Interview Questions and Answers: Problem Solving Questions

Problem solving interview questions should be expected in nearly all job interviews. They're directly related to assessing job skills. They're often real problems for interviewees. Unfortunately, many interview answers just don't measure up.

Employers need to see a clear demonstration of job skills, and this interview question is very important in that regard. Problem solving is a direct indicator of skill levels. A good interview answer needs to show a level of problem solving skills which is suitable for the job.

Many people sabotage themselves answering this interview question, simply by their choice of subject for their examples and not communicating effectively.

The common mistakes in interview answers are:

  • Picking an unsuitable example for the interview answer
  • Using examples which don't show the right level of skills
  • Interview answers are disorganized, not well explained
  • Interviewers don't understand the problem or solution

Obviously, these types of mistakes can't give a good interview answer. You need to plan ahead for this interview question, so you have a good example ready for your answer.

Getting your problem solving interview question right:

These mistakes are easily avoidable. Think about the job you're after. Those are the required skill levels, and they'll tell you what sort of problem solving example you need for your interview answer.

Choose a problem relevant to the job as the subject of your interview answer. Give an example of problem solving at the right skill level, not too simple. You're trying to show strong abilities. Lastly, structure your interview answer like a story, with a clear beginning and end:
    1. Describe the problem, and why it's a problem.
    2. Explain what had to be achieved to solve the problem.
    3. Explain how you solved the problem.
    4. Describe the result, and why it solved the problem.

Example

The job is retail electrical sales. The interview question was 'Give an example of problem solving in your customer service work.'

'A customer had a warranty problem with an appliance. The customer needed it repaired, but we couldn't verify the warranty. The customer had lost the receipt. He was quite upset, and didn't want to have to pay for repairs.

I checked our old sales records, and found a payment which looked right, given the information provided by the customer. I discovered from the customer and he'd paid by credit card, and we could use the credit card statement to verify the date for warranty. The customer was very pleased.'

Analysis

This interview answer demonstrates:

  • Good customer service ethic
  • Applicant fully aware of warranty issues
  • Applicant made extra effort to check information
  • Consulted with customer for details
  • Problem could not have been solved without this approach
  • Example relates directly to the sales position

The interview answer demonstrated an appropriate level of skills.