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Problem Solving Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated June 17th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 25
Give me a recent example of a valuable lesson you learned from a problem you faced at work.
View Answers
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.
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Top 25 Problem Solving Interview Questions with Full Content
1.
Give me a recent example of a valuable lesson you learned from a problem you faced at work.
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.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"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."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"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."
2.
After you implement a solution to a problem, how do you test the effectiveness of that solution?
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.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"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."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"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%."
3.
Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem and went beyond regular expectations to fix it.
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.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"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."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"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!"
4.
Tell me about the most challenging aspect of your previous job. How did you overcome it?
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.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"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."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"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."
5.
Tell me about a time when your analysis of a problem was deemed to be incorrect. What would you have done differently?
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.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"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."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"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."
6.
What steps do you take when you have to make an immediate decision without all the relevant information?
Sometimes we have to make decisions without all of the pertinent information at our fingertips. The interviewer wants to know that you are capable of taking educated guesses and that you are confident enough in your abilities that you can make a firm decision without all pieces of the problem being present.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I need to decide without all of the information, I weigh the pros and cons and come up with a solution that makes the most sense. Common sense can take you a long way! Next, I may ask the opinion of someone I trust to see what they think. Even though I trust my decision-making ability, I still think it's important to get a second opinion when it comes to situations involving money or decisions that make a significant impact on others."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Being organized, I do have a checklist that I follow on all policy-related decisions and changes. If I do not have all necessary information to make an important decision, I can usually find answers in our company resource database, or I will consult an administrator more tenured than I."
7.
What sources do you look to when you need to solve a complicated problem?
The interviewer wants to know that you can think outside the box, or even ask for help when you are stuck on a complicated problem. Maybe you look to a mentor or boss for advice. Perhaps you have handbooks, manuals and systems you turn to for help. Offer some relevant examples based on your industry. If you work in the medical field, you may turn to textbooks, online research, colleagues or even patient's history to find the right solution. If you work in customer service, you may ask the customer what they need to find the best way to solve the problem. Show the interviewer that you are knowledgeable and equipped to handle these types of scenarios.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I am faced with a complicated problem, I will look to the resources that my current company has provided me. The answer is almost always in there. If it's more of a moral dilemma vs. a knowledge-based dilemma, I will ask my supervisor for his thoughts and opinion since I value him as a mentor and expert in our industry."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have a variety of manuals and online tutorials that I lean to when I need to solve a complicated problem. Usually, the issues are surrounding Excel troubleshooting, so it is easy to find answers without involving anyone else and interrupting their day."
8.
How do you deal with distracting coworkers who stand in the way of your progress?
Even the most well-meaning coworkers can distract you from getting things done at work from time to time. The funny and entertaining coworkers who like to chat online and send YouTube videos are often the ones who can get in the way of your productivity if you let them. How do you respond? Show off your ability to set professional boundaries, when needed.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I typically just set a kind, but clear, boundary and tell my coworker that I need to focus. I will offer an alternate time for a catch-up, over lunch for example. It is important for the sake of workplace culture to set aside time to be social with coworkers, so I usually just let them know when I'll be available for a quick break in the day."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I understand working relationships are significant, and I'm sure to make time for them so that I can be useful but also enjoy myself at work. With that said, I know where these relationships fall regarding prioritization of my day. I make sure that others know that, too, without being off-putting."
9.
In your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver?
Employers want to know that you have a methodical approach to problem-solving. Consider the skills and qualities that help you successfully face problems. Perhaps you have a keen eye for detail. Maybe you can see opportunity when others can only focus on the issue. Share your strengths as a problem solver, and your ability to come up with innovative solutions.

Strong problem solvers are:

- Systematic thinkers
- Open minded
- Okay with being wrong sometimes
- Always researching and exploring
- Able to identify the core problem
- Able to reverse engineer a challenge to avoid future issues
- Able to come up with multiple avenues that work well for all stakeholders
- Are do-ers and not worriers

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am a great problem solver because I can compartmentalize all aspects of a problem before studying it. I also like to bring more experienced team members in to add to the solution. I will never try to be a hero and solve a complicated problem without tapping into the resources around me."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"What makes me a great problem solver is that I have a keen ability to research, read, and explore so that my recommendations are based on fact and study rather than guesses."
10.
How do you prioritize multiple projects when they all seem equally important?
Prioritizing is a skill that requires practice. There are many approaches you can take. Here are some suggestions:

1) Make a list. By thinking through and writing down each item that needs completion, you can see it on paper.
2) Mark what is urgent or essential. Take into account deadlines and meetings.
3) Order each task based on effort and estimated value.
4) Consider due dates and how long it will take to do each item.

When answering this question, show the interviewer that you have a system in place that helps you to think through what needs to happen, and when. The better you can prioritize, the more productive you will be, making you an asset to their company!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I aim to be as effective and efficient as possible and make sure I can use all minutes of a day for a project. I have a few things going at once most of the time. I am the lead on some, the delegator on others, and the reviewer on another, for instance. This way, by splitting up the work to the appropriate parties, both my team and I can be the most efficient with our time."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I often have multiple projects due at a time, since I am the assistant to three different executives. I ask my executives to rank their need from 1-5 in the level of urgency, including its due date. I start my work on that list. If there is more than one urgent need, I will work overtime, or through my lunch, to ensure that I deliver everything on time."
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