Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you describe a situation where you faced a significant obstacle to succeeding with an important work project or activity?
- Can you give an example of a time when you identified a new, unusual or different approach for addressing a problem?
- Tell me about a time when you faced a problem that had multiple possible solutions. How did you decide which solution was best?
- Can you describe a complex problem you have faced at work and how you dealt with it?
- How do you evaluate success when it comes to problem-solving?
- Give an example of a time when you used your problem-solving abilities to improve a process.
- How do you break down complex problems into manageable parts?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed. How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- How do you handle problems that require a quick solution? Can you provide an example?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
When an interviewer asks about your approach to problem-solving, it ties directly into all three fundamental aspects they’re trying to ascertain: your ability to do the job, your motivation to get the job done, and your fit within the team and organization.
- Can you do the job? Problem-solving is a critical skill in virtually every role. Your ability to identify, analyze, and find solutions to problems directly relates to your competency in performing the job. So, when you share your problem-solving approach, you’re demonstrating your ability to handle the complexities and challenges that might arise in your role.
- Will you do the job? Your motivation and drive are often reflected in how you approach problem-solving. If you are proactive, willing to take initiative, and persistent in finding solutions, it shows you have the motivation to overcome obstacles and see tasks through to completion.
- Will you fit in? Your problem-solving approach can also indicate if you’re a cultural fit for the organization. Do you collaborate with others to find solutions, or do you prefer to work independently? Do you respect the existing processes and hierarchies when solving problems, or do you challenge the status quo? Your answers can provide insights into your interpersonal skills and your compatibility with the organization’s culture and values.
How Best To Answer ‘What is your approach to problem-solving?’
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
Belief: This is where you share your core convictions about the subject matter. For problem-solving, you might discuss your belief in the importance of a structured approach, the value of diverse perspectives, or the need for tenacity in overcoming challenges. Your beliefs can give the interviewer insights into your mindset and values.
Situation: Here, you set the stage with a brief background of a specific problem-solving scenario. The situation should be relevant to the role you’re applying for and demonstrate your skills effectively. However, it’s crucial to maintain a balance and not spend too much time on setting the context. The key elements to include are the challenge faced, the stakeholders involved, and the impact on the business or project.
Task: This is where you highlight your specific role in the scenario. Describe your responsibilities in addressing the problem. Whether you were leading the team or were part of it, it’s essential to show that you took an active part in the problem-solving process.
Activity (or Action): This is the crux of your response. You should detail the steps you took to address the problem. This might include identifying potential solutions, consulting with stakeholders, conducting research or analysis, implementing the solution, etc. The idea is to highlight your strategic thinking, leadership, teamwork, and other relevant skills. The interviewer needs to understand your approach to problem-solving, so be clear and thorough in describing what you did and why.
Result: Finally, you should explain the outcome of your efforts. The result should ideally be positive, showing that your problem-solving efforts were successful. Using specific figures or quantifiable achievements can be highly effective here. For example, you could discuss improvements in efficiency, cost savings, or positive feedback from stakeholders. Even if the outcome wasn’t entirely successful, you could discuss what you learned from the experience and how it improved your problem-solving skills.
Remember, the B-STAR method is a guideline to structure your response effectively, but it doesn’t need to be followed rigidly. Tailor your answer to suit the specific situation and emphasize the aspects that best showcase your skills and experiences.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action
What is your approach to problem-solving? – Example answer
Project Manager Example
Belief: I firmly believe that a systematic and collaborative approach is key to effective problem-solving. It’s about understanding the root cause, exploring diverse perspectives, and then implementing the most viable solution.
Situation: A few months ago, while working as a project manager at XYZ Ltd., we were behind schedule on a critical project due to unexpected technical issues. The delay was jeopardizing the project deadline and the client relationship.
Task: As the project manager, it was my responsibility to identify the problem, rally the team, and find a way to get us back on track without compromising the quality of our deliverables.
Action: I first organized a brainstorming session with the team to understand the technical issues in detail. We listed down all the problems and then prioritized them based on their impact on the project timeline. I then divided the team into smaller groups, assigning each group a specific issue to solve, playing to their strengths. We also had daily short meetings to discuss progress and roadblocks, which helped in maintaining transparency and encouraging collaboration. For issues that were beyond our team’s expertise, I reached out to other colleagues within the company who had the necessary experience and managed to get their assistance.
Result: Through this approach, we were able to troubleshoot all the major technical issues within a week. Not only did we deliver the project on time, but the client also praised our problem-solving skills and teamwork. The experience reinforced my belief in the importance of a structured and collaborative approach to problem-solving. It also resulted in a more robust problem-solving protocol within our team for future projects.
Customer Service Role
Belief: I have always believed that problem-solving, especially in customer service, requires empathy, patience, and creativity. It’s important to truly understand the customer’s concern and then think outside the box to find the most satisfying solution.
Situation: During my time as a Customer Service Representative at ABC Company, we faced a situation where a batch of our newly launched product had a minor manufacturing defect. This led to a surge in customer complaints and return requests, which was threatening our brand reputation and customer loyalty.
Task: My role was to address customer complaints, manage their expectations, and find a solution that would not only resolve the immediate issue but also restore their faith in our brand.
Action: I worked closely with the product and quality assurance teams to understand the extent and nature of the defect. Simultaneously, I assured the customers that we were aware of the issue and were actively working on a solution. I also proposed an action plan to the management, which included expedited return processing, offering a discount on the next purchase as a goodwill gesture, and implementing a more stringent quality check process for future releases.
Result: The management approved the action plan, and we communicated the same to the customers. Despite the initial discontent, the customers appreciated our transparency and prompt action. We managed to process all returns within two weeks and issued discount vouchers for future purchases. As a result, we not only retained most of our affected customers but also saw an increase in customer satisfaction scores by 15% in the following quarter. The situation also led to a revamp of our quality assurance process, significantly reducing such incidents in the future.
This experience reiterated my belief that effective problem-solving is about understanding the issue, addressing concerns promptly, and going the extra mile to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome.
Logistics Coordinator Example
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