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.
How to Answer a Problem-Solving Interview Question
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. So when you’re responding to a problem-solving interview question, make sure that your response is directly relevant to the sorts of responsibilities that you’d be assuming if you end up landing the job.
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. Regardless of the type of interview question you’re responding to, you should always make it your top priority to be as honest as possible about your strengths and weaknesses.
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. While you may have included “strong team player” in the list of skills on your resume, it can go a long way to back up that claim with a story. If a hiring manager asks you a problem-solving question, you might consider providing them with a concrete example of when you used your communication and collaboration skills to overcome a conflict in the workplace.
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. The next time an interviewer asks you a problem-solving question, make sure you respond with an anecdote that will highlight your ability to take charge and act as a leader for others during times of stress and uncertainty.
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!
“What Would You Do if You Strongly Disagreed With a Colleague About How to Handle a Delicate Matter?”
This question not only explores your ability to demonstrate empathy, but it may also touch on issues of ethical responsibilities and the necessity to be discreet when necessary.
Employers want to know you are self-aware and able to reflect on important issues, rather than being overly bullish when it’s not appropriate.
Showing that you can employ a delicate touch is really important in certain roles like HR, so your interviewer will want to know how good your soft skills are.
You can also use a question like this as an opportunity to demonstrate your powers of persuasion or other transferable skills, so make sure you pick a strong example when you answer.