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Top 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.
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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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"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."
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.

Specific Career Examples
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!"
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."
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."
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."
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%."
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."
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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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"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."
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.

Specific Career Examples
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."
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."
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."
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."
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!"
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!"
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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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"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."
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.

Specific Career Examples
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."
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."
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."
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."
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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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"It was my first job as a physician's assistant, and I was trying to diagnose a patient who had severe pain in her abdomen. After running some tests, the doctor and I believed she was suffering from a gallbladder problem. We treated her, but she came back to the ER a week later. It turned out she had a problem with her pancreas. Even though we misdiagnosed her initially, we were able to use this mistake to help us identify the real problem. I've learned that sometimes making a mistake is a part of the process of solving a more complicated problem."
Everyone makes mistakes when analyzing a situation. The interviewer isn't concerned with perfection; instead, they want to know how you deal the aftermath of rejection! Sometimes you can't correct your mistakes, but you can certainly learn from them. Highlight your ability to learn from your mistakes and move on, professionally.

Specific Career Examples
Sales Example
"When pitching an existing client on increased volume next year, I had made a recommendation on the most effective carrier for a lane. I based this recommendation on historical data and projected future rates. However, a merger occurred after the time of the pitch, and their prices skyrocketed since they were the only viable carrier for that area. Without competition, they didn't have to remain competitive in their rates. While I could not have predicted the merger, I could have quoted out with a higher margin on our part so that if there were some snag like this, we are covered. Since we lock in the rates for the customer, we took a loss each time they moved freight this way. As a backup method, whenever possible, I attempted to send the freight another way, so that we would lose some money but not take as large of a hit. That was a big learning experience for me and has helped me be better prepared to pitch other customers in a more effective, CYA type way."
Retail Example
"Unfortunately, this happened not too long ago where I misjudged a customer complaint. The associate needed to escalate the conflict to a manager but did not accurately portray the customer's concern, and I jumped into action based off of the limited information given. Due to not gathering enough information from the customer herself or clarifying the misunderstanding with the associate, I took a misstep with the customer and did not resolve the issue as quickly as I would have liked. Ultimately, I was able to clarify the situation and get to a resolution that worked for everyone, leaving the customer happy. However I have some regrets. It was a learning process, and something I have been sure not to repeat since. Were I to do it again, I would clarify the situation with the customer, rather than taking the associate's word for it."
Teacher Example
"While teaching, the kids told me that I needed to quiet down at one point. I assumed it was the teacher whom I shared a wall with, that planted the seed, which was irksome. This type of situation had happened before. This time, however, I was wrong. I asked her to avoid delivering messages to me through the students, and she said she had not. Apparently, the students knew she had a headache that day, so they were all watching their volume level. I was glad that I did address the situation with the teacher, but made sure not to be accusatory or make assumptions about motives again."
Manager Example
"We had incredibly high turnover rates when I first started in my current role. Going in guns blazing, wanting to make a strong first impression, I did a complete overhaul of the training manual thinking that was the problem. It turns out the training manual was just fine. The culprit to the turnover was one employee who was a complete bully on the job. The moment I terminated that person, the issue was solved. At least now I have a fancy new training manual! Moving forward, I now poll my team regularly for job satisfaction. I encourage a transparent workplace culture where people feel safe bringing their issues to me."
Marketing Example
"I had a client, earlier in my career, who was not seeing the same results from their Facebook advertising as they once did. I changed the headlines, increased the budget, and even did multiple A-B tests. What I failed to see were the strategic algorithm changes that Facebook had made, which directly affected the visibility of my clients' ads. Now, I have alerts and subscribe to a couple of blogs solely dedicated to these changes, so I never miss a beat."
Admin Example
"I was asked recently to work on balancing an accounts receivable report. Math is not my strongest suit; however, I was confident in my ability to make it happen. Through a bit of research, I carefully worked on the document and was quite proud of my result. It turns out, I skipped a few important steps, and my work was, in fact, incorrect. I took it as a learning opportunity but also realized that my strengths are in other areas of business. I should have asked for the project to be placed with someone else, but I do not regret trying."
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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
Tell me about the most challenging problem you have encountered in your professional career.
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Question 10 of 25
When a problem requires a quick solution, how do you respond?
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Question 11 of 25
In your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver?
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Question 12 of 25
How do you prioritize multiple projects when they all seem equally important?
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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
When faced with a problem, how do you decide on the best solution?
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Question 16 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 17 of 25
Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot to solve a problem.
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Question 18 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 19 of 25
When it comes to problem solving, are you a strong collaborator?
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Question 20 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 21 of 25
Rate your problem solving skills from 1-10. How do you justify your rating?
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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
Tell me about a time where you had to analyze a set of data and then make a recommendation.
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Question 24 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 25 of 25
What steps do you take to solve a problem?
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