Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

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problem solving interview

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.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“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.

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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?”

Problem-Solving Defined

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.

Example answer:

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

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15 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions

Ebook: How to Build a Tech Talent Brand: The Definitive Guide

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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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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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:

Critical thinking

Communication

Dependability

Behavioral competency

Soft skills

Decision-making

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. 

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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.

Man-talking-confidently-at-job-interview-problem-solving-questions

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%.

Man-presenting-something-at-work-in-front-of-people-problem-solving-questions

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.

Woman-talking-at-remote-job-interview-problem-solving-questions

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.

Woman-shaking-hand-of-interviewer-at-office-problem-solving-questions

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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Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

9 jobs you can get with an economics degree

The best jobs for introverts and how to find your path, answer “how do you define success” like a pro, 10 interview skills, techniques and examples to land your dream job, the 9 types of interviews you should know about, breathe in, breathe out: 15 tips to prepare for an interview, how to tell your boss you’re quitting without burning a bridge, 6 job training programs that will lead to a career you love, 6 tips on how to answer promotion interview questions, similar articles, 10 problem-solving strategies to turn challenges on their head, how to ace your second interview questions, 31 examples of problem solving performance review phrases, how to answer “what motivates you” in a job interview, how to prepare for a new job and set yourself up for success, 18 questions to ask in a performance self-evaluation, 30 star interview method questions to prepare for, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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  • Interview Questions

Problem-Solving Interview Questions

Problem-solving interview questions are designed to test a candidate's ability to identify obstacles, potential issues, or key opportunities, and then implement effective solutions accordingly. Our collection of problem-solving interview questions includes explanations and red flags to look out for during an interview.

Problem-Solving Interview Questions — PDF Download:

Download our list of problem-solving interview questions in PDF format and use them in your next interview.

Problem-Solving Questions to Ask in an Interview:

1. what was your biggest work-related problem, and how did you resolve it.

This is a great introductory question since it allows the candidate to describe their problem-solving process in as much detail as they like. Top candidates will explain why the problem occurred, how they resolved it, and why they chose that method.

Red flags: the candidate cannot think of anything specific or describes a problem that was resolved quickly and easily.

2. Think of a time when a coworker made a mistake that affected your work. How did you handle the situation?

Not only does this question analyze the candidate's problem-solving abilities, but also their teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills. Look for candidates who demonstrated a noncombative, collaborative approach to solving the problem.

Red flags: the candidate did not take any steps to resolve the situation or engaged with their coworker unconstructively.

3. What is your troubleshooting process?

This question gives the candidate a chance to explain their general approach to troubleshooting. It should highlight how the candidate usually processes and acts on information.

Red flags: the candidate demonstrates limited insight into their troubleshooting process or describes ineffective problem-solving techniques.

4. If you were given two very urgent tasks by different members of the management team at roughly the same time, how would you decide which task to tackle first?

This question tests the candidate's ability to communicate effectively. In this instance, candidates should approach both managers about the other's request. If no clear guidance is given, the candidate should provide a reasonable time estimate of when each task would be completed.

Red flag: the candidate rushes to complete both tasks in the order they were given.

5. How do you decide when a different problem-solving approach is needed?

Not all problems can be solved in the same way. This question reveals whether the candidate can analyze a problem fully before applying an appropriate solution, remain agile during the problem-solving process, and reflect on systems once they have been implemented.

Red flag: the candidate will only try a different approach if the outcome is a failure the first time.

6. Tell me about a time when you predicted a problem related to staffing or structural changes in your department. What did you do to resolve the issue?

This question tests the candidate's ability to identify a concern and bring it to the attention of management before it becomes a problem. Look for candidates who speak up, propose reasonable alternatives, and assist with changes.

Red flags: the candidate has never identified any issues in the workplace, or they didn't want to get involved even though they knew there would be a problem.

7. What do you do when you cannot seem to find an effective solution to a problem?

Everyone gets stuck sometimes. This question reveals how the candidate finds new ideas on how to proceed.

Red flag: the candidate is unable to be resourceful and gives up.

8. What improvements have you made to your workplace in the last year?

Candidates with great problem-solving abilities should be able to identify areas that can be improved, and either take steps to implement those changes or initiate the process.

Red flag: the candidate has not contributed to any improvements in the workplace.

9. Provide an example of a time when you solved a problem without the input of management. What was the result?

This question highlights the candidate's ability to make decisions and solve problems by themselves.

Red flag: the candidate did not inform management about a major decision that could affect the business.

10. How do you organize your daily workload to ensure that all your tasks are complete?

Reveals whether the candidate has an effective system that allows for setbacks and problem-solving in the workplace.

Red flags: the candidate has never thought of implementing a system to plan their work or cater for delays or they are unable to execute such a strategy.

11. How do you motivate yourself to achieve your goals when you have minimal supervision?

Self-motivation is a major part of problem-solving if issues arise. This question simply reveals the candidate's methods for staying motivated.

Red flags: the candidate has never been in a situation where they needed to work without supervision or they cannot think of creative and effective ways to self-motivate.

12. What do you do when asked to resolve an urgent issue without being given all the information?

Thoroughness and forethought are key components of problem-solving, even when under time constraints. Identify whether the candidate tries to solve the problem immediately or asks for more information.

Red flag: the candidate tries to resolve the issue without all the pertinent details and gets stuck.

13. Can you describe a time when you thought outside of the box to solve a problem in either your personal or professional life?

Evaluates whether the candidate can devise innovative ideas to solve problems.

Red flag: the candidate describes a solution that you would not describe as out-of-the-box thinking.

14. Describe a time when you disagreed with a decision by management. What happened?

Reveals whether the candidate can speak up when they see a problem in the workplace.

Red flag: even if management still went ahead with their original decision, candidates should feel comfortable pointing out problems in the workplace. A red flag would be if the candidate noticed an issue but chose to ignore it.

15. Tell me about a time you tried to solve a problem but ended up making it worse. What happened?

This is a great question to learn more about the candidate's personality and problem-solving skills. It tests honesty and whether the candidate was able to incorporate what they learned into future decisions.

Red flags: the candidate claims they have never made a problem worse, or they've never thought about how they could learn from their mistakes.

Additional Resources:

  • Common interview questions .
  • Situational interview questions .
  • Cultural fit interview questions .
  • Stress interview questions .
  • Emotional intelligence interview questions .
  • Illegal interview questions .
  • Behavioral interview questions .
  • Personality interview questions .

What are problem-solving interview questions?

Problem-solving interview questions are those that test a candidate's ability to identify potential issues, obstacles, or opportunities for improvement, and then implement solutions accordingly.

Why do hiring managers ask problem-solving interview questions?

Problem-solving interview questions help determine how a candidate approaches problems in their professional and personal lives. Problems — however small — are bound to occur in the workplace, and hiring managers want to be sure that candidates are equipped to address them successfully.

What are some examples of problem-solving interview questions?

  • What is your troubleshooting process?
  • How do you decide when a different problem-solving approach is needed?
  • What was your biggest work-related problem, and how did you resolve it?
  • What do you do when you cannot seem to find an effective solution to a problem?
  • Describe a time when you disagreed with a decision by management. What happened?

What is the best way to answer a problem-solving question in an interview?

Think about what the interviewer is trying to learn and direct your response accordingly. Provide a comprehensive answer and be sure to explain your reasoning.

Related Articles:

50 most common interview questions, how to interview candidates, star method, pre-screening interviews, how an open interview works.

MockQuestions

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

Answer example.

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!"

Next Question

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

Anonymous Answer

problem solving interview

Cindy's 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."

problem solving interview

Stephanie's Feedback

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?

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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?

Professional and User Answers Have Been Hidden

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."

problem solving interview

Marcie's Feedback

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."

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

How to Answer Some of the Toughest Interview Questions

problem solving interview

  • Why Companies Ask
  • Techniques for Answering
  • Sample Problem-Solving Q&As

Possible Follow-Up Questions

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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

Key Takeaways

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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Top 17 Problem-Solving Interview Questions for Freshers & Experienced Professionals

Problem Solving Interview Questions with Answers

Problem-solving skills are essential for success in almost any job position. Employers are in search of individuals who possess the ability to think critically, tackle obstacles and situations systematically, and develop efficient resolutions. In this guide, you will get different problem-solving interview questions and answers and valuable tips to equip you to prepare for your upcoming interview.

Table of Contents

What are Problem-Solving Interview Questions?

Problem-solving interview questions are questions that focus on a candidate’s aptitude for collecting information, evaluating an issue, considering its advantages and disadvantages, and arriving at a sound conclusion. Employers use these questions to understand and analyze one’s critical thinking abilities and ability to make informed decisions.

These questions are designed to assess a candidate’s critical thinking and decision-making skills. You can develop the right attitude and approach to solving a problem by checking out this complete guide on what are problem-solving skills .

Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers for Freshers

Below are the common problem-solving interview questions you might likely come across as a fresher. You can also check out this interview preparation course to equip yourself with common interview etiquette.

Q1. When faced with a problem, what is your action plan?

Q2. what factors do you implement to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, q3. how do you know when to seek assistance or tackle an issue on your own, q4. describe a situation when you identified an issue early on and resolved it before it got out of hand, q5. describe a situation when you had a task but lacked the abilities needed to finish it, q6. describe a situation where you handled a crisis well, q7. give an example of a challenging circumstance you experienced at work that called for quick thought and decisive action, q8. how would you respond to a disappointed and angry client, q9. what metrics do you usually use to monitor your strategies , q10. how would you assess the impact of potential issues, problem-solving questions with answers for experienced candidates.

Here are some problem-solving questions and answers for experienced individuals.

Q11. How would you approach a new idea that has enormous profit potential but could have legal ramifications for the business?

Q12. give an example of a work or project that looked too big at first. what methods did you employ to guarantee its effective completion and how did you approach it, q13. have you ever solved a problem without managerial input what was the outcome and how did you handle it, q14. how do you respond when your supervisor asks for your opinion or recommendation, q15. how do you assess a solution’s effectiveness, q16. describe how you learn from your experiences. , q17. do you consider yourself a great problem solver, problem-solving interview questions: common mistakes to avoid.

Below are relevant tips to aid you in answering problem-solving interview questions.

  • Avoid Giving Easy Responses- Individuals who opt for easier responses are considered to lack critical thinking.
  • Avoid Giving Hasty Responses- Take your time in addressing the issue at hand and make sure you have a thorough understanding of it. If there are any unclear points, ask for clarification before giving your response. This shows that you value accuracy and precision.
  • Avoid Taking Too Much on One Question- It is important to be brief and thorough when responding within a reasonable timeframe.

When answering an analytical question during an interview, endeavor to demonstrate the right mindset for solving problems. Problem-solving interview questions are an opportunity for you to showcase your analytical skills, creativity, and ability to handle challenges. You can make the right impression by preparing thoroughly, practicing different types of questions, and emphasizing your problem-solving ability.

Drop us a comment below if this blog has been helpful to you. Also, check out how to ace interviews with proven tips .

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problem solving interview

Sandipta Banerjee has completed her Master's in English Literature and Language. She has been working in the field of editing and writing for the past five years. She started her writing journey at a very young age with her poems which have now evolved into a poetry blog. She was working as Editorial Head in a US-based publishing house before joining Internshala.

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions & Answers

problem-solving

  • 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.

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

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

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

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.

Results-oriented

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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13 Problem-Solving Interview Questions to Assess a Candidate

Solving problems is something we do every day – whether it be at work or throughout our personal lives. However, what we often tend to forget about is that each one of us has different approaches to finding solutions and solving problems. 

As cognitive skills, according to World Economic Forum, especially complex problem-solving in the workplace, are reportedly growing in importance – so is the urgency to be able to assess these skills in candidates. However, these skills cannot be easily assessed by looking at someone’s CV or motivation letter. This is precisely why many employers have turned to assessing problem solving abilities during the interview process. 

In this blog, you will find out:

  • 5 aspects of what make up problem solving ability

2 different types of problem solving styles

  • 13 interview questions to determine problem-solving abilities

Disadvantages of assessing problem-solving in interviews

What is problem-solving skill/ability.

A problem can be defined as a gap between the current situation and the desired outcome. To fill this gap, problem-solving abilities are needed. Problem-solving in the workplace describes our way of thinking and the behaviour we engage in to obtain the desired outcome we seek, which could be attaining a certain goal or finding a satisfactory answer to our questions.

In the workplace, employees are expected to solve problems daily, ultimately ensuring the smooth functioning of the company. Therefore, problem-solving ability is one of the most important aspects which needs to be assessed prior to hiring. Problem-solving ability is associated with several sub-skills depending on the nature of the tasks involved in the profession. For instance, a successful business consultant might want to be equipped with good communication skills, empathy, and analytical thinking, all of which can be considered sub-skills of problem-solving ability. 

However, the thing is that assessing whether someone’s problem solving skills are high or low during an interview process is quite challenging . That is why you should focus on asking questions that allow to understand what kind of a problem solving style the candidate possesses.

Individuals might adopt different problem-solving strategies (otherwise also called styles) based on the information available for the problem, the time they spend on planning before they take action, or whether they like to test multiple solutions before deciding on which solution is the optimal one. The main problem-solving styles can be classified as intuitive and systematic, but what are the differences between these two styles of problem-solving?

Individuals with more systematic problem-solving style

  • They have a higher tendency to first identify the situation and analytically disentangle problems into several components, then logically evaluate the available alternatives and try to find a rule to solve problems.
  • At the end of the process, they may also evaluate the consequence of the whole process to possibly adjust their strategy in the future. However, they might face difficulty when tackling ill-structured or defined problems, whereby they cannot generate a promising plan to act.
  • They may also struggle under time constraints when intuitive decisions need to be made.

Individuals that prefer more intuitive problem-solving style

  • They prefer relying on their “gut feeling” when solving problems. While they may rely on their intuition to assess facts, they also often take their feelings and non-verbal cues from their surrounding into consideration.
  • They are open to quickly switching to alternative solutions when things do not work out. Using this strategy, they are good at dealing with uncertainty, ill-defined problems or novel problems with no real information.
  • However, this kind of thinking pattern might work sometimes but can be less effective with more complex problems and end up being more time-consuming overall than a more systematic approach.

Why you should assess problem solving style not ability during interviews?

Problem-solving style refers to an individual’s preferred approach to solving problems, such as relying on intuition or using a systematic approach. This is a relatively stable trait that can be identified through the candidate’s responses to interview questions.  

In contrast, problem-solving ability is a multifaceted skill that involves various cognitive processes, such as critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity. It can be difficult to assess a candidate’s problem-solving ability solely through interview questions because the interview setting may not provide a realistic representation of the types of problems the candidate would encounter on the job. 

13 problem-solving interview questions to assess candidates

Let’s go through each question and discuss how candidates might answer and what that could indicate about their problem-solving abilities & style:

1.Can you describe a situation where you had to solve a problem without having all the necessary information at hand? How did you approach it?

A systematic problem solver might approach answering this question by explaining that they would find it important to try to gather as much information as possible before making a decision, while an intuitive problem solver might mention they would rely more on their instincts and prior experience to make a quick decision.

2. Let’s say you need to solve an unexpected problem but don’t have much information about it. What steps would you take to solve it efficiently?

A systematic problem solver might approach answering this question by breaking down the problem into smaller components and analyzing each one systematically, while an intuitive problem solver might rely more on their gut instincts and previous experience to quickly identify potential solutions. 

If a candidate mentions that they would try to gather more information relating the potential causes of the problem to be able to grasp it better, that’s probably a better answer than just stating that they’d just decide to give up. 

  • Intuitive. “I would start by identifying the key issues and then brainstorming potential solutions. Once I had a few options, I would test them out and iterate until I found the best solution.”
  • Systematic. “I would begin by gathering as much information as possible, researching the problem, and analyzing the data. Then, I would create a plan to address the problem and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan as I go along.”

3. How do you approach making decisions? Do you consider all alternatives before deciding on a solution?

When answering this question by explaining the importance of weighing all available options and then considering each one carefully before making a final decision, the candidate might have a more systematic approach to problem solving. Whereas, someone who has a more intuitive approach to solving problems might be answering the question by explaining they prefer to make decisions quickly and based on their instincts.

4. Can you walk me through a situation where you had to solve a problem? What steps did you take to address it?

The main goal of asking this question during the interview is to be able to determine what steps the person chooses to take when addressing the problem. For example, people who seem to plan less and act more intuitively will likely prefer a more trial-and-error, rather than an analytical approach to solving a problem.

A systematic problem solver might approach this question by breaking down the problem into smaller components and explaining each step in a logical order, while an intuitive problem solver might give a more general overview of how they solved the problem without going into as much detail when describing the situation.

  • Intuitive. “There was a time when our team was behind on a project deadline, so I just started throwing out ideas for how we could catch up. We eventually settled on a strategy that worked and were able to finish the project on time.”
  • Systematic. “When faced with a problem, I like to break it down into smaller components and analyze each part separately. Then, I create a plan of action and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan as I go along.”

5. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you handle it, and what did you learn from the experience?

When asking the candidate this question, you are looking for an honest, self-critical answer. The candidate should also be able to explain how making this mistake led them to become better at their job. Their answer to this question will serve as an indication of how they deal with challenging situations. 

A systematic problem solver might approach this question by analyzing their mistake and coming up with a detailed plan to prevent it from happening again in the future, while an intuitive problem solver might reflect more on how they felt about the mistake and what they learned from the experience.

6. Describe a situation where you used a creative approach to overcome a problem.

Of course, when hiring new people, we want to hire those who take the most innovative and creative approaches to solving problems, as well as implementing these ideas in reality. In this case, you should be looking for an answer in which the candidate is focusing on explaining the creative approach they took, rather than the problem they were trying to solve. After all, you are looking for someone who can solve problems in a creative way rather than someone who can describe the problem.

An intuitive problem solver might excel in this question by describing a creative solution they came up with on the spot, while a systematic problem solver might struggle more with this question if they prefer to rely on logical and analytical approaches.

  • Intuitive. “There was a time when we were running out of storage space at work, so I came up with the idea to repurpose some unused areas of the office as storage. It was a bit unconventional, but it worked.”
  • Systematic. “When faced with a problem, I like to think outside the box and consider all possible options. I once used a design thinking approach to come up with a creative solution to a complex issue.”

7. Can you give an example of a time when you saw a potential problem as an opportunity? What did you do, and is there anything you would have done differently?

When answering the question, an intuitive problem solver might be better at recognizing potential opportunities in a problem, while a systematic problem solver might be more likely to focus on identifying and mitigating risks.

8. Imagine you’re in a stressful situation at work and you need to come up with a solution quickly. What would you do?

When asking this question to a candidate, you should be on the lookout for an answer that includes all of the following: an example story, placing their focus on how they handled the stressful situation. Basically – focusing more on actions rather than feelings, and highlighting what skills allowed them to deal with the situation successfully. 

Candidates’ answers to this question will allow you to determine whether they are better and more inclined to think on their feet and come up with quick solutions (more intuitive). Or in contrast, more comfortable dealing with stressful situations if there are a set of guidelines or procedures to follow (more systematic).

  • Intuitive. “In a stressful situation, I like to take a deep breath and then start brainstorming possible solutions. I find that staying calm and thinking creatively helps me come up with the best solution quickly.”
  • Systematic. “When faced with a high-pressure situation, I like to rely on the processes and systems that I have in place. I also prioritize the most important tasks and delegate when possible to ensure that everything gets done efficiently.”

9. Are you someone who prefers to solve problems very quickly, or very carefully and slowly?

This question can give insights into whether the candidate is more of an intuitive or systematic problem solver, with intuitive problem solvers often preferring to act quickly and systematically preferring to take a more measured approach.

10. Tell me about a situation where you were faced with multiple problems. How did you choose which problem to prioritize?

This question has everything to do with how the candidate works under pressure. As well as the extent to which they are capable of prioritizing. When faced with multiple problems, the individual should be able to prioritize between tasks that are of high importance and those that are not as urgent. 

When answering this question, the candidate should be able to walk you through their prioritization process and rationally argue their choices. While also placing focus on explaining their planning strategies to ensure that no problem is left unsolved.

A systematic problem solver might approach this question by analyzing each problem and weighing the potential impact of each one before making a decision, while an intuitive problem solver might rely more on their instincts and prioritize the problem that seems most urgent.

  • Intuitive. “When faced with multiple problems, I prioritize the ones that have the most immediate impact or are the most pressing. I also try to tackle the problems that I feel most confident in solving first.”
  • Systematic. “I like to use a decision matrix to evaluate and prioritize multiple problems. I analyze each problem based on factors such as urgency, impact, and feasibility, and then choose the one that has the highest priority.”

11. How do you know when to solve a problem by yourself? And when to ask for help from someone else?

An intuitive problem solver might be more likely to trust their instincts and try to solve the problem on their own, while a systematic problem solver might be more willing to ask for help if they feel that the problem is outside of their area of expertise.

What you should be looking for in the answer to this question is someone’s ability to be able to gauge in which situations they should most definitely ask for help. And in contrast, in which situations it’s not really necessary. This way you will be able to tell whether this person is capable of solving a problem independently or is always asking for help even when it comes to the little things.

12. What do you do in a situation when you cannot seem to find the right solution to a problem?

An intuitive problem solver might be more likely to experiment with different solutions and try to think outside the box, while a systematic problem solver might be more likely to analyze the problem in greater detail and break it down into smaller components to identify potential solutions.

  • Intuitive. “When I’m stuck on a problem, I like to step away from it for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes. I also try to approach the problem from different angles and see if I can find a new perspective.”
  • Systematic. “If I can’t find the right solution to a problem, I’ll go back to the data and information I have collected to see if there’s anything I missed. I’ll also consult with colleagues or experts in the field to get their input and ideas.”

13. How would you react when your manager tells you to think more before taking action? 

Lastly, save the best for last – a question that will show to you how the candidate deals with feedback provided about the process of solving a problem and the solution itself.

A systematic problem solver might take this feedback as an opportunity to slow down and approach problems more carefully, while an intuitive problem solver might perceive this as a constraint.

In summary, the answers to these questions can provide insights into a candidate’s problem-solving style. While there isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” style, understanding how a candidate approaches problem-solving can help employers identify individuals who are well-suited for different roles and environments.

Interviews are often perceived as the ultimate gateway to finding the perfect candidate, however, in reality, it’s littered with many pitfalls:

  • Interviewer bias. The interview process is where our unconscious biases tend to cloud our judgement of a candidate the most.
  • Interviews are often inconsistent. Using solely interview questions to assess problem-solving skills allows for no standardized way of presenting results as each candidate you interview will give a different answer to your question and it will become gradually more difficult to compare candidates with each other.
  • Interview answers are easily manipulable. Candidates can prepare their answers to these questions, thus leading to unreliable assessment from your side on whether they have the problem-solving skills you are looking for.
  • Extremely time-consuming & costly. You’ll probably end up interviewing more people than you should. Just imagine all the time spent interviewing, talking, asking questions, taking notes of the candidate’s answers, and then later on comparing them.

Read more about the 6 downsides assessing candidates problem-solving abilities solely through interviews.

What interview structure allows to best assess candidates problem-solving skills?

According to research , a structured interview is more reliable, valid, and less discriminatory than an unstructured interview. When you structure your interview process, the assessment of personality becomes a designed process. Every question should be carefully chosen to assess the candidate’s skills and knowledge.

Guide: How to set up a structured interview process

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8 Problem-Solving Interview Questions You Should Ask

Juste Semetaite

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. 

People with strong problem solving skills will structure their answers, for example, using the STAR method.

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.

questions can take many different forms, but they all share a common goal: to evaluate an individual's problem-solving skills in a specific context

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 ?

33 Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

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.

problem solving interview

8 Examples of Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

Problem solving is one of many key interpersonal skills that a peer interview question can assess during a job interview.

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.

3. Decision-making

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.

5. Teamwork

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.

Strong problem solving answers will showcase a candidate's past experience.

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 .

8. Multi-tasking

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.

20 Steal-worthy Interview Questions for Managers

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.

problem solving interview

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?

Limited adaptability

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

Structured Interview vs. Unstructured Interview: Differences Explained Simply

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.

problem solving skills test

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 Semetaite

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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Top 20 Creative Problem Solving Interview Questions & Answers

Master your responses to Creative 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 Creative Problem Solving capabilities.

problem solving interview

Creative problem-solving is an indispensable skill in virtually every domain and industry. Whether you’re applying for a position that requires innovative thinking or aiming to enhance your own professional toolkit, understanding how to approach problems creatively can set you apart from the competition. It’s not just about coming up with unique solutions; it’s about demonstrating a mindset that embraces challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation.

This article delves into the art of creative problem-solving by exploring essential questions designed to gauge and improve your ability to think outside the box. We’ll offer insights into what interviewers are looking for when they pose these complex scenarios, along with strategies and example answers to help you prepare for discussions that will test your creativity and analytical prowess.

Common Creative Problem Solving Interview Questions

1. how would you approach a scenario where traditional solutions have failed to resolve an issue.

Adaptability and resilience are key components of creative problem solving. When faced with persistent challenges, it’s important to bring fresh perspectives to the table and pivot when necessary, a vital skill in dynamic industries where unpredictability is the norm. Analyzing situations from new angles, innovating, and not being disheartened by setbacks are qualities that are highly valued.

When responding, a candidate should highlight their ability to assess problems critically, use data to inform their decisions, and brainstorm with a team or independently to generate novel ideas. They should provide a specific example that illustrates their process of identifying the root cause of an issue, exploring various alternatives, and implementing an inventive solution. Demonstrating a willingness to learn from failed attempts and to continuously refine their approach until they achieve a successful outcome will show adaptability and perseverance.

Example: “ In approaching a scenario where traditional solutions have failed, my first step is to conduct a thorough analysis to understand the underlying factors contributing to the issue. By leveraging data analytics, I can identify patterns or anomalies that might not be apparent at first glance. With this insight, I reframe the problem, looking at it from different angles to uncover alternative approaches.

For instance, when faced with a persistent software bug that standard debugging techniques couldn’t resolve, I initiated a collaborative brainstorming session, which included team members from diverse functions. This cross-pollination of ideas led to a hypothesis that the issue wasn’t within the code itself but rather in the interaction between different software modules. By constructing a series of controlled experiments to test this theory, we isolated the conflict and developed a modular solution that not only fixed the bug but also optimized the system’s overall performance. This experience reinforced the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and iterative experimentation in creative problem-solving.”

2. Describe your process for generating innovative ideas under tight deadlines.

When under pressure, the ability to harness creativity systematically is crucial, especially in creative roles. This question probes into how a candidate can balance the urgency of deadlines with the need for innovative outcomes, looking for a blend of structured thinking and flexibility in thought processes.

To respond, outline a clear and concise process that starts with understanding the problem, includes brainstorming and rapid ideation techniques such as mind mapping or SCAMPER, and ends with quick prototyping or iterative development. Highlight experiences where this process led to successful outcomes. Emphasize how you remain open to feedback and how you prioritize tasks to ensure the most critical elements of a project receive the necessary creative attention within the given timeframe.

Example: “ When faced with a tight deadline, my initial step is to swiftly delineate the core problem, ensuring that the focus remains on the most critical aspects. I employ rapid ideation techniques such as mind mapping to explore the problem space and SCAMPER to prompt alternative thinking angles. This structured yet flexible approach facilitates the generation of a wide array of ideas without becoming fixated on a single solution too early.

Once a breadth of ideas is established, I prioritize them based on impact and feasibility, quickly transitioning into prototyping the most promising concepts. This iterative cycle of development, coupled with immediate feedback loops, allows for continuous refinement while adhering to the deadline. The key is maintaining a balance between creativity and pragmatism, ensuring that innovation is not stifled by time constraints but rather invigorated by the focused energy they provide. This methodology has consistently led to the delivery of innovative solutions within demanding timeframes.”

3. What’s your most unconventional success story in problem-solving?

Stepping outside of conventional methods and thinking innovatively is often required for effective problem-solving in creative roles. Candidates are assessed on their ability to diverge from the norm, utilize unique approaches, and still achieve successful outcomes, as well as their willingness to take calculated risks and capacity for original thought.

When responding, it’s essential to recount a specific instance where you faced a challenging problem and resolved it in a way that wasn’t immediately obvious or traditional. Detail the thought process that led you to the unconventional solution, the risks involved, and the ultimate impact of the success. It’s not just about the outcome; it’s about demonstrating your ability to navigate through uncertainty and think outside the box while maintaining a results-oriented mindset.

Example: “ In a project where the conventional approach was to incrementally improve upon existing technology, I recognized that the incremental gains were plateauing and the cost-benefit ratio was diminishing. Instead, I proposed a radical pivot to an emerging technology that was considered risky and unproven in our industry. This required not only a technical reassessment but also a cultural shift within the team to embrace a learning mindset.

I led a small cross-functional group to prototype using this technology, which involved rapid iteration and a willingness to fail fast. The breakthrough came when we integrated an algorithm from a completely different field, which was unconventional in our domain but offered a novel solution to our problem. The risk paid off, leading to a product that not only outperformed the original specifications but also opened up new market opportunities. This success demonstrated the value of challenging industry norms and leveraging cross-disciplinary insights to drive innovation.”

4. Share an instance when you had to solve a problem without all the necessary information.

The art of creative problem solving demands the ability to make educated guesses and connect disparate pieces of information. Handling ambiguity, using limited resources effectively, and taking decisive action even when the path isn’t clear are tested through this question, which examines a candidate’s resourcefulness in uncertain situations.

When responding, recount a specific scenario that showcases your creativity and resourcefulness. Explain the steps you took to address the problem, emphasizing your thought process and how you evaluated the available information to arrive at a solution. Highlight the outcome and what you learned from the experience, showcasing your ability to adapt and your willingness to tackle challenges head-on, even when the odds seem stacked against you.

Example: “ In a project where the client’s requirements were ambiguous and the data incomplete, I led the team through a structured problem-solving approach. We began by defining the problem based on what we understood and identifying the information gaps. I facilitated a brainstorming session to generate hypotheses on what the client might need, based on our industry expertise and analogous experiences. We then prioritized these hypotheses based on their potential impact and the feasibility of validating them with the limited data available.

Using a combination of indirect data points and logical inference, we constructed a prototype solution to address the most likely client needs. We presented this to the client in an interactive session, which not only clarified their requirements but also demonstrated our proactive approach. The solution was refined based on their feedback, leading to a successful outcome that exceeded their expectations. This experience reinforced the value of creative inference and iterative development in the face of uncertainty, and it honed my ability to guide teams through ambiguous problem spaces effectively.”

5. Illustrate how you evaluate the risks and benefits of a creative solution.

Practical application of innovative ideas within a given context is just as important as coming up with the ideas themselves. Candidates must demonstrate the ability to strike a balance between creativity and pragmatism, critically assessing the feasibility, potential impact, and trade-offs involved in their solutions.

When responding, highlight a specific instance where you developed a creative solution. Walk through your thought process, emphasizing how you weighed the pros and cons. Discuss the tools or methods you used to assess risks, such as SWOT analysis or cost-benefit analysis, and how you measured the benefits, perhaps through forecasting or pilot testing. It’s crucial to demonstrate that your creativity is grounded in strategic thinking and that you are capable of anticipating potential challenges and devising contingency plans. Your answer should convey that you can be both an imaginative thinker and a responsible decision-maker.

Example: “ In evaluating the risks and benefits of a creative solution, I first conduct a thorough SWOT analysis to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with the idea. For instance, when faced with a challenging project requiring an innovative approach, I devised a solution that leveraged emerging technology to streamline processes. I began by analyzing the potential strengths, such as increased efficiency and competitive advantage, and weighed them against the weaknesses, which included a steep learning curve and initial implementation costs.

Next, I assessed the opportunities for scalability and market differentiation, while also identifying threats like technological obsolescence and potential pushback from stakeholders resistant to change. To quantify these factors, I employed a cost-benefit analysis, projecting the financial impact and productivity gains against the investment required. Additionally, I conducted a small-scale pilot test to gather empirical data, which helped in validating the solution’s effectiveness and identifying areas for refinement. This approach ensured that the creative solution was not only innovative but also strategically sound, with a clear understanding of its potential impact and a plan to mitigate risks.”

6. Tell me about a time when you had to persuade a team to adopt an unconventional approach.

Teams can be resistant to change, which is why creative problem solving often requires taking risks on untested methods or ideas. This question reveals if a candidate has the leadership and persuasive skills necessary to get buy-in from others and can handle resistance while implementing novel strategies.

When crafting a response, focus on a specific instance where you identified a unique solution to a problem. Outline the steps you took to evaluate the situation, develop your approach, and then articulate the process you used to convince your team to come on board. Be sure to highlight your communication strategy, how you addressed concerns or objections, and the outcome of the initiative. Demonstrating your ability to lead through influence and the positive impact of the unconventional approach will be key.

Example: “ In one instance, our project was facing a critical bottleneck due to conventional sequential processing. Recognizing the urgency to increase efficiency, I proposed a shift to parallel processing, which was unconventional within our current framework. I began by conducting a small-scale pilot to validate the potential of this approach. With promising results in hand, I crafted a clear presentation that highlighted the pilot’s success, emphasizing the data-driven benefits such as time savings and error reduction.

Anticipating skepticism, I prepared to address potential concerns by outlining a detailed risk mitigation plan, demonstrating how the new approach could be integrated with minimal disruption. I facilitated open discussions, allowing team members to voice their apprehensions and providing thoughtful, evidence-based responses. By actively listening and adapting the plan to incorporate their feedback, I fostered a collaborative environment. The successful adoption of this approach led to a 30% improvement in project turnaround time, validating the effectiveness of persuasive communication and the strategic implementation of unconventional solutions.”

7. In what ways do you maintain creativity while adhering to strict industry regulations?

In fields with strict industry regulations, maintaining creativity is a dance between innovation and compliance. Candidates must demonstrate their ability to push the boundaries of their creativity while ensuring that the final product or solution is still within legal and ethical guidelines.

When responding, candidates should highlight specific strategies they employ to stay creative, such as keeping abreast of industry trends, collaborating with a diverse team, and continuously educating themselves on the regulations to understand where there’s room for innovation. They could also discuss past experiences where they successfully developed a creative solution that met all regulatory requirements, demonstrating their practical application of inventiveness within a regulated framework.

Example: “ Maintaining creativity within the confines of strict industry regulations requires a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape to identify where flexibility exists. I stay current with industry trends and regulatory updates, which often reveal new opportunities for innovation. By attending workshops, webinars, and engaging with a network of professionals, I gain insights into how others navigate similar challenges. This continuous education helps me to think laterally, finding creative solutions that comply with regulations while pushing the envelope.

Collaboration is another key strategy. I work with a diverse team, integrating perspectives from different disciplines to foster a creative environment where unconventional ideas are encouraged. This multidisciplinary approach allows us to brainstorm and iterate on solutions that might not be immediately apparent, ensuring that we explore all possible avenues for innovation. When we hit a regulatory roadblock, we use it as a springboard for further creativity, asking ourselves how we can achieve the desired outcome within the given constraints. This mindset has led to successful outcomes where regulatory compliance and innovation coexist, proving that creativity can thrive even under the most stringent conditions.”

8. Outline a situation where you leveraged cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve a complex problem.

Drawing on a diverse set of skills and knowledge areas is often demanded in creative problem-solving. This question tests a candidate’s intellectual agility, interdisciplinary understanding, and ability to synthesize information in a way that can break new ground or improve upon existing processes.

When responding, select a scenario that showcases your ability to bridge gaps between different fields of knowledge. Explain the problem in clear terms, detail the disciplines you combined, and describe the thought process that led you to connect these seemingly disparate areas. Emphasize the outcome, the impact of your solution, and how this approach could be applied in the prospective role.

Example: “ In a project aimed at optimizing the energy efficiency of a manufacturing process, I encountered a complex problem where traditional engineering solutions were insufficient. The process involved a chemical reaction that was highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, leading to energy waste and inconsistent product quality. Drawing upon principles from both chemical engineering and data science, I developed a solution that integrated predictive analytics with process control.

By creating a machine learning model that analyzed historical process data, I was able to predict temperature deviations before they occurred. This foresight allowed for preemptive adjustments to the heating system, stabilizing the reaction and significantly reducing energy consumption. The cross-disciplinary approach not only enhanced the efficiency of the process by 15% but also improved product consistency by 10%. This methodology of predictive maintenance through data analytics can be universally applied to various systems within the company to optimize performance and reduce costs.”

9. Recount an experience where lateral thinking led you to a breakthrough.

Lateral thinking is a term for looking at problems from new angles and using indirect and creative approaches, which is essential in creative roles. Candidates are expected to demonstrate their capacity for innovation and flexibility in thought processes, as well as their ability to approach challenges in unconventional ways.

When responding, candidates should recount a specific instance that showcases their creative thinking skills. It’s important to describe the situation succinctly, explain the conventional methods that were proving ineffective, and then detail the novel approach they considered. Illustrating the thought process that led to the lateral solution and the positive outcome that resulted from this approach will give the interviewer a clear picture of the candidate’s problem-solving abilities. It’s also beneficial to reflect on what this experience taught them about innovation and how it has shaped their approach to challenges since.

Example: “ In a project where our goal was to optimize the workflow of a content management system, we hit a bottleneck with data entry processes. The conventional approach was to streamline the user interface and train staff to improve efficiency. However, I noticed that the real issue wasn’t just the interface or user skillset; it was the repetitive nature of the data being entered. By applying lateral thinking, I proposed the integration of a machine learning algorithm that could learn from previous entries and predict subsequent data inputs, thereby reducing the manual workload.

This solution was unconventional because it shifted the focus from human efficiency to system intelligence. The implementation led to a 30% reduction in time spent on data entry and a significant decrease in human error. This experience reinforced the value of looking beyond the immediate frame of a problem and considering how technology can be leveraged to automate and innovate, fundamentally changing my approach to problem-solving in future projects.”

10. How do you balance intuition and data analysis in your decision-making process?

Navigating the tension between instinctual creativity and evidence-based decision-making is a key skill in creative roles. Candidates must show their ability to rely on intuition when necessary but also respect and utilize data to inform their choices, harmonizing the art of gut feeling with the science of analytics.

When responding, candidates should outline specific instances where they have successfully integrated intuition and data analysis in their work. They should discuss how they evaluate the relevance and reliability of data, how they recognize patterns or insights that data alone might not reveal, and how they ultimately arrive at decisions. It’s important to communicate the value of both elements, demonstrating a flexible and thoughtful approach that considers the unique demands of each situation.

Example: “ In balancing intuition and data analysis, I approach decision-making with a recognition that data provides the empirical foundation while intuition often offers the strategic direction. For instance, when faced with a complex problem, I begin by gathering and analyzing quantitative data to understand the variables and baseline metrics. This ensures that my decisions are grounded in reality and not just speculative. However, I am also aware that data can be lagging or incomplete, and in such instances, I rely on pattern recognition and industry experience to fill in the gaps.

My intuition is honed through years of experience and continuous learning, allowing me to anticipate trends or outcomes that may not be immediately apparent from the data. When arriving at a decision, I weigh the data-driven insights with the nuanced understanding that intuition provides. This dual approach was particularly effective in a project where the data suggested a counterintuitive strategy. By trusting my intuition, I was able to propose a solution that, while initially seeming risky, ultimately led to a breakthrough in efficiency and performance. This synthesis of data and intuition ensures a robust, adaptable decision-making process that can navigate the complexities of real-world problems.”

11. Provide an example of how you’ve repurposed existing resources to overcome a challenge.

Seeing beyond the conventional use of resources and applying them in innovative ways to address challenges is a testament to one’s adaptability and resourcefulness. Candidates should demonstrate their ability to navigate limited resources or constraints and still deliver results, making the most out of what they have.

When responding, choose an example that showcases your creativity and resourcefulness. Break down the situation to highlight the challenge clearly, then describe the specific resources you had at your disposal. Explain the thought process that led you to repurpose these resources and detail the steps you took to implement your solution. Conclude by sharing the outcome and any positive impacts your ingenuity had on the project or organization. Your response should demonstrate your ability to think critically and act efficiently, turning potential obstacles into opportunities for innovation.

Example: “ In a project faced with a tight deadline and limited budget, I identified that the computational power needed for data processing was a bottleneck. We had several older servers that were not in active use, originally intended for a decommissioned project. Recognizing their potential, I proposed repurposing these servers to create a makeshift cluster, enhancing our processing capabilities.

I led the effort to reconfigure the old servers, installing necessary software and ensuring they could operate in tandem with our current systems. This solution not only circumvented the need for additional funding but also significantly reduced the time required for data analysis. The outcome was a timely project completion and the demonstration of an economical approach to resource management, which later became a model for similar situations within the organization.”

12. What strategies do you use to foster a culture of innovation within a team?

Innovation and adaptability are prized in environments that thrive on creativity, and this question delves into the candidate’s understanding of teamwork dynamics in fostering an innovative environment. It also touches on leadership style, as promoting a culture of innovation typically requires a leader who encourages experimentation and supports risk-taking.

When responding, candidates should focus on specific strategies they’ve implemented or would implement to encourage innovative thinking. These might include creating a safe space for sharing ideas without fear of criticism, implementing regular brainstorming sessions, or encouraging cross-functional collaboration. It’s important for candidates to demonstrate an understanding of how these strategies create an environment where team members feel valued and empowered to think creatively and challenge the status quo.

Example: “ To foster a culture of innovation within a team, I employ a multipronged approach that starts with establishing psychological safety. This involves creating an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and taking risks without fear of negative consequences. I encourage open dialogue and actively listen to all suggestions, ensuring each team member knows their contributions are valued.

I also integrate structured brainstorming sessions that are designed to leverage diverse perspectives and break away from conventional thinking patterns. These sessions often include techniques such as SCAMPER or Design Thinking, which guide the team through a process of questioning assumptions and exploring alternative solutions. Furthermore, I promote cross-functional collaboration, bringing together individuals with different expertise to stimulate creative problem-solving and drive innovation from multiple angles. By combining these strategies, I cultivate a dynamic and inclusive atmosphere that not only generates innovative ideas but also propels them towards implementation.”

13. Detail a specific occasion when you anticipated potential problems and proactively devised solutions.

Proactive problem solvers forecast challenges and implement preemptive measures. Interviewers look for concrete evidence of foresight and initiative, revealing the candidate’s capacity to analyze a situation, predict outcomes, and take ownership of a project before a crisis hits.

When responding, outline a scenario where you identified a potential setback in advance. Walk the interviewer through your thought process, the predictive cues you noticed, and the strategic steps you took to mitigate the issue. Be sure to highlight the outcome, emphasizing the positive impact of your proactive approach. This demonstrates not only your problem-solving skills but also your ability to turn potential problems into successful outcomes.

Example: “ On a project where we were integrating a new software system, I recognized early on that the transition could disrupt our workflow and potentially lead to data inconsistencies. Anticipating this, I spearheaded a preemptive audit of our existing data and workflows to identify any discrepancies that could be exacerbated by the new system.

I also proposed and developed a comprehensive training program tailored to different user levels within the organization, ensuring that all team members were prepared for the switch. By implementing these measures, we managed to transition to the new system without any significant downtime and maintained data integrity throughout the process. The proactive steps resulted in a seamless integration, with the added benefit of upskilling the team, which improved our overall operational efficiency post-implementation.”

14. Have you ever implemented a solution that initially met resistance but ultimately proved successful? How did you manage it?

Persuading others to buy into unconventional ideas is a critical aspect of creative roles. Candidates must demonstrate their ability to lead and convince a team of the merit of innovative solutions, particularly when facing skepticism or opposition, and show resilience in turning potential failures into successes.

When responding, it’s crucial to share a specific instance that showcases your problem-solving skills and persuasion techniques. Detail the problem, the creative solution proposed, the resistance faced, and the strategies used to overcome it. Emphasize the process of securing buy-in, such as through evidence, pilot testing, or gradual implementation, and conclude by reflecting on the positive outcomes that justified the initial pushback.

Example: “ Yes, I encountered a situation where the solution I proposed was initially met with skepticism. The problem was a bottleneck in the production process that was causing delays and increased costs. My solution involved reorganizing the workflow and integrating a new software tool to streamline operations. Despite its potential, the team was resistant due to the learning curve and disruption to the familiar process.

To manage the resistance, I initiated a small-scale pilot program to demonstrate the efficacy of the new system without overhauling the entire process. I gathered data from the pilot to show the time savings and cost reductions. By presenting this evidence and involving key team members in the testing phase, I was able to gradually build confidence in the solution. The pilot also allowed for adjustments to be made based on feedback, which helped in addressing concerns and refining the approach. Once the benefits were clear and tangible, the solution gained wider acceptance and was fully implemented, leading to a significant improvement in production efficiency and cost savings. The success of the project not only validated the initial resistance but also fostered a more open-minded culture towards future innovations.”

15. Which metrics do you typically use to assess the effectiveness of a creative solution?

Quantifying the impact of creativity is essential for employers to determine if candidates can set objectives, apply innovative solutions, and measure outcomes against those objectives to determine effectiveness. This question reveals if a candidate can navigate the subjective nature of creativity with objective data-driven results.

When responding, you should highlight specific metrics you’ve used in the past, such as increased customer engagement, revenue growth, cost savings, or improved operational efficiency. Explain how you aligned these metrics with business goals and how your creative solutions moved the needle. Provide examples of how you’ve reviewed data and adjusted strategies accordingly to optimize the results of your creative endeavors.

Example: “ To assess the effectiveness of a creative solution, I prioritize metrics that directly correlate with the strategic goals of the initiative. For example, if the solution is customer-facing, I measure customer engagement through metrics such as conversion rates, average session duration, and Net Promoter Score (NPS). These indicators help gauge the solution’s impact on user experience and satisfaction.

In cases where the solution is designed to drive revenue growth, I track incremental sales, profit margins, and return on investment (ROI). For efficiency-driven solutions, I look at cost savings, time saved, and process cycle times. By analyzing these metrics pre- and post-implementation, I can determine the solution’s tangible benefits. Additionally, I continuously monitor these metrics to iterate and refine the solution, ensuring sustained success and alignment with evolving business objectives.”

16. Relate an incident where you had to adapt a solution mid-implementation due to unforeseen circumstances.

Flexibility and the ability to pivot when a plan goes awry are crucial in creative problem solving. Candidates must show that they can think on their feet, reassess a situation with fresh eyes, and make informed decisions that steer a project back on course, even when under pressure.

When responding, focus on a specific example that showcases your ability to re-evaluate and adjust a strategy effectively. Highlight your thought process during the incident, the alternative solutions you considered, and the rationale behind your final decision. Demonstrate how you communicated the changes to your team and managed to implement the new solution successfully, ensuring to emphasize the positive outcome or lesson learned from the experience.

Example: “ In a project where we were developing a new software feature, we encountered a significant obstacle when a key third-party API we planned to integrate was deprecated unexpectedly. The initial design hinged on the capabilities of this API, and with its deprecation, we were at risk of missing our delivery deadline. I led a rapid ideation session to explore alternative APIs and in-house development options. After evaluating the trade-offs, we decided to pivot to a different API that offered similar functionality with some adjustments to our original feature specifications.

The decision was data-driven, considering factors such as the new API’s reliability, the extent of changes needed in our codebase, and the impact on the project timeline. I communicated the shift transparently to the team, outlining the reasons for the change and the new action plan. We held a series of brief daily stand-ups to monitor progress and address any issues arising from the pivot. This adaptive approach not only kept the project on track but also fostered a culture of resilience within the team. The feature was successfully implemented, and the incident reinforced the importance of agility and proactive communication in the face of unforeseen challenges.”

17. How do you ensure stakeholder buy-in when proposing a radical solution?

Ensuring buy-in for innovative and sometimes radical solutions is essential, as stakeholders may be hesitant to embrace drastic changes. Candidates must balance being a visionary with being a diplomat, guiding stakeholders through the potential benefits and mitigated risks of a novel approach.

When responding to this question, emphasize your communication skills and your ability to empathize with stakeholder concerns. Discuss how you would clearly articulate the problem, the rationale behind your solution, and the potential impact. Provide examples of how you have used data, storytelling, or demonstrations to illustrate the value of your proposal. Mention your strategies for involving stakeholders in the process, such as seeking their input during the ideation phase, addressing their objections constructively, and building consensus through shared goals. Highlight your persistence and adaptability in navigating the terrain of corporate politics and individual preferences to achieve a unified vision.

Example: “ To ensure stakeholder buy-in when proposing a radical solution, I start by framing the problem in a context that aligns with their interests and priorities. I present the solution not just as a novel idea, but as a strategic response to a pressing challenge that affects them directly. By grounding the proposal in solid data and clear logic, I demonstrate its potential for significant impact, thereby addressing the ‘why’ behind the change.

I then engage stakeholders through a collaborative approach, inviting their feedback early in the process. This not only helps in refining the solution but also fosters a sense of ownership among stakeholders. I use storytelling to paint a vivid picture of the positive outcomes, making the abstract tangible. When objections arise, I address them head-on with empathy, providing evidence-based counterpoints and alternative scenarios. By maintaining open communication, adapting to feedback, and showing commitment to a shared vision, I build trust and consensus, paving the way for successful implementation of the solution.”

18. When faced with conflicting viewpoints, how do you arrive at a consensus for a creative strategy?

Harmonizing conflicting viewpoints is essential in ensuring that a creative strategy is not only inventive but also universally accepted and effective. Candidates are assessed on their conflict resolution skills, their ability to synthesize diverse ideas, and their finesse in guiding a team towards a unified vision.

When responding to this question, it’s important to outline a process that includes active listening, acknowledging the validity of different opinions, and leveraging the diversity of thought to enhance the creative solution. One could mention employing techniques such as brainstorming sessions, the Delphi method for gathering expert opinions, or decision-making tools like multi-voting to democratically arrive at a consensus. Highlighting past experiences where you successfully mediated and merged conflicting ideas to produce a coherent strategy will demonstrate your capability in this area.

Example: “ When confronted with conflicting viewpoints, my approach is to first ensure that each perspective is fully understood and respected. Active listening is paramount, as it allows me to grasp the nuances of each viewpoint and the underlying reasons for the disagreement. I then steer the conversation towards the shared goals and objectives that are often at the heart of the creative strategy. This common ground serves as a foundation for collaboration.

Next, I facilitate a structured brainstorming session where all parties are encouraged to contribute and build upon each other’s ideas. This not only fosters a sense of ownership among the team but also often leads to innovative solutions that might not have been reached individually. To refine the multitude of ideas, I employ decision-making tools such as multi-voting, which helps the team prioritize options democratically. This process ensures that the final consensus is a balanced amalgamation of the team’s expertise and creativity, leading to a strategy that is both innovative and aligned with our collective vision.”

19. Can you walk us through a time when you turned a failure into a learning opportunity for problem-solving?

Leveraging failures as stepping stones to success is a dynamic skill required in creative problem solving. Candidates are assessed on their resilience, adaptability, and capacity for critical thinking and growth, showing how they navigate setbacks and apply lessons learned to improve future processes.

When responding, it’s crucial to clearly outline the situation that led to the failure, emphasizing the thought process and actions taken post-failure to transform it into a learning experience. Be honest about the initial setbacks, but focus on the proactive steps you took to analyze and learn from the situation. Share specific insights gained and how they were implemented to solve the problem or prevent similar issues in the future. This demonstrates a growth mindset and shows that you view challenges as opportunities to evolve professionally.

Example: “ Certainly. In one instance, a project I was leading hit a significant roadblock when a chosen solution failed to scale as expected, causing delays and budget overruns. Initially, the failure was a setback, but it became an invaluable learning moment. I spearheaded a post-mortem analysis to identify the root causes, which revealed that our testing protocols were insufficient for real-world conditions.

Armed with this knowledge, I revised our testing framework to incorporate more rigorous stress tests and simulations that better mirrored actual usage patterns. This not only resolved the immediate scaling issue but also enhanced our overall approach to quality assurance. The experience taught us that theoretical scalability must be validated through practical, scenario-based testing. This insight has since been integrated into our standard operating procedures, ensuring that future projects are more resilient to similar challenges. The failure, thus, transformed into a strategic pivot that bolstered our problem-solving toolkit and organizational preparedness.”

20. How do you prioritize tasks when multiple issues demand creative solutions simultaneously?

An agile mind capable of juggling various challenges at once is required in creative problem-solving roles. Candidates must demonstrate strategic thinking and time management skills, discerning which tasks need immediate attention and which can be deferred, while keeping their creative energy flowing.

When responding, candidates should highlight their methodology for assessing task urgency and importance, perhaps referencing a specific system or framework they use, such as the Eisenhower Matrix or a custom prioritization technique. They should give examples from past experiences where they successfully navigated competing demands, illustrating their thought process and the outcomes. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to stay calm and maintain clarity of thought when faced with a high-pressure situation requiring creative problem-solving.

Example: “ In situations where multiple issues require creative problem-solving, I prioritize tasks based on a combination of urgency and impact, aligning with principles similar to the Eisenhower Matrix. I evaluate the immediacy of each issue, considering deadlines and potential consequences of inaction. Concurrently, I assess the impact of the solutions, focusing on those that will deliver the most significant benefits or prevent the most harm.

For instance, when faced with competing demands, I once identified a critical path that allowed me to address a high-impact, time-sensitive problem first, which also provided a strategic insight that simplified the solutions for the remaining issues. This approach not only resolved the most pressing problem efficiently but also streamlined the problem-solving process for the subsequent tasks. By maintaining a clear hierarchy of task importance and being adaptable in my strategy, I was able to deliver effective solutions within tight deadlines, demonstrating both prioritization skills and creative agility.”

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White House-hosted arts summit explores how to incorporate arts and humanities into problem-solving

White house arts summit.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency will assign artists to treasured bodies of water in the United States under a new program announced Tuesday at a White House-sponsored conference on exploring ways to use the arts and humanities as another instrument for problem-solving.

Leaders from government, the arts, academia and philanthropy gathered in Washington for “Healing, Bridging, Thriving: A Summit on Arts and Culture in our Communities ." Panel discussions focused on turning to the arts and humanities to solve challenges, from improving health to bridging divides.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the White House Domestic Policy Council hosted the daylong conference, which was the product of a September 2022 executive order from President Joe Biden .

Neera Tanden , who advises the Democratic president on domestic policy issues, said in an interview with The Associated Press before the summit that the arts help “people to see each other and understand how we're connected,” which can help “mend the social fabric of the country.”

Maria Rosario Jackson, the NEA chair, in a separate interview said the conference is an “unprecedented opportunity for people from different sectors to come together and lift up and explore some of the things that are possible when one thinks of the arts as not being confined to a narrow sector, but woven and integrated into other things we care about.”

Discussions focused on using the arts and humanities to improve health and infrastructure and promote a healthy democracy. Participants included soprano Renee Fleming and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, also participated.

Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water, announced the first-ever artist-in-residence program “to unleash the power of arts and culture to support water restoration and climate resilient efforts around the country.”

To start, artists will be embedded in national estuaries and urban waters federal partnerships in six regions of the country: Seattle, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, greater Philadelphia, Boston and the New York-New Jersey area. Each watershed will receive $200,00 to support the artist.

Jackson and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will co-chair a new government-wide working group on the arts, health and civic infrastructure, working with federal agencies to find ways to include the arts and humanities in these areas. HHS and the NEA have a long history of working together to improve health using the arts, including through music, Becerra said.

NEA is also committing $5 million for an initiative to support the work of artists and arts organizations that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Separately, the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities are collaborating on United We Stand: Connecting through Culture , an initiative that leverages the arts and humanities to combat hate-fueled violence. The program was launched in 2023, a year after Biden convened a similarly named summit at the White House focused on countering violence motivated by hate.

NEH committed $3 million to the program in 2023, and NEA is offering an additional $2 million.

Shelly Lowe, chair of the NEH, said art has an important role to play in the humanities.

“Art gives you a good sense of people's cultures. That's through painting, that's through food, that's through performances and music,” Lowe said in an interview before the summit. “They're so tied together it's hard to separate the two.”

Biden's executive order said the arts, humanities and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality and democracy of the nation.

“They are the soul of America,” Biden wrote in the order, adding that, under his leadership, they “will be integrated into strategies, policies and programs that advance the economic development, well-being and resilience of all communities, especially those that have historically been underserved.”

Emhoff, a former Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer, helped close the summit. He said that as a practicing attorney he saw “first hand how art and film and music can help build and foster community.”

“Arts help us build empathy, strengthen mutual understanding and inspire change, and that’s why, especially at a time like this, the time that we’re facing right now, we need to use the arts and humanities to help us counteract ideological extremes so we can build human connections.” he said.

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Migrants walk along the highway through Arriaga, Chiapas state in southern Mexico, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, during their journey north toward the U.S. border.

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IMAGES

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  2. Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

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COMMENTS

  1. 8 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

    Jamie Birt Updated March 10, 2023 Show Transcript Video: Competency Based Interview Questions (With Example Answers!) In this video, we'll explain a top-notch strategy for answering questions about your core competencies.

  2. Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

    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.

  3. 10 Proven Problem-solving Interview Questions [+Answers]

    Problem-solving interview questions and answers Use these sample problem-solving interview questions to discover how candidates approach complex situations and if they can provide effective solutions. 313,322 Want a custom interview kit? Generate one with AI or Looking for your next dream job? Search for jobs Christina Pavlou Contributor

  4. 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)

    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

  5. 10 Problem Solving Interview Questions [Updated 2023]

    10 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers Q: What do you think are the ideal qualities for strong problem solving skills?

  6. 15 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions

    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 ...

  7. Problem-Solving Interview Questions: How-to + Examples

    Key Points FAQs Problem-solving skills are difficult to describe and quantify: they're a combination of different hard and soft skills such as logical inference, technical knowledge, adaptability and innovation, leadership potential, decision-making, productivity, and collaboration.

  8. Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions & Answers

    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.

  9. Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

    By Chris Kolmar Feb. 13, 2023 Find a Job You Really Want In Summary. Problem-solving questions are used to focus on a candidates past experience with managing conflicts and overcoming obstacles in the workplace.

  10. Problem-Solving Interview Questions and How to Answer Them ...

    What are problem-solving interview questions? Also known as analytical questions, problem-solving interview questions assess your abilities in critical and creative thinking and analysis. An interviewer will also use these types of questions to determine your approach to dealing with uncommon or difficult situations.

  11. Problem-Solving Questions You Should Prepare for Your Next Interview

    Common problem-solving questions and answers. 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.

  12. Problem-Solving Interview Questions

    Problem-Solving Interview Questions 15 of the most effective problem-solving interview questions with explanations. By Paul Peters, Updated Dec 14, 2022 Problem-solving interview questions are designed to test a candidate's ability to identify obstacles, potential issues, or key opportunities, and then implement effective solutions accordingly.

  13. 8 common problem-solving interview questions to understand

    1. What do you do when you have a problem? Here, the interviewer wants to understand your thought process. A good answer demonstrates that you have a logical approach to problem-solving.

  14. 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? 3. Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem and went beyond regular expectations to fix it. 4.

  15. Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

    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.

  16. Top 17 Problem Solving Interview Questions with Answers

    Q1. When faced with a problem, what is your action plan? When I encounter a problem, my first step is to explore how others have successfully addressed similar challenges. This research provides me with diverse solutions, enabling me to choose the most fitting approach for both myself and the organization.

  17. Problem-solving interview questions (With example answers)

    Updated 27 July 2023 Show transcript Video: Job interview guide: what to expect in an interview The interview process wracks the nerves of even seasoned professionals. Prep is key to making a great first impression. Indeed's career coach explains the five steps of a formal interview process. Watch this video now and soothe your interview worries!

  18. 10 Problem-Solving Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

    2. Tell me about a time when you experienced an unexpected challenge in the workplace.

  19. Top 20 Problem Solving Skills Interview Questions & Answers

    1. Describe a situation where you had to solve a problem with no obvious solution. Having strong problem-solving skills is crucial in many job roles, particularly in positions where unexpected challenges are common.

  20. Problem-Solving Interview Questions & Answers

    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 ...

  21. 13 Problem-Solving Interview Questions to Assess a Candidate

    This is precisely why many employers have turned to assessing problem solving abilities during the interview process. In this blog, you will find out: What is problem-solving ability. 5 aspects of what make up problem solving ability; 2 different types of problem solving styles; 13 interview questions to determine problem-solving abilities

  22. 8 Problem-Solving Interview Questions You Should Ask

    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 ...

  23. Top 20 Creative Problem Solving Interview Questions & Answers

    This experience reinforced the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and iterative experimentation in creative problem-solving.". 2. Describe your process for generating innovative ideas under tight deadlines. When under pressure, the ability to harness creativity systematically is crucial, especially in creative roles.

  24. 12+ Job Interview Tips & Tricks (Verified Expert Advice)

    Expect various behavioral questions, especially the ones regarding your conflict-resolution skills, problem-solving, and leadership. Practice answering them using the STAR method. As usual, before the panel interview, research the role and the company, as well as all the interviewers that will be present (check out their LinkedIn pages, too ...

  25. 12 ChatGPT Prompts For Leaders And Managers In 2024

    Problem-Solving. I am currently facing [name of challenge] in my department. I have already tried/considered [your solution]. Give me five ideas to address [name of challenge] that are unique and ...

  26. White House-hosted arts summit explores how to incorporate arts and

    The Environmental Protection Agency will assign artists to treasured bodies of water in the United States under a new program announced Tuesday at a White House-sponsored conference on exploring ways to use the arts and humanities as another instrument for problem-solving. The National Endowment for the Arts and the White House Domestic Policy Council hosted the daylong conference, which was ...

  27. Why is the border reform deal falling apart? Sen. Mitt Romney has an

    Sen. Mitt Romney thinks so. Migrants walk along the highway through Arriaga, Chiapas state in southern Mexico, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, during their journey north toward the U.S. border. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a private GOP meeting Wednesday that his conference is in "a quandary" with the proposed ...

  28. TopDev

    28 likes, 2 comments - topdev_media on January 29, 2024: " Python Coding Interview Challenge ‍ Python enthusiasts and aspiring develope..." TopDev - Coding - Web development on Instagram: "🔍 Python Coding Interview Challenge 🐍 👨‍💻 Python enthusiasts and aspiring developers, it's time to test your understanding of Python's ...