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When have you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem?

9 Answer Examples | Learn how to answer this question from professional recruiters

How to Answer

Talk to the interviewer about a time you had to solve a problem creatively. Your answer doesn't have to be an invention or a tremendous break-through you made in your previous role. Any unexpected decision you made will most likely count as a creative solution. Pick a scenario where you were pleased with the outcome.

When have you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem?

"In my current position we saw a decrease in clients due to a local economic downturn. I recommended to our head office that we begin to generate business outside of our region for the first time in many years. They agreed, and the idea turned things around for us that fiscal year."

Civil Engineer

"In my current position we saw a decrease in clients due to a local economic downturn. I recommended to our head office that we begin to generate business outside of our region for the first time in many years. They agreed, and the idea turned things around for us that fiscal year."


"When someone suggests you try thinking outside the box, they are usually referring to taking a creative approach to solving a problem. If you have been struggling to resolve an issue a certain way and it's not working, you will probably consider another route. Think about some problems you might expect to encounter in your role as an FBI agent. Depending upon whether you are interviewing as a professional staff member or a special agent, you will have different responsibilities and varying levels of issues you might need to solve. Consider explaining your answer like this: "My team was working on solving (X). We collaborated to put the pieces together, but couldn't seem to make sense of things. I suggested we look at our resources and consider (Y) and (Z), two factors that we hadn't examined to see how they relate. In the end, we found that the missing evidence was all we needed."


"I once had to deal with a space issue in our warehouse. We arranged and re-arranged several times and could not make it work. I thought outside the box and rented some outside pod storage until we were back to normal inventory levels."


"Recently we needed to create a mentorship program for a client. By my suggestion, we decided to engage local thought leaders as well as aspiring leaders. This approach benefited the community as a whole, and our client was delighted with the result."


"In retail, a customer will approach you with odd requests from time to time. Recently, I had a customer insist on making a return that wasn't even from our store. They were furious that I would not take the return! It turns out; we were running a promotion where if you spent $50, you received a $25 in-store gift card. I suggested to the customer that they purchase the product, from us, that they initially wanted. They would then receive the $25 in-store gift card, and they could still return the original product to the store it was purchased. I turned an angry return to a paying customer!"


"In sales, if you cannot think outside the box, and on the fly, you will not succeed. Recently I had a client who wanted a digital service option thrown in that we did not yet have. It was still in development. To offset his disappointment, I asked him if I could give him three months of the service for free on a trial basis, to help us work out the kinks, would he then be happy. He was thrilled, and we had a real-life test subject."

Sound Engineering Technicians

"An example of when I thought outside of the box, one accomplishment I am particularly proud of, is managing a very large project on a very tight deadline while employed for (X company) as (X position title). To successfully do so despite the amount of work, I (... detailed information pertaining to this project, e.g., how you used your creativity to achieve your goals, what the ultimate outcome was and how satisfied your employer was)."


"As a teacher, I often have to think of alternate ways to teach a lesson when some kids aren't picking up the content. I will always have multi-media resources available for my students to support their learning such as educational computer games and interactive online worksheets."

More Interview Questions

View user-submitted Answers

When have you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem?
I believe I am a creative person and think that any successful employee like apple have some level of creativity. In my past job, I a;ways come up with a new idea.
For every problems there are many solutions, most of them are usually unconventional. I suggested real time video editing with video mixing software, to sync audio and video in a more human style.
I believe I am a creative person and think that any successful employee, especially an employee of Apple, must have some level of creativity. It's creativity that leads to improvements. In past past roles as a financial analyst, I was continually coming up with new ways to improve the financial reporting process.
Wrote algorithms for SE who never has written so far.
I believe so. There was this one time where a group of my friends and I had to pressetna a project and I came up with the idea of making a setting of a jungle inside the classroom (it pertained to our project) Needless to say, we earned some brownie points with the teacher.
I believe so. There was this one time where a group of my friends and I had to pressetna a project and I came up with the idea of making a setting of a jungle inside the classroom (it pertained to our project) Needless to say, we earned some brownie points with the teacher.
I think outside of tthe box every day. NLOL project. When the best smiles were. Etc.
Yes. There was a design that required Heat to be transferred from the inside of a box to the outside. Reusing current housings the group came up with a design that reversed the housings and made the direction of the ehat point outward and dissipate to a plate that would be cooled by natural convection.
Yes, I am a creative person. I have led a life of thinking outside of the box. As a songstress, my music, art, jewelry and calendars have a tongue and cheek personality that have unique personality and ubiquitous nature.
I always try to be different from other by examining what others are doing and analyzing what the similarities are and why they are similar to one another. That usually helps me create something fresher.
Yes I am in my role in the reserve defence forces I come up with plans to included every body and make it enjoyable.
I built my won app that contains Arabic episodes and songs.
When I am out of office tensions, would like to explore the word, I will travel like a gypsy and very much interested in wildlife photography.
I wont say all the time but where we find difficulties or do the repeating work there I see a time to thought outside of the box.
I always think outside of the box. This job itself is thinking outside the box. Working from home is not for everyone. Some people who had my dream of travelling would either look for a new job each time they moved or they just stay where they were so they did not lose there job. I searched for a job that would allow me to live my dream and stay employed.
I am a creative person. When I was at another company I found a more efficient way of finishing a function.
Yes I am a creative person. Used cell phone camera and audio player remote(infrared Light). To find out lost thing during power cut.
Yes,I'm creative person because I'm always creating new...
I, literally, think outside the box all the time.
My son is interested in wrestling and saw a wrestling cake in the shop that he wanted for his birthday. It was way to expensive so after a few attempts and lots of icing I created a wrestling ring cake for him.
I am creative person but upto situation which is given to me.
While working at Qualcomm we developed online training for employees in any and all different realms of the company. From interviewing skills and business writing to soldering techniques. I personally designed and developed numerous "games" to train the employees on the topics that needed to be covered (football game) and even way back when the internet was relatively new -- proposed to Hasbro the game room for online game play.
Yes, extremely. Example of taking over as media secretary... Our brand was stagement... Rebranded and aligned all social media platforms including logos and website.
Yes, I am creative. I have done lot of creative work.
Artistically creative? No. However I think outside the box all the time at my work, I have to come up with groups for our clients and they need to stay actively engaged and I need to make sure that they could learn something from it or be able to express something that they have never been able to express before. One time I was up for what was called step group, a group focussed on the 12 steps, my partner and I were out of ideas and our clients were going crazy and we were also short staffed. We couldn't get them to stop talking with each other and concentrate. So we just rolled out 2 large pieces of butcher paper, one for the guys and the other for the girls and asked them to artistically express what there first step is including their rock bottom. They loved it, it allowed them to work as a group and their conversations were centered around treatment, and we played some fun music to keep up the good vibes. It's a group we continue to do and it was something that was thought of within 2 minutes. Also learning how to respond and help each client individually takes a lot of creative thinking. Each client needs their feelings validated in a different way so it demands a lot from you, one client in particular was very quiet and shy, he did not share how he was feeling nor did he ask for help, so paying attention to his signs was important, afterwards I came up with small but achievable goals to hellp him open up and to start feeling better about himself, goals like giving 1 other client a day a compliment to help him get to know them better, he also had to journal journal every night to have some form of outlet for his feelings. Eventually he got to the point where he could give feedback in group and felt more comfortable opening up to staff and other clients as he got to know them more and as he could start identifying his feelings better he could ask for help on specific things he needed.
I am a creative person, thinking outside of the box is going out of the way to exceed guest expectations. I was a team leader in a group project about a business project, I thought about naming positions like the names of positions on a soccer team to make it more interesting and to catch the attention of all of the viewers.
Troubleshooting is a combination of in and out of the box thinking.
When I started at KPCB, there was really no documentation to speak of on their cell phones and managing them was a nightmare. Instead of building on the very small and incomplete Excel spreadsheet they had, I decided to build a Database in FileMaker Pro. I took it through several iterations, asking myself how I can make it more functional and useful and adding features. This was a creative use of problem solving and skills.
When I handled a customer without my boss helping me.
Vista introduced issues with UAC quarantining XML files. One of our processes used an XML file, which Vista quarantined. I asked a customer to try to save it to a USB drive hoping Vista wouldn’t quarantine the file outside of its environment. It worked, but I lacked the data to convince Tier 3 that it wasn’t a coincidence but an escalation issue. I alerted the frontline team of the workaround and over time found and forwarded an obscure memo from Microsoft, sent out prior to release, alerting developers of the quarantine functionality in Vista. Since the decision was not to change the process the workaround was published in the knowledge base.
Yes, I created a faster check in for an event.
I had a Client come in with an iPad that the screen would not display an image but the device seemed to still be working. I used 30-pin to HDMI to connect the device to a TV then marked with tape where things were so she could unlock the device and use it to back up data.
Yes. My site designs are very unique and perform very well.
I believe I am a creative person and think that any successful employee like apple have some level of creativity. In my past job, I a;ways come up with a new idea.
Ya I m creative I create ways to waste my time when required.
Yes, during some infighting with some of my students, I took them all out for a game of American football, helped release energy.
Yes, I used shampoo to get an oil stain out my favorite sundress. I used shampoo since it removes oils an dirt from our hair. I was successful in saving my sundress with the this creative idea.
Yes, Many a times it is required to think out of box.
Yes, I do. Roller Blind (design was owed by a supplier company) was not well centered between drip shields and the seat. Instead of making change on 4 different components (long process and cost), I proposed to make a change on the Roller Blind by extending the top aluminum sheet metal to seal the gap.
I think Creativity is something you can only think of and making it into your own unique idea and when it's a great creation everyone will start either following it or doing it. For E.G in a workplace you start to do something different which is easier than the way you use to do it so everyone will start to consider doing it your way.
I am creative. I was having a problem with team members that could not access our applications due to not having access to computers. I set up days and times for them to get the on boarding done using I pads.
Yes, We remodeled our house from the studs and sold it for a profit.Used decorating ideas and creative deals .
To calm an angry customer down customer was upset that her device was not performing to standards. I asked qualifying questions to find out exactly what was going wrong come to find out that the customer did not remove the plastic on device to hear properly.
As a teacher, I have to think outside the box almost every day because people learn things in different ways. If I change one word, it may make a difference to one person. If I show something in a different way, it may make a difference to a lot of people.
Most of my examples of thinking outside the box deal with breaking the barrier of functional fixedness. Using a dog cage as a table, using a dime as a screwdriver, etc.
Mock WMD scenario, assisted bomb techs with dismantling an ignition device that they had problems with dismantling on their own.
Often working in freight when you don't have supplies you need or equipment to help get a job done I create materials to work. Whether it's tying a rubber band around a cord to make it fit through back-end of our computer system to be able to reach the computer or developing my own method to complete a full inventory by using outside resources and organization structure.
When was the last time that you thought outside of the box? What did you do?
Last time I thought outside the box was when I had to do a speech but I didn't know how to present it so I decided to make a power point and then put extra slides so people could see how horrible plastic bags are to the environment.
I once was lost in the woods in the rain with a bag of wet clothing. I upon that point realized warmth and dry area's sound about perfect. I located a cave, layed my clothing by the fire and warmed up until the rain has passed.
Critical thinking example.
Thinking outside of the box is just another way to define someone's creativity and inventive qualities. I have countless "outside of the box" thoughts. Not all may be efficient. But the best one I have I cannot expose since I will be patenting it and making royalties.
Creatively re-did a child's bedroom.
I tried to build an ironman suit, I drew blueprints and real measurements.
When I was in a fake superhero group with 3 of my other friends and one of my friends said she didn't want to be part of the group so she was officially out and she got jealous of the group after she dropped out so she told her mom that WE kicked her out so my other friend that was in the group felt bad so asked everyone else in the group if we wanted her in and sorry FBI agents this is a long story I can't finish it.
At work we ran out of shipping labels. I rerouted the information from the computer to a different printer and taped the labels onto the packages instead.
When instead of asking my mom for money, I went straight to her purse and got the money without telling her.
When I think about Security thinking outside the box is a necessity. Last time I have thinked outside the was when I was in school it gave me a chance to find alternatives by using my imagination in order to find a resolution. In that case it worked and I graduated with my masters.
We were lost in the woods and I found a way to get us out.
One time, my live Audi engineering classmates and I were faced with having the fix a Genie Lift that was broken. We put our heads together and took the appropriate steps to repairing the piece of equipment in a timely manner.
Thinking in diferent fields of sound industry is always a good idea. How do you do the good sound on a visual way. And it helps also be part of the audience and trying to enjoy the performance as the audince.
Since I been doing music production over years I often gave my own music that I produced for comercials that I editing, so margeting sector coud be satisfied.
By recording using an auxillary channel it saved my employer from disgrace.
Guest wanted a refund, instead traded merchandise they wanted with another guest.
I worked a recording session with a ska band called Root System. They'd previously had very bad luck in the studio, but as I'd worked with them at several gigs I knew they were a tight live band, so I suggested recreating that and recording the band live in the studio. It meant a much shorter recording session than usual, but as the band loved the result they ended up coming back very regularly to record new songs.
We had a situation where the client had sold more tickets. So the audio did not reach that aria that the tickets got sold so by saving cost on tranport I lookd at what material we had on site and made a plan to cover that with gear we could re arrange.
Majority of times I think outside the box. This way you can get the best solution for a problem. Unloading a meal truck. Usual way was using an auger conveyor which took 2 to 3 hours to unload. We had a cogged belt conveyor that was only used for Walnut. It stayed idle for 8 months of the year. I removed the bin filler and used it to unload the meal and the truck got unloaded in 1 hour.
When A gear failed none in stock room went an found a simular gear ground it downan made it work.
A gear had gone out ( broken teeth) the stock room did not have one. I found one outside that was simmular just had to machine it a bit.
Yesterday I had the production floor have a laser break down. Most laser parts are in Europe. This part was in Italy and the distributor was complaining that they were not getting the message across that the part needed to be shipped same day air. They suspected a language barrier. I have an Italian speaking frined in Omaha and I asked him to talk with the to convey our message via conference call with the vendor, and the part was shipped same day air.
When we were beating nails in the tarp, everyone got their hammers out, and there were none left, so I went and got a sledgehammer and used it as my hammer.
I had to be creative. One time I was asked if I knew someone that was a long time customer and what would I do with a pair of scissors if I worked at a pizza place.

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