Answering problem solving questions in job Interviews

Let's get this straight, now:

This is business.

The big problem that needs solving by interviewees is that the interview is somehow seen as separate from normal work.

It isn't.

It is work, just done on a different level.

Every single thing in an interview is all about work. Treat the interview exactly the same way you'd treat a job. Be efficient in your answers, give the same quality of information you'd give on the job to your boss.

Because that's exactly what you're doing.

Problem solving questions are the most fundamental and important of interview questions related to skills. This is a whole class of questions, in various forms, but they're all about problem solving in one form or another. They can be extremely complex, on the professional level. The object of these questions is to show your logic and methods, and give an insight into your abilities.

The other valuable component for interviewers is the degree of difficulty. Your choice of example shows your experience and exposure to problem solving. The assumption is that you'll pick the best and most appropriate example.

That's a good strategy for interviewees, because it allows them to play to their strengths and give some competitive performances. The problem solving questions are often related to bottom line skills, and they do give a very strong set of contrasts between candidates.

You need to be prepared for the problem solving questions, because they are inevitable, and they're extremely important in terms of your selection. If you realize that these are your skill sets you're talking about, you can see how vital these questions are.

Problem solving questions are also another area where parroting exercises just don't work. They break down very badly in interview situations. Problem solving questions are aimed directly at personal experience.

A lot of books give good examples of answers, but they weren't intended to be the answers to the questions you get at an interview.

You must adapt them to something in your own experience you can work with. You have to answer the question systematically, and cover all the angles and explain the problem.

If the next question is to explain what the issues were, you've missed the target completely.

The interviewers didn't understand what the problem was, so they have no hope of finding out how good your solution was. They've got some idea of the subject, and that there was a problem, but that's it. You're getting a second chance, of sorts. But your answer could have been a lot better at the start, and you didn't structure it to be as clear as it needs to be.