Interview techniques: Overcoming problem solving interview questions

Preparing for a job interview has always, and will always, involve preparing for the same interview questions that all interviewers ask. It’s a well rehearsed bit, the elevator pitch, the “why do you want to work here?” and the inevitable question that leaves you wondering; what kind of cookie would I be?

What is often said after these questions are asked is something that has been well rehearsed, and that’s not at all an issue. It shows preparation, and most importantly it shows the interviewer how you can portray yourself. The thing that often throws interviewees off are those questions that come off guard. Because even with the best preparation you have, you don’t always know what exactly your interviewer is looking for.

By industry, managers are always looking for different skills and certain personality traits. However, a common trait that is always essential in any career, are problem solving skills. Interviewers need to understand how a new team member will calculate problems, take on new challenges, and how these challenges are approached.

There are certain questions that are specifically worded and arranged to test exactly this, and it is vital that as an interviewee to get these right. So what are the questions that are made to test these skills? And how can you, as an interviewee, answer them?

How does my interviewer test problem solving skills?

An interviewer will have a big focus at one point in the interview as to how good you are at problem solving. Thus, making sure that you know the basic steps of problem solving will ultimately make answering any interview questions easier and will be able to impress any interviewer. A good problem solver will be able to do these key things:

  • Identify what is causing the problem
  • Analyse different solutions
  • Find a solution and be able to predict all of the outcomes
  • Implement the solution effectively

Common interview questions to test problem solving skills

Your interviewer will ask you questions to effectively understand that you are able to do each of these things. Some interview questions may be more indirect than others, but gauging which ones are out to test your problem solving will allow you to make even more of an impression during your interview.

Some direct interview questions about problem solving may include:

  • When have you been faced with a difficult problem, and how did you deal with it?
  • Explain when you have faced a difficult situation in a previous workplace and what you did to solve it.
  • What steps have you taken to solve a problem in the workplace?

Direct interview questions as such, more often than not, require you to look back on past experiences at work. If you do not have any experience, using a professional setting such as volunteer work or school work will also be appropriate.

Some more indirect interview questions may include:

Explain a situation in which you couldn’t solve a problem.

The aim of this interview questions is to ensure that you can learn from a challenge, whether you have overcome it or not. Showing that you can learn from previous challenges is very useful for your interviewer.

Have you ever provided a solution to a system which has already been put in place?

This interview question is looking out for your critical and analytical skills. Offering a solution to a system that is already in place will show your ability to critically and objectively look at something, and see whether there is a better way of achieving the end goal.

How do you handle stressful situations?

This interview questions aims to see how you handle pressure, and your ability to problem solve under pressure. A good way to tackle this interview question is to give previous examples of how you have handled stressful situations and talk through how you kept calm and collected and managed to solve the situation.

The best way to ensure you get your problem solving skills across to your interviewer is to go in armed with examples of previous experience and ensuring you have the key steps of problem solving well rehearsed.

Make sure you have your interview skills ready to go, when you do, let us know how we can help! You can take a look through our job posts or simply contact us and we can get started on getting you on track for your dream career.