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Sudoku for Beginners: How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
Are you a beginner when it comes to solving Sudoku puzzles? Do you find yourself frustrated and unsure of where to start? Fear not, as we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to improve your problem-solving skills through Sudoku.
Understanding the Basics of Sudoku
Before we dive into the strategies and techniques, let’s first understand the basics of Sudoku. A Sudoku puzzle is a 9×9 grid that is divided into nine smaller 3×3 grids. The objective is to fill in each row, column, and smaller grid with numbers 1-9 without repeating any numbers.
Starting Strategies for Beginners
As a beginner, it can be overwhelming to look at an empty Sudoku grid. But don’t worry. There are simple starting strategies that can help you get started. First, look for any rows or columns that only have one missing number. Fill in that number and move on to the next row or column with only one missing number. Another strategy is looking for any smaller grids with only one missing number and filling in that number.
Advanced Strategies for Beginner/Intermediate Level
Once you’ve mastered the starting strategies, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques. One technique is called “pencil marking.” This involves writing down all possible numbers in each empty square before making any moves. Then use logic and elimination techniques to cross off impossible numbers until you are left with the correct answer.
Another advanced technique is “hidden pairs.” Look for two squares within a row or column that only have two possible numbers left. If those two possible numbers exist in both squares, then those two squares must contain those specific numbers.
Benefits of Solving Sudoku Puzzles
Not only is solving Sudoku puzzles fun and challenging, but it also has many benefits for your brain health. It helps improve your problem-solving skills, enhances memory and concentration, and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In conclusion, Sudoku is a great way to improve your problem-solving skills while also providing entertainment. With these starting and advanced strategies, you’ll be able to solve even the toughest Sudoku puzzles. So grab a pencil and paper and start sharpening those brain muscles.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)
By Biron Clark
Published: November 15, 2023
Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.
But how do they measure this?
They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.
Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”
It is the ability to identify the problem, prioritize based on gravity and urgency, analyze the root cause, gather relevant information, develop and evaluate viable solutions, decide on the most effective and logical solution, and plan and execute implementation.
Problem-solving also involves critical thinking, communication , listening, creativity, research, data gathering, risk assessment, continuous learning, decision-making, and other soft and technical skills.
Solving problems not only prevent losses or damages but also boosts self-confidence and reputation when you successfully execute it. The spotlight shines on you when people see you handle issues with ease and savvy despite the challenges. Your ability and potential to be a future leader that can take on more significant roles and tackle bigger setbacks shine through. Problem-solving is a skill you can master by learning from others and acquiring wisdom from their and your own experiences.
It takes a village to come up with solutions, but a good problem solver can steer the team towards the best choice and implement it to achieve the desired result.
Watch: 26 Good Examples of Problem Solving
Examples of problem solving scenarios in the workplace.
- Correcting a mistake at work, whether it was made by you or someone else
- Overcoming a delay at work through problem solving and communication
- Resolving an issue with a difficult or upset customer
- Overcoming issues related to a limited budget, and still delivering good work through the use of creative problem solving
- Overcoming a scheduling/staffing shortage in the department to still deliver excellent work
- Troubleshooting and resolving technical issues
- Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker
- Solving any problems related to money, customer billing, accounting and bookkeeping, etc.
- Taking initiative when another team member overlooked or missed something important
- Taking initiative to meet with your superior to discuss a problem before it became potentially worse
- Solving a safety issue at work or reporting the issue to those who could solve it
- Using problem solving abilities to reduce/eliminate a company expense
- Finding a way to make the company more profitable through new service or product offerings, new pricing ideas, promotion and sale ideas, etc.
- Changing how a process, team, or task is organized to make it more efficient
- Using creative thinking to come up with a solution that the company hasn’t used before
- Performing research to collect data and information to find a new solution to a problem
- Boosting a company or team’s performance by improving some aspect of communication among employees
- Finding a new piece of data that can guide a company’s decisions or strategy better in a certain area
Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers
- Coordinating work between team members in a class project
- Reassigning a missing team member’s work to other group members in a class project
- Adjusting your workflow on a project to accommodate a tight deadline
- Speaking to your professor to get help when you were struggling or unsure about a project
- Asking classmates, peers, or professors for help in an area of struggle
- Talking to your academic advisor to brainstorm solutions to a problem you were facing
- Researching solutions to an academic problem online, via Google or other methods
- Using problem solving and creative thinking to obtain an internship or other work opportunity during school after struggling at first
You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.
Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”
Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.
Example Answer 1:
At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.
Example Answer 2:
In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.
Example Answer 3:
In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.
Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method
When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.
STAR stands for:
It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.
Finally, describe a positive result you got.
Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.
Situation : We had an irate client who was a social media influencer and had impossible delivery time demands we could not meet. She spoke negatively about us in her vlog and asked her followers to boycott our products. (Task : To develop an official statement to explain our company’s side, clarify the issue, and prevent it from getting out of hand). Action : I drafted a statement that balanced empathy, understanding, and utmost customer service with facts, logic, and fairness. It was direct, simple, succinct, and phrased to highlight our brand values while addressing the issue in a logical yet sensitive way. We also tapped our influencer partners to subtly and indirectly share their positive experiences with our brand so we could counter the negative content being shared online. Result : We got the results we worked for through proper communication and a positive and strategic campaign. The irate client agreed to have a dialogue with us. She apologized to us, and we reaffirmed our commitment to delivering quality service to all. We assured her that she can reach out to us anytime regarding her purchases and that we’d gladly accommodate her requests whenever possible. She also retracted her negative statements in her vlog and urged her followers to keep supporting our brand.
What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?
Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.
Below are good outcomes of problem solving:
- Saving the company time or money
- Making the company money
- Pleasing/keeping a customer
- Obtaining new customers
- Solving a safety issue
- Solving a staffing/scheduling issue
- Solving a logistical issue
- Solving a company hiring issue
- Solving a technical/software issue
- Making a process more efficient and faster for the company
- Creating a new business process to make the company more profitable
- Improving the company’s brand/image/reputation
- Getting the company positive reviews from customers/clients
Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.
Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills
Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems.
Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc.
Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.
You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.
If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.
Related interview questions & answers:
- How do you handle stress?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Tell me about a time when you failed
About the Author
Read more articles by Biron Clark
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39 Best Problem-Solving Examples
Problem-solving is a process where you’re tasked with identifying an issue and coming up with the most practical and effective solution.
This indispensable skill is necessary in several aspects of life, from personal relationships to education to business decisions.
Problem-solving aptitude boosts rational thinking, creativity, and the ability to cooperate with others. It’s also considered essential in 21st Century workplaces.
If explaining your problem-solving skills in an interview, remember that the employer is trying to determine your ability to handle difficulties. Focus on explaining exactly how you solve problems, including by introducing your thoughts on some of the following frameworks and how you’ve applied them in the past.
1. divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking refers to the process of coming up with multiple different answers to a single problem. It’s the opposite of convergent thinking, which would involve coming up with a singular answer .
The benefit of a divergent thinking approach is that it can help us achieve blue skies thinking – it lets us generate several possible solutions that we can then critique and analyze .
In the realm of problem-solving, divergent thinking acts as the initial spark. You’re working to create an array of potential solutions, even those that seem outwardly unrelated or unconventional, to get your brain turning and unlock out-of-the-box ideas.
This process paves the way for the decision-making stage, where the most promising ideas are selected and refined.
Go Deeper: Divervent Thinking Examples
2. Convergent Thinking
Next comes convergent thinking, the process of narrowing down multiple possibilities to arrive at a single solution.
This involves using your analytical skills to identify the best, most practical, or most economical solution from the pool of ideas that you generated in the divergent thinking stage.
In a way, convergent thinking shapes the “roadmap” to solve a problem after divergent thinking has supplied the “destinations.”
Have a think about which of these problem-solving skills you’re more adept at: divergent or convergent thinking?
Go Deeper: Convergent Thinking Examples
Brainstorming is a group activity designed to generate a multitude of ideas regarding a specific problem. It’s divergent thinking as a group , which helps unlock even more possibilities.
A typical brainstorming session involves uninhibited and spontaneous ideation, encouraging participants to voice any possible solutions, no matter how unconventional they might appear.
It’s important in a brainstorming session to suspend judgment and be as inclusive as possible, allowing all participants to get involved.
By widening the scope of potential solutions, brainstorming allows better problem definition, more creative solutions, and helps to avoid thinking “traps” that might limit your perspective.
Go Deeper: Brainstorming Examples
4. Thinking Outside the Box
The concept of “thinking outside the box” encourages a shift in perspective, urging you to approach problems from an entirely new angle.
Rather than sticking to traditional methods and processes, it involves breaking away from conventional norms to cultivate unique solutions.
In problem-solving, this mindset can bypass established hurdles and bring you to fresh ideas that might otherwise remain undiscovered.
Think of it as going off the beaten track when regular routes present roadblocks to effective resolution.
5. Case Study Analysis
Analyzing case studies involves a detailed examination of real-life situations that bear relevance to the current problem at hand.
For example, if you’re facing a problem, you could go to another environment that has faced a similar problem and examine how they solved it. You’d then bring the insights from that case study back to your own problem.
This approach provides a practical backdrop against which theories and assumptions can be tested, offering valuable insights into how similar problems have been approached and resolved in the past.
See a Broader Range of Analysis Examples Here
6. Action Research
Action research involves a repetitive process of identifying a problem, formulating a plan to address it, implementing the plan, and then analyzing the results. It’s common in educational research contexts.
The objective is to promote continuous learning and improvement through reflection and action. You conduct research into your problem, attempt to apply a solution, then assess how well the solution worked. This becomes an iterative process of continual improvement over time.
For problem-solving, this method offers a way to test solutions in real-time and allows for changes and refinements along the way, based on feedback or observed outcomes. It’s a form of active problem-solving that integrates lessons learned into the next cycle of action.
Go Deeper: Action Research Examples
7. Information Gathering
Fundamental to solving any problem is the process of information gathering.
This involves collecting relevant data , facts, and details about the issue at hand, significantly aiding in the understanding and conceptualization of the problem.
In problem-solving, information gathering underpins every decision you make.
This process ensures your actions are based on concrete information and evidence, allowing for an informed approach to tackle the problem effectively.
8. Seeking Advice
Seeking advice implies turning to knowledgeable and experienced individuals or entities to gain insights on problem-solving.
It could include mentors, industry experts, peers, or even specialized literature.
The value in this process lies in leveraging different perspectives and proven strategies when dealing with a problem. Moreover, it aids you in avoiding pitfalls, saving time, and learning from others’ experiences.
9. Creative Thinking
Creative thinking refers to the ability to perceive a problem in a new way, identify unconventional patterns, or produce original solutions.
It encourages innovation and uniqueness, often leading to the most effective results.
When applied to problem-solving, creative thinking can help you break free from traditional constraints, ideal for potentially complex or unusual problems.
Go Deeper: Creative Thinking Examples
10. Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is a strategy developed to resolve disagreements and arguments, often involving communication, negotiation, and compromise.
When employed as a problem-solving technique, it can diffuse tension, clear bottlenecks, and create a collaborative environment.
Effective conflict resolution ensures that differing views or disagreements do not become roadblocks in the process of problem-solving.
Go Deeper: Conflict Resolution Examples
11. Addressing Bottlenecks
Bottlenecks refer to obstacles or hindrances that slow down or even halt a process.
In problem-solving, addressing bottlenecks involves identifying these impediments and finding ways to eliminate them.
This effort not only smooths the path to resolution but also enhances the overall efficiency of the problem-solving process.
For example, if your workflow is not working well, you’d go to the bottleneck – that one point that is most time consuming – and focus on that. Once you ‘break’ this bottleneck, the entire process will run more smoothly.
12. Market Research
Market research involves gathering and analyzing information about target markets, consumers, and competitors.
In sales and marketing, this is one of the most effective problem-solving methods. The research collected from your market (e.g. from consumer surveys) generates data that can help identify market trends, customer preferences, and competitor strategies.
In this sense, it allows a company to make informed decisions, solve existing problems, and even predict and prevent future ones.
13. Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis is a method used to identify the origin or the fundamental reason for a problem.
Once the root cause is determined, you can implement corrective actions to prevent the problem from recurring.
As a problem-solving procedure, root cause analysis helps you to tackle the problem at its source, rather than dealing with its surface symptoms.
Go Deeper: Root Cause Analysis Examples
14. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual tool used to structure information, helping you better analyze, comprehend and generate new ideas.
By laying out your thoughts visually, it can lead you to solutions that might not have been apparent with linear thinking.
In problem-solving, mind mapping helps in organizing ideas and identifying connections between them, providing a holistic view of the situation and potential solutions.
15. Trial and Error
The trial and error method involves attempting various solutions until you find one that resolves the problem.
It’s an empirical technique that relies on practical actions instead of theories or rules.
In the context of problem-solving, trial and error allows you the flexibility to test different strategies in real situations, gaining insights about what works and what doesn’t.
16. SWOT Analysis
SWOT is an acronym standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
It’s an analytic framework used to evaluate these aspects in relation to a particular objective or problem.
In problem-solving, SWOT Analysis helps you to identify favorable and unfavorable internal and external factors. It helps to craft strategies that make best use of your strengths and opportunities, whilst addressing weaknesses and threats.
Go Deeper: SWOT Analysis Examples
17. Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a strategic planning method used to make flexible long-term plans.
It involves imagining, and then planning for, multiple likely future scenarios.
By forecasting various directions a problem could take, scenario planning helps manage uncertainty and is an effective tool for problem-solving in volatile conditions.
18. Six Thinking Hats
The Six Thinking Hats is a concept devised by Edward de Bono that proposes six different directions or modes of thinking, symbolized by six different hat colors.
Each hat signifies a different perspective, encouraging you to switch ‘thinking modes’ as you switch hats. This method can help remove bias and broaden perspectives when dealing with a problem.
19. Decision Matrix Analysis
Decision Matrix Analysis is a technique that allows you to weigh different factors when faced with several possible solutions.
After listing down the options and determining the factors of importance, each option is scored based on each factor.
Revealing a clear winner that both serves your objectives and reflects your values, Decision Matrix Analysis grounds your problem-solving process in objectivity and comprehensiveness.
20. Pareto Analysis
Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto Analysis is a decision-making technique.
It’s based on the principle that 80% of problems are typically caused by 20% of the causes, making it a handy tool for identifying the most significant issues in a situation.
Using this analysis, you’re likely to direct your problem-solving efforts more effectively, tackling the root causes producing most of the problem’s impact.
21. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze facts to form a judgment objectively.
It involves logical, disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.
For problem-solving, critical thinking helps evaluate options and decide the most effective solution. It ensures your decisions are grounded in reason and facts, and not biased or irrational assumptions.
Go Deeper: Critical Thinking Examples
22. Hypothesis Testing
Hypothesis testing usually involves formulating a claim, testing it against actual data, and deciding whether to accept or reject the claim based on the results.
In problem-solving, hypotheses often represent potential solutions. Hypothesis testing provides verification, giving a statistical basis for decision-making and problem resolution.
Usually, this will require research methods and a scientific approach to see whether the hypothesis stands up or not.
Go Deeper: Types of Hypothesis Testing
23. Cost-Benefit Analysis
A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a systematic process of weighing the pros and cons of different solutions in terms of their potential costs and benefits.
It allows you to measure the positive effects against the negatives and informs your problem-solving strategy.
By using CBA, you can identify which solution offers the greatest benefit for the least cost, significantly improving efficacy and efficiency in your problem-solving process.
Go Deeper: Cost-Benefit Analysis Examples
24. Simulation and Modeling
Simulations and models allow you to create a simplified replica of real-world systems to test outcomes under controlled conditions.
In problem-solving, you can broadly understand potential repercussions of different solutions before implementation.
It offers a cost-effective way to predict the impacts of your decisions, minimizing potential risks associated with various solutions.
25. Delphi Method
The Delphi Method is a structured communication technique used to gather expert opinions.
The method involves a group of experts who respond to questionnaires about a problem. The responses are aggregated and shared with the group, and the process repeats until a consensus is reached.
This method of problem solving can provide a diverse range of insights and solutions, shaped by the wisdom of a collective expert group.
26. Cross-functional Team Collaboration
Cross-functional team collaboration involves individuals from different departments or areas of expertise coming together to solve a common problem or achieve a shared goal.
When you bring diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives to a problem, it can lead to a more comprehensive and innovative solution.
In problem-solving, this promotes communal thinking and ensures that solutions are inclusive and holistic, with various aspects of the problem being addressed.
Benchmarking involves comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to the best practices from other companies or industries.
In problem-solving, it allows you to identify gaps in your own processes, determine how others have solved similar problems, and apply those solutions that have proven to be successful.
It also allows you to compare yourself to the best (the benchmark) and assess where you’re not as good.
28. Pros-Cons Lists
A pro-con analysis aids in problem-solving by weighing the advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of various possible solutions.
This simple but powerful tool helps in making a balanced, informed decision.
When confronted with a problem, a pro-con analysis can guide you through the decision-making process, ensuring all possible outcomes and implications are scrutinized before arriving at the optimal solution. Thus, it helps to make the problem-solving process both methodical and comprehensive.
29. 5 Whys Analysis
The 5 Whys Analysis involves repeatedly asking the question ‘why’ (around five times) to peel away the layers of an issue and discover the root cause of a problem.
As a problem-solving technique, it enables you to delve into details that you might otherwise overlook and offers a simple, yet powerful, approach to uncover the origin of a problem.
For example, if your task is to find out why a product isn’t selling your first answer might be: “because customers don’t want it”, then you ask why again – “they don’t want it because it doesn’t solve their problem”, then why again – “because the product is missing a certain feature” … and so on, until you get to the root “why”.
30. Gap Analysis
Gap analysis entails comparing current performance with potential or desired performance.
You’re identifying the ‘gaps’, or the differences, between where you are and where you want to be.
In terms of problem-solving, a Gap Analysis can help identify key areas for improvement and design a roadmap of how to get from the current state to the desired one.
31. Design Thinking
Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that involves empathy, experimentation, and iteration.
The process focuses on understanding user needs, challenging assumptions , and redefining problems from a user-centric perspective.
In problem-solving, design thinking uncovers innovative solutions that may not have been initially apparent and ensures the solution is tailored to the needs of those affected by the issue.
32. Analogical Thinking
Analogical thinking involves the transfer of information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target).
In problem-solving, you’re drawing parallels between similar situations and applying the problem-solving techniques used in one situation to the other.
Thus, it allows you to apply proven strategies to new, but related problems.
33. Lateral Thinking
Lateral thinking requires looking at a situation or problem from a unique, sometimes abstract, often non-sequential viewpoint.
Unlike traditional logical thinking methods, lateral thinking encourages you to employ creative and out-of-the-box techniques.
In solving problems, this type of thinking boosts ingenuity and drives innovation, often leading to novel and effective solutions.
Go Deeper: Lateral Thinking Examples
Flowcharting is the process of visually mapping a process or procedure.
This form of diagram can show every step of a system, process, or workflow, enabling an easy tracking of the progress.
As a problem-solving tool, flowcharts help identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies in a process, guiding improved strategies and providing clarity on task ownership and process outcomes.
Multivoting, or N/3 voting, is a method where participants reduce a large list of ideas to a prioritized shortlist by casting multiple votes.
This voting system elevates the most preferred options for further consideration and decision-making.
As a problem-solving technique, multivoting allows a group to narrow options and focus on the most promising solutions, ensuring more effective and democratic decision-making.
36. Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis is a decision-making technique that identifies the forces for and against change when contemplating a decision.
The ‘forces’ represent the differing factors that can drive or hinder change.
In problem-solving, Force Field Analysis allows you to understand the entirety of the context, favoring a balanced view over a one-sided perspective. A comprehensive view of all the forces at play can lead to better-informed problem-solving decisions.
TRIZ, which stands for “The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving,” is a problem-solving, analysis, and forecasting methodology.
It focuses on finding contradictions inherent in a scenario. Then, you work toward eliminating the contraditions through finding innovative solutions.
So, when you’re tackling a problem, TRIZ provides a disciplined, systematic approach that aims for ideal solutions and not just acceptable ones. Using TRIZ, you can leverage patterns of problem-solving that have proven effective in different cases, pivoting them to solve the problem at hand.
38. A3 Problem Solving
A3 Problem Solving, derived from Lean Management, is a structured method that uses a single sheet of A3-sized paper to document knowledge from a problem-solving process.
Named after the international paper size standard of A3 (or 11-inch by 17-inch paper), it succinctly records all key details of the problem-solving process from problem description to the root cause and corrective actions.
Used in problem-solving, this provides a straightforward and logical structure for addressing the problem, facilitating communication between team members, ensuring all critical details are included, and providing a record of decisions made.
39. Scenario Analysis
Scenario Analysis is all about predicting different possible future events depending upon your decision.
To do this, you look at each course of action and try to identify the most likely outcomes or scenarios down the track if you take that course of action.
This technique helps forecast the impacts of various strategies, playing each out to their (logical or potential) end. It’s a good strategy for project managers who need to keep a firm eye on the horizon at all times.
When solving problems, Scenario Analysis assists in preparing for uncertainties, making sure your solution remains viable, regardless of changes in circumstances.
How to Answer “Demonstrate Problem-Solving Skills” in an Interview
When asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills in an interview, the STAR method often proves useful. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Situation: Begin by describing a specific circumstance or challenge you encountered. Make sure to provide enough detail to allow the interviewer a clear understanding. You should select an event that adequately showcases your problem-solving abilities.
For instance, “In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a significant issue when our key supplier abruptly went out of business.”
Task: Explain what your responsibilities were in that situation. This serves to provide context, allowing the interviewer to understand your role and the expectations placed upon you.
For instance, “It was my task to ensure the project remained on track despite this setback. Alternative suppliers needed to be found without sacrificing quality or significantly increasing costs.”
Action: Describe the steps you took to manage the problem. Highlight your problem-solving process. Mention any creative approaches or techniques that you used.
For instance, “I conducted thorough research to identify potential new suppliers. After creating a shortlist, I initiated contact, negotiated terms, assessed samples for quality and made a selection. I also worked closely with the team to re-adjust the project timeline.”
Result: Share the outcomes of your actions. How did the situation end? Did your actions lead to success? It’s particularly effective if you can quantify these results.
For instance, “As a result of my active problem solving, we were able to secure a new supplier whose costs were actually 10% cheaper and whose quality was comparable. We adjusted the project plan and managed to complete the project just two weeks later than originally planned, despite the major vendor setback.”
Remember, when you’re explaining your problem-solving skills to an interviewer, what they’re really interested in is your approach to handling difficulties, your creativity and persistence in seeking a resolution, and your ability to carry your solution through to fruition. Tailoring your story to highlight these aspects will help exemplify your problem-solving prowess.
Go Deeper: STAR Interview Method Examples
Benefits of Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is beneficial for the following reasons (among others):
- It can help you to overcome challenges, roadblocks, and bottlenecks in your life.
- It can save a company money.
- It can help you to achieve clarity in your thinking.
- It can make procedures more efficient and save time.
- It can strengthen your decision-making capacities.
- It can lead to better risk management.
Whether for a job interview or school, problem-solving helps you to become a better thinking, solve your problems more effectively, and achieve your goals. Build up your problem-solving frameworks (I presented over 40 in this piece for you!) and work on applying them in real-life situations.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 10 Critical Theory Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 13 Social Institutions Examples (According to Sociology)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 71 Best Education Dissertation Topic Ideas
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 11 Primary Data Examples
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What Is Problem Solving?
Examples of problem solving in the workplace, what are problem solving interview questions, why do employers want problem solving skills, how to answer problem solving interview questions in 2023 with examples, how to highlight problem-solving skills in your cv or cover letter in 2023, problem solving technique, skills & examples (2023 guide).
Updated August 20, 2023
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There are many definitions of problem solving – but at a basic level, it focuses on the ability to accurately assess a situation and arrive at a positive solution.
Problem solving is an analytical skill that many employers look for when reviewing candidate application forms.
This particular skill isn’t restricted to a single sector, industry or role, though employers in the engineering and legal industries, in particular, tend to look for proficiency.
Consequently, questions about your problem-solving ability are commonplace in interviews.
Strong problem solving skills can be hugely beneficial for your career. In every sector, problems are inevitable and will arise in one form or another as you go about your day-to-day duties.
When problems do occur, employees are expected to use their initiative and develop suitable solutions to avoid the situation escalating into something more serious.
There are many situations where problems could present themselves in the workplace, from a client's concern through to assisting a technical team resolve a website or database error.
The issues that you come across will often vary in complexity, with some situations requiring a simple solution and others demanding more thought and skill to overcome.
Business managers will spend a lot of their time solving problems and consequently require their employees to be creative and intuitive when it comes to addressing them.
Being confident in your problem solving approach is really important, and as you learn which processes are most effective to overcome obstacles, so your confidence will grow.
Without suitable processes in place, your solutions may fail or they could even create additional problems.
A good problem solving process involves four fundamental stages: problem definition , devising alternatives , evaluating alternatives and then implementing the most viable solutions .
Managers are looking for recruits who can be creative and intuitive when it comes to addressing business problems.
How to Improve Problem Solving Skills in 2023: Step By Step
There are several ways you can improve problem solving skills. It helps to approach each problem through a series of logical steps.
Step 1: Define the Problem with the 5 Whys Technique
First, identify what the problem is. This requires examining a particular situation to determine what specifically is causing the problem.
Rather than looking at a problematic situation as a whole (for example, a customer is upset), try to break it down and determine the cause of the problem (why is the customer upset?).
The Five Whys (or 5 Whys) technique can be helpful here, which essentially involves asking 'why' five times to determine the root of a problem.
There may be several elements causing the problem or one specific element. Either way, breaking a problem down into smaller parts makes it much easier to solve each of the elements or issues contributing to the problem.
Step 2: Generate and Select an Alternative
Next, come up with a range of potential solutions. Techniques such as problem tree analysis and mind mapping can help to lay out problem elements and potential solutions.
Some of the potential solutions won't be as effective as others, and that's okay. The goal at this stage is to evaluate each potential solution and determine which one is likely to be the most effective at solving the problem. You may require several different solutions to solve different elements of the problem as a whole.
Step 3: Implement and Follow Up on the Solution
Once you have decided on a solution, follow a step-by-step plan to implement that solution. Just as breaking down a problem into key elements makes it easier to identify solutions, an action plan with various steps makes it easier to implement those solutions.
Questions about problem solving will typically arise within a competency -based interview and will require you to demonstrate your particular approach.
Problem solving interview questions can be asked in a range of different ways, but some common examples of problem-solving are:
- How do you solve problems?
- Give me an example of a problem you have faced in the past, either as part of a team or as an individual. How did you solve the problem?
- What do you do when you can't solve a problem?
Effective problem-solving requires a combination of creative thinking and sound analytical skills . Employers look for hires who can demonstrate each of these skills in the workplace to deliver positive outcomes.
Managers would far rather employ a member of staff who can take action to resolve a problem than someone who doesn't act and relies on someone else to think of a solution. Even if it isn't outlined as a requirement in a job description, many employers will still be evaluating your problem-solving ability throughout the application process.
Effective problem solvers are those who can apply logic and imagination to make sense of the situation and develop a solution that works. Even if it doesn't prove as successful as you had hoped, resilience is important, so you can reassess the situation and try an alternative.
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What Form Do Problem-Solving Questions Take?
If problem-solving skills are an integral part of your role, it is likely that you will have to complete some kind of assessment during the application process. There are a number of forms that a problem-solving question can take, but the majority of them will be scenario-based .
Employers may base problem-solving questions around three main areas:
- How you have approached situations in the past
- How you would manage a problem that would arise as part of the job
- How you handle problems throughout the application process
Some employers believe that the way you approached a situation in the past is a good indicator of how you will approach a challenging situation in the future. Therefore the best way to understand how someone would respond to a specific scenario is to ask a question such as 'explain an occasion when…’
As the employer wants to assess your problem-solving skills, they may ask you to outline a situation where something went wrong and what happened. This could be an example of a time when you faced something unexpected, or you were approached by a client about a concern.
Situations Specific to the Job
Managers will often relate one or more questions to the role you are applying for. Sometimes this may take the form of a question about what the applicant would do if they had too much or too little work to complete.
These types of questions usually begin with the recruiter asking how you would deal with a specific situation followed by some kind of challenge. For example, how you would deal with a colleague who was relying on you to do all of the work or falling short of a target.
Questions Throughout the Application Process
Although these aren't questions as such, they may be used by some recruiters to see how you handle unexpected changes. This could be rearranging the time of your interview or sending an email without attaching something important. Both of these - even if they are unintentional - could be used as a way to assess how you approach something that is unforeseen.
If you know that you are likely to face problem-solving questions in the application process, it’s good practice to research the typical questions and scenarios that candidates are presented with.
This will not only increase your confidence but also help you to refine your answers and provide a stronger response.
In this section we provide three problem solving scenarios of common questions and suitable responses:
Problem Solving Question 1
You have been asked to schedule in a rush project but you cannot complete the piece of work you need to, since you require information from another colleague who is not currently available. How would you deal with the situation?
Problem Solving Question 2
You are working on a project and halfway through you realise that you have made a significant mistake that may require you to restart the project to resolve it. How would you approach this so you still met the deadline?
Problem Solving Question 3
How would you deal with a customer who wasn't happy with your service, even though you haven't done anything wrong and it is the customer who has made the mistake?
Problem Solving Skills - Tips, Common Mistakes and Further Practice
When it comes to answering questions about problem-solving skills, we recommend the following;
Select a strong example that truly demonstrates your problem-solving ability in a positive manner.
Choose examples that are relevant to the job you are applying for . If you are applying for a project-based position, give an example of how you resolved a problem with a work or academic project.
Be specific with your responses and use an example with enough detail to show how you approach situations and the way you think. Take the time to come up with possible answers and scenarios before the interview .
Make sure the problem is unique . If you have a problem, simply calling someone else to solve it is not impressive. The best answers will show tailored solutions to tasks that may seem mundane.
Make sure the problem is simple . If you have switched from a legal career to an engineering career and your problem is legal in nature, ensure your problem is easy to understand and explain it to your interviewer without using jargon.
Choose a weak or boring problem , or one that reflects you in a negative way.
Generalise your answers with responses such as ‘you consider yourself to be a great problem solver’ or ‘you regularly solve problems’. You need to demonstrate how you solve problems effectively.
Raise any areas of concern by giving examples of negative situations that were a result of your own actions , even if you solved a problem successfully.
No matter how interesting the story that you have to tell is, don’t spend too much time providing too much detail , because the recruiter will soon get bored. Keep your answer short and to the point.
During your written application and at interview, employers will expect you to evidence your problem-solving skills. In your written application you should demonstrate them via relevant keywords, statements and achievements. If you solved a problem and it had a positive impact on the business – such as improved customer service standards or resource savings – say so on your CV.
If you are invited to an interview try to use the STAR technique to structure your answers. This technique focuses your responses on a Situation, Task, Action and Result. Following this process will help your answers to be focused, concise and strong.
Where problem-solving is a main element of your role, an employer may incorporate a relevant psychometric test and/or an activity to carefully assess your problem-solving skills.
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How to Nail your next Technical Interview
You may be missing out on a 66.5% salary hike*, nick camilleri, how many years of coding experience do you have, free course on 'sorting algorithms' by omkar deshpande (stanford phd, head of curriculum, ik).
What are problem-solving skills? (Examples included!)
Life in the 21st century is all about efficiency and development. The unending quench of discovering the unknown, materializing one dream after another, has helped push the limits through the sky. But have you ever thought what the key to all of these astronomical successes is?
It is the zeal to solve a problem with the resources available to generate the best possible results.
Here's what this article will cover:
What are problem-solving skills , how do problem-solving skills help or act as your pillars of success, how do employers assess your problem-solving skills , steps to execute problem-solving skills, skills to hone for an apt solution-finder, examples of problem-solving techniques.
Dos and Don'ts in interviews
How to improve your problem-solving skills ?
How to highlight problem-solving skills .
Problem-solving is hunting; it is a savage pleasure, and we are born to it." –Thomas Harris .
The truth is, problem-solving skills are acquirable for some people while others adapt to it like fish in the water. Working in IT, web development, coding, machine learning, and the likes demand the ability to make decisions at a moment's notice.
So, do you want to back off when the time comes or take it up as a challenge?
Brush up your problem-solving skills or better, enhance them, and make them your forte by reading this article. No technical interview preparation guide is complete without tips to improve such problem-solving skills.
Also read: Why do FAANG companies test for problem-solving skills in their interviews.
Larry and his team suddenly face a major crisis. Not a single developer in his team who is good with String is coming to the office, but there is an urgent client requirement. Larry asks his team if anybody is confident enough to pull it through, and surprisingly, he sees one solitary hand of Jim in the mix. But it is a 4-men job, at least. Realizing that there is no way out other than working with another team(s), he wastes no time. He sends out emails to other teams asking for at least two more developers, counting himself and Jim. 4 more fellow coders came to the rescue and delivered the project before the deadline!
Problem-solving skills enable you to observe the situation and determine the contributing factors of the issue. Identifying the root cause and the ability to take necessary steps with available resources are integral in finessing your problem-solving ability.
All technical interview preparation courses , therefore, cover this crucial aspect.
Employers seek problem-solving skills in their employees . And why not?
Who wouldn't want to have an efficient employee like Larry? The knack of not backing down from a challenge is the perfect catalyst for business expansion.
Problem-solving skills help you attain insight into the source of the problem and figuring out an ideal solution. However, several skills and their correct implementation are essential, which are listed below.
- Patient listener : To identify a problem, you must first be all ears to gain information about the situation.
- Eye for detail : Once you start listening minutely, you now need to identify the data's discrepancies and have an intuitive eye for detail.
- Thorough research : Background research and data verification is bread and butter for efficient problem-solvers.
- Innovative approach : It is not just about getting it done. It's about taking a challenging approach in a mission to maximize results.
- Communication skills: Flawless communication skills are necessary to negate any misunderstanding and ensure conveying the message with clarity. You can indeed consider this as a great time saver!
- Composure : Your ability to remain calm even in a demanding situation will always earn you dividends in the path to success. It is not a quality that you can imbibe easily, but rigorous practice can do the trick for you.
- Decision-making ability : Having a knack for making the right decisions under pressure is a highly sought-after attribute by employers when hiring people. Taking quick decisions in dire straits is the reason why the company is paying you the big bucks.
- Team player : Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team is instrumental in maintaining team spirit. Higher the team spirit, the better the performance!
Employers today prioritize hiring people with soft skills like problem-solving abilities to maximize business output even when the going gets tough. Your problem-solving ability is judged based on:
- If you have accomplished any remarkable feat in a taxing situation. This gives an insight into the upper benchmark of your performance.
- Presenting hypothetical problems for the interviewee to solve is another commonly used trick to ascertain your productivity metrics and creative problem-solving techniques in tough conditions.
- Some organizations may even line up some challenging tests and exercises to have a firsthand look at the execution and effectiveness of your technical skills in the approach to problem-solving.
"We cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created them." – Albert Einstein
- Analyze contributing factors
James was getting an error code during the execution of specific UI updates. He started analyzing the code and rechecking the repository for any possible mistake. To his delight, his hunch turned out to be accurate. He immediately made the necessary changes, and the updates were successfully executed.
Analysis of contributing factors and its repercussions in the ebb and flow of the task is a preliminary attribute of an able problem-solver. To acquire perfection in analysis and problem-solving skills, you must ensure a thorough:
- Gathering of data
- Diligent study of the collected data
- Scrutiny to filter relevant data
- Historical analysis
- Generate interventions
Working at a software development firm, Donald is perturbed by the lack of advancement in the deep learning project. Lack of idea and innovation is leading to nowhere. He decided that enough is enough. He asked for a group session to brainstorm in the hope of generating some leads. The session was a huge success, and Donald was finally able to catch a breather.
It is not an unknown fact that 'we' is always more productive than 'I' under any circumstance.
Utilizing the versatility of your available resources with the help of various sessions can work miracles. Such sessions can be for:
- Creative thinking
- Planning a project
- Forecasting future trends
- Prediction of possible outcomes
- Designing your project with originality, etc.
- Evaluate solutions
This is more up the alley for managers and team leads. To become adept at evaluating solutions, one must gain prolonged experience in corporate decision-making. The evaluation process needs to consider potential costs, available resources, and possible hurdles of project completion.
Yes, he is a team lead, and therefore, he had the authority to initiate a brainstorming session with multiple teams to bring in new ideas.
The secret to evaluating solutions?
- Identifying change in trends
- Implement a plan
Choosing the right course of action is the preliminary step to solve the problems. The success of the execution is streamlined with the help of quality benchmarks to indicate its effectiveness.
"A problem is a chance for you to do the best!" – Duke Ellington .
Knowing the right people to do it for you is essential for successful implementation. It is also crucial that you are accustomed to your organization's operating procedures before you formulate the best possible strategy.
Skills you need are:
- Project management
- Implementation of project strategy
- Time management
- Developing appropriate quality benchmark
- Assess the solution's effectiveness
An ideal way to detect whether a solution is effective or not is to check if the problem still exists after applying the solution. Benchmarks need to be set as per organizational standards to help them assess the situation and if any further changes are required in the interim.
- Data analysis
- Close follow-ups
"A problem well stated is a problem half solved." –John Dewey
- Research: Problem-solving is not complete without extensive research. It is otherwise impossible to identify the problem without gathering enough data on the errors and their analysis. Consulting with your team gives you an edge to find the solution quicker.
- Analysis: Analysis of the situation is a must. Analytical skills further assist you in identifying the discrepancies and the possible actions which can resolve the issue.
- Decision-making: The ability to make decisions in hours of need defines your mettle. The onus is on you to be proactive and choose the right course of action.
- Communication: Are you great at conversations? If so, communication skills can help you garner much-required assistance for the project. Communication of the issues and how you want the project done are critical for the problem-solving process's smooth flow.
- Dependability: Having dependable members boosts the morale of the team. If you are a problem-solver, taking responsibility and taking it on the chin to solve the issues needs to be your forte.
- Select an example or situation that you can handle without any issue.
- Do not stray off topic and stay on track.
- Do not use jargon in your interview. So, choose your example and words wisely.
- Do not choose a redundant issue.
Sam has come to an interview for a team-lead profile. The recruiter asks a situation-based problem in regards to machine learning software. Though tricky, Sam knew the exact way around for the problem and answered it precisely to the point. The recruiter is delighted and hires Sam for the position.
- Thirst for knowledge : An insatiable thirst for knowledge is the secret door to success in problem-solving skills. If Sam was unaware of the tweaks needed to solve the problem, do you think the manager would have been impressed? No, managers at companies like Google and Facebook are looking for people who can act independently with their available resources. The question is, are you the problem solver who can be a catch to any company?
- An intuition for challenge : You need to be intuitive and have a sharp nose for challenges. The more you take up difficult situations and handle them with panache and ease, the more you can hone your problem-solving skills .
- Practice and more practice: Practice makes a man perfect – truer words have never been said. Effective problem solving is achieved not by slacking off but by acquainting yourself with various situations and applying your skills to resolve them. Remember, experience can never be substituted, and you have to take the long route to success!
- Keen and observant eyes : Do you have an eye for detail, and are you quick to point out discrepancies in data analysis? If yes, you are already one step towards becoming a valued problem solver in your company. Also, if you are a person who observes closely what is being done and why others do it, it helps develop your decision-making skills in future. Don't forget to mention this in your resume.
Tom has been applying frantically for a job since he moved to Arizona but seemed unable to find just the right one. When he sees his attempts are futile, he decides to add some of his previous company's achievements, thinking it might help. Oh, boy, did it help! Tom writes about when he was asked to handle a team of 12 single-handedly while his manager suddenly went on a sabbatical. Tom had no prior experience of leading a team but appeared to come out of this fix with flying colors.
Megan is currently looking for a step up in her career. She carefully drafts a cover letter that entails her achievements with clarity. The cover letter explained her contributions in reviving team spirit in the office after her predecessor, with his poor man-management, had successfully built a wall of distrust among the employees.
- Problem-solving skills for resume : You can convey your achievements or even your hobbies to the person sitting in front of you, or not, depending on his/her nature. But you cannot afford to miss the chance to showcase your best achievement. It is in your best interest to build your CV around the achievements to give it maximum traction and attention. Mention the problem you faced and jot down the course of action you took to nullify the situation. Nobody can stop you if this is done right!
- Problem-solving skills for cover letter : Use it as an opportunity to let the company delve into your success story so far and the factors leading to it. If you have done your research on the organization you're applying for, it will not hurt your chances of identifying some challenges of the company and suggesting some solutions. It goes down a long way if you indeed join forces!
If you are adequately seasoned with problem-solving skills with dedication and practice, you're already almost there. Proper interview preparation tips can further help you in this regard.
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10 Examples of Problem Solving for Job Candidates
- Early Career
What is one good example of problem-solving that a candidate can reference in a job interview?
It’s common interview advice you’ve likely heard before: provide specific examples of your past accomplishments. Need some help narrowing down just which accomplishment you should share during an interview? Try referencing a time when you provided a solution to a tricky business-oriented problem.
This is sure to impress any interviewer, but don’t take our word for it. Here are 10 recruiters weighing in with examples they’d love to hear when interviewing candidates.
Sold reluctant team members on a new process, rescued the team from a website crash, got creative with a limited, tight budget, discovered & corrected their own mistake, delivered on a time-crunch deadline with limited resources, a comeback from a lagging project to on-time delivery, didn’t let conflict indefinitely stall a project, thought outside of the box for an innovative solution, used a competitor’s mistake as a learning opportunity, sought external partnership to address a budget crunch.
A good example of problem-solving is when a candidate I was interviewing for a position told me about the situation in which he was working with a team, and he wanted to implement a new process, but the whole team was against it. The candidate was able to go around and talk to each person on the team individually, work out their concerns and then present that information in a way that everyone could understand and agree with. This allowed the team to progress on the project, which helped them meet deadlines and ultimately implement the new process.
This is a great example, and especially so with how he described it in an engaging and convincing storytelling fashion. It shows that the candidate can work with people from all different backgrounds and personalities. It also shows that he has the ability to listen, understand, and communicate effectively in order to get a problem solved while working in a team.
Shaun Connell, Connell Media
Discuss an unexpected challenge that you handled without managerial input. For example, maybe the website crashed or some site assets were delayed for a new product launch. How did you come to the rescue for your team and use your problem-solving skills to find a resolution? This shows that you can take initiative and don’t panic at the sight of conflict.
Natália Sadowski, Nourishing Biologicals
One great example of problem-solving a candidate can reference in a job interview is a time they worked through a limited budget. Finding creative solutions to money problems is always a desired characteristic, even outside accounting. It shows a candidate knows how to make use of what they have. Specific examples of resourcefulness will also go a long way in an interview.
Sasha Ramani, MPOWER Financing
Problem-solving requires multiple reasoning stages—from recognizing the problem, analyzing it, looking for a solution, and finding the winning one. Sharing how you fixed your own mistake is probably the best way to include all of those elements. If you talk about your own experience, you can describe how you discovered your error and your step-by-step journey to finding the appropriate solution. This story is double-beneficial. Besides showing your problem-solving skills, it shows that you are an ambitious, independent employee.
Karolina Zajac, PhotoAiD
A job candidate can reference an instance where they resolved a time-management problem. While this is specific to each applicant, it can be a situation where a deadline was crucial and resources were lacking. Describe how you resolved the resource issue to meet the product or service deadline along with the results afterward. Your answer should describe the steps you took to resolve the problem as well as how you came up with the solution to meet the need.
Tanya Klien, Anta Plumbing
The interviewer likes to hear a story that demonstrates you can face obstacles under pressure while working well with others. Speak briefly to a project and what proved challenging. For example, you can talk about a specific social media campaign that required involvement from many different departments. You realized that some of the departments were behind the deadline, so you arranged one-on-one meetings with them. You heard these workers out on how you can help them get the job done on time and scheduled follow-up meetings to check their progress. The project was delivered on time.
Monte Deere, Kizik
A fantastic problem-solving example to use in a job interview is conflict resolution. Tackling disagreements between others whether they include you or not can show off valuable skills that an employer would be interested in. It shows that you are adaptable and have excellent negotiation skills, making yourself that much more attractive as a candidate. Think of any kind of disagreement that could have stalled the progress of work and explain how you went about efficiently addressing everyone’s grievances and how the conflict was ultimately resolved.
Adrien Dissous, Babo Botanicals
Refer to a situation where, thanks to thinking out of the box, you were able to come up with a new, innovative solution never used before. Be specific about the problem in question and explain why solving it mattered. Don’t forget to mention how proud you felt once your idea turned out to be successful. The given example covers a wide range of aspects worth noting by potential employers.
Actually, you indirectly show that you are determined, creative, and willing to improve your work environment. An action-driven approach, not standing still, and willingness to find the “ways out” are precious. Therefore, they should be valued and appreciated in all workplaces as the benefits they may bring are universal.
Agata Szczepanek, Resume Now
You don’t have to be an expert to give a generic problem-solving example. Such as, you might explain your approach to a problem by pointing out a mistake made by a competitor and how you would have handled the situation differently. If the same situation occurs at your new company, mention what you learned from the mistake and how you plan to handle it.
Jon Torres, Jon Torres
To showcase your problem-solving skills, the best example is about saving money for the organization. You can think of a situation where the lack of funds could drop or decrease the company’s profits. You can start by giving the background about how the lack of funds occurred and how you solved the issue. A typical example can be as simple as a department facing a money crunch due to previous delayed payments.
This is an especially difficult time as new projects often need new and costly pieces of equipment. But the lack of funds resulted in you digging up and finding a collaborative partner for an organization that helped complete the work with minimum investments. A situation like this will make the current recruiter aware of your management skills and dedication to saving money, allowing the organization to prosper.
Nathan Hughes, Art Ignition
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5 Examples to Demonstrate your Problem-Solving Skills in an Interview
Table of contents.
Are you preparing for an upcoming interview and want to impress your potential employer with your exceptional problem-solving skills?
Employers highly value candidates who can think critically, handle challenges, and find innovative solutions. In this article, we share five steps to effectively demonstrate problem-solving skills during an interview.
By showcasing my ability to tackle difficult situations and navigate through obstacles, I’ll stand out as a capable and resourceful candidate.
Let’s dive in…
Why are Problem-Solving Skills Important?
Problem-solving skills are essential in both personal and professional settings. They enable individuals to tackle challenges, make informed decisions, and find innovative solutions.
Here are a few reasons why problem-solving skills are highly valued by employers and why they play a crucial role in success:
1. Overcoming Obstacles
In any job or industry, obstacles and challenges are bound to arise. Problem-solving skills empower individuals to approach these obstacles with confidence and determination. Instead of becoming overwhelmed or giving up, individuals with strong problem-solving skills actively seek solutions, break down complex problems into manageable parts, and persistently work towards resolution.
By demonstrating the ability to overcome obstacles, candidates show their resilience and determination, which are highly valued traits in the workplace.
2. Enhancing Decision-Making
Problem-solving skills contribute to effective decision-making. When faced with a difficult choice, individuals with strong problem-solving abilities can assess the situation, gather relevant information, analyze potential outcomes, and evaluate the pros and cons of each option.
This analytical approach helps in making well-informed decisions that consider various perspectives and minimize risks.
Employers seek candidates who can make sound decisions under pressure and who can weigh different factors to arrive at the best possible outcome.
3. Encouraging Innovation
Innovation is a driving force behind growth and progress in organizations.
Problem-solving skills are closely tied to innovation as they involve thinking creatively, exploring alternative approaches, and seeking novel solutions. Employees who possess strong problem-solving abilities are more likely to identify opportunities for improvement, propose new ideas, and contribute to the innovation process.
Their ability to think outside the box and find unique solutions to complex problems can bring significant value to organizations seeking to stay competitive in today’s dynamic business landscape.
4. Fostering Collaboration
Problem-solving often requires collaboration and teamwork. Complex issues often involve multiple stakeholders, each with their own expertise and perspectives.
Effective problem solvers can bring people together, encourage open dialogue, and facilitate productive collaboration. They actively listen to different viewpoints, integrate diverse ideas, and create an environment where team members feel valued and engaged.
Employers recognize the importance of teamwork and appreciate candidates who can effectively collaborate to solve problems, as it leads to enhanced productivity, improved communication, and stronger relationships within the workplace.
5. Driving Efficiency and Productivity
Efficient problem-solving leads to increased productivity and streamlined processes. When individuals can identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or areas for improvement, they can implement effective solutions to optimize workflows and maximize productivity.
Problem-solving skills enable individuals to analyze complex systems, identify areas of improvement, and propose changes that can have a significant impact on efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Employers value candidates who can identify and resolve issues that hinder progress, contributing to the overall success and growth of the organization.
Demonstrating Your Problem-Solving Skills in an Interview
1. analyzing a complex problem.
Describe a situation where you encountered a complex problem and successfully analyzed it. Explain the steps you took to break down the problem, identify the root cause, and gather relevant information. Highlight your analytical skills and logical reasoning.
“In my previous role as a project coordinator, we faced a significant budget overrun. To analyze this complex problem, I conducted a thorough review of financial records, identified cost drivers, and analyzed spending patterns across different departments. By utilizing my analytical skills, I discovered inefficiencies in resource allocation and proposed a revised budget that led to a 20% reduction in costs.”
2. Implementing Creative Solutions
Share a story that showcases your ability to think outside the box and implement innovative solutions. Highlight situations where you faced challenges and came up with unique approaches to overcome them. Emphasize your creativity and ability to generate fresh ideas.
“During my time as a marketing intern, our team was tasked with revitalizing a struggling product’s sales. I proposed a creative solution by developing a social media campaign that incorporated interactive elements and user-generated content. By engaging our target audience in a fun and interactive way, we managed to increase product visibility, resulting in a 25% boost in sales within just three months.”
3. Adapting to Unexpected Challenges
Discuss situations where you faced unforeseen obstacles during projects or tasks and successfully adapted to them. Highlight your ability to assess the situation, adjust strategies, and remain flexible in the face of unexpected changes.
“As a customer service representative, I once encountered a system outage during peak hours, preventing us from accessing customer information. In response, I quickly gathered my team, established alternative communication channels, and implemented manual workarounds to ensure uninterrupted customer support. Our adaptability and quick thinking resulted in minimal disruption, maintaining high customer satisfaction levels.”
4. Collaboration and Teamwork
Share examples that demonstrate your ability to collaborate and work effectively in teams to solve problems. Highlight situations where you actively listened to team members, encouraged open dialogue, and contributed to collective problem-solving efforts.
“During a cross-functional project, we faced a critical issue that required collaboration among different departments. By organizing regular team meetings, actively listening to everyone’s perspectives, and fostering an environment of open communication, we were able to identify the root cause of the problem and develop a comprehensive solution. Our teamwork and collaborative problem-solving led to successful project completion within the designated time-frame.”
5. Decision-Making Under Pressure
Narrate situations where you had to make critical decisions under pressure. Highlight your ability to gather information, assess options, and make well-informed choices even in high-stress scenarios.
“In my previous role as a shift supervisor, a sudden staffing shortage occurred during a busy holiday season. I had to quickly analyze the situation, reassign responsibilities, and ensure smooth operations to meet customer demands. By remaining calm and prioritizing tasks, I made effective decisions that maintained productivity and customer satisfaction levels, showcasing my ability to make sound choices under pressure.”
Problem-solving skills are highly valued by employers because they empower individuals to overcome obstacles, make informed decisions, encourage innovation, foster collaboration, and drive efficiency.
By showcasing strong problem-solving abilities, candidates demonstrate their adaptability, critical thinking, and resourcefulness, making them highly sought-after assets in the professional world.
By following these five steps and providing real-life examples, one can effectively demonstrate problem-solving skills. Remember to tailor your examples to align with the specific requirements of the job and company.
Good luck with your interview!
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Problem solving: the mark of an independent employee
Last updated: 24 Aug 2023, 08:40
Problem-solving abilities are essential in virtually any graduate role you can think of. Discover how to develop your problem-solving skills and demonstrate them to eagle-eyed recruiters.
Interviewers will be interested to discover how you'd approach problems that could arise in the workplace.
Problem solving is all about using logic, as well as imagination, to make sense of a situation and come up with an intelligent solution. In fact, the best problem solvers actively anticipate potential future problems and act to prevent them or to mitigate their effects.
Problem-solving abilities are connected to a number of other skills, including:
- analytical skills
- innovative and creative thinking
- a lateral mindset
- adaptability and flexibility
- resilience (in order to reassess when your first idea doesn’t work)
- teamworking (if problem solving is a team effort)
- influencing skills (to get colleagues, clients and bosses to adopt your solutions).
Identifying a problem is often the kernel for a new business or product idea – and, as such, problem solving is an essential ingredient of entrepreneurialism . It is also a key component of good leadership .
Short on time? Watch our one-minute guide to problem solving
- how to answer problem-solving interview questions
- how to think of examples of your problem-solving skills
- a problem-solving technique you can use in any work or life situation.
Our targetjobs careers expert gives you a quick guide to showing off your problem-solving skills in a job interview.
Why all graduates require problem-solving skills in the workplace
Some graduate careers revolve around finding solutions – for example, engineering , management consulting , scientific research and technology . Graduates in other careers, meanwhile, will be expected to solve problems that crop up in the course of their jobs: for example, trainee managers should deal with operational problems (such as delays in the supply chain) or resolve conflict between team members.
In fact, the ability to solve problems is an essential part of any employee’s skill set, even if it isn’t specified on the job description.
Get the insights and skills you need to shape your career journey with Pathways. Learn and practise a selection of simple yet effective reasoning strategies to take your problem solving to the next level.
How will employers assess your problem-solving skills?
Your problem-solving abilities can be assessed in three ways: by asking for examples of times when you previously solved a problem; by presenting you with certain hypothetical situations and asking how you would respond to them; and by seeing how you apply your problem-solving skills to different tests and exercises.
Competency-based application and interview questions about problem solving
You may be asked for an example of when you solved a problem on an application form – for instance, an engineering firm’s application form has previously included the question ‘Please tell us about a time when you have used your technical skills and knowledge to solve a problem’. But these questions are more likely at interview. Typical problem-solving competency-based questions include:
- Give me an example of a time when you ran into a problem on a project. What did you do?
- Give me an example of a difficult problem you had to solve outside of your course. How did you approach it?
- Tell me about a time you worked through a problem as a team.
- Have you ever had a disagreement with a team member? How was it resolved?
- Give me an example of a time when you spotted a potential problem and took steps to stop it becoming one.
- Give me an example of a time when you handled a major crisis.
- Give me an example of your lateral thinking.
Hypothetical interview questions about problem solving
Interviewers will also be interested to know how you would approach problems that could arise when you are in the workplace. The precise interview questions will vary according to the job, but common ones include:
- How would you deal with conflict in the workplace? (This is especially likely to be asked of trainee managers and graduate HR professionals.)
- What would you do if there is an unexpected delay to one of your projects because of supply chain issues? (This is particularly likely to be asked in construction, logistics or retail interviews).
- What would you do if a client or customer raised a complaint?
- What would you do if you noticed that a colleague was struggling with their work?
- How would you react if given negative feedback by a manager on an aspect of your performance?
- How would you judge whether you should use your own initiative on a task or ask for help?
Problem-solving exercises and tests for graduate jobs
Different tests that employers could set to gauge your problem-solving skills include:
- Online aptitude, psychometric and ability tests . These are normally taken as part of the application stage, although they may be repeated at an assessment centre. The tests that are most likely to assess your problem-solving skills are situational judgement tests and any that assess your reasoning, such as inductive reasoning or diagrammatic reasoning tests.
- Video ‘immersive experiences’ , game-based recruitment exercises or virtual reality assessments. Not all of these methods are widely used yet but they are becoming more common. They are usually the recruitment stage before a face-to-face interview or assessment centre.
- Case study exercises. These are common assessment centre tasks. You’d be set a business problem, typically related to the sector in which you’d be working, and asked to make recommendations for solving it, either individually or in groups. You’ll also usually be asked to outline your recommendations in either a presentation or in written form , a task that assesses your ability to explain your problem-solving approach.
- In-tray (or e-tray) exercises. These always used to be set at an assessment centre but nowadays can also be part of the online testing stage. In-tray exercises primarily test your time management skills, but also assess your ability to identify a potential problem and take actions to solve it.
- Job-specific or task-specific exercises, given at an assessment centre or at an interview. If set, these will be related to the role you are applying for and will either require you to devise a solution to a problem or to spot errors. Civil and structural engineering candidates , for example, will often be required to sketch a design in answer to a client’s brief and answer questions on it, while candidates for editorial roles may be asked to proofread copy or spot errors in page proofs (fully designed pages about to be published).
How to develop and demonstrate your problem-solving skills
Here are some tips on how to develop the problem-solving techniques employers look for.
Seek out opportunities to gain problem-solving examples
Dealing with any of the following situations will help you gain problem-solving skills, perhaps without even realising it:
- Sorting out a technical problem with your phone, device or computer.
- Resolving a dispute with a tricky landlord in order to get your deposit back.
- Carrying out DIY.
- Serving a demanding customer or resolving a complaint.
- Finding a way round a funding shortfall in order to pay for travel or a gap year.
- Turning around the finances or increasing the membership of a struggling student society.
- Organising a student society’s trip overseas, overcoming unforeseen difficulties on the way.
- Acting as a course rep or as a mentor for other students.
There should also be opportunities for you to develop problem-solving skills through your studies. Many assignments in subjects such as engineering and computer science are explicitly based around solving a problem in a way that, for example, essay topics in English literature aren’t. But, then, English literature students may also encounter academic problems, such as difficulties in tracking down the best source material.
Some professional bodies (for example, those in construction) run competitions for students, which often ask students to suggest solutions for problems facing the industry; entering these can provide good evidence of your problem-solving skills.
Games such as Sudoku and chess can also strengthen your ability to think strategically and creatively.
Practise recruitment exercises beforehand
Any candidate, no matter how high-flying, may be thrown by undertaking an online test or attending an assessment centre for the first time, so do everything you can to practise beforehand. Access our links to free and paid-for practice tests. Contact your careers service and book in for a mock-interview or mock-assessment centre.
Keep in mind this problem-solving technique
If you’re provided with a scenario or a case study during the graduate recruitment process, you could try using the IDEAL model, described by Bransford and Stein in their book Ideal Problem Solver . It breaks down what you need to do to solve a problem into stages:
- Identify the issue
- Define the obstacles
- Examine your options
- Act on an agreed course of action
- Look at how it turns out, and whether any changes need to be made.
Give detail in your answers
You will need to explain how you identified the problem, came up with a solution and implemented it. Quantifiable results are good, and obviously the more complex the situation, the more impressive a successful result is. Follow the STAR technique outlined in our article on competency-based interview questions .
If you tackled a problem as part of a team, explain how your role was important in ensuring the positive solution, but also explain how your group worked together. This could be an opportunity to promote your teamworking skills as well.
targetjobs editorial advice
This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.
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