Are you a problem solver? If you want to be employed in today’s modern workplace, you should be. No one wants to hire “that guy” (or girl!) that has to ask for help every single second of every day because they are incapable of doing things on their own. They want someone that has problem solving strategies, and knows how to turn those strategies into action.
Interview Question: What problem solving strategies do you use to stay aware of problems and resolve them in your work area? Can you give me an example of how this has worked for you in your current role?
This is a two part question. The first part is about simply having some type of awareness of problem solving strategies in the workplace (emphasis on “in the workplace” – you don’t need to talk about your problem solving strategies in your personal life), while the second part is coming up with a real life example.
If you have a great example of a problem that you solved, you can work backwards with this type of question by coming up with a story that will impress the employers and then figuring out what your problem solving strategy was during the process. If you’re not sure what process you used, consider the following:
- Data Driven – The most impressive problem solving strategy is going to be data or fact driven. Any interview question about problem solving that involves a hard, data driven outcome is going to wow employers, and while these types of problem solving strategies are rare, they are extremely impressive.
- Tapped Knowledge – Logic and knowledge is the real way that people make decisions. Seeing this in action is impressive to employers. The trick here is to make sure you sound confident in your knowledge and logic. Explain it, make sure you describe why it is logically sound, and be confident in yourself.
- Situation Driven – If you can’t think of something data driven and you can’t find a way to sound confident with your logical and knowledge answer, then you may want to consider not having a specific problem solving strategy at all. Be someone that acknowledges that every situation has its own unique perspective, and that you change your problem solving approach depending on that perspective.
“I consider myself a logical person, but I also try to approach each problem uniquely, and seek out solutions based on what the problem needs. If it’s something I can figure out on my own, I do it. If I need to look at historical decisions, I do that. If I need to ask someone with expertise, I ask someone.
I remember that I was faced with a very unusual challenge where someone dumped over 50 computer monitors inside of our store, and I knew that there were legal issues with disposing of them and moral and ethical issues with dumping them somewhere else, so I called the recycling center to see if they accepted donations, and they didn’t. I called GoodWill, and they indicated they did not accept monitors. I searched online and found it was a rare problem with no clear answer. I eventually found a recycling center with the lowest pricing, brought it up with my general manager, and we decided we would simply absorb the cost. It was more important to dispose of them safely.”
With these types of examples, you took a smart approach to determining an answer to the problem, even though it wasn’t necessarily a specific approach. You asked people that should know, you used logic in your decision, and you did what you could. In the end, your company still had to dispose of them, but there is no harm in talking about an outcome that wasn’t perfect as long as your logic process was in place. Not every situation is going to have a perfect ending, even when the right decisions go into the process.
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