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When a problem requires a quick solution, how do you respond?

1 of 25 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers Written by Rachelle Enns

Updated December 18th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
How to Answer

When it comes to complex problem solving, decisions are not always readily reached. It takes practice, experience, and confidence to learn what sorts of decisions yield the best results. Walk the interviewer through your process when it comes to making quick decisions. Do you rely on past experiences? Perhaps you go with a gut feeling. Maybe you have read case studies that you lean on in these instances.

Problems that require you to act quickly can be emergency situations such as knowing where the fire extinguisher is and grabbing it fast enough to put out a small grease fire in the company kitchen. Other quick decisions could be if you are asked to take on a new responsibility and are only given five minutes to decide if it's something you are prepared to take on. Going with your gut is a skill, and the more you learn to trust your intuition, the easier it becomes to make these types of decisions. Demonstrate that you are confident and able to react swiftly when the need arises.

Professional Answer Examples
Answer example

"Our Controller recently came down with pneumonia on a week where we had a major client presentation to give. He sent me what he had prepared, and I had to fill in the blanks. As an Analyst it was a bit out of my wheelhouse, being in a client facing role, but I adapted quickly, and reminded myself that my team needed me."

Answer example

"When an urgent problem arises at work, I always try to respond in a calm and assuring manner. I am a natural leader which means that my team often looks to me for answers. One instance of my fast-thinking was just last week when we had an administrative employee no-show on a significant day for us. I called a temp agency, and they had the position filled in just one hour."

Answer example

"In logistics, there are often split-second decisions that can either get the freight to a customer on time or cause a shut-down of a production line. Sometimes, these decisions have to be made after hours. On more than one occasion, I've received a phone call from our central dispatch asking me how to handle a late driver. I have to remember the details of the particular shipper or receiver, my customer, and the actual load in question but also get creative with how they can make sure to meet customer expectations. Due to the urgent nature of the business, as well as the drivers, it has to be a very quick decision to be successfully resolved. Luckily, due to following my gut, I've been able to make very fast, split-second decisions in the best interest of the branch and customer."

Answer example

"As a Marketing Director, I need to make a multitude of decisions, on the fly, for varying projects. I rely partially on the instinct that I have built as an expert in the marketing industry and part in past experiences that may be similar. I am sure always to exude an air of control when making decisions."

Answer example

"I thrive under pressure and always have, so when I'm given a time-sensitive situation to address, I light up and get down to business. I am more impactful and even more creative when I have little time to do much besides jump in and take charge. This ability to make fast decisions is especially helpful in my role as manager when there is an inventory, personnel, or customer issue."

Answer example

"Just like with negotiations, I react swiftly in emergency situations. Perhaps my skills come from my years as a parent, having to think fast and put out fires! If a quick solution is required, I will do a fast overview of the facts and make a decision based on risk factors considering the potential financial loss."

Answer example

"I am certainly a take charge and tackle a project kind of gal - as a teacher and a mom, too! I feel I have a powerful and accurate intuitive sense and I follow it instinctively. It's very rarely steered me wrong."

Temporary Staffing Recruiter
Answer example

"In staffing, there are often split-second decisions to be made. Sometimes, I make these decisions after hours. On more than one occasion, I've received an evening phone call on my cell, from a candidate saying they won't be going back to their temp assignment. I have to remember the details of the particular job order and get creative with how to meet the customer's needs for the following morning. Due to the urgent and reactive nature of temporary staffing, I have to be comfortable making split-second decisions. Luckily, due to following my gut, I've been able to make speedy decisions in the best interest of the agency and our client."

Truck Driver
Answer example

"In transportation, there are often split-second decisions that can either get the freight to a customer on time or cause a late delivery. On more than one occasion, I've received a call from dispatch notifying me of a roadblock or change in route. Due to the urgent nature of the transport business, we need to work together to resolve these issues quickly successfully. Luckily, due to my years of experience, I've been able to make very fast, split-second decisions in the best interest of the company and customer, by leaning on my road and geographical knowledge."

Youth Program Director
Answer example

"I was the lead for a group of children that were inside when a fire alarm went off. The other groups were all outside for recess at the time, so I had to lead my students outside to meet the rest of the students. We had no prior knowledge that a drill was going to happen, so it was the first time I had experience getting the students out by myself."

Answer example

"I do feel like I have good communication skills. I enjoy getting to know people. To me, my job is not just a Mon-Fri, 8-5 thing that I do for a paycheck. I care about the people that I work with and I care about the clients who trust me with the well-being of their pets. I believe that taking the time to talk to someone with compassion and showing a real interest in what they think and feel is a great way to build rapport and begin to establish relationships with people."

Airline Steward
Answer example

"I would love to sit next to the Airline Steward with the longest career at this company. I'm certain that they would have some amazing stories to tell, great advice, and tips on how to overcome some of the challenging aspects of the job. It would be really informative and a lot of fun to learn from a leader in the industry, so that would be who I'd choose to sit next to on a 24-hour flight."

Addiction Psychiatrist
Answer example

"I had a patient that started talking about hurting themselves during a session. I was able to take fast action and got the patient to an inpatient facility and kept the patient safe. I believe that my ability to make a quick decision came from the fact that I am very knowledgeable in my field and also have some strong connections and resources that I can lean on in an emergency situation."

Written by:

Rachelle Enns
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace. Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career. Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise. Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 06/21/2016
Last modified on: 12/18/2019

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