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41 Behavioural Interview Questions You Must Know (Best Answers Included)

41 Behavioural Interview Questions You Must Know (Best Answers Included)

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If you’re looking for the ultimate list of behavioural interview questions then you’ve come to the right place!

A recent study shows that tech startups contributed to the creation of nearly 1.6 million jobs in Australia between 2003 and 2014 . Clearly, the stats highlight the importance of tech startups and small businesses towards contributing to the net economic development of Australia.

Whether you’re looking to land a job with a big player or hoping to make a difference with a newer startup, you’re in demand.

The only thing standing between you and your dream job is the interview process. Tech startups usually split the interview process into different stages, which includes a phone interview as the first step, a behavioural interview as a second step, followed by more technical & group assessments (Refer to our article on How Top Tech Companies Hire Talent) . This article will focus entirely on the behavioural interviews, and what you need to do to ace them!

We’ll tackle 40 of the most common behavioural interview questions, but first let’s take a look at why companies ask them.

What’s the Point of Behavioural Interview Questions?

Is it a new form of torture? Are these questions asked to trip you up?

The purpose of behavioural interview questions is to understand who you are, how you think, and how you approach real world dilemmas. Your answers to these behavioural questions can help the interviewer gauge how you may (or may not) complement the current team.

While the goal of the interviewer is to learn more about you, your goal is to position yourself in the best possible light. Each of your answers should highlight one of the following themes:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-reliance
  • A willingness to help another individual

That said, you should also keep your answers as realistic as possible. It’s a delicate balance between pride and humility. It’s a lot easier to keep that balance when you stay focused on one of the above themes.

The most common behavioural interview questions and answers

Let’s take a look at the six most common behavioural questions you may encounter during your interview, along with a plan for how to answer them below.

  • Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed.
  • Give me an example of when you had to assume leadership for a team.
  • What is the most difficult/ challenging situation you’ve ever had to resolved in the workplace?
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.
  • How do you approach problems? What’s your process?

Also, most behavioural interview questions can be separated into groups:

Problem Solving

  • Working on a Team

Biggest Failures

Personal stress.

Now, let’s look at 8 of the most common questions from each group and a short description of the answering approach to use. We’ll look at examples of a few questions that may be relevant to tech startup interviews.

1. Give me an example of when you used logic to solve a problem

Answering Tip: Employ a Situation/ Task→ Action→ Result format.

2. Explain a time when you took the initiative on a project.

Answering Tip: Tempting as it may be to focus only on yourself, don’t forget to give credit to your team, too. Try to use examples where you went beyond your day role to take on extra responsibility.

3. Describe how you used your problem-solving skills to benefit a team or company.

Answering Tip: Demonstrate how you look for solutions for the greater good of the company. Not just solutions for your own good and your team’s good.

Bonus Example: According to Bosmat, Engineering Manager at Facebook , the best way to demonstrate your problem solving skills (particularly if you’re applying for a software engineering role) is to think aloud.  The interview at Facebook for software engineering roles is part behavioural and part technical, and interviewers love to know how you think, so share your thought process openly, while using the tips the interviewers give you. Facebook also recommend familiarizing yourself with the company’s core values and vision, and joining their online talent community to network with hiring managers and other peers.

4. Tell me about a time when you used creativity to overcome a dilemma.

Answering Tip: Think about a way that you surprised yourself with an unexpected idea. Did you follow a ‘creative process’? Or was your creativity more spontaneous in the situation?

5. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with on a team-based project?

Answering Tip: Brainstorm at least three different ideas and be prepared to discuss one during your interview. Focus on the ones that had the biggest impact.

6. How do you approach problems? What’s your process?

Answering Tip: Focus on the approach you use to solve problems. How do you break them down into steps in order to solve them? What tools and techniques do you use to work through a problem?

7. Tell me about a time when you were consulted for a problem.

Answering Tip: The interviewer wants to know what you are known/remembered for among the people who know you. Do your friends come to you for relationship advice, professional advice or to brainstorm solutions? Do they ask you for places to visit around town? Think about what you know a lot about, and what your friends know & think about you too!

“We look for candidates who have a wider lens in understanding the impact of their own function, and most of all able to operate in a high growth environment with a desire to grow. ” Monica Watt, General Manager, Elmo Talent Learning

8. Name three improvements you made in your most recent position.

Answering Tip: Make a list so that you’re not stumbling over your words during the interview. Focus more on the result you achieved for this question, and have the ‘3 things’ ready to discuss.

Bonus Example: Think of a time when you’ve used an approach like Design Thinking Or Lean Startup methodology to come up with solutions to a problem. This demonstrates that you’re well versed in typical problem solving approaches used by advanced tech folks out there. Kevin Lee, Founder at PMHQ recommends asking clarifying questions and focusing on the end user, especially for Product Management Interviews at companies like Google . Who is it that you made the improvements for and why? What difference did your improvements make to your end users lives?

Working in a Team

9. have you ever worked with a team before.

Answering Tip: Don’t just answer “yes” or “no,” but also describe your role(s) within any team you’ve worked within. Explain the focus of your team, the objectives you had and give detail on the size and growth during your time in the role.

10 . Are you better at working with a team or working on your own?

Answering Tip: To answer that you’re a team player is almost always the right response.

11. Give me an example of when you worked well with a team.

Answering Tip: Make a list of these examples ahead of your interview so that you’re comfortable with these ideas. Focus on the times where you were able to deliver a business result, rather than just hanging out at the pub on a Friday.

12. What role do you assume when you work within a team?

Answering Tip: Although you may have assumed many different roles, focus on the one that showcases your skill set. Give a response that aligns with the current role you’re interviewing for

– for example, if the interview is for a leadership role then talk about your style in that capacity.

13. Have you worked on different types of teams? What was your favorite?

Answering Tip: Describe the benefit of each team you’ve worked within. Focus on the reasons why you enjoyed that team – if it was a personality and culture alignment, or you delivered an awesome project together, both work well.

14. What do you do if you disagree if another team member?

Answering Tip: Choose a time when you disagreed about a work-related issue, not a personal one, and explain how you tackled the case. Focus on your communication and negotiation skills. Try not to let your ego get in the way.

“ To play sports at a competitive level you need to have a competitive mindset, be a real team player, have discipline and be open to new ways of getting better. If someone has played top-level sports I often a see them striving for the same success in their role. ” James Bergl, Sales Director at Datto

15. Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?

Answering Tip: Explain how you worked through the issue – show off your communication skills, it’s ok if you didn’t come out of the disagreement on top, your interviewer is looking for your ability to handle conflict.

16. Tell me about a time when you failed in a team project, and how you overcame it.

Answering Tip: Be honest and show how you can learn from failures. Don’t blame your team members for your failure, focus on the objective reasons that led to team failure and what you learned.

Bonus Example: Using examples of a time when you’ve participated in a Hackathon usually works well for questions like this, especially if you had a good idea and got some recognition for it. This is a time where you would’ve generated a lot of ideas in collaboration with a team, in a short span of time and solved lots of problems. A great way to demonstrate that you can work well with a team in a ‘tech’ environment while also generating positive outcomes for your team.

17. Tell me about a time when you failed.

Answering Tip: Everybody fails sometimes, and it shows humility to admit it. Always highlight the takeaway and what you learnt from the experience.

18: Have you ever made a mistake?

Answering Tip: Of course you have! Be honest and describe the mistake and what you learned from it. This can be a personal mistake you made and learned from. The interviewer is wanting to know more about your attitude towards how you handle mistakes.

19. Tell me about a big mistake you’ve made on the job and how you handled it.

Answering Tip: Choose a mistake from when you first started working on a job and describe your progression.

20. Tell me of a time when you didn’t meet your goals.

Answering Tip: Choose a story with an acceptable solution. It’s ok to not always meet your goals, as long as you had valid reasons and achieved something at the end.

21. What is your biggest regret at work?

Answering Tip: Keep it goal focused and don’t insert anything personal. The lighter you keep this, the better.

22. Are you someone who learns from failures?

Answering Tip: Describe why you enjoy feedback, even in the form of failures. Present failures as lessons.

23. Tell me about a time when you tried something risky and failed.

Answering Tip: Bring humor into it. This is a great way to also be honest and transparent about your failures!

24. Tell me about a decision that you’ve regretted and how you overcame it.

Answering Tip: Allow the interview to see your vulnerable side and your attitude towards overcoming bad decisions.

Bonus Example: Don’t be afraid to talk about your failures, as long as you can present them in a way that you learned something from them. Go to tech communities like “F**k Up Nights” where people tell stories about failure and get some ideas on how to frame your failures.

25. Give me an example of when you had to assume leadership for a team.

Answering Tip: Describe your initial uncertainty and how you were able to overcome it. What did you do to step up as a leader in the situation? Did you speak up? Did you facilitate?

26. Have you ever had to set goals for a team?

Answering Tip: Discuss how you set goals and which goals are the most important for you. Having an approach to set goals that’s easy to explain is great.

27. Give me an example of when you set a goal and how you achieved it.

Answering Tip: Describe how you go about setting goals. Make it sound as realistic as possible, and describe the specific actions you take to get there.

“ We ask a lot of situational type questions to uncover how they have dealt with particular scenarios in the past to gain insight into their approach. Our guiding light always comes back to our values. ” – AdRoll

28. Describe a time when you were able to motivate unmotivated team members.

Answering Tip: Focus on your team-building skill set. What do you do to inspire those around you?

29. Tell me of a time when you postponed making a decision.

Answering Tip: Tie it into professional event. Ensure the decision is about something that wasn’t too important.

30. Give me an example of when you delegated work across an entire team.

Answering Tip: Focus on how you’re able to see the unique skills of each team member.

31. How do you juggle multiple projects?

Answering Tip: Describe your process for handling multiple tasks at the same time.

32. Have you ever had to counsel a difficult team member? Tell me about that time.

Answering Tip: Pick a time when you had to deliver uncomfortable counsel to a team member.

Bonus Example: Here, you need relevant examples where you stood out for the right reasons as a leader. You need to demonstrate that you know when to lead, when to follow and how to pick the right reasons to strive for. Talk about a time when you’ve communicated a vision, led a team, fought for the right reasons, done something in service of others, or motivated and developed others.

33. Tell me about a time when you worked well under pressure.

Answering Tip: Make a list of three times and choose the best one. The more important thing is to talk about your mindset when you’re in a pressure situation. Are you mindful about the pressure you’re facing? Or do you just crumble under pressure?

34. What is the most difficult/ challenging situation you’ve ever had to resolved in the workplace?

Answering Tip: Include the takeaway. Ensure it’s a very challenging situation. Grab the interviewer’s interest by building a credible story around your experience.

35. How do you handle unexpected changes or challenges?

Answering Tip: Focus on your personal growth, your attitude towards change, your flexibility of mindset and your willingness to embrace change with an open mind.

36. Have you ever been lied about? How did you handle that situation?

Answering Tip: Describe a work-related situation. Was it a customer who lied to you about something? Or a colleague? How did you handle the situation? Ensure you reveal how you realized that you’d been lied to through the power of intelligent questioning.

37. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.

Answering Tip: Focus on an event with an amicable solution. Present your disagreement as a time for mutual growth.

“ Our industry is so dynamic, in such an early state of maturity and is so specialized that to excel the most important trait for us is a genuine thirst for knowledge, a true hunger to learn and an ability to think on one’s feet. ” – Accordant

38. Tell about a conflict at your job.

Answering Tip: Keep it focused on a work-related conflict, and what you learned from it.

39. Tell me a time when you had to work unexpectedly on your own.

Answering Tip: Describe how you were able to use existing skills or learn skills to work by yourself. Demonstrate that you are comfortable in your skin and can work independently when required.

40. Describe a time when you faced a block at work and how you solved it.

Answering Tip: Work through your process of resolving blocks.

Bonus Example: It’s effective to talk about strategies you use to manage stressful situations. What is your internal dialogue when you’re going through a stressful situation? How do you work through a stressful problem?

Here’s Your Take Away

When preparing for an interview, be sure that you come prepared. Use specific examples and be concise with your answers. Always tell the truth.

Another great tip is to really understand the company and have some solutions in mind. Great tech startups are looking for solution-oriented employees who help them increase revenues, decrease costs and save time. If you can prove with your examples and insights that you can do that, you’ll be in high demand!

If you're in employer branding it's also important to use behavioural interview questions to identify the kind of people who are most likely to excel in the role.

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behavioral based interview questions problem solving

Behavioral Interviews Guide

  •      I. Introduction
  •      II. Common questions
  • Question types
  •      I. Leadership
  •      II. Collaboration
  •      III. Problem solving
  •      IV. Culture fit
  •      I. Story selection
  •      II. STAR method
  •      III. Advanced tips
  • Final advice
  •      I. Positive attitude
  •      II. Playing offense
  •      II. Day of prep

Problem solving behavioral interview questions

Case questions | Behavioral questions | Sample questions

Problem solving is a key set of skills tested in behavioral interviews. And most companies will test this in both behavioral *and* case interviews.

Cases interviews evaluate specific problem solving attributes: logic, focus, rigor, process .

Behavioral problem solving questions evaluate another: intuition, proactiveness, scrappyness, impact-oriented .

Both cohorts of qualities I listed above are valued in candidates and this is why there are two ways to test:

  • Case questions -> testing the more intellectual attributes
  • Behavioral questions -> testing the the creative problem solving attributes

Intellectual & creative problem solving: Why both?

Problem scenarios that require intellect and technical skill are a critical aspect of the types of jobs you are likely applying for. That’s why case studies are incorporated into the hiring process. It’s a sure-fire way to test technical ability and skill in addition to how well someone may talk about a skill - i.e., “Can this candidate walk the talk in the way that we need them to?”

However, case-study-style problems do not represent the full reality of what it takes to excel in a role and add unique value to the company (which is what top companies want from their hires). There are problem-solving opportunities that occur in between assignments that can really move the needle for a team, a product line, and a business!

This duality in problem solving exists across Consulting, Product Management, Product Marketing, and Strategy & BizOps…among other fields and roles too.

Let’s dive in.

Problem solving through a case question (Top)

Not every role type will have case studies as part of the interview process, but most of the roles that we cater to in the RocketBlocks modules will.

Example case interview question #1: How would you improve the experience at Instagram for Content Creators?

As an open-ended case question, this one does not have a singular correct answer. What the interviewer looks for here is how well you would structure an approach to solving this problem well.

Let’s look at how a good response to this can exemplify each of the following attributes of an intellectual problem-solver:

Breakdown of how an intellectual problem solver approaches a case interview question.

By bringing these qualities to life through your case response, the more likely the interviewers will believe that you have what it takes to do the role exceptionally well.

Problem solving in behavioral interviews (Top)

Case interviews do not illuminate the problem-solving scenarios that show up more organically, in between discrete assignments and “business as usual”. Creative problem-solving is how you proactively bring an energy to the table that catalyzes positive change around you.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, these behavioral modules (i.e., Leadership, Collaboration, and Problem-solving) are not mutually exclusive. For example, being a great creative problem solver is oftentimes an attribute of a great leader. The “in-between” problem-solving is really what separates candidates from the pack. These moments can exist in so many different ways - both inside of a job in your professional life and outside of a job in your personal life. Both are fair game in answering behavioral interview questions, unless the interviewer is specifying on-the-job moments. Even in that instance, if your strongest example of exceptional instinct and impact was how you managed a family situation, you could run with that in an interview and be crafty in how you tie that back to how you approach things in your work.

Most likely, you have some great examples in the arsenal, even if you aren’t fully aware of it yet. Check out some examples of behavioral questions below and the response notes in the table to get the juices flowing.

Examples of problem solving behavioral questions: (Top)

Example question #1: tell me about a time you convinced leadership to take action on a specific problem that you identified in the organization., example question #2: tell me about a time you had to lead a project you knew very little about., example question #3: tell me about a time when you found a particularly innovative solution to a problem that your team or company was facing., example question #4: give an example of a project you worked on where the scope changed significantly. how did you handle it.

Let’s look at how responses to these types of questions bring out the attributes of a creative problem-solver:

Breakdown of how a creative problem solver approaches behavioral questions.

All of the attributes I highlighted within both intellectual and creative problem solving are a general guide. Thinking in this direction should help you bring out the best in your problem solving skills, and you may discover that you have unique attributes that have led to success in the past that aren’t mentioned here: make them shine! While intellectual problem solving is likely more tightly defined by the role and responsibilities, there are many ways you can exemplify creative problem solving, which is what makes these behavioral questions fun!

P.S. Preparing for behavioral interviews?

Get sample interview questions & example answers from PMs and consultants at Bain, Microsoft, BCG & more. Plus, guidance on how to structure your answers!

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December 15, 2022

The Problem-Solving Interview: 16 Questions for Better Hires

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We’ve all been there. You hire the wrong candidate, resulting in wasted time, money and energy. You’ve learned the true cost of a bad hire the hard way. And you want to make sure your future interview process is as goof-proof as possible.

That’s where problem-solving interviews can change the game.

Though traditional interviews haven’t gone by the wayside, more companies are taking a practical approach when it comes to vetting candidates based on actual workplace scenarios.

Problem-solving interviews use questions that evaluate how candidates deal with difficult situations they may actually face in a given role. With scenario-based and behavioral questions for all of your problem-solving needs, consider this your totally bookmarkable resource to keep coming back to when prepping for candidate interviews.

Examples of problem-solving interview questions:

  • Tell me about a project where you had to manage a cross-functional team.
  • Describe a situation where you succeeded in motivating team performance.
  • What is the most creative idea or project you've generated in your current role?
  • In what ways have you encouraged your work team to be more innovative?
  • Have you ever improved project workflows based on your analysis?
  • Have you ever had a deadline you weren't able to meet? What happened?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to explain something complex to a frustrated client.
  • Talk about a time when you worked under extremely loose supervision. How did you handle that?

Help your hiring team get more out of your candidate interviews while still keeping things human for applicants. Breezy is the candidate-friendly applicant tracking system that includes custom interview guides so that every interviewer on your team knows exactly what to ask.

What's the buzz about problem-solving interviews?

Problem-solving interview questions occasionally go by other names. 

From behavioral interview questions, scenario-based interview questions, or simply ‘second job interview questions’ — if you’re like most employers, you probably already have an unofficial term for the part of the hiring process where you really lean in and learn how a candidate might act in a given situation.

Whatever you call it, a problem-solving interview is essentially:

A behavioral interview asking questions that provide insight into how a candidate has dealt with challenging workplace issues in the past . The candidate’s answers often reveal their actual level of experience and potential to handle similar situations in the future.

To get a real flavor for what this type of interview will entail, and the types of problems and problem-solving skills we’re considering, we’ve compiled a go-to list of top examples of problem-solving interview questions. Feel free to adjust these questions, the problem-solving abilities and the potential problems these questions address to suit your specific role and employer brand .

15 examples of problem-solving interview questions

Each interviewing situation is unique. Questions for an entry-level position obviously won't get you very far with an executive-level candidate . Similarly the questions you ask for a technical role like software engineer are going to be far different from those you’d ask of a sales candidate.

Before you launch into any problem-solving interview, take time to match your questions to your open role. And remember, the more structured your interview process , the easier it'll be to make the right call.

Here are three of the most common problem-solving interview scenarios, plus our top questions for each.

Leadership roles

Question #1: Describe the most difficult team you've had to lead? What made it challenging? How did you go about overcoming the issues?

Why it works: Asking a candidate to rate the difficulty of working with others is a great way to see whether they throw their team under the bus or focus more on the problem/solution aspect of the question. A strong candidate will map out how they overcame the situation and prevented it from becoming a long-term issue within the company.

Question #2: What do you consider your proudest moment or greatest achievement in the workplace? What were the practical steps that got you there?

Why it works: Some leadership skills come naturally — but most require careful planning and the ability to take inspired action. A candidate who doesn’t just regurgitate their resume but gives actual insight into how they achieve the impossible is someone who's willing to think about process and the importance of why they're in a leadership position in the first place.

Question #3: Tell me about a project where you had to manage a cross-functional team to achieve a specific goal or outcome. How did you adapt your leadership style to achieve this objective?

Why it works: The ability to adapt is crucial for strong leaders. No single leadership style matches every work situation. Exceptional leaders know how to tune into their teams and adapt accordingly.

Question #4: Describe a situation where you succeeded in motivating your team to improve their performance. What actions were the most effective?

Why it works: Performance management is a tough nut to crack . You're looking for an executive candidate who has the right mix of diplomacy and energy to get the best work out of every employee.

Question #5: Describe a leadership role you've undertaken outside of work. Why did you choose to commit to this role? How did you benefit from it?

Why it works: Great leaders don’t leave their leadership hats in the office. Knowing your candidate takes on leadership roles in their community — be it volunteering, coaching or running a professional group — helps you get a better understanding of their leadership characteristics both within and outside of the office.

Creative roles

Question #1: What is the most creative idea or project you've generated in your current role? How was it received?

Why it works: Creativity can mean something completely different based on the role and organization — but a true creative will have a unique approach to problem-solving even if they aren’t interviewing for the role of Art Director. A candidate’s ability to take criticism will also shine through in this question.

Question #2: In what ways have you encouraged your team to be more creative and innovative?

Why it works: A truly creative person will help others think outside the box. How your candidate answers this question will give you insight into their teamwork skills and help clue you into how they apply their creativity at the strategic level.

Question #3: Every creative needs an outlet. What creative work do you like to do in your own time?

Why it works: Do those creative juices flow into other areas of life? If your creative candidate lights up when you ask about their hobbies and work outside the office, you know that same energy will flood into the workplace too.

Question #4: What tech tools do you use daily?

Why it works: Creatives tend to love tech and knowing how they keep their tech skills sharp gives you a glimpse into what strategies they'll bring to the table to help keep your company on the cutting edge.

Question #5: What do you think of our creative materials?

Why it works: If your candidate is truly invested in your brand, they probably did their homework. The right person will be eager to offer insight into your marketing, branding or other creative projects. Someone who shows up with their A-game and isn’t afraid to deliver their very own 'like it, love it, leave it' feedback is a keeper.

Technical roles

Question #1: Have you ever improved a project workflow based on your analysis? If so, how did you do this?

Why it works: If there's one thing every great techie should have, it's laser-precise attention to detail. You want a candidate who takes a proactive approach to optimizing workflows and doesn’t hang back hoping for someone else to step in and make things more efficient. 

Question #2: Have you ever had a deadline you weren't able to meet? What happened? How did you handle it?

Why it works: In a fast-paced tech environment, deadlines can get pushed back due to things beyond your candidate’s control. If they own up to this and demonstrate that they know how to stay cool under pressure, it’s a good sign they can handle the heat.

Question #3: When you’re working with a large number of clients, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your clients’ needs?

Why it works: Time management skills are crucial in technical roles. A candidate who's not only able to deliver the coding and programming goods but can also manage a tight schedule and full plate of internal and external client requests is a true unicorn.

Question #4: Give an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this delicate situation?

Why it works: Technical workers usually have their own jargon, but it’s important for your candidate to be able to convey their work to the everyday client or team member. If they can’t explain what they do in simple terms, this could be a red flag for any role with a client-facing or cross-departmental component.

Question #5: Talk about a time you worked under extremely loose supervision. How did you handle that?

Why it works: Many tech employees work remotely or with flex schedules. It’s important for your candidate to be a self-starter. Look for specific insights about the tactics and methods they use to manage their own schedule, meet deadlines and deliver on project expectations.

Questions #6 : What resources do you follow to stay current with changes in technology? 

Why it works: Technical roles require candidates to stay current. It’s important to ask the candidate how they keep up with an. Because when you’re hiring for roles like SEO , IT coordinator or software engineer , they need to think outside the box (and into the future).

Red flags to look out for in your problem-solving interviews 

While problem-solving interview questions’ answers can help best-fit candidates truly shine, they can also cast a harsh light on people who aren’t fit for the job. 

Here are some red flags you should look out for, from possibly ok-ish to definitely not the right fit.

Vague (or nonexistent) answers 🚩

If the interviewee can’t remember a time they thought outside of the box or were challenged in the workplace or handled a stressful situation, it might mean they steer clear of tough situations and difficult decisions. So if they offer up a super vague answer with little to no specifics, try to ask follow-up questions to get some insight into their mentality.

Over-the-top uneasiness 🚩🚩

Problem-solving questions are designed to make candidates think critically about their work style, and being put on the spot like that is bound to be a little uncomfortable. But if candidates are so stressed they can’t give you a straight answer, it’s probably a sign that they don’t deal with pressure well.

Scripted responses 🚩🚩🚩

Candidates who give superficial responses are more likely to choose the easy way out instead of thinking critically about the best way to handle a scenario. Run-of-the-mill answers also show a lack of creativity. Go for candidates who analyze the situation and really dig into the issue at hand to come up with a more thorough answer.

Problem-oriented mindset 🚩🚩🚩🚩

The name says it all: problem-solving interview questions are about solving the problem, not dwelling on the difficulties. So if a candidate answering a problem-solving question seems too hung up on the issue at hand rather than how they rose above and dealt with it, they might not be the culture add you’re looking for.

Tips to ask the right problem-solving interview questions

A problem-solving interview is only as good as the questions you ask. So if you want to identify results-oriented candidates and analytical problem-solvers, here’s how to ask the right questions .

Use hypothetical scenarios with real-world applications

Don’t waste your time on unrealistic scenarios and improbable outcomes. Ask hard-hitting questions with real-life solutions.

Illuminate the candidate’s thought process

Ask questions that give insight into a candidate’s thought process. Pay special attention to how candidates approach a scenario, working through the problem step-by-step and arriving at a clear (and effective) solution. Oh, and keep an eye out for innovative perspectives!

Gauge team spirit

The best solutions are often collaborative ones. Ask questions about a situation that required a team effort, and pay special attention to how they characterize their colleagues and the collective decision-making process. You want candidates who are comfortable asking for help and have a knack for teamwork.

Know what you can (and can’t) ask

Some interview questions are awkward, others are straight-up illegal. 

We know you're not out to violate anyone's rights, but even the most well-meaning hiring managers can end up asking lousy interview questions. How lousy, you ask?

These ones top our list of major no-nos:

“Tell me about your biggest weakness.” 

Oh, you mean like the time I accidentally disconnected the server and left thousands of customers without service for hours? Get real. No one's going to reveal their Kryptonite during an interview. This question generates the most canned answers imaginable ranging from “I’m a workaholic,” to “I over-deliver and exceed expectations.” 🙄

“If a song described you, what would it be.”

Avoid this and any other overly abstract question asking a candidate to describe themselves in bizarre metaphors. Be direct. Relate the questions to the position and interviewee, not some over the top hypothetical about whether someone sees themself as a shark or a unicorn.

“Tell me about your [sexual orientation, relationship status, ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation].”

One word: creepy. Oh, and: illegal. (Okay, that's two words but you get the idea...) 

Fact is, any question that doesn't jive with the EEOC not only violates the candidate’s rights, it may also have you searching for a new career. Just don't go there.

Avoid the ‘gotchyas’ and keep your interview q’s focused on solving real problems

At the end of the day, no single thread of interview questions will work as a one-size-fits-all. 

Human hiring requires human thinking. By analyzing and hand-selecting thoughtful questions, you can ensure a consistent interview flow with all candidates while avoiding generic replies and those dreaded awkward silences. 

Just make sure they're interview questions that both you and your candidate can feel good about.

With Breezy’s modern recruitment platform, you can access over 400 free interview guides , schedule interviews with one click, and deliver a first-rate hiring experience candidates love.

Try it yourself totally free.

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Behavioral Interview Questions About Problem Solving

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best .” Duke Ellington

Great problem solvers tend to be people with a healthy attitude to change and an open mind when it comes to new ideas. You either drown in the problem or you look at it as an opportunity for you to do your best work. Every workplace has problems, that’s life. Employers look for people who have solid problem solving strategies that they use to work through any workplace problems that arise.

Basic Questions About how You Go About Problem Solving:

Every job interview will have one or more questions about how you go about problem solving. If the role you are applying for is comprised largely of routine work you may just be asked a basic interview question like the ones below.

Off course the answer is always – ‘Yes I am a problem solver” but you need to do much more than just that. You need to explain how you go about problem solving. What is your strategy? What steps do you follow? These things matter.

  • Are You a Problem Solver?
  • How Do You Go About problem Solving?

Specific Behavioral Interview Questions About Problem Solving:

Most interviewers will ask very targeted behavioral interview questions to understand exactly how you go about problem solving. The following are 9 behavioral interview questions about how you approach problem solving in the workplace.

Before you click to see sample answers, see if you could answer these behavioral interview questions by yourself first.

1. Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was the outcome? What do you wish you had done differently?

Sample answer to how you are a problem solver .

2. Describe a situation in which you recognized a potential problem as an opportunity. What did you do? What was the result? What, if anything, do you wish you had done differently?

Sample answer to how to show that problems are just opportunities in disguise .

3. What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision? Why?

Sample answer to how you would problem solve before making a decision .

4. Give me an example of a time you discovered an error that been overlooked by a colleague. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Sample answer on how you would tell colleagues they made a mistake .

5. What problem solving strategies do you use to stay aware of problems and resolve them in your work area? Can you give me an example of how this has worked for you in your current role?

Sample answer to show your problem solving strategies .

6. Describe the biggest work-related problem you have faced in the past 12 months. How did you handle it?

Sample answer to show how you handle biggest work related problems .

7. Can you tell me about a time where you have been caught unaware by a problem or an obstacle that you had not foreseen? What happened?

Sample to show how you deal with unexpected workplace problems .

8. Tell about a time when you were able to develop a different problem-solving approach. What steps did you follow?

Sample answer to show how your problem solving strategies .

9. Tell us about a time when you identified a potential problem and resolved the situation before it became a serious issue.

Sample answer to show you can identify problems and solve them .

10. Give a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.

Sample to show how you use logic to solve work problems .

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Top 15 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers

behavioral based interview questions problem solving

Are you gearing up for an important job interview that includes problem-solving questions? Congratulations, because you've come to the right place!

In this guide, we'll equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to ace those tricky problem-solving interviews with confidence.

Introduction to Problem Solving Interviews

In today's competitive job market, employers are seeking candidates who possess strong problem-solving abilities. Problem solving is not only about finding solutions to complex issues; it also showcases your critical thinking, analytical, and creative skills. Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of problem-solving interviews, let's gain a clear understanding of what they entail and why they matter.

What Are Problem Solving Interviews?

Problem solving interviews are a specialized type of job interview where employers assess a candidate's ability to handle challenges and make sound decisions in real-life scenarios. These interviews often involve hypothetical situations or case studies to evaluate your problem-solving process and your approach to arriving at effective solutions.

The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

Problem-solving skills are highly valued in almost every industry. Employers seek individuals who can identify problems, think critically, and generate innovative solutions. Whether you're in business, engineering, healthcare, or any other field, the ability to tackle complex issues is essential for personal and organizational success.

How Problem Solving Interviews Differ from Traditional Interviews

Unlike traditional interviews that focus on your qualifications and work experience, problem-solving interviews provide a glimpse into your thought process and decision-making capabilities. Through these interviews, employers assess your potential to handle challenging situations that may arise in the workplace. Being well-prepared for this specific interview format will set you apart from other candidates.

Core Problem Solving Skills

Before you dive into practicing problem-solving questions, let's explore the fundamental skills that make up an effective problem solver.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the foundation of problem solving. It involves objectively analyzing information, evaluating arguments, and making logical decisions. To enhance your critical thinking abilities:

  • Ask Thought-Provoking Questions: Train yourself to ask "why" and "how" questions to gain a deeper understanding of problems.
  • Challenge Assumptions: Don't take information at face value; question the underlying assumptions.
  • Evaluate Evidence: Learn to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources of information.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are essential for breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable components. Improve your analytical thinking with these tips:

  • Practice Data Interpretation: Analyze charts, graphs, and data sets to draw meaningful insights.
  • Use Root Cause Analysis: Identify the underlying reasons behind problems by applying techniques like the "5 Whys."
  • Draw Comparisons: Compare past experiences or similar scenarios to find patterns and potential solutions.

Creativity and Innovation

Creative problem solving involves thinking outside the box and generating unique solutions. To nurture your creativity:

  • Embrace Diverse Perspectives: Seek input from others with different backgrounds and experiences.
  • Mind Mapping: Create visual diagrams to explore various angles and connections related to a problem.
  • Encourage Brainstorming: Engage in group brainstorming sessions to generate a wide range of ideas.

Frameworks for Problem Solving

Equipping yourself with problem-solving frameworks can help you approach challenges more systematically. Here are some popular frameworks to explore:

The 5 Whys is a simple yet effective technique to uncover the root cause of a problem. It involves repeatedly asking "why" until you identify the underlying issue.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to assess a situation's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

PDCA is a four-step problem-solving model consisting of planning, executing, checking results, and making adjustments as needed.

SCAMPER is a creative thinking technique that involves asking questions related to Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a concept developed by Edward de Bono that encourages individuals to think from six different perspectives, each represented by a colored "hat."

Behavioral-based Problem Solving Questions

Behavioral problem solving questions aim to evaluate how you handled challenges in the past. Be prepared to answer these questions with clarity and confidence:

Example: "Describe a challenging problem you encountered and how you resolved it."

To answer this question effectively:

  • Set the Scene: Provide context and background information about the situation.
  • Explain the Challenge: Clearly outline the problem you faced.
  • Describe Your Actions: Detail the steps you took to address the problem.
  • Highlight the Outcome: Share the positive results of your efforts.

Example: "Discuss a situation where you had to think creatively to solve a problem."

For this question:

  • Narrate the Scenario: Paint a vivid picture of the problem you encountered.
  • Showcase Your Creativity: Explain the innovative approach you adopted.
  • Explain the Impact: Share the positive outcomes resulting from your creative solution.

Technical Problem Solving Questions

If your role requires technical skills, you may encounter technical problem-solving questions. Here's how to tackle them:

Example: "How would you troubleshoot [specific technical problem]?"

To handle technical problem-solving questions:

  • Clarify the Issue: Ask for any additional information to fully understand the problem.
  • Create a Plan: Outline the steps you would take to diagnose and address the issue.
  • Demonstrate Your Expertise: Showcase your technical knowledge and problem-solving ability.

Example: "Walk us through your approach to [technical challenge] in your previous role."

  • Provide Context: Explain the technical challenge you faced in your previous role.
  • Outline Your Approach: Describe the steps you took to overcome the challenge.
  • Highlight Success: Share the positive results of your efforts.

Case Interviews

Case interviews simulate real-world problem-solving scenarios and are common in consulting and other industries. To excel in case interviews:

  • Understand the Problem: Thoroughly read and comprehend the case presented.
  • Identify Key Issues: Break down the problem into its essential components.
  • Ask Clarifying Questions: Seek clarification on any ambiguous aspects of the case.
  • Brainstorm Solutions: Generate multiple potential solutions.
  • Analyze Options: Evaluate the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Recommend a Course of Action: Select the best solution and provide a rationale.
  • Handle Pressure: Stay composed and confident throughout the interview.

Problem Solving in Group Settings

Collaborative problem solving is vital in today's team-oriented work environments. Here's how to excel in group problem-solving scenarios:

  • Active Listening: Pay close attention to others' perspectives and ideas.
  • Effective Communication: Clearly articulate your thoughts and suggestions.
  • Encourage Participation: Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing.
  • Respect Diverse Opinions: Value the input of all team members, even if opinions differ.
  • Build on Each Other's Ideas: Expand on others' suggestions to develop comprehensive solutions.
  • Manage Conflict: Handle disagreements respectfully and seek common ground.

Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs)

Situational judgment tests assess your ability to handle realistic workplace scenarios. Approach SJTs with these tips:

  • Read Carefully: Pay attention to the details and instructions in each scenario.
  • Prioritize Solutions: Identify the most appropriate course of action based on the situation.
  • Consider the Consequences: Anticipate the potential outcomes of your chosen response.
  • Adhere to Company Values: Ensure your solutions align with the organization's principles.

Decision-Making Skills

Effective decision making is integral to successful problem solving. Improve your decision-making skills with these strategies:

  • Gather Information: Collect relevant data and insights before making a decision.
  • Analyze Options: Evaluate the potential outcomes of different choices.
  • Consider Risks and Benefits: Weigh the risks against the potential benefits of each option.
  • Seek Input: If appropriate, consult with colleagues or experts to gain different perspectives.
  • Trust Your Instincts: Sometimes, intuition can guide you toward the right decision.

Behavioral-Based Problem Solving Interview Questions

1. "describe a challenging problem you encountered and how you resolved it.".

How to Answer: When responding to this question, follow the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answer effectively:

  • Situation: Set the context by describing the problem you faced.
  • Task: Explain your role and responsibilities in addressing the problem.
  • Action: Detail the steps you took to solve the problem, highlighting your problem-solving approach.
  • Result: Share the positive outcomes of your efforts and any valuable lessons learned.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a significant budget overrun due to unexpected delays in material delivery. To address this challenge, I first analyzed the root cause of the delay by collaborating with the procurement team and suppliers. Then, I devised a contingency plan that involved working with alternative suppliers and streamlining the project timeline. As a result, we were able to bring the project back on track, saving 15% on costs and meeting the project deadline."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate strong problem-solving skills, proactive decision-making, and the ability to collaborate across teams. A well-structured response with quantifiable results is a positive indicator of their problem-solving capabilities.

2. "Tell me about a time when you had to think creatively to solve a problem."

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to walk through the situation, focusing on the following points:

  • Context: Describe the situation and the specific problem that required creative thinking.
  • Creativity: Explain the innovative approach or out-of-the-box solution you came up with.
  • Implementation: Describe how you implemented the creative solution and the results achieved.

Sample Answer: "During a marketing campaign, we faced a sudden drop in engagement. To tackle this, I organized a brainstorming session with the team and encouraged everyone to contribute ideas. We decided to experiment with interactive social media polls and contests, which not only boosted engagement but also increased brand visibility by 20%."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who display creative thinking, openness to collaboration, and the ability to take initiative in solving problems. Consider their approach to risk-taking and how they evaluate the potential impact of their creative solutions.

Technical Problem Solving Interview Questions

3. "how would you troubleshoot [specific technical problem]".

How to Answer: Candidates should approach this question systematically:

  • Clarify the Issue: Ask for any additional details to fully understand the technical problem.
  • Methodical Approach: Describe the steps you would take to diagnose the issue.
  • Expertise: Showcase your technical knowledge and problem-solving ability.

Sample Answer: "If I encountered a server outage issue, I would first check the network connections and power supply. Then, I would review server logs to identify any error messages. If necessary, I would conduct hardware tests and isolate the faulty component. Once the issue is identified, I would take appropriate corrective actions, such as replacing the faulty part or applying software updates."

What to Look For: Pay attention to candidates' technical knowledge, their ability to troubleshoot methodically, and how they communicate technical information concisely.

4. "Walk us through your approach to [technical challenge] in your previous role."

How to Answer: Instruct candidates to provide a clear and structured response:

  • Context: Set the stage by explaining the technical challenge they faced.
  • Methodology: Describe the approach they took to tackle the challenge.
  • Outcome: Highlight the results achieved and any lessons learned.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a software developer, we encountered a performance bottleneck in our application. To address this, I conducted a thorough code review, identified areas of inefficiency, and optimized critical algorithms. Additionally, I implemented caching mechanisms to reduce database queries. As a result, the application's performance improved by 30%, leading to higher user satisfaction."

What to Look For: Assess their problem-solving process, technical expertise, and the impact of their solutions on overall performance.

Case Interviews Questions

5. "you are the manager of a manufacturing plant experiencing a decline in production output. what steps would you take to identify the root cause and improve production efficiency".

How to Answer: Candidates should structure their response as follows:

  • Identify the Issue: Understand the scope of the decline in production output.
  • Investigate Root Causes: Explain how they would gather data and analyze potential factors affecting production.
  • Propose Solutions: Outline the strategies they would implement to improve production efficiency.

Sample Answer: "To address the decline in production output, I would first gather production data and conduct a thorough analysis of equipment performance and maintenance logs. I would also interview production staff to identify any workflow inefficiencies. Based on the findings, I would implement a maintenance schedule, provide additional training to staff, and introduce process improvements to optimize production efficiency."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can analyze complex situations, prioritize solutions, and develop actionable plans.

6. "You are a consultant advising a retail client experiencing a drop in sales. How would you approach this problem and recommend solutions?"

How to Answer: Guide candidates to structure their response effectively:

  • Understanding the Situation: Gather information on the client's current market position and challenges.
  • Analysis and Diagnosis: Analyze the market trends and customer behavior to identify potential reasons for the sales decline.
  • Solutions and Recommendations: Propose actionable strategies tailored to the client's specific situation.

Sample Answer: "As a consultant, I would start by conducting a comprehensive market analysis to understand the competitive landscape and consumer preferences. I would also review the client's sales data and customer feedback. Based on my findings, I might suggest implementing targeted marketing campaigns, enhancing the customer experience through personalized offers, and optimizing the product mix to meet customer demands."

What to Look For: Assess their analytical skills, industry knowledge, and ability to recommend effective solutions based on data-driven insights.

Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) Interview Questions

7. "you are a team leader, and two of your team members have conflicting ideas about how to approach a project. how do you handle the situation".

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to outline a thoughtful approach:

  • Active Listening: Stress the importance of understanding both team members' perspectives.
  • Mediation and Collaboration: Emphasize the need to facilitate open communication and find common ground.
  • Decision-Making: Describe how they would make a final decision, considering the project's objectives and team dynamics.

Sample Answer: "As a team leader, my first step would be to listen to both team members individually and understand their reasoning. Then, I would hold a team meeting to foster open communication and encourage them to find a compromise that aligns with the project's goals. If necessary, I would make a decision based on a thorough assessment of both ideas and explain the rationale behind the chosen approach to the team."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate effective leadership, conflict resolution skills, and the ability to make decisions based on team input.

Decision-Making Skills Interview Questions

8. "describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision with limited information.".

How to Answer: Candidates should structure their response to highlight the decision-making process:

  • The Context: Explain the circumstances that led to the difficult decision.
  • Assessment: Describe how they evaluated the available information and potential consequences.
  • The Decision: Explain the choice they made and the reasoning behind it.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role, we faced a tight deadline on a project, and key team members were unexpectedly unavailable. With limited information, I had to decide whether to proceed with the available resources or postpone the project. I carefully analyzed the potential impact of both options on project quality and client expectations. Ultimately, I decided to postpone the project, as rushing it could compromise its success and client satisfaction."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to make informed decisions under pressure, considering the available information and long-term implications.

9. "How do you handle situations where you need to make a quick decision?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to follow these steps:

  • Assess Urgency: Determine the level of urgency and potential consequences of the decision.
  • Prioritize Information: Identify the critical information needed to make an informed choice.
  • Trust Your Instincts: When time is limited, rely on experience and intuition to guide the decision.

Sample Answer: "In situations requiring quick decisions, I prioritize identifying the core information necessary for making an informed choice. I draw on my previous experiences and knowledge to trust my instincts and make swift decisions. However, I always stay open to feedback and reevaluate the decision if new information emerges."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can maintain composure and make well-founded decisions under time constraints.

Creativity and Innovation Interview Questions

10. "how do you foster creativity and innovation in your problem-solving approach".

How to Answer: Candidates should explain their methods for encouraging creativity:

  • Encourage Idea Generation: Describe how they create an environment that promotes brainstorming and idea sharing.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Highlight the importance of involving team members with diverse backgrounds and expertise.
  • Support Risk-Taking: Emphasize the value of encouraging innovative thinking and being open to experimentation.

Sample Answer: "To foster creativity, I encourage team brainstorming sessions and create a safe space for everyone to share ideas, no matter how unconventional they may seem. I believe that diversity enhances creativity, so I ensure that all team members are actively involved in problem-solving discussions. Additionally, I support risk-taking, understanding that not all innovative ideas will yield immediate results, but they contribute to long-term growth."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to create an environment that stimulates creative thinking and their openness to new ideas.

Core Problem Solving Skills Interview Questions

11. "how do you approach complex problems that seem overwhelming".

How to Answer: Guide candidates to outline a systematic approach:

  • Break it Down: Advise them to divide the complex problem into smaller, manageable components.
  • Prioritize: Encourage them to identify the most critical aspects to address first.
  • Seek Support: Suggest they collaborate with others to gain different perspectives and potential solutions.

Sample Answer: "When faced with complex problems, I first break them down into smaller parts to gain a clear understanding of each component. I then prioritize the issues based on urgency and potential impact. If I find the problem overwhelming, I seek support from colleagues or mentors to gain fresh insights and alternative approaches."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to handle complex challenges methodically and their willingness to seek assistance when needed.

12. "Tell me about a time when you encountered a problem without a clear solution. How did you approach it?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to demonstrate adaptability and resilience:

  • Assess the Situation: Describe how they evaluated the problem's complexity and uncertainty.
  • Explore Options: Explain how they brainstormed various potential solutions.
  • Learn from Challenges: Highlight any lessons learned from the experience.

Sample Answer: "During a project, we faced unexpected regulatory changes that left us without a clear solution. To address this, I organized a cross-functional team to explore multiple potential approaches. We ran pilot tests and iterated until we found a viable solution. Though it was challenging, the experience taught me the importance of adaptability and the value of embracing uncertainty in problem-solving."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate resilience, resourcefulness , and the ability to adapt to unexpected situations.

Frameworks for Problem Solving Interview Questions

13. "which problem-solving framework do you find most effective, and why".

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to explain their preferred framework and its benefits:

  • Framework Selection: Describe the reasons behind their choice of a particular problem-solving framework.
  • Application: Illustrate how they have successfully applied the chosen framework in past situations.
  • Results: Highlight the positive outcomes achieved through the framework's use.

Sample Answer: "I find the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) framework highly effective because it promotes a systematic approach to problem-solving. By planning carefully, executing the solution, and reviewing the results, it ensures continuous improvement. In my previous role, I used PDCA to optimize our team's project management process, resulting in a 20% increase in project efficiency."

What to Look For: Assess their understanding of problem-solving frameworks and their ability to select and apply the most appropriate one for different scenarios.

14. "How do you tailor problem-solving approaches based on the specific needs of a project or situation?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to consider the following factors when adapting their approach:

  • Project Scope: Explain how they align their approach with the project's objectives and scope.
  • Stakeholder Needs: Emphasize the importance of considering the perspectives of stakeholders involved.
  • Flexibility: Highlight their ability to pivot and adjust the approach as new information arises.

Sample Answer: "To tailor problem-solving approaches, I always start by understanding the project's unique requirements and the expectations of stakeholders. I then assess the resources available and the timeline for completion. Flexibility is key, and I remain open to adjusting the approach as the project evolves, ensuring the best possible outcomes for all involved."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can customize their problem-solving strategies based on the specific context of each situation.

Group Problem Solving Scenarios Interview Questions

15. "describe a time when you led a team in resolving a complex problem. how did you ensure effective collaboration and decision-making".

How to Answer: Guide candidates to address the following key points:

  • Leadership Approach: Explain their role in leading the team and facilitating collaboration.
  • Team Dynamics: Describe how they managed conflicts and encouraged diverse perspectives.
  • Decision-Making Process: Highlight the methodology used to reach a collective decision.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a complex client issue that required a team effort to resolve. As a leader, I encouraged open communication and organized regular team meetings to discuss progress and challenges. By fostering a culture of trust and respect, team members freely shared their ideas, which led to innovative solutions. We used a combination of majority voting and consensus to make critical decisions, ensuring everyone's voice was heard."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who showcase effective leadership skills, the ability to foster collaboration, and a well-defined decision-making process when handling group problem-solving scenarios.

How to Excel in Problem Solving Interviews?

You've learned about problem-solving skills, frameworks, and how to tackle various types of problem-solving questions. Now, let's explore additional tips to excel in your problem-solving interviews:

Effective Communication in Problem Solving

  • Clearly articulate your thought process to interviewers.
  • Use concise and structured responses to explain your solutions.
  • Practice active listening to understand the interviewers' questions fully.

Time Management and Prioritization Strategies

  • Allocate sufficient time to analyze the problem before proposing solutions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to manage time effectively during the interview.
  • Emphasize the importance of prioritizing critical issues in problem solving.

Demonstrating Resilience and Adaptability

  • Stay calm and composed when faced with challenging scenarios.
  • Showcase your ability to adapt to unexpected changes during problem-solving exercises.
  • Highlight past experiences where you demonstrated resilience in overcoming obstacles.

Mock Interview Practice

Prepare for your problem-solving interviews by engaging in mock interviews. Mock interviews provide valuable feedback and boost your confidence. Here's how to make the most of them:

  • Choose a Partner: Find a friend or mentor willing to act as the interviewer.
  • Set Up a Mock Interview: Create a setting similar to a real job interview.
  • Practice Various Scenarios: Include behavioral, technical, and case-based questions.
  • Receive Feedback: After the mock interview, seek feedback to identify areas for improvement.
  • Iterate and Improve: Use feedback to refine your responses and approach.

Mastering problem-solving interview questions is crucial for excelling in job interviews. As candidates, it is essential to showcase our critical thinking, analytical abilities, and creative problem-solving skills. By utilizing various frameworks, such as the 5 Whys or PDCA, we can approach challenges systematically.

Behavioral-based questions provide an opportunity to demonstrate our problem-solving capabilities through past experiences. Meanwhile, technical questions test our expertise in solving real-world issues. Case interviews assess our ability to think on our feet and propose viable solutions under pressure.

Collaborative problem-solving in group settings highlights our leadership, communication, and conflict resolution skills. Situational Judgment Tests test our decision-making and problem-solving acumen in ambiguous scenarios.

Remember, preparation is key. Engaging in mock interviews, refining responses, and seeking feedback will boost our confidence and improve interview performance. By showcasing our problem-solving prowess, we set ourselves apart as valuable assets to any organization. So, approach problem-solving interviews with confidence and seize the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving excellence. Best of luck in your future interviews!

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

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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.

Key Takeaways:

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.

Problem Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

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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