about a time you had to solve a difficult problem.
- What’s the most significant improvement that you have made in the last year?
- Tell me about the most innovative new idea that you have implemented in the workplace.
- Have you ever improved the workflow of a project based on your analysis? How did you do this?
- Describe a situation in which you anticipated a potential problem and applied preventive measures.
- Tell me about a time you faced a significant obstacle you had to overcome to succeed in a project.
- When you’re working on several projects, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to all of them. How do you go about prioritizing the needs of a client?
- Describe a situation in which you had to analyze information and make a recommendation.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement in the workplace? Why?
- Describe a situation in which you needed to motivate others to get something done.
Hypothetical problem-solving interview questions:
- How would you approach a situation in which you had to analyze information to make a recommendation to a client?
- Tell me how you would handle a situation in which you have a deadline you cannot meet.
- How would you handle a conflict with a co-worker?
- A frustrated client calls you to discuss a problem. How do you deal with such a situation?
- How would you handle a situation in which you would need to convince someone to change their decision?
Preparing Answers to Problem-solving Interview Questions
There are several steps that you can take to prepare for problem-solving questions. Here you can find a job interview checklist . To get started, you can consider the following steps.
Step 1: Research
Before your interview, it’s important that you thoroughly research the position and company. Read the job description carefully to find specific skills that a candidate needs to possess to successfully perform the job. Think of skills such as adaptability , communication , and problem-solving. Also, read the company website to get more information about their mission statement and who their main clients are. Furthermore, check their LinkedIn pages and other content/news related to the company.
Your research will help you identify the required skills, qualities, and experience for the position. In turn, you can use this information to make an educated guess about what kind of interview questions you can expect .
Step 2: Write down the required skills, competencies, and experience
Behavioral questions such as those about problem-solving skills are a great opportunity for you to show why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Based on the skills and competencies that you have identified during your research, you can start preparing answers. Rank the skills on importance in relation to the requirements for the position.
Step 3: Create a list of past work experiences related to the position’s requirements
Everybody knows that it’s hard to come up with strong answers when you’re put on the spot during an interview. Therefore, come up with strong examples to questions you expect ahead of your interview.
Create a list of past work experiences and tailor them to the required skills and competencies for the job—highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior related to these required skills and competencies . Focus on delivering a concise and to-the-point answer.
Step 4: Prepare successful and challenging answer examples
Effective problem-solving skills are essential in the workplace. Therefore, your answers must demonstrate that you have successfully identified problems, proposed solutions, evaluated several options, and finally implemented a solution. However, it’s also likely that the interviewer will ask you about a time you have failed to solve a problem . Interviewers ask you about failures to assess whether or not you learn from your mistakes and if you’re self-aware enough to acknowledge times you failed. Also, it helps them identify if you take calculated and smart risks.
Step 5: Use the STAR method to structure your answers
The STAR method allows you to concisely provide the interviewer an answer by logically walking them through the situation. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation ( S ), your task ( T ) in that situation, the actions ( A ) you took, and what results ( R ) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps you take in your walkthrough.
Below we discuss the STAR interview technique in more detail.
STAR Interview Technique For Problem-Solving Interview Questions & Answers
By using the STAR method, you can give an answer that includes exactly what the interviewer is looking for. Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.
Start your answer by explaining the situation that you faced. The start of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What was the situation/problem?
- Who was involved?
- Why did the situation happen at that time?
It’s important to provide context around what problem needed to be solved. Furthermore, make sure to provide relevant details.
Next, explain your specific role in the task ahead. Include important details, such as specific responsibilities. Focus on giving the interviewer an understanding of your task in solving the problem. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- Why were you involved in that specific situation?
- What’s the background story?
After you describe your task, it’s time to specifically discuss the actions you took to solve the problem. Give the interviewer a step-by-step description of the actions you took. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:
- What steps did you take to resolve the situation you were in?
- Why did you choose to complete your tasks this way?
Finish your answer by discussing the results you got from your actions. Detail the outcomes of your actions and ensure to highlight your strengths . Also, make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Focus on positive results and positive learning experiences. This part of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:
- What exactly happened?
- What did you accomplish?
- How did you feel about the results you got?
- What did you learn from the situation?
- How did this particular situation influence who you are as a professional today?
Sample Answers to Problem-solving Questions
Below you will find some example questions. The examples are already written in STAR format so that you can clearly see how you can structure your answers. However, these are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!
Problem-Solving Example 1: ‘ Tell me about a time you had to resolve a disagreement with a coworker.’
‘Personally, I believe that communication is essential in such a situation to find a way that works for both of us. Finding a compromise is the main goal to get the work done to the best of our ability.
Task & Action
In my current position as a financial consultant, I encountered such a situation recently. A colleague disagreed with the way I wanted to handle an issue that we encountered along the way. To address this issue, I scheduled a meeting with him to discuss the situation. I asked him about his points of view and how he thought we should go about the project.
Even though we had differences in the way we felt like how the project should be approached, we quickly came to the conclusion that our goal was the same; providing our client with a high-quality final product within the set deadline.
We talked about the project and the specific aspect about which we had a difference. I explained my point of view and that I had already encountered a similar issue in the past. Ultimately, my colleague agreed to tackle the issue using my proposed method. His insights gave me a good suggestion which we incorporated into the project. After that, we successfully worked together and finalized the project in time and according to the quality level that we both were proud of.’
Why this is a strong answer:
- The provided example is concise and relevant to the workplace where problem-solving skills are important
- This answer shows important skills such as being proactive, problem-solving, persuasion, and adaptability .
- The answer shows that you’re a team player as well and that you listen to the input of others for the better of a project’s result.
Note : There’s always a chance that interviewers ask you follow-up questions about how you convinced your colleague. Make sure that you are able to answer those questions as well.
Problem-Solving Example 2: ‘ Tell me about a time you had to solve a challenging problem at work .’
‘In my position as a business development manager at ABC Software, I’m responsible for organizing all client events and conferences. ABC Software is a major player in the IT market, and during our events, we invite industry experts to speak on market developments. These events are used to attract new clients but also to maintain our relationship with our existing ones.
Over the last two years, we analyzed our attendee data and found that our event attendance dropped by almost 10%. Furthermore, we discovered that the retention rate of our clients also decreased. When we had to plan the next event, my team and I knew that we had to get our attendance levels back up in order for the events to stay successful. The goal was to get our networking event popular and recurring again.
I had an idea why the attendance levels dropped but to get more information, I interviewed several sales consultants as well. The main feedback was that we should focus more on attracting new clients through social media channels. I communicated this with our marketing team, and we decided to also reach out to our client base and ask them what they would like to see on our future events. This led to interesting new insights on topics and speakers that we could invite, plus we also received input on how to improve networking possibilities during our events. Based on our research and feedback, I created a new plan of action to market our events through our social media channels to increase exposure.
After launching our marketing campaign, we immediately gained online traction, leading to an increase in advance registrations. For that specific event, we saw a total increase in attendance of 20% in comparison to the previous year. An online survey showed that the attendees were happy with how the way the new event was structured, and 80% of respondents said that it would be likely that they would recommend our events within their network.
My approach to increasing attendance at our events did not go unnoticed. I was asked by my department director to make a presentation about how I tackled this problem and present this to the board.’
- This example shows that you can identify issues and understand your responsibility to address them.
- The provided example is related but also relevant to the workplace. It’s also concise, which is perfect.
- This answer shows important skills, such as being proactive, teamwork , adaptability , problem-solving skills, and creativity .
- Taking responsibility to find out why the event attendance dropped and subsequently taking action turned out successful gives more weight to the situation.
Problem Solving Example 3: ‘Describe a time a customer approached you with a problem or concern. How did you respond?’
‘In one instance, a customer came to me with an issue. She had recently purchased a product from our store, which broke shortly after she got it home. She was understandably upset and wanted to know what could be done.
In response, I apologized for any inconvenience and asked her to explain what had happened. After hearing her story, I promised to help her as much as possible. Next, I checked the item’s warranty status in our system.
I was able to offer her a replacement or a refund since the product was still under warranty , and I helped her find an identical item in our store and processed the exchange for her. The customer decided she wanted a replacement, so I explained our return policy to her in case this ever happened again in the future.
My customer thanked me for my help and seemed more satisfied at the end of the transaction; I was glad I was able to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one.’
- This example shows that you understand what great customer service is.
- The provided example is concise and to the point; it describes a situation and the actions you took to resolve it.
- This answer shows essential skills, such as being proactive, customer service, and problem-solving skills.
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Common Interview Questions About Conflict (Smart Answers)
By Status.net Editorial Team on November 22, 2023 — 9 minutes to read
When preparing for a job interview, you might encounter questions about conflict. Hiring managers often ask these to assess your problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Your response can reveal how you handle tension in the workplace and collaborate with coworkers.
Types of Conflict Interview Questions
Behavioral questions aim to uncover past experiences where you’ve dealt with conflict. You might encounter a question like, “ Describe a time when you had a disagreement with a team member. How did you handle it? ” Your answer should highlight your ability to listen actively, communicate clearly, and work towards a resolution.
For instance, you could respond with, “In my previous role, I disagreed with a coworker about a project timeline. I sought to understand their perspective fully and we had an open discussion about our deadlines. We successfully compromised by adjusting the workload according to each team member’s capacity.”
Situational questions require you to illustrate how you would handle a hypothetical conflict. A common situational question is, “ If you were faced with an uncooperative colleague in a future project, how would you approach the issue? ”
A sample answer could be, “I’d approach my colleague to have a candid conversation about the project goals and their concerns. My focus would be to find common ground and motivate them by discussing how their cooperation is crucial for the team’s success.”
Problem-solving questions assess your ability to navigate and resolve conflict effectively. A frequent problem-solving question may be, “ What steps would you take to mediate a dispute between two team members? ”
Your answer could demonstrate a structured approach: “I’d first ensure I understand both sides independently. Next, I’d arrange a meeting with both parties present to discuss the matter openly. My aim would be to help them reach a mutually acceptable solution by encouraging empathy and compromise.”
The STAR Method for Answering Questions
When handling interview questions about conflict, the STAR method is a structured manner of responding that ensures you cover your bases. This method helps articulate your experiences effectively.
First, you need to set the scene with a Situation . Provide the context within which you had to resolve a conflict. Mention where and when it occurred, and define any relevant factors that played a part. Be concise; one or two sentences should suffice.
Example: “In my previous role as a project coordinator, a misunderstanding arose between team members regarding task responsibilities, which affected our work progress.”
Identify the Task by explaining what your role was in the given situation. Focus on what your responsibilities were and what was expected of you to resolve the dispute.
Example: “ As the team’s leader, it was my responsibility to mediate the conflict and ensure a collaborative environment to meet project deadlines.”
Here, you dive into the Action part. Describe in detail the steps you took to address the conflict. Be sure to specify any particular strategies you used.
Example: “I scheduled a meeting with both parties, listened to their viewpoints, and guided a dialogue where we outlined a solution that acknowledged each member’s concerns.”
Wrap up with the Result . Summarize the outcomes of your actions. Highlight any positive results such as improved relationships, efficiency, or lessons learned.
Example: “ As a result of the mediation, the team members collaborated to redistribute the tasks more effectively, leading to an on-time project completion and an improvement in team dynamics.”
Related: How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace [with Examples]
Sample Answers to Common Conflict Questions
- Question: Can you describe a time you had a conflict at work and how you handled it? Answer: Sure! Once, a colleague and I disagreed on project priorities. I actively listened to their perspective, then clearly explained my viewpoint. We found common ground by aligning our goals with the project’s success. Our collaboration resulted in a well-coordinated project timeline that satisfied all parties involved.
- Question: Describe a conflict you had with a teammate. How did you resolve it? Answer: In one instance, a teammate and I had a clash over a deadline. I suggested we review our workload and deadlines together. Through candid discussion and understanding each other’s pressures, we devised a shared schedule that allowed us to tackle our tasks more effectively.
- Question: Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss and how you approached the situation. Answer: There was a situation where I had a different opinion than my boss on a marketing strategy. I requested a one-on-one meeting to present my research and reasoning. We discussed the pros and cons, and I remained respectful of their position. This led to a compromise incorporating elements from both strategies.
- Question: How do you handle a situation where two team members are in conflict? Answer: When I mediated a dispute between two team members, I encouraged open communication, ensuring both sides felt heard. By helping them focus on problem-solving rather than personal differences, they cooperated to develop a mutually acceptable solution.
Common Questions: Sample Answers
“can you describe a time when you had to deal with a disagreement in the team and how you approached it”, sample answer:.
“In one situation, a colleague and I disagreed on a project’s direction. I listened carefully to their perspective, shared my own, and together, we found a compromise by highlighting our shared goal to ensure project success.”
“What steps do you take to effectively manage conflicts at work?”
“Effective conflict management starts with active listening to understand the different points of view. I then communicate openly, focusing on the issue at hand rather than personal attributes, and propose solutions or compromises that align with team objectives.”
“Give an example of how you have helped resolve a work-related conflict.”
“Once when two teammates were at odds over task allocation, I mediated the discussion by allowing each person to express their concerns. We reallocated tasks to play to each team member’s strengths, which resolved the issue and improved team dynamics.”
“When faced with a challenge or conflict in the workplace, how do you assess the situation and decide on a course of action?”
“When a challenge arises, I take a step back to analyze the situation objectively, gathering all necessary information and perspectives. I prioritize finding a solution that is practical and satisfies the key concerns of the parties involved.”
“During a team project, if you encounter a difference in opinion, how do you ensure everyone is heard and a consensus is reached?”
“When encountering a difference of opinion during a team project, I believe it’s important to create an inclusive environment where every team member feels comfortable expressing their thoughts. To ensure everyone is heard, I would facilitate a structured discussion where each person has an opportunity to speak without interruption. This could be done in a round-robin format to maintain order and give each individual the floor.
As each team member presents their perspective, I would actively listen and take notes to capture key points. It’s crucial to acknowledge and validate each opinion, showing respect for the diversity of thought within the team. After everyone has contributed, I would summarize the various positions to ensure clarity and understanding.
To move towards a consensus, I would encourage the team to identify areas of agreement and leverage those as a foundation for collaboration. In cases where opinions strongly diverge, I would guide the team to consider the project’s objectives and the criteria for decision-making aligned with those goals. If necessary, we could employ decision-making tools or techniques, such as voting, ranking options, or even seeking external input to help break the deadlock.
Throughout the process, I would remain neutral and keep the conversation focused on the project’s success rather than personal preferences. By concentrating on shared objectives, the team can often reach a consensus that incorporates elements from the various viewpoints, leading to a well-rounded and effective solution.”
“What strategies have you found to be effective when mediating a dispute between coworkers?”
“When mediating a dispute between coworkers, I have found that adopting a structured and empathetic approach is most effective. The first step I take is to ensure that the environment is conducive to a constructive dialogue. This means finding a private and neutral setting where all parties feel safe to express themselves without interruption or judgment.
I then encourage each coworker to share their perspective on the issue at hand, actively listening and validating their feelings without taking sides. It’s important to acknowledge the emotions involved while steering the conversation towards the underlying issues rather than personal attacks.
Once I have a clear understanding of each party’s concerns and interests, I guide them through the process of identifying common ground and mutual interests. This often means reframing the problem in a way that highlights shared goals, rather than conflicting positions.
Next, I facilitate a brainstorming session where all parties can suggest potential solutions. During this phase, I emphasize the importance of collaboration and compromise. Each suggestion is discussed, and its feasibility and impact on both parties are considered.
Finally, I work with the coworkers to develop an action plan based on the agreed-upon solutions. This plan includes specific steps and timelines, and I ensure that both parties are committed to following through. I also establish a follow-up mechanism to monitor progress and address any further issues that may arise.
Throughout the process, maintaining neutrality and fostering a sense of respect and understanding is important.
These are the strategies that I found to be effective and I have successfully helped coworkers resolve disputes and build stronger, more cooperative relationships.”
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- Blaming Others: Avoid pointing fingers during interviews when discussing conflict. Acknowledge your part in the situation, which shows self-awareness and maturity. Instead of saying, “My coworker was always late on projects,” try, “We had different approaches to time management, and here’s how we addressed it…” .
- Poor Communication: Clear communication is key to resolving conflicts. Practice describing a conflict succinctly and how you communicated to solve the issue. For instance, rather than expressing, “We just couldn’t agree,” explain the steps you took to understand the other person’s perspective and reach a common ground.
- Lack of Compromise: Demonstrating your willingness to compromise is important. Give examples where you’ve had to meet someone halfway to solve a conflict, showing that you value team success over personal gain.
Building Your Conflict Resolution Skills
Enhancing your conflict resolution skills can significantly improve your professional interactions and foster a more collaborative work environment. Effective communication, listening skills, and patience are foundational to managing conflicts efficiently.
To develop effective communication skills, focus on expressing your thoughts clearly and concisely. Use active listening to fully understand others’ perspectives before responding. Practice empathy by considering the feelings and motivations behind someone’s words, which can help deescalate potential conflicts.
Patience is a virtue, especially when navigating through disagreements. Take a moment to breathe deeply and maintain your composure when a conflict arises. This allows you to approach the situation more calmly and objectively. You’ll be better equipped to understand the context of the conflict and work towards a resolution without letting emotions take the lead.
Honing Listening Skills
Listening is more than just hearing words; it’s about comprehending the underlying message. Improve your listening skills by giving your full attention to the speaker and avoiding interruptions. Ask clarifying questions to confirm your understanding. This demonstrates respect for the speaker’s point of view and helps to ensure that important details are not missed in the conversation.
Related: How to Choose a Conflict Management Style? [5 Styles with Examples]
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- Main content
Disney jobs are coveted gateways to Hollywood. 6 company insiders dish on how to prep for an interview.
- Getting a job at Disney is, for many, a coveted entry point into Hollywood.
- But the company is selective, and landing a role at one of its three divisions is tough.
- 6 Disney insiders reveal how they got hired and the most important questions recruiters ask.
On her popular TikTok account @Magikall , 23-year-old Makall Lauren gives viewers a look at what it's like to work at the happiest place on earth.
The photographer at Walt Disney World in Orlando got her entrée into the Mouse House about two and a half years ago through Disney's College Program, a year-round paid internship that, for successful participants, can serve as a springboard to full-time roles across the company.
"I always loved the aspect of making other people happy. So when I found out there was a job for that, I was determined to get it," Lauren, who previously worked as a face painter at an amusement park and makeup artist at Sephora, said. Since scoring her full-time job following the College Program, she's amassed more than one million TikTok followers by explaining how she broke in and using humor to shed light on what working for the company is like.
Lauren's job falls within Disney's parks division (which also encompasses merchandise and cruises), sitting alongside entertainment and ESPN, its two other main branches. Disney employs more than 200,000 people worldwide, but joining its global workforce in this volatile climate might seem tougher than ever.
The company tightened its belt this year, reducing headcount by 8,000 roles as CEO Bob Iger set out to cut costs by $7.5 billion. Meanwhile, the entertainment industry contracted in 2023 by tens of thousands of jobs, leaving many young people feeling blocked from breaking into Hollywood or advancing their careers .
But for many entry-level and early-career workers who want a job in entertainment, whether that's on the screen or in live experiences, Disney's global reach, iconic IP, and storytelling legacy make it a coveted place to work.
Dan Green, director of the master of entertainment industry management program at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, said a job at Disney can set Hollywood workers up for bright futures. "It's a positive thing on your résumé," he told Business Insider, "because of their hiring policy and the fact that it's such a well-known brand." Green interned at Disney in the 1990s, handling tasks like script coverage (summarizing screenplays for creative executives), and a number of his students have landed jobs there.
So how can Disney hopefuls break in? To demystify the interview process and some of the techniques Disney uses to assess prospective hires, BI spoke to six current and former Disney employees, as well as other experts familiar with entertainment-industry recruiting. Most company sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with reporters. Spokespersons for Disney did not respond to a request for comment about recruiting practices or how many people apply and are hired each year.
The sources agreed that the hiring experience varies widely depending on the division and role in question. For instance, the process of landing a staff job in the parks would be quite distinct from a position at a Disney-owned network or studio.
These people — primarily junior- and early-career staffers in roles ranging from tech and engineering to television and creative development — added that Disney looks for candidates whose skills match the role's needs and who are problem-solvers. The company also wants to bring on employees who have a connection to its history, products, and DNA, they said.
Here's how the recruiting process aims to draw that out, and what candidates should prepare for.
Step one: Meet a recruiter
After applying online for an open role, connecting with an official recruiter for the company is generally the first step in Disney's hiring process.
Lauren said there are many different kinds of recruiters — some focus on entertainment, she said, while others specialize in filling part- or full-time roles. Still others focus on the Disney College Program. Some can help you figure out where in the company you're most likely to be successful, she added.
Recruiters have significant sway over how the interview process unfolds, including who advances and who gets nixed. According to one Disney employee hired during the pandemic, managers may tell recruiters the particulars they're seeking in candidates. "A lot of times, the hiring manager will say, 'Hey, this is exactly what I want,'" this employee said.
When it comes to how many rounds applicants will go through and the tone and tenor of the interviews, "it really depends on the position and really, in many ways, it depends on the hiring manager," Green said.
A second current employee, who works in a technology-related function, recalled having two interviews — the first with the person who is now their boss, and the second with both a senior technology staffer and a member of the employee's current team. The first interview was to determine whether this person was a cultural fit for the company, while the second was more technical, testing the candidate's mastery of skills required for the job.
Candidates who don't receive an offer shouldn't be discouraged, Lauren said. Instead, she advised them to seek recruiters' guidance about other opportunities. Recently, she applied for a cosmetology job in the parks, but the prospective transfer didn't work out. Still, she's not giving up.
The company gave her feedback on where she could develop — she hasn't had much experience cutting hair, for example — and she can try again in a few months or explore options in costuming.
"Rejection is redirection," she said. "It really is kind of more like, 'Not now, but maybe later.'"
Interview questions tap into candidates' skills and Disney knowledge
Depending on the role, candidates could face numerous interview rounds, ranging from two or three up to five or six. The process includes personal and behavioral questions that assess your qualitative aptitude for the job and how well you understand Disney's culture, sources said.
"They would ask me, 'What are your hobbies?' or 'What were some of your classes while you were in school?' And then they'd be like: 'Hey, do you have experience with Adobe Photoshop?'" said the first employee. The recruiters' goal, this person continued, is "to make sure this person can not only say they know how to use a language or know how to use a specific tool — but can you give me an example of how they'd use that tool?"
This employee went through the Disney College Program and said applicants for that program should expect to take personality assessments with automatically-scored multiple choice questions that can disqualify candidates.
Questions could address topics like how applicants would interact with guests or whether they're problem solvers in their everyday lives, according to this person. For instance, a candidate might be asked to select from one of several ways they could address a complicated situation with parks goers, the person added.
Multiple sources highlighted one question in particular as critical: Why do you want to work for Disney? This question can give rise to others, like: What's your favorite Disney park? What's your favorite ride? Sources concerned with entertainment-related roles said recruiters might ask candidates to name a few shows they've recently watched. A compelling answer connecting candidates to the ethos of the Mouse House can give them an edge, the people agreed.
In one of Lauren's early conversations with recruiters, this question came up almost immediately, she said. Recruiters, she added, want to establish that candidates are "passionate about the company first and foremost."
In her answer, Lauren invoked themes from her childhood, she said — namely, loving storytelling and wanting to "create happiness for other people." The second employee (who works in a tech-related function) recalled connecting their upbringing as a first-generation immigrant to the role Disney stories and characters played in helping them better integrate into US culture.
For candidates looking to work in Disney's entertainment division, a question Green and other experts mentioned is: What are you watching on television and streaming right now? The first employee said they mentioned ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" as a favorite.
"It's absolutely appropriate to have something in your back pocket on Hulu and Disney — it's just as important to know what you're watching on other streamers or network television," Green said. And, he advised, don't just lean on obvious choices: "'Succession' is low-hanging fruit."
Practical assessments test competencies and problem-solving skills
Practical assessments that determine how comfortable candidates would be in tackling the qualitative elements of their would-be jobs are a hallmark of Disney interviews, sources said.
Green said some of his students had been asked to complete PowerPoint presentations, script coverage assignments, or data analysis using figures provided by the company in order to demonstrate their chops.
When Lauren was in the running for her current job, she said, recruiters asked her to explain how she'd correct or enhance a series of photos — from improving brightness to fixing the contrast or saturation — and to demonstrate "an artistic eye to see where the creative aspect would come into play." Recruiters used open-ended questions to avoid guiding her to particular answers, she said.
The second, tech-focused employee remembers encountering a coding problem during an interview. "It's one of those coding questions that seem very small but can easily have gotchas" that candidates might not catch on first glance, said this person. "They gave me a prompt that I had to fill in, either in Java or in pseudocode, and then they asked me: 'Okay, imagine that this was not the prompt or that the scope of the prompt was a little broader. How would you improve what you've written?'"
A third current employee, a creative assistant in Disney's entertainment division, recalled being tested on their competency in assessing creative work, namely doing script coverage. "They simply ask for a script to be read — they gave ample time — and then write coverage on it," this person said.
The goal, this assistant explained, was for their future bosses to get a sense of whether they can summarize ideas clearly and concisely, "which is critical for a development role."
Curiosity counts — about the role, the company, the industry
Experts encouraged candidates to be curious and raise their own questions with recruiters.
Ben White — a recruiting expert who's studied the company's interviewing processes and assembled videos about getting hired there on his YouTube channel, Ben Talks Talent — suggested: "What needs to happen in the first six months for you to consider this to be a successful hire?" He also proposed asking about training and onboarding, to show that a candidate's outlook on the job is in the "right place."
"It shows you're looking for, 'What do I need to do to win for you to and to be a great employee?'" he explained.
The first employee recommended that candidates ask questions that enable recruiters to flex their own Disney spirit. "One that I always ask personally, because I think it breaks the ice in a way and humanizes the interview, is: 'What's your favorite Disney memory?' Or, 'What's your favorite Disney character?'" this person said. "I think it helps to bring it back to, 'I understand the Disney culture and the people.'"
While it might seem bold to ask that of a recruiter, this employee said it can garner a glowing response: "Most of the time they were like, 'Oh my gosh, no one ever asked me that.'"
Green said it's important for candidates to show an awareness of current events in the media industry. "We've been advising students, 'You should have an opinion about the strikes and what's happening,'" he said, referring to the recently-concluded actors' and writers' strikes that roiled Hollywood this year .
"You are the future executives in the industry," Green added. "You have to keep a pulse on what's happening."
Are you a Disney insider? Contact this reporter to share your experience at the company. Reed Alexander can be reached via email at [email protected] , or SMS/the encrypted app Signal at (561) 247-5758.