Competency Interview Questions

25 Questions and Answers by

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Competency was updated on May 4th, 2019. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 25

Tell me about a time when you took a creative approach to solving a problem.

Next Question  

Competency Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    Tell me about a time when you took a creative approach to solving a problem.

      How to Answer

      The interviewer wants to see that you are capable of creative solutions to everyday problems. Think of a time when you had a fantastic suggestion in the workplace. Employers love to hire candidates who are innovative, and able to implement their ideas. Focus more on your creative approach, rather than the problem itself.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Our company canceled this year's annual holiday party due to budget cuts. Everyone was disappointed because it's a fun way to get to know your teammates on a different level. I decided to take my team out, on my dime, because it is a significant way to build engagement and excitement. They appreciated the gesture, and I was happy with how well they performed in the weeks to come."

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "Last week we were all systems down. A complete technical crash! In our office, we have all glass walls, so I made the recommendation that using dry erase markers, we turn our walls into a giant project management board. It worked well, and we ended up keeping the notes on the walls for an extra few days."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "I like thinking outside the box. I was once tasked with better tracking our inventory to make sure small parts, like nuts and bolts, were ordered on time and not too early causing a surplus. I spent time counting how many screws were in a full bin vs. avg how many we used per day. I then took a piece of red electrical tape and made a line on the bin that would give us a rough estimate of a week's worth of screws left, enough time to order and receive some more. A simple and free solution."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "Black Friday, two years ago, my company at the time launched its new website. I noticed it was going rather haywire when people were trying to place orders, so rather than basking in the glory of a turkey leftover breakfast, I was on the phone with our backup provider in India getting the ordering issues sorted out. Since our website builder is in the US, they were off that day, but knowing that it was just another Friday evening in India, I was able to get the problem resolved and get our orders pushed through."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "Creativity is the best way to solve problems. Two associates were having trouble understanding the work that the other one did, and this was impacting the overall group. I pitched that the two individuals switch roles for two weeks to better understand their impact on the organization's success. They both came out of the experience having felt a new appreciation for another's job, and now they are cross-trained too!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "Our sales organization was struggling with the buyers and salespeople. We were supposed to be working collaboratively, but it became a finger pointing battle when a deal would fall apart. I suggested that, instead of having the buyers and salespeople report to different bosses and essentially working against one another, we switch it up to force collaboration. We reorganized the sales teams, so there were pods where a salesperson worked with two buyers, and they were a team. They became experts on the same customers, and their financial targets were tied. Very quickly the attitude shifted in the office, and people were teaching each other and learning from one another rather than pointing and placing blame."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "I have a student mainstreamed for only Spanish and no other specials. He doesn't have an aide for it, either, and while he's very good at language, following all classroom instructions isn't easy for him without one on one instruction. So rather than let him flounder, I made him my assistant. I was able to give him one on one instruction, he got to be a special helper by passing out papers or organizing students, felt like a million bucks, and was super engaged in the lesson every single day."

      Holly's Answer for an Industrial Engineer Interview

      "Productivity is a measure of how much input is required to produce a given output. Output/Input defines productivity factors."

      Lisa's Answer for a Petroleum Engineer Interview

      "The BP oil spill occurred on April 20, 2010 on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig located in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the explosion was due to multiple failures, the most critical cause of the explosion was due to failure of the blowout preventer (BOP) which caused approximately 53,000 bbl/day of crude oil to be realized into the Gulf of Mexico (GOM)."

      Ronda's Answer for a Community Association Manager Interview

      "In my current role as a XYZ, I'm faced with obstacles regularly. To overcome them in a creative manner, I use all of the resources that are available to me including other employees. The expertise and knowledge of others coupled with my own leads to solutions that aren't necessarily obvious at first."

      Ryan's Answer for an Event Planner Interview

      "The budget for our work Christmas party was very small. I looked at all of the different pieces involved, including venue, food, music, and decorations, considering our staff size and their requests. Next, I looked within my network of connections that could give us discounts or sometimes even things for free. I was able to get the catering done for half price because of my friend who works at Whole Foods, and stayed within the budget overall because I used connections and did cross-promotion for other companies and individuals."

      3 Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "I recently saw a client who spoke no English. I was not able to communicate with her, so I thought about how I can solve this problem and decided to use Google Translate. I translated my question into Portuguese and then asked the client to read it. This is how we communicated with each other throughout the appointment."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Good for you, deciding to figure out a solution rather than focus on the problem. A nice example of creative problem-solving! How did the appointment go in the end? Any particular result to share?

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (4) or No (5)
      Anonymous Answer

      "The management team implemented strict monitoring of our job assignments against the actual chargeable hours. There were times where I found it challenging to align my actual charges to my job assignments due to the changing schedules of my audit clients. Downtimes meant no chargeable hours, and that affects team profitability. When we had our last team meeting, I suggested keeping a list of people who updates the time charges accurately and every month end to give away prizes to those who stick with mid-Friday completion of timesheets. It resulted in almost 100% completion of timesheets since then."

      Rachelle's Answer

      What an excellent example of creative problem-solving. Very well done and a great outcome.

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (1) or No (8)