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Top 10 Problem Solving Interview Questions

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 24
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 from overtime hours worked. I implemented a third shift which alleviated the need for excess 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."
"I always look at the data to gauge the efficacy of a policy or new solution. I am big on numbers as they really do tell the full, and true, story."
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 prior to your problem-solving solution, you can track the results of your new solution and compare in a month, or beyond. It can take time to see the results, so having a method for measuring them is important. 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
Sales Example
"In order to really test the effectiveness of any solution, you have to be objective and see if it truly addressed the problem it set out to solve. Everything in our business is run 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 assigning 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 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 both collect data, as well as anecdotal assessments of the 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 people 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 being impactful, or what they still see as area for growth."
Teacher Example
"For me, numbers play an important part in teaching, but definitely 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 24
Tell me about a time when you discovered a problem and went beyond regular expectations to fix it.
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"When I worked as an admin assistant at my last job, I was in charge of purchasing. 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. Turned out we were able to save the company hundreds of dollars each year by simply investing in dishes and silverware!"
"I had a staff member who was stealing supplies. There were rumors going around that she was being 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."
Your innovative approach may be exciting and unconventional, but can you implement it in a realistic way? Ideas are one thing, but putting them into practice and providing measurable results are where you can add true 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
Sales Example
"In my first role, there was a regular lane of shipments that was difficult to cover and we had the opportunity weekly to do so, and struggled most every time it came up. We'd have to reach out to other offices to get the shipment taken care of, so luckily we didn't fall short as far as the customer was concerned, however we weren't doing our job by keeping the revenue in the branch, and were in danger of potentially having the customer poached. After several late nights attempting to come through for the customer, I got tired of running in a hamster wheel and falling short. So, I decided to proactively find some carriers that would like a consistent lane. Long story short, after staying late many days and making some creative calls to find a backhaul for the same carrier, I was able to secure a regular carrier, at a great rate, and keep the customer, carrier, and branch happy, and making more money."
Retail Example
"When I was managing the department for young professionals, we also housed the coat and bathing suit department, depending on the season, and these coats can be high ticket items. I had two sales people who were constantly at one another's throats and battling for the sale, it was unbecoming to say the least and impacted the department's morale. The rest of the staff generally steered clear of the coat department for fear of getting in the middle of their quibble. In order to incentivize everyone to go for the sale, I made a sales incentive on non-coat merchandize. The more items they sold besides coats, despite being lesser in commission typically, the more tickets they got towards various other compensation incentives, like gift cards or extra time for breaks. This way, the other girls felt reinvigorated about sales, and it pushed my two coat-fighters to step outside of their perceived territory, or risk losing out on other great incentives. It got everyone selling across the entire department and eliminated the "this is mine" mentality, which greatly improved productivity, morale, and ultimately our sales numbers."
Teacher Example
"When I was reworking the cohort's lesson plans, I noticed that there was a gap between the plans and they honestly weren't cohesive. So, rather than hand them back to the team when they were already finished with their paid curriculum allotment, I took it upon myself to write the remaining lessons and tweak the existing ones in order to make them cohesive. It took about seven days of working on my own time, but it was really worth it when I saw the lessons in action during the school year."
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Question 4 of 24
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 worked with. 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 become one of the stronger users of this program, in our entire office! I quickly became the go-to person when anyone had questions on the technology."
Sometimes the greatest 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 in order to be efficient. I am all about team work, but in order for me to literally be paid, I had to have them doing their work in a timely and effective manner. Meanwhile, their goals and metrics were not tied to any of the sales outcomes, so it was really hard to motivate them to do what I needed done. In the short term, I sat down with them and explained why it was important for me, them, and the company that we work together on the same timeline. I literally incentivized them with coffee or store gift cards to help hold that carrot in front of their noses. 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, in order to make them truly invested. In the end, the short- and long-term approaches proved effective, as generally most everyone is incentivized by some extra cash and pats on the back."
Retail Example
"The most challenging part of my prior role was navigating the landscape as the newest hire on the team, who also happened to be the youngest and a manager, and working to gain the trust and respect of the rest of the team. I worked really 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. Honestly, I know this will be a challenge in this opportunity, however I know that I've learned so much in my previous role, that I am really well equipped to handle it."
Teacher Example
"I think the most challenging aspect of my current job is lacking my own classroom. Without having my own 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, and the like. I make sure to address this up front with the classroom teachers- that while it is their room, please treat it as though it were mine during the 20 minutes that I am teaching. If there is ever an issue, I am sure to address it really quickly and directly, so we are able to move past it. From what I understand, the position I'd be filling would have its own classroom and be treated as another special like music or gym, which would not only give the teachers an official plan period - something they need, but also I will have my own room which will allow me the freedom I need to really excel as an educator."
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Question 5 of 24
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 24
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 24
What sources do you look to when you need to solve a complicated problem?
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Question 8 of 24
How do you deal with distracting coworkers who stand in the way of your progress?
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Question 9 of 24
Tell me about the most challenging problem you have encountered in your professional career.
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Question 10 of 24
In your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver?
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Question 11 of 24
How do you prioritize multiple projects when they all seem equally important?
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Question 12 of 24
When a problem requires a quick solution, how do you respond?
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Question 13 of 24
When a major problem arises, what is your first reaction?
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Question 14 of 24
When you cannot seem to find the right solution to a problem, how do you deal?
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Question 15 of 24
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 16 of 24
When it comes to problem solving, are you a strong collaborator?
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Question 17 of 24
When faced with a problem, how do you decide on the best solution?
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Question 18 of 24
Tell me about a time when you failed to solve a problem. How did you overcome the failure?
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Question 19 of 24
Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot to solve a problem.
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Question 20 of 24
Rate your problem solving skills from 1-10. How do you justify your rating?
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Question 21 of 24
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 22 of 24
Tell me about a time where you had to analyze a set of data and then make a recommendation.
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Question 23 of 24
Tell me about a recurring problem that you run into in your current position, and how you handle it.
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Question 24 of 24
What do you think might be the greatest challenges faced in this job? How will you overcome these challenges?
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