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Problem Solving Interview Questions

25 Problem Solving Interview Questions
Question 1 of 25
Give me a recent example of a valuable lesson you learned from a problem you faced at work.
How to Answer
One of the best aspects of problem-solving is that you always have the opportunity to learn from the experience. Seeing problems as opportunities to grow, is what makes you an excellent employee! Show the interviewer that you can learn valuable lessons when there is a problem at hand. Use a work-related example, if you can.

Answer Example
"Last month our sales team was facing a major challenge when we lost one of our primary distributors. I took action and started cold-calling, other potential distributors. I brainstormed with my team in some other ways that we could avoid a negative impact on our bottom line. We were quite successful in our recovery, and I would say that the biggest lesson I learned from the experience is that you are often only successful if you have motivated people in your corner."
Admin Example
"The most valuable lesson I learned from problem-solving at work is that not everyone will see your solution as the best one. Accepting change is difficult for some people, so I have found that not everyone will be on board right away."
Manager Example
"I recently had an employee express their disinterest in the job and the company. Rather than coach them out, I selfishly wanted to 'save' the employee. I put in extra hours mentoring and training her, just to see her quit anyways. It's a valuable lesson as a manager to put your energy into those who want to be there. Other efforts are often just a temporary fix for the inevitable."
Marketing Example
"Marketing is always shifting so I often learn new, valuable lessons. One lesson I recently learned was to double check the documents that I send out for any needed updates. A lot of the manuals and how-tos that we send clients are evergreen; however, some are not. I accidentally sent an old social media guide to a client, and they ended up being incredibly confused. My lack of attention to detail at that moment was a bit embarrassing but lesson learned!"
Retail Example
"A recent learning experience was when I misjudged what the customer was upset about, and I didn't take the time to learn what it was that she was looking for. It reminded me to slow down, go back to the basics, and not assume that all situations fit the mold of the 'typical' customer. It was a perfect reminder that though I've seen most everything, I need to remember that each person and situation is unique."
Sales Example
"A recent valuable lesson for me has been not putting all of my eggs in one basket, as the old saying goes. Over 64% of my sales came from one group of stores, and they've always been a big contributor to the entire company's sales numbers. However, they were put on "hold" recently by their corporate, due to some restructuring issues. This event threw me for a loop. I was in real danger of not hitting my monthly sales target, and therefore I would have fallen short on my quarterly quota as well. I had to work extra long hours and hustle my other clients and fence-sitters to get them into "buy" mode to make up for the void in my numbers. It took a ton of effort, long nights, and creative pitches, but I was able to make up for the gap. I learned just how important it is to diversify my portfolio so that I don't find myself, or the company, in this position again."
Teacher Example
"When working on curriculum development, I learned an important lesson. Two of our teachers wanted to keep a lesson in, because of personal connections to the lesson, but the other three were quite against it, with me being the uncertain one. I saw the validity in both sides. So, rather than find ourselves with a divisive issue on our hands, I proposed that we have a "freebie" lesson when we each got to pick one that we thought would culturally enrich our students. I learned that by thinking outside of the box, the team and our students would all benefit."
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Question 2 of 25
After you implement a solution to a problem, how do you test the effectiveness of that solution?
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How to Answer
The interviewer wants to see that you have strong follow-through skills and the ability to use data and analytics to support your decisions. The only way to test the effectiveness of a new solution is to keep a close eye on the immediate, and often longer-term, results!

Depending on the situation, you can use data, run reports, and compare/contrast your findings. If you have records of the data before your problem-solving solution, you can track the results of your new solution and analyze in a month, or beyond.

It can take time to see the results, so having a method for measuring them is essential. Give an example of a time you implemented a solution and found a way to measure the results to check its efficacy.

Answer Example
"Last year, our company was having a very high rate of turnover due to employee burnout during overtime hours worked. I implemented a third shift which alleviated the need for excessive overtime. Yes, it did increase our payroll costs by 33%; however, it decreased our turnover which was costing us more and more every year. From the analytics I have been watching, the change will pay for itself by the end of year two."
Admin Example
"One solution that I recently implemented was the use of Google calendar with the executive that I support. She was rarely updating her Outlook calendar because she found it to be too difficult to do on her smartphone. Since this implementation, we have minimized our crossed wires significantly! I have measured the effectiveness of this new calendar strategy by marking down any appointments that need to be rescheduled. So far, for the month, the number of reschedules is down by 80%."
Manager Example
"I always look at the data to gauge the efficacy of policy or new solution. I am big on numbers as they do tell the full, and true, story. I love the reliability of spreadsheets and numbers!"
Marketing Example
"Once our team comes up with a new marketing strategy for a client we will conduct two focus groups. One test group will be on the original marketing plan and the second, on the plan that we want to pitch. The use of focus groups is the best way for us to measure if our new strategy will be effective enough to justify the changes for the client."
Retail Example
"I like to collect data, as well as anecdotal assessments of new policies. It's great to have data to confirm if it was or was not effective, but I am a firm believer, too, in getting the team on board. Plus, as you implement a solution, sometimes those doing the actual day-to-day work with customers or in the actual implementation have a more accurate understanding of what's going on or what could be improved. Therefore, I am sure to ask the staff how they think it's going, if it's impactful, or what they still see as an area for growth."
Sales Example
"To test the effectiveness of any solution, you have to be objective and see if it genuinely addressed the problem it set out to solve. Everything in our business runs on KPIs, so when we introduce any initiative, we can see how it is or is not impacting those measurements. One example of this was when I assigned specific accounts to my team of buyers, instead of just attaching as they came up. The idea was to get a buyer to become an expert on that account, their buying habits, and therefore be more effective in the long term at sourcing for their needs. At first, it didn't seem all that impactful, as the close rate was still around 42% overall. However, over the course of 10 weeks, we saw an uptick in close ratios on the assigned, dedicated accounts versus the randomly distributed ones, resulting in 53% close ratio. It's something that became so effective that other sales pods adopted it as their practice as well."
Teacher Example
"For me, numbers play an important part in teaching but do not paint the full picture. So, after implementing a change, it is certainly important for me to collect data from our unit tests to gauge the efficacy of the lessons we're teaching and the lesson plans we are using. However, I also am sure to check-in with the students on a more regular basis to check for comprehension. Testing is only truly reflective of the way some students learn, whereas others are terrible test takers, even though they've learned the material. That is why I like to take a two-pronged approach."
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Question 3 of 25
Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem and went beyond regular expectations to fix it.
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How to Answer
Your innovative approach may be exciting and unconventional, but can you implement it realistically? Ideas are one thing, but putting them into practice and providing measurable results is where you can add genuine value. Think of a time you worked long hours and made sacrifices to overcome a challenging problem. Demonstrate your impact and the significance of your solution.

Answer Example
"During our busy tax season I noticed that one of our primary spreadsheets was not formulated properly. I am not an expert with Excel; however, with everyone being in peak stress mode - I decided it was something I could learn on my own. I watched a few online tutorials and ended up resolving the issue without the need to involve the rest of the team."
Admin Example
"When I worked as an admin assistant at my last job, I was in charge of purchasing office and kitchen supplies. I noticed we had been spending quite a bit of money on paper and plastic-ware. I compared the cost of disposables to the cost of buying permanent dishes and utensils for the kitchen. It turned out we were able to save the company hundreds of dollars each year by simply investing in dishes and silverware!"
Manager Example
"I had a staff member who was stealing supplies. Rumors were going around that she was dishonest; however, there was no evidence. I carefully waited and, after two days, the rumored infractions were caught on camera. At that point, I was able to terminate her employment. I went beyond regular expectations by gaining evidence before terminating her. I knew this would prevent a human resources issue down the road, and it also saved my company from having to pay this employee any severance pay."
Marketing Example
"Our agency performed a major client launch last month that tested well. Upon implementing, I noticed that their new website was not functioning correctly. I wanted our client to be happy with our services, so I worked late into the night with our IT team to troubleshoot the site and ensure that by morning, there were no more kinks to work out. In the end, our client was thrilled with my dedication, and they ended up writing an amazing review online and even mentioned me in the review!"
Retail Example
"I managed a coat department previously and, depending on the season; these coats were very high ticket items. I had two salespeople who were consistently battling for the sale. It was unbecoming, to say the least, and impacted the department's morale. To incentivize everyone to go for the sale, I made a sales contest on non-coat merchandise. The more items they upsold, despite being a smaller sale, the more tickets they received towards various other compensation incentives like gift cards or extra time for breaks. The other sales reps felt reinvigorated, and it pushed my two coat-fighters to step outside of their perceived territory."
Sales Example
"In my first role, there was a regular lane of shipments that was difficult to cover. The issue didn't cause us to fall short as far as the customer was concerned. However, we were in danger of potentially having the customer poached due to waiting times. After several late nights attempting to come through for a key customer, I got tired of running in a hamster wheel. I decided to find some carriers that could assist. Long story short, after staying late many days and making some creative calls to find a backhaul, I was able to secure a new carrier, at a great rate, and keep the customer happy."
Teacher Example
"When I was reworking lesson plans, I noticed that there was a gap between the programs and some policy. So, rather than hand them back to the team to fix, I took it upon myself to write the remaining lessons and tweak the existing ones to make them cohesive. It took about seven days of working on my own time, but it was worth it when I saw the lessons in action during the school year."
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Question 4 of 25
Tell me about the most challenging aspect of your previous job. How did you overcome it?
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How to Answer
Sometimes the most significant workplace challenge is a difficult task that puts you outside of your comfort zone. It could be something that requires skills you haven't mastered yet or qualities where you are not the strongest. Explain to the interviewer why it was difficult but be sure to spend more time highlighting the actions you took to overcome the challenge.

Answer Example
"The most challenging aspect of my last job was troubleshooting some of the older technology. We needed some serious upgrades, but they weren't in the budget. Learning how to work around this problem was quite a challenge, but I learned how by referring to old manuals and online forums. I ended up to become one of the stronger users of this program, in our entire office! I quickly became the go-to person when anyone had questions about the technology."
Admin Example
"In my current role, we have global offices that span four time zones. It is an incredible challenge to be continually calculating the difference in my mind when I call or email on updates for projects, for instance. I now have each locations time added to my desktop, my smartphone, and four individual clocks on my wall. These small and inexpensive changes made all the difference."
Manager Example
"The most challenging aspect of my previous job was the constant need to pivot when it came to trends in the industry. We would gain footing, and then the next greatest product would arrive. It made it difficult to feel loyalty to any of it. I started to express loyalty to the company's ability to discern great products instead of narrowing in on the products themselves. This shift in thought helped with mine and my teams' performance when it came to sales."
Marketing Example
"My previous role was with a small agency where budgets were always a concern by the clients. Although I liked the clients, they were usually independent businesses with less than ten employees. They had a hard time thinking big-picture. I overcame this by coming up with a questionnaire that would address their greatest pain points and needs for their business. I would then focus on their small goals versus what I felt their company could be. Some business owners are more comfortable being comfortable, versus ruling the world, and that's okay! I just needed to wrap my marketing brain around that."
Retail Example
"The most challenging part of my prior role was navigating the landscape as the newest manager on the team. I needed to work on gaining the trust and respect despite my being green. I worked hard to build individual relationships with each associate and forge a bond with them. I also shared information about myself, including my experience in the industry, and who I am as a person. I know that this made me more human, approachable, and also solidified my credentials, so I know how to get the team on my side."
Sales Example
"The most challenging part of my previous job was relying on another team to be efficient. I am all for teamwork, but for me to be paid, this team needed to deliver timely and quality work. Meanwhile, their goals and metrics remained disconnected to any sales outcomes. This situation made it tough to motivate them. In the short term, I sat down with them and explained why it was vital for myself them, and the company that we work together on the same timeline. I incentivized them with coffee or store gift cards. Bigger picture, I sat down with the management of both teams and shared the issues we were having, suggesting a solution that would tie their KPIs and financial incentives to our outcomes, to make them invested. In the end, the short- and long-term approaches proved useful."
Teacher Example
"I think the most challenging aspect of my current job is the fact that I share a classroom with another educator. Without having my space, other obstacles come up such as teachers trying to influence how I run my class, or them holding small conversations with their aides during my teaching time. I make sure to address this up front with the classroom teachers- that while it is also their room, please treat it as though it were mine during the 40 minutes that I am teaching. If there is ever an issue, I am sure to address it quickly and directly, so we can move past it."
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Question 5 of 25
Tell me about a time when your analysis of a problem was deemed to be incorrect. What would you have done differently?
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Question 6 of 25
What steps do you take when you have to make an immediate decision without all the relevant information?
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Question 7 of 25
What sources do you look to when you need to solve a complicated problem?
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Question 8 of 25
How do you deal with distracting coworkers who stand in the way of your progress?
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Question 9 of 25
In your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver?
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Question 10 of 25
How do you prioritize multiple projects when they all seem equally important?
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Author of Problem Solving Answers and Questions

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is an executive head-hunter and job search expert. Utilized by top executives from Fortune 100 & 500 companies like Fitbit, Microsoft, General Electric, Nestle, and more, she helps professionals position themselves in a competitive marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume, a company that focuses on helping job seekers get their edge back. Renovate My Resume creates stand-out resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and professional summaries for new grads, all the way to corporate executives. Rachelle spends much of her time training career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers. She also holds interview workshops for students and interns, globally. For great tips and tricks, follow Rachelle on Instagram @_rachelle_e or @renovatemyresume.
First written on: 06/21/2016
Last modified on: 06/17/2018
Question 11 of 25
When a problem requires a quick solution, how do you respond?
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Question 12 of 25
Tell me about the most challenging problem you have encountered in your professional career.
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Question 13 of 25
When a major problem arises, what is your first reaction?
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Question 14 of 25
When you cannot seem to find the right solution to a problem, how do you deal?
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Question 15 of 25
Tell me about a time when you failed to solve a problem. How did you overcome the failure?
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Question 16 of 25
When faced with a problem, how do you decide on the best solution?
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Question 17 of 25
When it comes to problem solving, are you a strong collaborator?
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Question 18 of 25
Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot to solve a problem.
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Question 19 of 25
When faced with a problem, are you more likely to jump into solving it, or are you the type to carefully assess the issue first?
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Question 20 of 25
Tell me about a recurring problem that you run into in your current position, and how you handle it.
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Question 21 of 25
Tell me about a time where you had to analyze a set of data and then make a recommendation.
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Question 22 of 25
When change occurs in the workplace, it can create new problems. Do you see these as inconvenient problems, or opportunities to learn?
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Question 23 of 25
Rate your problem solving skills from 1-10. How do you justify your rating?
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Question 24 of 25
What do you think might be the greatest challenges faced in this job? How will you overcome these challenges?
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Question 25 of 25
What steps do you take to solve a problem?
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