To be successful at any job, you need to have effective problem solving skills. There is no job that comes without problems, and if you cannot work through them in an intelligent, systematic manner and come up with successful solutions, you will not be very good at your role.
That is why it is very common for an interviewer to ask you how you go about problem solving. What they really want to know is – Do you have a process you work through systematically? What are the steps in your problem solving process?
The Problem Solving Process:
There are many different methods and models that describe the problem solving process. In terms of the workplace though, problem solving follows the following 7 Key Steps.
1. Define the Problem
Although it sounds like this first step would be very easy, it really isn’t. Sometimes a problem has many variables and finding the right problem to solve can be difficult.
In any job interview you need to explain that you always begin the problem solving process by clearly defining the actual problem.
This involves clearly articulating:
- What the problem is
- Writing it down
- Gaining consensus from anyone else involved
Everyone is then on the same page.
2. Analyse the Problem
Once the definition of the problem is clear, you need to move onto the research phase. This involves delving in why this has become a problem. It also means you need to involve the right people in the process and do more listening than talking as you understand the impact the problem has and who are the key stakeholders.
In any job interview you can explain that once you have a clear definition of the problem you actively research the issue by following 3 simple prompts.
First you ask yourself:
- Who knows about this
- Who is affected by this
- Who can help with this.
As you work though the answers to these 3 questions you will complete all your relevant research.
3. Develop Solutions
This third stage involves generating a number of possible solutions without any prejudice for any option. This ensures you don’t dismiss a great idea before everyone has had the chance to provide input.
In any job interview you can say that you like to run brainstorming sessions with all relevant parties to develop as many ideas as possible. This shows you are also collaborative and open to the thoughts of others.
Make it very clear that all ideas are welcome and no judgement is made at this stage.
4. Evaluate the Solutions
In the evaluation phase you would note down the good and bad points and any other things which are relevant to each solution. This is not where you make an actual decision, this is looking at the merits of each decision. if you use a particular method for scoring or evaluation you can mention is here.
In any job interview you need to make it clear that you are able to analyse the benefits and issues of each idea without making a judgement that would prejudice the outcome.
This also implies that if you were dealing with conflict between employees you could evaluate the situation without emotion first. It is important that you emphasis this step int he process.
5. Select Solution to Action
It’s now time to make a decision. Looking at your list of possible solutions you then sort out which are most relevant to your situation and which are realistic and manageable. Once that’s done you explore the possible consequences and identify the solution which is most relevant to you and is likely to have the best outcomes for your situation.
In any job interview you need to show you can make a decision, especially a difficult one with conviction. You have already explained that you can analyse the problem, now you need to show you can make a decision and put it in place with courage.
This will showcase your leadership skills without you actually having to spell it out.
Before you actually implement any decision you should always go back to the definition and the objective one more time. Once you are happy that the decision delivers on the objective and actually solves the right problem you will need energy and enthusiasm to action it. Sometimes change is met with resistance, but you need to show you can deliver.
In any job interview you should mention that you always develop an implementation plan, that you involve the whole project team, that you are happy to coordinate the project and that you always ensure all deadlines are met.
By doing this you not only show you can work through problems but that you have excellent project management skills without using that cliche.
7. Evaluate and Learn
Most people are exhausted by the time the plan is implemented and feel like their job is done. The job is not done until you have evaluated the outcome and established the key learnings.
In any job interview you need to talk about the importance of this phase. Being able to go back and self analyse your plan and your actions shows perspective and emotional intelligence.
You should always mention that you shared the learning with the team and the broader organisation.
It may seem like a long process but all the steps are necessary and you need to show you understand that. When you are asked How Do You Go About Problem Solving, you need to first explain that you have a clear process for problem solving and then give a brief description of what that process involves. You can use the information and tips above to develop your answer.