Top 20 Problem Solving Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

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answering problem solving interview questions

By Mike Simpson

When candidates prepare for interviews, they usually focus on highlighting their leadership, communication, teamwork, and similar crucial soft skills . However, not everyone gets ready for problem-solving interview questions. And that can be a big mistake.

Problem-solving is relevant to nearly any job on the planet. Yes, it’s more prevalent in certain industries, but it’s helpful almost everywhere.

Regardless of the role you want to land, you may be asked to provide problem-solving examples or describe how you would deal with specific situations. That’s why being ready to showcase your problem-solving skills is so vital.

If you aren’t sure who to tackle problem-solving questions, don’t worry, we have your back. Come with us as we explore this exciting part of the interview process, as well as some problem-solving interview questions and example answers.

What Is Problem-Solving?

When you’re trying to land a position, there’s a good chance you’ll face some problem-solving interview questions. But what exactly is problem-solving? And why is it so important to hiring managers?

Well, the good folks at Merriam-Webster define problem-solving as “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem.” While that may seem like common sense, there’s a critical part to that definition that should catch your eye.

What part is that? The word “process.”

In the end, problem-solving is an activity. It’s your ability to take appropriate steps to find answers, determine how to proceed, or otherwise overcome the challenge.

Being great at it usually means having a range of helpful problem-solving skills and traits. Research, diligence, patience, attention-to-detail , collaboration… they can all play a role. So can analytical thinking , creativity, and open-mindedness.

But why do hiring managers worry about your problem-solving skills? Well, mainly, because every job comes with its fair share of problems.

While problem-solving is relevant to scientific, technical, legal, medical, and a whole slew of other careers. It helps you overcome challenges and deal with the unexpected. It plays a role in troubleshooting and innovation. That’s why it matters to hiring managers.

How to Answer Problem-Solving Interview Questions

Okay, before we get to our examples, let’s take a quick second to talk about strategy. Knowing how to answer problem-solving interview questions is crucial. Why? Because the hiring manager might ask you something that you don’t anticipate.

Problem-solving interview questions are all about seeing how you think. As a result, they can be a bit… unconventional.

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill job interview questions . Instead, they are tricky behavioral interview questions . After all, the goal is to find out how you approach problem-solving, so most are going to feature scenarios, brainteasers, or something similar.

So, having a great strategy means knowing how to deal with behavioral questions. Luckily, there are a couple of tools that can help.

First, when it comes to the classic approach to behavioral interview questions, look no further than the STAR Method . With the STAR method, you learn how to turn your answers into captivating stories. This makes your responses tons more engaging, ensuring you keep the hiring manager’s attention from beginning to end.

Now, should you stop with the STAR Method? Of course not. If you want to take your answers to the next level, spend some time with the Tailoring Method , too.

With the Tailoring Method, it’s all about relevance. So, if you get a chance to choose an example that demonstrates your problem-solving skills, this is really the way to go.

We also wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!

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Top 3 Problem-Solving-Based Interview Questions

Alright, here is what you’ve been waiting for: the problem-solving questions and sample answers.

While many questions in this category are job-specific, these tend to apply to nearly any job. That means there’s a good chance you’ll come across them at some point in your career, making them a great starting point when you’re practicing for an interview.

So, let’s dive in, shall we? Here’s a look at the top three problem-solving interview questions and example responses.

1. Can you tell me about a time when you had to solve a challenging problem?

In the land of problem-solving questions, this one might be your best-case scenario. It lets you choose your own problem-solving examples to highlight, putting you in complete control.

When you choose an example, go with one that is relevant to what you’ll face in the role. The closer the match, the better the answer is in the eyes of the hiring manager.


“While working as a mobile telecom support specialist for a large organization, we had to transition our MDM service from one vendor to another within 45 days. This personally physically handling 500 devices within the agency. Devices had to be gathered from the headquarters and satellite offices, which were located all across the state, something that was challenging even without the tight deadline. I approached the situation by identifying the location assignment of all personnel within the organization, enabling me to estimate transit times for receiving the devices. Next, I timed out how many devices I could personally update in a day. Together, this allowed me to create a general timeline. After that, I coordinated with each location, both expressing the urgency of adhering to deadlines and scheduling bulk shipping options. While there were occasional bouts of resistance, I worked with location leaders to calm concerns and facilitate action. While performing all of the updates was daunting, my approach to organizing the event made it a success. Ultimately, the entire transition was finished five days before the deadline, exceeding the expectations of many.”

2. Describe a time where you made a mistake. What did you do to fix it?

While this might not look like it’s based on problem-solving on the surface, it actually is. When you make a mistake, it creates a challenge, one you have to work your way through. At a minimum, it’s an opportunity to highlight problem-solving skills, even if you don’t address the topic directly.

When you choose an example, you want to go with a situation where the end was positive. However, the issue still has to be significant, causing something negative to happen in the moment that you, ideally, overcame.

“When I first began in a supervisory role, I had trouble setting down my individual contributor hat. I tried to keep up with my past duties while also taking on the responsibilities of my new role. As a result, I began rushing and introduced an error into the code of the software my team was updating. The error led to a memory leak. We became aware of the issue when the performance was hindered, though we didn’t immediately know the cause. I dove back into the code, reviewing recent changes, and, ultimately, determined the issue was a mistake on my end. When I made that discovery, I took several steps. First, I let my team know that the error was mine and let them know its nature. Second, I worked with my team to correct the issue, resolving the memory leak. Finally, I took this as a lesson about delegation. I began assigning work to my team more effectively, a move that allowed me to excel as a manager and help them thrive as contributors. It was a crucial learning moment, one that I have valued every day since.”

3. If you identify a potential risk in a project, what steps do you take to prevent it?

Yes, this is also a problem-solving question. The difference is, with this one, it’s not about fixing an issue; it’s about stopping it from happening. Still, you use problem-solving skills along the way, so it falls in this question category.

If you can, use an example of a moment when you mitigated risk in the past. If you haven’t had that opportunity, approach it theoretically, discussing the steps you would take to prevent an issue from developing.

“If I identify a potential risk in a project, my first step is to assess the various factors that could lead to a poor outcome. Prevention requires analysis. Ensuring I fully understand what can trigger the undesired event creates the right foundation, allowing me to figure out how to reduce the likelihood of those events occurring. Once I have the right level of understanding, I come up with a mitigation plan. Exactly what this includes varies depending on the nature of the issue, though it usually involves various steps and checks designed to monitor the project as it progresses to spot paths that may make the problem more likely to happen. I find this approach effective as it combines knowledge and ongoing vigilance. That way, if the project begins to head into risky territory, I can correct its trajectory.”

17 More Problem-Solving-Based Interview Questions

In the world of problem-solving questions, some apply to a wide range of jobs, while others are more niche. For example, customer service reps and IT helpdesk professionals both encounter challenges, but not usually the same kind.

As a result, some of the questions in this list may be more relevant to certain careers than others. However, they all give you insights into what this kind of question looks like, making them worth reviewing.

Here are 17 more problem-solving interview questions you might face off against during your job search:

  • How would you describe your problem-solving skills?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to use creativity to deal with an obstacle?
  • Describe a time when you discovered an unmet customer need while assisting a customer and found a way to meet it.
  • If you were faced with an upset customer, how would you diffuse the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to troubleshoot a complex issue.
  • Imagine you were overseeing a project and needed a particular item. You have two choices of vendors: one that can deliver on time but would be over budget, and one that’s under budget but would deliver one week later than you need it. How do you figure out which approach to use?
  • Your manager wants to upgrade a tool you regularly use for your job and wants your recommendation. How do you formulate one?
  • A supplier has said that an item you need for a project isn’t going to be delivered as scheduled, something that would cause your project to fall behind schedule. What do you do to try and keep the timeline on target?
  • Can you share an example of a moment where you encountered a unique problem you and your colleagues had never seen before? How did you figure out what to do?
  • Imagine you were scheduled to give a presentation with a colleague, and your colleague called in sick right before it was set to begin. What would you do?
  • If you are given two urgent tasks from different members of the leadership team, both with the same tight deadline, how do you choose which to tackle first?
  • Tell me about a time you and a colleague didn’t see eye-to-eye. How did you decide what to do?
  • Describe your troubleshooting process.
  • Tell me about a time where there was a problem that you weren’t able to solve. What happened?
  • In your opening, what skills or traits make a person an exceptional problem-solver?
  • When you face a problem that requires action, do you usually jump in or take a moment to carefully assess the situation?
  • When you encounter a new problem you’ve never seen before, what is the first step that you take?

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have a solid idea of how to approach problem-solving interview questions. Use the tips above to your advantage. That way, you can thrive during your next interview.

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answering problem solving interview questions

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Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

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Summary. Problem-solving questions are used to focus on a candidates past experience with managing conflicts and overcoming obstacles in the workplace. When answering these questions, be sure to make your answer relevant to the position that you are applying to and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to provide examples from previous experiences.

Are you in the process of searching for a new job ? If so, you might be getting ready to meet with a hiring manager or a recruiter for a job interview. And if you’re like the majority of job candidates, this stage of the job search process is probably making you feel a fair bit of trepidation.

And no wonder! The interview is a completely necessary step for any job search, but that doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking to meet with a prospective employer and answer questions about your personality , skills, and professional background.

Key Takeaways:

Being able to solve problems is a skill that almost all job positions need.

Problem-solving questions assess a candidate’s ability to think on their feet, handle pressure, and find creative solutions to complex problems.

Make sure your answer to a problem-solving question tells a story of you as an effective team player.

Problem Solving Interview Questions And Answers (With Examples)

What Is a Problem-Solving Interview Question?

How to answer a problem-solving interview question, eight examples of common problem-solving interview questions and answers, interviewing successfully, curveball questions, problem-solving faq.

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A problem-solving interview question is a question that focuses on a candidate’s past experience with managing conflicts and overcoming unexpected obstacles in the workplace.

Problem-solving questions can come up in many different forms. As a general rule, however, they will be aimed at uncovering your ability to handle stress and uncertainty in a wide variety of contexts.

When you’re answering problem-solving interview questions, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:

Make your answers relevant to the position that you’re applying to. Always bear in mind that the fundamental goal of any interview question is to provide a hiring manager with a glimpse inside the mind of a candidate.

By asking you a problem-solving question, your interviewer is trying to understand whether or not you’re the type of person that could be relied upon under pressure or during a crisis. Every role, furthermore, comes with its own particular type of pressure.

Be honest about your strengths ( and weaknesses ). Hiring managers tend to be quite good at reading people. Therefore, if you give them a bogus response, they’re very likely to see through that – and to subsequently consider you to be untrustworthy.

Of course, it can be tempting at the moment to fabricate certain details in your response in the attempt to make yourself seem like a better candidate. But inventing details – however small – tends to backfire .

Tell stories that will portray you as a team player. Hiring managers and employers are always on the lookout for job candidates who will collaborate and communicate well amongst a broader team.

Be sure to provide examples of moments in which you took charge. Leadership skills are another key quality that hiring managers and employers seek out in job candidates. And being presented with a problem-solving question, as it turns out, is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your own leadership skills.

Now that we understand the basic principles of problem-solving interview questions and how to respond to them, we’re finally ready to break down some real-world examples. So without any further preamble, here are eight examples of common problem-solving interview questions (as well as some examples of how you might answer them):

Can you tell me about a time when you encountered an unexpected challenge in the workplace? How did you go about dealing with it?

Explanation: With this question , your interviewer will be attempting to get a sense of how well you’re able to adapt to unexpected difficulties. The critical thing to remember when you’re answering this question – as we briefly discussed above – is to recall an incident that will be directly relevant to the role and the organization that you’re applying to.

Here’s an example of a high-quality response to this question:

“I remember a particular day at my previous job when an important deadline was pushed up at the very last minute. As the project manager , it was my responsibility to implement the necessary steps that would enable us to meet this new and truncated deadline. “Many of my peers began to hang their heads, resigning themselves to their belief that there was no hope to meet the new deadline. But I’ve always prided myself on my ability to adapt and thrive within a dynamic and quick-paced work environment – and that’s precisely the personal skill set that I channeled on this occasion. In the end, I reorganized my team’s priorities so that we were able to accommodate the new deadline.”

How would you say you typically respond to problems in general, and in the workplace in particular?

Explanation: This question is primarily designed to gauge a candidate’s ability (or lack thereof) to remain cool, calm, and collected under pressure. The ideal response to this question, in other words, will include a brief personal anecdote that illustrates your level-headedness and your ability to make rational, clear decisions during times of uncertainty.

“I would say that one of the primary qualities that sets me apart from the crowd of other candidates is my ability to remain calm and centered when conditions in the workplace become chaotic. “Looking back, I think that I first began to cultivate this ability during my tenure as a product manager working with a major Silicon Valley start-up. That was a particularly stressful period, but it was also quite instructive – I learned a great deal about staying positive, focused, and productive after an unexpected challenge presented itself. “These days, when I’m confronted by an unexpected problem – whether it’s in my personal life or in my professional life – I immediately channel the conflict management skills that I’ve been honing throughout the duration of my career. This helps a great deal, and my skills in this regard are only continuing to improve.”

Can you tell me about a time when you’ve had to settle a workplace dispute between yourself and a manager or colleague?

Explanation: Always keep in mind that one of the fundamental goals of any problem-solving question is to help a hiring manager gain a clearer sense of a candidate’s ability to work with others.

This question, in particular, is designed to give your interviewer a clearer sense of how well you’re able to communicate and compromise with your colleagues. With that in mind, you should be sure to answer this question in a way that will display a willingness to be fair, empathetic, and respectful to your teammates.

“I recall an incident in my last job in which one of my colleagues felt that I had not provided him with adequate resources to enable him to be successful in a particular project. I was acting as team leader for that particular project, and so it was my responsibility to ensure that everyone in my team was equipped for success. Unfortunately, I had to learn through the proverbial grapevine that this particular colleague bore some ill will toward me. I’ve never been one to participate in idle gossip, and so I decided to speak with this person so that we could begin to find a solution and address his grievances. So I crafted an email to him asking him if he would be interested in joining me for coffee the following day. He accepted the invitation, and during our coffee break, we were able to talk at length about the damage that he felt had been done to him. We devised a mutually agreeable solution on the spot. From then on, we had no significant problems between us.”

Are there any steps that you’ll regularly take during the early stages of a new project to ensure that you’ll be able to manage unexpected problems that occur down the road?

Explanation: This question, above all, is designed to test your ability to plan ahead and mitigate risk. These are both essential qualities that employers typically seek out in job candidates, particularly those who are being vetted for a management or leadership role.

When you’re answering this question, it’s important to emphasize your ability to look ahead towards the future and anticipate potential risks. As with the previous examples that we’ve already examined, the best way to communicate this ability is to provide your interviewer with a concrete example from your previous work history.

“I live my life – and I conduct my work – according to a single, incredibly important motto: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I’m a firm believer, in other words, of the primacy of careful planning. Without it, projects are almost always doomed to fail. “In my previous role as a marketing content writer with a major software company, I strived to apply this motto to my work every single day. “Here’s an example: About a year ago, I was responsible for overseeing and launching a new content strategy aimed at driving up consumer engagement. From the very outset, I understood that that particular project could be run off the rails if we did not take into account a considerable number of factors. “I won’t bore you with all of the nitty-gritty details, but the point is that this was a particularly sensitive project that required diligent and careful risk assessment. “Having realized that, my colleagues and I devised a comprehensive and flexible strategy for managing many risks that we envisioned would be awaiting us down the road. That initial step – looking ahead towards the future and mapping out the terrain of potential hazards – proved to be an essential measure for the success of the project.”

Do you consider your problem-solving capabilities to be above average?

Explanation: Hiring managers are always on the lookout for job candidates that stand out from the crowd. It’s even better when they can find a job candidate who knows that they stand out and who expresses that knowledge by being confident in their abilities.

At the same time, it’s never in a job candidate’s best interests to come across as egotistical or arrogant. When you’re responding to a question like this (that is, a question that’s focused on your ability to assess your own talents), it’s important to do your best to come across as self-assured but not pompous.

“Yes, all things considered, I would say that I have a talent for risk assessment, problem-solving, and risk mitigation. “That said, I can’t claim complete ownership over these abilities. In most cases, my demonstrated success in managing risk and solving problems in the workplace can be attributed at least as much to my team members as it can to me. For me to be able to be a successful problem-solver, it helps to be surrounded by colleagues whom I can trust.”

How would you describe your typical immediate reaction to unexpected challenges? Do you prefer to jump straight into the problem-solving process, or do you more commonly take some time to analyze and assess the problem before you dive in?

Explanation: This question is aimed at gauging your patience levels. This one can be a bit tricky because employers will sometimes prefer different responses – it all depends on the type of position and employer you’re applying for.

If you’re applying for a role in a quick-paced working environment that demands swift action , it will benefit you to describe your problem-solving strategy as unflinching and immediate.

If, on the other hand, the role you’re applying to does not demand such immediate action, it will probably be better to describe yourself as a more removed and relaxed problem solver.

But as always, you should never lie to your employer. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle of these two types of problem solvers and will thereby have no difficulty painting ourselves honestly as one or the other.

However, if you’re definitely one type or the other, then you should describe yourself as such. This will make it much more likely that you’ll end up in a position that will be maximally rewarding both for you and for your employer.

“In most cases, my response to an unexpected problem will entirely depend on the nature of the problem at hand. If it demands immediate action, then I’ll dive right in without hesitation. “If, however, I determine that it would be more beneficial to take a step back and analyze the nature of the problem before we begin to meddle with it, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. “Generally speaking, I would say that I prefer the latter approach – that is, to take a step back and think things through before I begin to try to find a solution. In my experience, this makes it much easier for everyone involved to arrive at a practical and sustainable solution. “That said, I’m also perfectly capable of jumping straight into a problem if it demands immediate attention.”

Can you tell us about a time in which you had to explain a technically complicated subject to a client or customer? How did you approach that process, and how did it turn out?

Explanation: Strong communication skills are essential in the modern workplace. That means that employers tend to seek out job candidates that communicate well with their colleagues and individuals who have varying professional backgrounds and skill sets, including clients, customers, and third-party professionals.

“I recall an incident from many years ago – while I was working as a software engineer for a prominent robotics company – in which I found myself in the position of having to describe incredibly complex engineering details to a client. “This client had no prior experience in software engineering or artificial intelligence, so I had to relate this esoteric information more or less in layman terms. “Thankfully, I was able to employ some useful metaphors and analogies to communicate the information in a manner that this client could appreciate and understand. We went on to establish a successful collaborative partnership that flourished for four years.”

How would you rate your ability to work and succeed without direct supervision from your managers?

Explanation: Employers always tend to place a high value on job candidates who are self-motivated and can maintain high levels of productivity without constant supervision.

This is especially true now that the COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly made it necessary for so many millions of employers to transition to a remote workforce model. This question is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to stay focused and motivated while working remotely or without supervision.

“I’ve always considered myself – and my resume and references will support this – to be an exceptionally self-motivated individual, even when I’m working from home. “In fact, like many employees, I often find that my productivity levels tend to increase when I’m working remotely. I strive to set a positive example for my colleagues, even when we’re not all working under the same roof.”

Generally speaking, the best strategy for success in interviewing for a new job is doing your research beforehand. That means that you should be intimately familiar with the role, department, and company that you’re applying to before you step into the room (or log on to the Zoom meeting ) on the day of your interview.

When you preemptively take the time to carefully research the organization as a whole – and the responsibilities of the job opportunity in particular – you’ll minimize your chances of being caught off guard by an unexpectedly difficult question .

Still, there is only so much background information that you can uncover about an organization and a role before a job interview. No matter how carefully you prepare and how much background research you conduct, there are very likely going to be curveball questions during your job interview that you can’t predict.

In fact, many employers prefer to ask curveball questions (in addition to more run of the mill job interview questions) because they provide an insightful glimpse into a job candidate’s analytical thinking skills – not just their ability to memorize and recite answers to more common interview questions .

To that end, many hiring managers will ask job candidates to answer one or more problem-solving questions during a typical job interview. In contrast to traditional interview questions (such as: “Why do you think that you would be a good fit for this role?”

Or: “What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement up to the current moment?”), problem-solving questions are specifically designed to assess a job candidate’s ability to think on their feet, handle real pressure, and find creative solutions to complex problems.

They’re also commonly referred to as analytical skills interview questions because they’re designed to gauge a candidate’s ability to make analytical decisions in real-time.

What are problem-solving skills?

Problem-solving skills include skills like research, communication, and decision making. Problem-solving skills allow for you to identify and solve problems effectively and efficiently. Research skills allow for you to identify the problem.

Communication skills allow for you to collaborate with others to come up with a plan to solve the problem. Decision making skills allow you to choose the right solution to the problem.

Why do interviewers ask problem-solving interview questions?

Interviewers ask problem-solving interview questions to see how candidate will approach and solve difficult situations. Interviewers want to see how you handle stress and uncertainty before hiring you for a position. Problem-solving is an important part of the everyday workday so they need to be sure you are capable of solving problems.

How do you solve a problem effectively?

To solve problems effectively you should first break the problem down and try different approaches. Breaking the problem up into different parts will help you have a better understanding and help you decide what your next step is going to be.

Once you see the different parts of the problem, trying different approaches to solve the problem can help you solve it faster. This will also help you determine the appropriate tools you need to solve the problem.

U.S. Department of Labor – Interview Tips

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Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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6 Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

By Editorial Team on November 22, 2023 — 9 minutes to read

As you walk into a problem-solving interview, it’s normal to feel nervous about what to expect. These interviews are aimed at assessing how well you can analyze a problem, develop an approach, and arrive at a solution. Employers want to see how you think, break down complex situations into manageable parts, and use creativity to find answers. To help you navigate these interviews, let’s go over some common types of problem-solving questions and answers.

Common Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

“can you describe a difficult problem you faced at work and how you solved it”.

When answering this question, choose a specific problem that you faced at work. Make sure to provide a clear description of the issue, the steps you took to address it, and the outcome. Demonstrating that you’re capable of breaking down problems and taking a logical, methodical approach to finding a solution is key.

Example: “At my previous job, our team was struggling with meeting sales targets. I conducted a thorough analysis of our sales data and identified trends in customer behavior. Based on the findings, I recommended a new marketing strategy, which led to a significant increase in sales.”

“Share a time when you had to think creatively to overcome a challenge.”

This question is all about highlighting your ability to think outside the box. Choose an instance where you had to develop a creative solution to solve a problem and demonstrate how your innovative thinking helped achieve a positive outcome.

Example: “When I was working as a project manager, our team was facing budget constraints that threatened the project’s timeline. I came up with an idea to streamline processes and reduce expenses by utilizing free online collaboration tools, which ultimately saved resources and allowed the project to stay on track.”

“How do you approach handling tight deadlines and multiple tasks?”

Employers want to know that you can handle pressure and prioritize your workload effectively. To answer this question, describe specific strategies you’ve used to juggle multiple tasks and meet tight deadlines, such as setting daily goals, using time management tools, or delegating tasks when appropriate.

Example: “When facing multiple tasks and tight deadlines, I start by making a detailed to-do list and assigning each task a priority level. I then tackle the most time-sensitive and essential tasks first and work my way down the list. If necessary, I’ll reach out to my colleagues for assistance or delegate some tasks to ensure everything gets completed on time.”

“Tell me about a time when your team faced a conflict, and how did you help resolve it?”

This question is aimed at understanding your conflict resolution skills and ability to work well in a team. Describe a specific instance where your team faced a conflict and explain the steps you took to address the issue, making sure to highlight your communication and collaboration skills.

Example: “When I was leading a team project, two team members had a disagreement regarding the project’s direction. I organized a meeting where everyone could express their opinions and concerns. Together, we were able to come to a consensus and adjust the project plan accordingly, leading to a successful outcome.”

“What steps do you take to identify and prioritize issues when problems arise?”

Showcase your problem-solving process by providing a clear description of the steps you take to identify and prioritize issues. Emphasize your ability to analyze situations, stay organized, and make well-informed decisions.

Example: “When problems arise, I first gather information to get a clear understanding of the situation. Next, I assess the severity and urgency of each issue and prioritize them based on their impact on the project or business objective. Once the priorities are established, I create an action plan to address the most pressing issues first and continue working down the list.”

“Describe an instance where you used your analytical skills to find a solution.”

Employers value analytical thinking as it helps assess complex situations and make sound decisions. Choose a specific example where your analytical skills were put to the test and explain how your analysis led to a successful outcome.

Example: “While working as a financial analyst, I spotted discrepancies in a client’s financial reports. By conducting a thorough examination of the data and identifying irregularities in their expenses, I helped the client uncover a case of fraudulent activity. This led to the implementation of stricter internal controls, preventing future fraud occurrences.”

Related: How to Answer 9 Common Situational Interview Questions

How to Answer 11 Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Types of Problem-Solving Interview Questions

Fact-finding questions.

These questions focus on your ability to collect and analyze information, as well as make deductions based on your findings. Employers want to see that you can dig deep and uncover relevant points before arriving at a conclusion. A couple examples of fact-finding questions include:

  • How would you investigate an issue with falling sales numbers?
  • Can you walk me through how you would analyze the performance of a new product?

To answer fact-finding questions, pay attention to details, use concrete examples, and demonstrate a structured approach to the problem at hand.

Logic and Reasoning Questions

Logic and reasoning questions assess your ability to think critically and objectively to identify the underlying cause of a problem. Employers want to see if you can apply logic to make informed decisions based on sound reasoning. Some examples of logic and reasoning questions include:

  • If you were given a problem with two seemingly correct solutions, how would you determine the best course of action?
  • How do you decide on the correct priority when faced with various tasks or issues?

When answering logic and reasoning questions, think out loud and reveal your thought process. Incorporate critical thinking techniques and showcase your ability to weigh the pros and cons of different solutions.

Creative Thinking Questions

Creative thinking questions evaluate your ability to come up with original ideas or unconventional approaches to solving problems. Your potential employer wants to see if you can think outside the box and innovate when faced with new situations. Some examples of creative thinking questions may be:

  • Describe a situation where you had to solve a problem using an unexpected approach. How did you develop this solution?
  • Can you provide an example of when you collaborated on a project that required unique ideas to meet a deadline?

To answer creative thinking questions, highlight your ability to brainstorm and be resourceful. Show that you can adapt and find new solutions to unexpected challenges.

Issue Resolution Questions

Issue resolution questions focus on your ability to resolve conflicts and reach a compromise while working with others. Employers want to ensure that you can effectively communicate, negotiate, and work with people in difficult situations. A few examples of issue resolution questions are:

  • Describe a conflict that occurred within a team, and explain how you helped resolve it.
  • How do you handle circumstances when two team members have differing opinions on a project?

In responding to issue resolution questions, emphasize your active listening skills, diplomacy, and ability to empathize with others’ perspectives. Show that you can find a resolution that benefits all parties involved, while maintaining a positive and productive working environment.

Crafting Effective Responses

Understanding the problem.

To craft an effective response to a problem-solving interview question, first, make sure you understand the problem. Listen carefully and take notes if necessary. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or additional information to ensure you have a complete understanding of the problem. This will show the interviewer that you are thorough and detail-oriented.

Creating a Plan

Next, break down the problem into smaller, manageable steps. This will help you structure your response and demonstrate your ability to think logically. Outline the steps you would take to solve the problem and prioritize them according to importance or urgency.

For example:

  • Identify the root cause : Determine the primary issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Gather necessary information : Collect data and consult with relevant parties to get a complete understanding of the situation.
  • Develop possible solutions : Brainstorm different approaches to tackle the problem and list the pros and cons of each solution.

Implementing Solutions

Once you have a plan in place, be prepared to discuss how you would implement your chosen solution. This may include elements such as identifying resources and stakeholders, setting a timeline for completion, and assigning tasks to relevant team members. Use specific examples to illustrate your points, and be prepared to explain your rationale for each decision.

For instance, you might say, “I would first gather a team of experts in the field to analyze the data and come up with recommendations. We would create and assign tasks to the team members with deadlines to ensure timely progress. Regular check-ins and progress updates would be scheduled to keep everyone on track and address any issues that arise.”

Reviewing Outcomes

After discussing how you would implement your solution, describe how you would evaluate its effectiveness. This might involve tracking and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs), gathering feedback from stakeholders, or conducting post-implementation reviews to identify lessons learned.

Make your evaluation process concrete by providing examples like these:

  • Measuring KPIs : “We would track metrics such as customer satisfaction and retention rates to determine the effectiveness of our solution.”
  • Stakeholder feedback : “We would collect feedback from team members and stakeholders to better understand the impact of our solution on the larger organization.”
  • Post-implementation reviews : “We would conduct periodic reviews to identify areas where we can improve and optimize our solution.”

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Too much detail.

Sometimes, you might go into too much detail when answering problem-solving interview questions. It’s important to strike a balance between being thorough and being concise. To avoid this mistake, practice summarizing your experience and the steps you took in solving problems. Use bullet points to help you stay organized and focused on the key points.

  • Identify the key elements of the problem
  • Outline your thought process and steps briefly
  • Don’t get lost in unrelated details

Not Enough Detail

On the other hand, not providing enough detail in your answers can leave the interviewer with a lack of understanding about your problem-solving skills. To avoid this, make sure you’re clear about the problem, the steps you took to address it, and the outcomes you achieved. Back up your answers with examples from your past experiences.

  • Explain the problem and why it was significant
  • Share specific steps you took to solve the problem
  • Discuss the outcomes and any lessons learned

Failing to Relate to Job Role

Another common mistake is failing to connect your answers to the job role you’re interviewing for. Always keep the job requirements and responsibilities in mind when talking about your problem-solving skills. Show how your experiences and approach to problem-solving will directly benefit their organization in the position you’re interviewing for.

  • Understand the job requirements and responsibilities
  • Relate your answers to the specific context of the job
  • Explain how your problem-solving skills will directly benefit the organization

Misunderstanding the Question

It can be easy to miss the point of a question or not understand what the interviewer is asking. Misunderstanding the question can lead to an irrelevant answer. To prevent this, take a moment to process the question and, if necessary, ask the interviewer to clarify. This shows that you’re attentive and genuinely interested in giving a thoughtful answer.

  • Listen carefully to the question and take a moment to process it
  • If needed, ask the interviewer for clarification
  • Respond with a focused and relevant answer
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  • 25 Teaching Assistant Interview Questions (Smart Answers)
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  • Management Styles Interview Questions [Example Answers]
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Top 50 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers

Top 50 Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers

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Are you gearing up for an important job interview that includes problem-solving questions? Congratulations, because you've come to the right place!

In this guide, we'll equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to ace those tricky problem-solving interviews with confidence.

Introduction to Problem Solving Interviews

In today's competitive job market, employers are seeking candidates who possess strong problem-solving abilities. Problem solving is not only about finding solutions to complex issues; it also showcases your critical thinking, analytical, and creative skills. Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of problem-solving interviews, let's gain a clear understanding of what they entail and why they matter.

What Are Problem Solving Interviews?

Problem solving interviews are a specialized type of job interview where employers assess a candidate's ability to handle challenges and make sound decisions in real-life scenarios. These interviews often involve hypothetical situations or case studies to evaluate your problem-solving process and your approach to arriving at effective solutions.

The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

Problem-solving skills are highly valued in almost every industry. Employers seek individuals who can identify problems, think critically, and generate innovative solutions. Whether you're in business, engineering, healthcare, or any other field, the ability to tackle complex issues is essential for personal and organizational success.

How Problem Solving Interviews Differ from Traditional Interviews

Unlike traditional interviews that focus on your qualifications and work experience, problem-solving interviews provide a glimpse into your thought process and decision-making capabilities. Through these interviews, employers assess your potential to handle challenging situations that may arise in the workplace. Being well-prepared for this specific interview format will set you apart from other candidates.

Core Problem Solving Skills

Before you dive into practicing problem-solving questions, let's explore the fundamental skills that make up an effective problem solver.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the foundation of problem solving. It involves objectively analyzing information, evaluating arguments, and making logical decisions. To enhance your critical thinking abilities:

  • Ask Thought-Provoking Questions: Train yourself to ask "why" and "how" questions to gain a deeper understanding of problems.
  • Challenge Assumptions: Don't take information at face value; question the underlying assumptions.
  • Evaluate Evidence: Learn to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources of information.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are essential for breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable components. Improve your analytical thinking with these tips:

  • Practice Data Interpretation: Analyze charts, graphs, and data sets to draw meaningful insights.
  • Use Root Cause Analysis: Identify the underlying reasons behind problems by applying techniques like the "5 Whys."
  • Draw Comparisons: Compare past experiences or similar scenarios to find patterns and potential solutions.

Creativity and Innovation

Creative problem solving involves thinking outside the box and generating unique solutions. To nurture your creativity:

  • Embrace Diverse Perspectives: Seek input from others with different backgrounds and experiences.
  • Mind Mapping: Create visual diagrams to explore various angles and connections related to a problem.
  • Encourage Brainstorming: Engage in group brainstorming sessions to generate a wide range of ideas.

Frameworks for Problem Solving

Equipping yourself with problem-solving frameworks can help you approach challenges more systematically. Here are some popular frameworks to explore:

The 5 Whys is a simple yet effective technique to uncover the root cause of a problem. It involves repeatedly asking "why" until you identify the underlying issue.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to assess a situation's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

PDCA is a four-step problem-solving model consisting of planning, executing, checking results, and making adjustments as needed.

SCAMPER is a creative thinking technique that involves asking questions related to Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Reverse.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a concept developed by Edward de Bono that encourages individuals to think from six different perspectives, each represented by a colored "hat."

Behavioral-based Problem Solving Questions

Behavioral problem solving questions aim to evaluate how you handled challenges in the past. Be prepared to answer these questions with clarity and confidence:

Example: "Describe a challenging problem you encountered and how you resolved it."

To answer this question effectively:

  • Set the Scene: Provide context and background information about the situation.
  • Explain the Challenge: Clearly outline the problem you faced.
  • Describe Your Actions: Detail the steps you took to address the problem.
  • Highlight the Outcome: Share the positive results of your efforts.

Example: "Discuss a situation where you had to think creatively to solve a problem."

For this question:

  • Narrate the Scenario: Paint a vivid picture of the problem you encountered.
  • Showcase Your Creativity: Explain the innovative approach you adopted.
  • Explain the Impact: Share the positive outcomes resulting from your creative solution.

Technical Problem Solving Questions

If your role requires technical skills, you may encounter technical problem-solving questions. Here's how to tackle them:

Example: "How would you troubleshoot [specific technical problem]?"

To handle technical problem-solving questions:

  • Clarify the Issue: Ask for any additional information to fully understand the problem.
  • Create a Plan: Outline the steps you would take to diagnose and address the issue.
  • Demonstrate Your Expertise: Showcase your technical knowledge and problem-solving ability.

Example: "Walk us through your approach to [technical challenge] in your previous role."

  • Provide Context: Explain the technical challenge you faced in your previous role.
  • Outline Your Approach: Describe the steps you took to overcome the challenge.
  • Highlight Success: Share the positive results of your efforts.

Case Interviews

Case interviews simulate real-world problem-solving scenarios and are common in consulting and other industries. To excel in case interviews:

  • Understand the Problem: Thoroughly read and comprehend the case presented.
  • Identify Key Issues: Break down the problem into its essential components.
  • Ask Clarifying Questions: Seek clarification on any ambiguous aspects of the case.
  • Brainstorm Solutions: Generate multiple potential solutions.
  • Analyze Options: Evaluate the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Recommend a Course of Action: Select the best solution and provide a rationale.
  • Handle Pressure: Stay composed and confident throughout the interview.

Problem Solving in Group Settings

Collaborative problem solving is vital in today's team-oriented work environments. Here's how to excel in group problem-solving scenarios:

  • Active Listening: Pay close attention to others' perspectives and ideas.
  • Effective Communication: Clearly articulate your thoughts and suggestions.
  • Encourage Participation: Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing.
  • Respect Diverse Opinions: Value the input of all team members, even if opinions differ.
  • Build on Each Other's Ideas: Expand on others' suggestions to develop comprehensive solutions.
  • Manage Conflict: Handle disagreements respectfully and seek common ground.

Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs)

Situational judgment tests assess your ability to handle realistic workplace scenarios. Approach SJTs with these tips:

  • Read Carefully: Pay attention to the details and instructions in each scenario.
  • Prioritize Solutions: Identify the most appropriate course of action based on the situation.
  • Consider the Consequences: Anticipate the potential outcomes of your chosen response.
  • Adhere to Company Values: Ensure your solutions align with the organization's principles.

Decision-Making Skills

Effective decision making is integral to successful problem solving. Improve your decision-making skills with these strategies:

  • Gather Information: Collect relevant data and insights before making a decision.
  • Analyze Options: Evaluate the potential outcomes of different choices.
  • Consider Risks and Benefits: Weigh the risks against the potential benefits of each option.
  • Seek Input: If appropriate, consult with colleagues or experts to gain different perspectives.
  • Trust Your Instincts: Sometimes, intuition can guide you toward the right decision.

Behavioral-Based Problem Solving Interview Questions

1. "describe a challenging problem you encountered and how you resolved it.".

How to Answer: When responding to this question, follow the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answer effectively:

  • Situation: Set the context by describing the problem you faced.
  • Task: Explain your role and responsibilities in addressing the problem.
  • Action: Detail the steps you took to solve the problem, highlighting your problem-solving approach.
  • Result: Share the positive outcomes of your efforts and any valuable lessons learned.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a significant budget overrun due to unexpected delays in material delivery. To address this challenge, I first analyzed the root cause of the delay by collaborating with the procurement team and suppliers. Then, I devised a contingency plan that involved working with alternative suppliers and streamlining the project timeline. As a result, we were able to bring the project back on track, saving 15% on costs and meeting the project deadline."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate strong problem-solving skills, proactive decision-making, and the ability to collaborate across teams. A well-structured response with quantifiable results is a positive indicator of their problem-solving capabilities.

2. " Tell me about a time when you had to think creatively to solve a problem."

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to walk through the situation, focusing on the following points:

  • Context: Describe the situation and the specific problem that required creative thinking.
  • Creativity: Explain the innovative approach or out-of-the-box solution you came up with.
  • Implementation: Describe how you implemented the creative solution and the results achieved.

Sample Answer: "During a marketing campaign, we faced a sudden drop in engagement. To tackle this, I organized a brainstorming session with the team and encouraged everyone to contribute ideas. We decided to experiment with interactive social media polls and contests, which not only boosted engagement but also increased brand visibility by 20%."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who display creative thinking, openness to collaboration, and the ability to take initiative in solving problems. Consider their approach to risk-taking and how they evaluate the potential impact of their creative solutions.

Technical Problem Solving Interview Questions

3. "how would you troubleshoot [specific technical problem]".

How to Answer: Candidates should approach this question systematically:

  • Clarify the Issue: Ask for any additional details to fully understand the technical problem.
  • Methodical Approach: Describe the steps you would take to diagnose the issue.
  • Expertise: Showcase your technical knowledge and problem-solving ability.

Sample Answer: "If I encountered a server outage issue, I would first check the network connections and power supply. Then, I would review server logs to identify any error messages. If necessary, I would conduct hardware tests and isolate the faulty component. Once the issue is identified, I would take appropriate corrective actions, such as replacing the faulty part or applying software updates."

What to Look For: Pay attention to candidates' technical knowledge, their ability to troubleshoot methodically, and how they communicate technical information concisely.

4. "Walk us through your approach to [technical challenge] in your previous role."

How to Answer: Instruct candidates to provide a clear and structured response:

  • Context: Set the stage by explaining the technical challenge they faced.
  • Methodology: Describe the approach they took to tackle the challenge.
  • Outcome: Highlight the results achieved and any lessons learned.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a software developer, we encountered a performance bottleneck in our application. To address this, I conducted a thorough code review, identified areas of inefficiency, and optimized critical algorithms. Additionally, I implemented caching mechanisms to reduce database queries. As a result, the application's performance improved by 30%, leading to higher user satisfaction."

What to Look For: Assess their problem-solving process, technical expertise, and the impact of their solutions on overall performance.

Case Interviews Questions

5. "you are the manager of a manufacturing plant experiencing a decline in production output. what steps would you take to identify the root cause and improve production efficiency".

How to Answer: Candidates should structure their response as follows:

  • Identify the Issue: Understand the scope of the decline in production output.
  • Investigate Root Causes: Explain how they would gather data and analyze potential factors affecting production.
  • Propose Solutions: Outline the strategies they would implement to improve production efficiency.

Sample Answer: "To address the decline in production output, I would first gather production data and conduct a thorough analysis of equipment performance and maintenance logs. I would also interview production staff to identify any workflow inefficiencies. Based on the findings, I would implement a maintenance schedule, provide additional training to staff, and introduce process improvements to optimize production efficiency."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can analyze complex situations, prioritize solutions, and develop actionable plans.

6. "You are a consultant advising a retail client experiencing a drop in sales. How would you approach this problem and recommend solutions?"

How to Answer: Guide candidates to structure their response effectively:

  • Understanding the Situation: Gather information on the client's current market position and challenges.
  • Analysis and Diagnosis: Analyze the market trends and customer behavior to identify potential reasons for the sales decline.
  • Solutions and Recommendations: Propose actionable strategies tailored to the client's specific situation.

Sample Answer: "As a consultant, I would start by conducting a comprehensive market analysis to understand the competitive landscape and consumer preferences. I would also review the client's sales data and customer feedback. Based on my findings, I might suggest implementing targeted marketing campaigns, enhancing the customer experience through personalized offers, and optimizing the product mix to meet customer demands."

What to Look For: Assess their analytical skills, industry knowledge, and ability to recommend effective solutions based on data-driven insights.

Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) Interview Questions

7. "you are a team leader, and two of your team members have conflicting ideas about how to approach a project. how do you handle the situation".

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to outline a thoughtful approach:

  • Active Listening: Stress the importance of understanding both team members' perspectives.
  • Mediation and Collaboration: Emphasize the need to facilitate open communication and find common ground.
  • Decision-Making: Describe how they would make a final decision, considering the project's objectives and team dynamics.

Sample Answer: "As a team leader, my first step would be to listen to both team members individually and understand their reasoning. Then, I would hold a team meeting to foster open communication and encourage them to find a compromise that aligns with the project's goals. If necessary, I would make a decision based on a thorough assessment of both ideas and explain the rationale behind the chosen approach to the team."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate effective leadership, conflict resolution skills, and the ability to make decisions based on team input.

Decision-Making Skills Interview Questions

8. "describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision with limited information.".

How to Answer: Candidates should structure their response to highlight the decision-making process:

  • The Context: Explain the circumstances that led to the difficult decision.
  • Assessment: Describe how they evaluated the available information and potential consequences.
  • The Decision: Explain the choice they made and the reasoning behind it.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role, we faced a tight deadline on a project, and key team members were unexpectedly unavailable. With limited information, I had to decide whether to proceed with the available resources or postpone the project. I carefully analyzed the potential impact of both options on project quality and client expectations. Ultimately, I decided to postpone the project, as rushing it could compromise its success and client satisfaction."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to make informed decisions under pressure, considering the available information and long-term implications.

9. "How do you handle situations where you need to make a quick decision?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to follow these steps:

  • Assess Urgency: Determine the level of urgency and potential consequences of the decision.
  • Prioritize Information: Identify the critical information needed to make an informed choice.
  • Trust Your Instincts: When time is limited, rely on experience and intuition to guide the decision.

Sample Answer: "In situations requiring quick decisions, I prioritize identifying the core information necessary for making an informed choice. I draw on my previous experiences and knowledge to trust my instincts and make swift decisions. However, I always stay open to feedback and reevaluate the decision if new information emerges."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can maintain composure and make well-founded decisions under time constraints.

Creativity and Innovation Interview Questions

10. "how do you foster creativity and innovation in your problem-solving approach".

How to Answer: Candidates should explain their methods for encouraging creativity:

  • Encourage Idea Generation: Describe how they create an environment that promotes brainstorming and idea sharing.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Highlight the importance of involving team members with diverse backgrounds and expertise.
  • Support Risk-Taking: Emphasize the value of encouraging innovative thinking and being open to experimentation.

Sample Answer: "To foster creativity, I encourage team brainstorming sessions and create a safe space for everyone to share ideas, no matter how unconventional they may seem. I believe that diversity enhances creativity, so I ensure that all team members are actively involved in problem-solving discussions. Additionally, I support risk-taking, understanding that not all innovative ideas will yield immediate results, but they contribute to long-term growth."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to create an environment that stimulates creative thinking and their openness to new ideas.

Core Problem Solving Skills Interview Questions

11. "how do you approach complex problems that seem overwhelming".

How to Answer: Guide candidates to outline a systematic approach:

  • Break it Down: Advise them to divide the complex problem into smaller, manageable components.
  • Prioritize: Encourage them to identify the most critical aspects to address first.
  • Seek Support: Suggest they collaborate with others to gain different perspectives and potential solutions.

Sample Answer: "When faced with complex problems, I first break them down into smaller parts to gain a clear understanding of each component. I then prioritize the issues based on urgency and potential impact. If I find the problem overwhelming, I seek support from colleagues or mentors to gain fresh insights and alternative approaches."

What to Look For: Assess their ability to handle complex challenges methodically and their willingness to seek assistance when needed.

12. " Tell me about a time when you encountered a problem without a clear solution. How did you approach it?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to demonstrate adaptability and resilience:

  • Assess the Situation: Describe how they evaluated the problem's complexity and uncertainty.
  • Explore Options: Explain how they brainstormed various potential solutions.
  • Learn from Challenges: Highlight any lessons learned from the experience.

Sample Answer: "During a project, we faced unexpected regulatory changes that left us without a clear solution. To address this, I organized a cross-functional team to explore multiple potential approaches. We ran pilot tests and iterated until we found a viable solution. Though it was challenging, the experience taught me the importance of adaptability and the value of embracing uncertainty in problem-solving."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who demonstrate resilience, resourcefulness, and the ability to adapt to unexpected situations.

Frameworks for Problem Solving Interview Questions

13. "which problem-solving framework do you find most effective, and why".

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to explain their preferred framework and its benefits:

  • Framework Selection: Describe the reasons behind their choice of a particular problem-solving framework.
  • Application: Illustrate how they have successfully applied the chosen framework in past situations.
  • Results: Highlight the positive outcomes achieved through the framework's use.

Sample Answer: "I find the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) framework highly effective because it promotes a systematic approach to problem-solving. By planning carefully, executing the solution, and reviewing the results, it ensures continuous improvement. In my previous role, I used PDCA to optimize our team's project management process, resulting in a 20% increase in project efficiency."

What to Look For: Assess their understanding of problem-solving frameworks and their ability to select and apply the most appropriate one for different scenarios.

14. "How do you tailor problem-solving approaches based on the specific needs of a project or situation?"

How to Answer: Encourage candidates to consider the following factors when adapting their approach:

  • Project Scope: Explain how they align their approach with the project's objectives and scope.
  • Stakeholder Needs: Emphasize the importance of considering the perspectives of stakeholders involved.
  • Flexibility: Highlight their ability to pivot and adjust the approach as new information arises.

Sample Answer: "To tailor problem-solving approaches, I always start by understanding the project's unique requirements and the expectations of stakeholders. I then assess the resources available and the timeline for completion. Flexibility is key, and I remain open to adjusting the approach as the project evolves, ensuring the best possible outcomes for all involved."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who can customize their problem-solving strategies based on the specific context of each situation.

Group Problem Solving Scenarios Interview Questions

15. "describe a time when you led a team in resolving a complex problem. how did you ensure effective collaboration and decision-making".

How to Answer: Guide candidates to address the following key points:

  • Leadership Approach: Explain their role in leading the team and facilitating collaboration.
  • Team Dynamics: Describe how they managed conflicts and encouraged diverse perspectives.
  • Decision-Making Process: Highlight the methodology used to reach a collective decision.

Sample Answer: "In my previous role as a project manager, we faced a complex client issue that required a team effort to resolve. As a leader, I encouraged open communication and organized regular team meetings to discuss progress and challenges. By fostering a culture of trust and respect, team members freely shared their ideas, which led to innovative solutions. We used a combination of majority voting and consensus to make critical decisions, ensuring everyone's voice was heard."

What to Look For: Look for candidates who showcase effective leadership skills, the ability to foster collaboration, and a well-defined decision-making process when handling group problem-solving scenarios.

How to Excel in Problem Solving Interviews?

You've learned about problem-solving skills, frameworks, and how to tackle various types of problem-solving questions. Now, let's explore additional tips to excel in your problem-solving interviews:

Effective Communication in Problem Solving

  • Clearly articulate your thought process to interviewers.
  • Use concise and structured responses to explain your solutions.
  • Practice active listening to understand the interviewers' questions fully.

Time Management and Prioritization Strategies

  • Allocate sufficient time to analyze the problem before proposing solutions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to manage time effectively during the interview.
  • Emphasize the importance of prioritizing critical issues in problem solving.

Demonstrating Resilience and Adaptability

  • Stay calm and composed when faced with challenging scenarios.
  • Showcase your ability to adapt to unexpected changes during problem-solving exercises.
  • Highlight past experiences where you demonstrated resilience in overcoming obstacles.

Mock Interview Practice

Prepare for your problem-solving interviews by engaging in mock interviews. Mock interviews provide valuable feedback and boost your confidence. Here's how to make the most of them:

  • Choose a Partner: Find a friend or mentor willing to act as the interviewer.
  • Set Up a Mock Interview: Create a setting similar to a real job interview.
  • Practice Various Scenarios: Include behavioral, technical, and case-based questions.
  • Receive Feedback: After the mock interview, seek feedback to identify areas for improvement.
  • Iterate and Improve: Use feedback to refine your responses and approach.

Mastering problem-solving interview questions is crucial for excelling in job interviews. As candidates, it is essential to showcase our critical thinking, analytical abilities, and creative problem-solving skills. By utilizing various frameworks, such as the 5 Whys or PDCA, we can approach challenges systematically.

Behavioral-based questions provide an opportunity to demonstrate our problem-solving capabilities through past experiences. Meanwhile, technical questions test our expertise in solving real-world issues. Case interviews assess our ability to think on our feet and propose viable solutions under pressure.

Collaborative problem-solving in group settings highlights our leadership, communication, and conflict resolution skills. Situational Judgment Tests test our decision-making and problem-solving acumen in ambiguous scenarios.

Remember, preparation is key. Engaging in mock interviews, refining responses, and seeking feedback will boost our confidence and improve interview performance. By showcasing our problem-solving prowess, we set ourselves apart as valuable assets to any organization. So, approach problem-solving interviews with confidence and seize the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving excellence. Best of luck in your future interviews!

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26 Expert-Backed Problem Solving Examples – Interview Answers

Published: February 13, 2023

Interview Questions and Answers

Actionable advice from real experts:

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Biron Clark

Former Recruiter

answering problem solving interview questions


Dr. Kyle Elliott

Career Coach

answering problem solving interview questions

Hayley Jukes


Biron Clark

Biron Clark , Former Recruiter

Kyle Elliott , Career Coach

Image of Hayley Jukes

Hayley Jukes , Editor

As a recruiter , I know 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 are more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical.

But how do they measure this?

Hiring managers will ask you interview questions about your problem-solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem-solving on your resume and cover letter. 

In this article, I’m going to share a list of problem-solving examples and sample interview answers to questions like, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?” and “Describe a time when you had to solve a problem without managerial input. How did you handle it, and what was the result?”

  • Problem-solving involves identifying, prioritizing, analyzing, and solving problems using a variety of skills like critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and communication.
  • Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result ( STAR method ) when discussing your problem-solving experiences.
  • Tailor your interview answer with the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description.
  • Provide numerical data or metrics to demonstrate the tangible impact of your problem-solving efforts.

What are Problem Solving Skills? 

Problem-solving is the ability to identify a 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 encompasses other skills that can be showcased in an interview response and your resume. Problem-solving skills examples include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Decision making
  • Research skills
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability and flexibility

Why is Problem Solving Important in the Workplace?

Problem-solving is essential in the workplace because it directly impacts productivity and efficiency. Whenever you encounter a problem, tackling it head-on prevents minor issues from escalating into bigger ones that could disrupt the entire workflow. 

Beyond maintaining smooth operations, your ability to solve problems fosters innovation. It encourages you to think creatively, finding better ways to achieve goals, which keeps the business competitive and pushes the boundaries of what you can achieve. 

Effective problem-solving also contributes to a healthier work environment; it reduces stress by providing clear strategies for overcoming obstacles and builds confidence within teams. 

Examples of Problem-Solving 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

How To Answer “Tell Us About a Problem You Solved”

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 mentions problem-solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method.

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. 

Start by briefly describing the general situation and the task at hand. 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 the positive result you achieved.

Note: Our sample answers below are structured following the STAR formula. Be sure to check them out!


answering problem solving interview questions

Dr. Kyle Elliott , MPA, CHES Tech & Interview Career Coach

How can I communicate complex problem-solving experiences clearly and succinctly?

Before answering any interview question, it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking the question in the first place.

When it comes to questions about your complex problem-solving experiences, for example, the interviewer likely wants to know about your leadership acumen, collaboration abilities, and communication skills, not the problem itself.

Therefore, your answer should be focused on highlighting how you excelled in each of these areas, not diving into the weeds of the problem itself, which is a common mistake less-experienced interviewees often make.

Tailoring Your Answer Based on the Skills Mentioned in the Job Description

As a recruiter, one of the top tips I can give you when responding to the prompt “Tell us about a problem you solved,” is to tailor your answer to the specific skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. 

Once you’ve pinpointed the skills and key competencies the employer is seeking, craft your response to highlight experiences where you successfully utilized or developed those particular abilities. 

For instance, if the job requires strong leadership skills, focus on a problem-solving scenario where you took charge and effectively guided a team toward resolution. 

By aligning your answer with the desired skills outlined in the job description, you demonstrate your suitability for the role and show the employer that you understand their needs.

Amanda Augustine expands on this by saying:

“Showcase the specific skills you used to solve the problem. Did it require critical thinking, analytical abilities, or strong collaboration? Highlight the relevant skills the employer is seeking.”  

Interview Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Solved 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,” or “Tell me about a time you solved a problem,” since you’re likely to hear different versions of this interview question in all sorts of industries.

The example interview responses are structured using the STAR method and are categorized into the top 5 key problem-solving skills recruiters look for in a candidate.

1. Analytical Thinking

answering problem solving interview questions

Situation: In my previous role as a data analyst , our team encountered a significant drop in website traffic.

Task: I was tasked with identifying the root cause of the decrease.

Action: I conducted a thorough analysis of website metrics, including traffic sources, user demographics, and page performance. Through my analysis, I discovered a technical issue with our website’s loading speed, causing users to bounce. 

Result: By optimizing server response time, compressing images, and minimizing redirects, we saw a 20% increase in traffic within two weeks.

2. Critical Thinking

answering problem solving interview questions

Situation: During a project deadline crunch, our team encountered a major technical issue that threatened to derail our progress.

Task: My task was to assess the situation and devise a solution quickly.

Action: I immediately convened a meeting with the team to brainstorm potential solutions. Instead of panicking, I encouraged everyone to think outside the box and consider unconventional approaches. We analyzed the problem from different angles and weighed the pros and cons of each solution.

Result: By devising a workaround solution, we were able to meet the project deadline, avoiding potential delays that could have cost the company $100,000 in penalties for missing contractual obligations.

3. Decision Making

answering problem solving interview questions

Situation: As a project manager , I was faced with a dilemma when two key team members had conflicting opinions on the project direction.

Task: My task was to make a decisive choice that would align with the project goals and maintain team cohesion.

Action: I scheduled a meeting with both team members to understand their perspectives in detail. I listened actively, asked probing questions, and encouraged open dialogue. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each approach, I made a decision that incorporated elements from both viewpoints.

Result: The decision I made not only resolved the immediate conflict but also led to a stronger sense of collaboration within the team. By valuing input from all team members and making a well-informed decision, we were able to achieve our project objectives efficiently.

4. Communication (Teamwork)

answering problem solving interview questions

Situation: During a cross-functional project, miscommunication between departments was causing delays and misunderstandings.

Task: My task was to improve communication channels and foster better teamwork among team members.

Action: I initiated regular cross-departmental meetings to ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding project goals and timelines. I also implemented a centralized communication platform where team members could share updates, ask questions, and collaborate more effectively.

Result: Streamlining workflows and improving communication channels led to a 30% reduction in project completion time, saving the company $25,000 in operational costs.

5. Persistence 

Situation: During a challenging sales quarter, I encountered numerous rejections and setbacks while trying to close a major client deal.

Task: My task was to persistently pursue the client and overcome obstacles to secure the deal.

Action: I maintained regular communication with the client, addressing their concerns and demonstrating the value proposition of our product. Despite facing multiple rejections, I remained persistent and resilient, adjusting my approach based on feedback and market dynamics.

Result: After months of perseverance, I successfully closed the deal with the client. By closing the major client deal, I exceeded quarterly sales targets by 25%, resulting in a revenue increase of $250,000 for the company.

Tips to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Throughout your career, being able to showcase and effectively communicate your problem-solving skills gives you more leverage in achieving better jobs and earning more money .

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.

Don’t just say you’re good at solving problems. Show it with specifics. How much did you boost efficiency? Did you save the company money? Adding numbers can really make your achievements stand out.

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 improve researching and analyzing a situation, how you can get better at communicating, and deciding on 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.

More Interview Resources

  • 3 Answers to “How Do You Handle Stress?”
  • How to Answer “How Do You Handle Conflict?” (Interview Question)
  • Sample Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”

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About the Author

Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions. Follow on Twitter and LinkedIn .

Read more articles by Biron Clark

About the Contributor

Kyle Elliott , career coach and mental health advocate, transforms his side hustle into a notable practice, aiding Silicon Valley professionals in maximizing potential. Follow Kyle on LinkedIn .

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About the Editor

Hayley Jukes is the Editor-in-Chief at CareerSidekick with five years of experience creating engaging articles, books, and transcripts for diverse platforms and audiences.

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

How to Answer Some of the Toughest Interview Questions

answering problem solving interview questions

  • Why Companies Ask
  • Techniques for Answering
  • Sample Problem-Solving Q&As

Possible Follow-Up Questions

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Depending upon your industry, you may be asked to answer problem-solving questions at some point during your interview with a hiring manager. These questions are common in IT, engineering, and other technical sectors where strong data analysis and problem-solving competencies are essential. However, once in a while, you’ll be asked to field a problem-solving interview question even if you aren’t in a strictly technical discipline.

Here’s how to prepare so that you’ll be able to “think on your feet” should a problem-solving question be asked.

Why Companies Ask Problem-Solving Questions

Problem-solving questions often fall into the category of interview questions without a right (or wrong) answer . Companies seek proactive, solutions-oriented employees for many of the jobs they are filling, and are more interested in the approach you’d take to solve a problem than they are in you providing the “correct” answer.

These types of questions are good examples of situational interview questions . Employers try to predict how you could solve a work problem for them in the future, based upon how you have either done so in the past or are currently doing so in the interview.

These questions may also be asked to assess your command of a key industry-specific process or technology. This holds true especially for interviews conducted by tech employers . If you are in a technical field, be ready to discuss how you would solve common project development, implementation problems, or obstacles.

Techniques for Answering Problem-Solving Interview Questions

How you should answer a problem-solving question will depend upon whether you are participating in a solo or a group interview .

Tips for Problem Solving in a Solo Interview

If you are asked to solve a problem in a solo interview, it’s an excellent strategy to demonstrate how you are able to follow the five primary steps in problem solving :

  • Analyze the factors that caused the problem.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Evaluate the cost and potential viability of these solutions.
  • Implement a plan.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your intervention.

Alternatively, you may be asked how you solved a problem in the past. The Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) interview response technique is a highly effective way to structure a detailed anecdote in response to a situational or a behavioral interview question. In this technique, you describe: 

  • A Situation (S) in which a problem arose
  • The Task (T) —in this case, a problem that you had to solve
  • The Action (A) or process you initiated to solve the problem
  • The Results (R) of your problem-solving action

Tips for Problem Solving in a Group Interview

If you are in a situation where several candidates are being interviewed together, you may be asked to work together as a team to complete a problem-solving or work simulation. Afterwards, it is common for interviewers to ask the group to describe the process they took to address the problem.

The STAR interview response technique can work well in this situation. 

During the problem-solving portion of the work simulation itself, remember to be a good listener as well as an innovative team collaborator. 

If you have the opportunity to lead (without steamrolling) the group, recognize each person’s contributions as you later describe your collective problem-solving strategy to the interviewer.

Sample Problem-Solving Q&As

Here are a few examples of how to answer problem-solving questions. Use them as models in formulating your own responses as you practice for your interview .

How would you deal with an unanticipated understaffing situation?

This problem seems to occur every holiday season, so I’ve developed strategies to ensure that we have adequate staff coverage. The most important trick, I think, is to be proactive. I keep a current list of personnel who are willing to come in at a moment’s notice to fill others’ shifts—especially around major holidays (when people are likely to call in sick). Each time an employee agrees to cover someone else’s shift, I make a point to recognize them with a big “thank you” sign I write on our office whiteboard. This keeps morale high enough that I can generally find someone at a moment’s notice to come in. I also try to cross-train most of our staff so that they can cover for their colleagues when necessary. As a last resort, I’ll cover their shift myself if that’s required.

Why It Works: This candidate shows that they understand that it’s sometimes necessary to have multiple strategies in their “toolbox” to address unexpected problems in the workplace. The candidate describes how they are capable of examining options and coming up with a plan.

What would happen if you realized that you and your team wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline for your deliverables? What would you do?

This actually happened nine months ago, when our team was prepared to go live with a new product. A month before launch, we learned that one of our primary part’s shipment would be delayed. I immediately tried to contract with another supplier—although I sourced one, they couldn’t promise that they’d be able to deliver by our deadline. However, I was as transparent as possible throughout the situation, alerting management and our different department heads about the issue. Fortunately, the R&D engineers were then able to do a quick redesign that allowed us to use another part we could access quickly—and that turned out to be 20% cheaper than the original part! We met our deadline and saved costs at the same time. 

Why It Works: This answer uses the STAR technique to describe how the candidate solved a work issue in the past. It’s especially effective because they also quantify one of the results of their actions with a percentage.

Answers to problem-solving questions can be more impactful if you quantify your contributions with numbers, dollar figures, or percentages .

How would you deal with a difficult subordinate who publicly questioned your authority?

First, I try to analyze the situation rather than the employee’s words to see what might have caused their discontent. I would then speak with them privately, giving them the chance to air their grievance and myself the opportunity to work with them to find a solution. Sometimes, all it takes to soothe an employee is to let them know that their opinions are respected. However, if the employee continued to spread negativity and diminish department morale, I would put them on official notice to expect a formal performance review at the end of two weeks, at which point we would discuss their future with our department. 

Why It Works : With this response, the interviewee describes the logical problem-solving process they use when handling escalated issues with personnel, including how they make contingency plans if the initial interventions don’t work out. 

  • Why are you the best person for this job? - Best Answers
  • Tell me about something that’s not on your resume. - Best Answers
  • How have you handled a challenge? - Best Answers

Key Takeaways

Describe Your Process Explain to your interviewer the steps you would take to solve a workplace problem. 

Use Examples Provide detailed illustrations of how you have successfully solved problems in the past.

Practice Makes Perfect Brainstorm your own answers to questions about problem solving, then practice delivering these responses. 

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25 Problem-Solving Interview Questions And Sample Answers

Elena Prokopets

Every day we face a ton of mishaps — from a glitching messenger app to a compliance update, sending your industry into chaos. Compound this with rapid technology change and shifting customer behaviors, and it becomes apparent that strong problem-solving skills are highly important in the workplace.

So much so that 60% of employees want to see evidence of problem-solving skills when evaluating candidates. In interviews, candidates will be asked problem-solving questions . 

In this post, we provide common problem-solving interview questions employers use to screen candidates (with sample answers!). But first, let’s recap the basics. 

What Are Problem-Solving Interview Questions?

Problem-solving interview questions assess critical thinking, data analysis, and decision-making abilities. Candidates face hypothetical situations or case problems to test their analytical , critical thinking , and conceptual skills . 

Nail the problem-solving questions, and you’re likely to get the role: 70% of employers consider strong critical thinking abilities as a huge indicator of job success. 

Why Would Employers Ask Problem-Solving Questions During an Interview?

Problem-solving questions are a good way to evaluate your ability to overcome work challenges. Most employers want to be sure you can resolve issues and move past bottlenecks independently.

In other words: They want to see how you apply deductive reasoning or analytical frameworks to determine the root cause of the problem and then determine the best solution for troubleshooting.

The purpose of interview questions for problem-solving may also vary depending on the role. 

  • For customer-facing roles, problem-solving questions are a great way to assess conflict management and issue-resolution skills. 
  • For management roles , they provide insights into the candidate’s strategic thinking and planning abilities. 
  • For technical roles , these help evaluate your approaches to issue troubleshooting and process optimization. 

In every case, the employer expects to see how you apply your cognitive, analytical, communication, and decision-making skills.

Popular Types of Problem-Solving Interview Questions (and Answers) 

Because problem-solving assumes using a range of hard and soft skills , there are multiple types of interview questions employers may ask. To help you practice, we organized popular problem-solving interview questions into different groups. 

Situational Interview Questions

Situational interview questions ask you to describe your line of thinking and actions in a certain setting. Most ‘mock’ situations will be directly related to your role. For example, as a social media marketing manager you may get asked “What would you do if you noticed a typo in an update 10 hours after publishing when people have already been commenting on it? 

The best approach to situational problem-solving questions is using the STAR interview method . First, describe the situation. Next, talk about the task (problem) you’ve had. Then explain what actions you took. Finally, conclude with an outcome (result) gained. 

Here are several sample problem-solving questions with answers for this category. 

A customer asks for a product, but it’s out of stock. They’re unhappy. How would you respond? 

For customer-facing roles, you may be probed with a problem-solving interview question presenting some sort of a customer issue. Such questions are also common in the hospitality, restaurant, and retail industries among others.

Your goal is to showcase your stellar customer service and conflict resolution skills. 

Sample answer: 

First, I’d ask the customer if they’d be open to some alternatives — and provide a range of similar products we currently have in stock. If neither works for them, I’d look up the restock information and offer to put them on a notification list. Or, if they are open to that — suggest placing a backorder. If they are still not happy, I’d politely ask them to wait for a moment and approach the manager about the possibility of issuing a discount for them or offering free expedited shipping once the product is back in stock.

You are last to leave the office, but can’t find your keys. No one else is around. What would you do?

This is another sample situational interview question, prompting you to talk about your approaches to responding to unexpected circumstances. The other party wants to understand whether you’d be following the protocol or acting erratic (or unprofessional).

Here’s how you should answer this question:

Well, I’d first re-check if I haven’t misplaced my keys and search all my belongings. If I truly don’t have them on me, I can’t leave the office without properly securing it, right? So I’d try calling my manager to see if they could help — or another employee, whom I know to leave close by. I believe one of them would be able to come and help me out or direct me towards the right HR person to contact about this.

You’ve hatched a detailed plan. But there were some last-minute changes from the senior stakeholder, affecting your timeline. How would you respond?

Not all projects go as planned. The purpose of this question is to test your adaptability skills. The interviewer also wants to understand whether you’ll push back on the change or try to implement it even if that would result in extra work for you. 

Sample answer:

 This happened quite a few times in my last job, where the CEO liked to propose last-moment tweaks to investor reports. At first, I just went along and adjusted the copy and design myself before publishing. After the second time, I started sending an investor report draft to the CEO 7 days before the publishing date and set a hard deadline for her edits. This helped fix the issue. 

You and your team are stuck in a traffic jam. You are running late for an important client meeting. What would you do?

That’s another common situation, that plenty of people can relate to. The interviewer wants to see a demo of your communication and on-the-sport decision-making skills. 

Assuming I’d be still late if I walk or use public transport, I’d do this: Phone in the client with my apologies. Then propose to either order lunch/refreshments for them while they’re waiting or propose to start the meeting on video conferencing from the car if that’s possible. 

Scenario-Based Interview Questions 

Scenario-based interview questions present you with a specific problem the interviewer asks you to solve.  Rather than assessing your immediate response, problem-solving scenarios aim to test your and ability to strategize.  In most cases, there’s no right or wrong answer to such questions. Your goal is to demonstrate your thought process. 

Below are several examples of problem-solving scenarios for interviews. 

You have two vendors: One has lower prices and another proposes faster shipping. Which one would you pick and why? 

Many interviewers like to pose such questions to evaluate a candidate’s decision-making skills. The interviewer wants to understand how you access different options when making operational calls. Give them a walkthrough.

I’d check two metrics first — planned deadlines and current budgets. If a later delivery doesn’t affect the manufacturing schedule, I’d go with a cheaper vendor. If the materials are time-sensitive, I’d approach the CFO regarding the matter and explain why paying a higher supply price is more favorable than risking manufacturing delays (and bearing direct and indirect costs of that). To make my case, I’d use ERP data and a business intelligence app to model different scenarios.

You need to kick off the project but don’t have full data. What are your next steps? 

For most companies, the current economic realities are rather volatile — from ongoing supply chain disruptions to rapid changes in consumer preferences. Thus, operational decisions have to be taken fast, often with incomplete data. 

By posing this question, the interviewer likely wants to assess your general business acumen skills, as well as approaches to strategic planning. 

Sample answer

As a marketing manager, I fully understand that good data may not always be available. In such cases, I try to generate my own data and test assumptions. First, I try to split-test different types of creative and run them by a sample target audience group. Based on the response rates (e.g. average click-through rates), I then select the main creative to use in the campaign.

A senior colleague asks for your recommendation on a new policy. How would you prepare it?

A good answer to this problem-solving interview question will include a list of steps you’d follow and the type of resources you’d use to make an informed decision. Explain how you usually collect data, make assessments, and synthesize findings to present them to others. 

I’d kick things off with an impact assessment to understand the context, objectives, and outcomes of the proposed change. I’d model different scenarios using a custom script on Power BI that I’ve made. Once I have the hard numbers (e.g., impact on revenue, efficiency, cost savings), I’d analyze the cultural impact of policy change. That usually involves conversations with other stakeholders and department heads. I’d incorporate their feedback and provide summarized findings to the colleague. 

You’re asked to identify cost-saving opportunities for a company. As you review the financial statements, you notice that operating expenses have increased significantly over the past quarter. How would you approach this? 

This is an example of a precise scenario-based question you may get for a financial analyst or accounting role . Other positions also receive similar questions, based around a difficult on-the-job situation. Your goal is to demonstrate your approach to issue resolution. 

I would first analyze all the groups of expenses to determine what drives the increase. If the company is spending more to grow, I’d calculate the ROI of that spending to justify it or, on the contrary — challenge it. If the cost inflation is due to excessive spending on low-value initiatives, I’d suggest several optimization strategies.

Behavioral Problem-Solving Interview Questions 

Behavioral problem-solving questions aim to learn more about your personality. They encourage you to provide examples of how you’ve acted in the past and showcase your general attitudes towards different challenging situations.

These provide room to demonstrate your self-management skills and mental resilience. So be sure to prepare some problem-solving examples for interviews beforehand. 

Tell me about the time you’ve faced a major challenge at work

This question can be more context-specific. For example, the interviewer may prompt you to talk about meeting an unrealistic deadline, resolving a professional mishap, or dealing with another type of out-of-the-ordinary work situation. In every case, you must not just describe the problem, but communicate what you’ve done to resolve it. 

My sales team spent 6+ months preparing for a major demo for this manufacturing client. It was an important strategic deal for Acme Inc. Two days before the presentation, the main Account Manager fell sick with COVID-19 and couldn’t do the meeting. Since I worked closely with him, I volunteered to moderate the presentation and facilitate the discussion. We’ve notified the client team about the changes and I’ve invited their management to a quick lunch a day ahead to meet up and “break the ice”. Then helped negotiate. We’ve successfully closed this deal.

What’s your standard approach to resolving blockers at work? 

The answer to this problem-solving interview question will be somewhat different for regular employees and managers. As a regular employee, you should focus your reply on your organizational skills . As a manager, you should lean more towards your administrative and leadership skills . 

Below is a sample answer from a manager’s perspective: 

I’d describe my management style as a facilitator. As a UX Design Lead, I spend a lot of time prioritizing our backlog in line with the company-wide product roadmap and collecting regular input from other teams. Based on it, I set different levels of priorities for design tasks and map dependencies between them. Then I communicate the main priorities in this Sprint to the design team every 2-3 months. Weekly, I go through the work backlog to analyze progress and reach out to individual members on status reports. If the person is stuck, I try to figure out the root cause for that first, then get back to them with different suggestions on how to move forward.

What does “being resourceful” mean for you? 

Employers want autonomous go-getters, who know how to accomplish tasks, given the existing constraints. The hiring manager wants to understand how you make the max out of the available resources. Illustrate this with a quick example.

I treat constraints as an opportunity to be creative and innovate with frugality. I maintain an inventory of all creative assets available to me and like recycling content for different channels. For example, one podcast episode = 1 more blog post, 5 social media updates, and a collection of quotes the team can then use for other marketing assets without bothering the SME again. 

Could you exemplify your “self-sufficiency” abilities? How do you ensure high personal performance? 

This interview question prompts you to talk about your approach to staying motivated and methodical in your work. The interviewer wants to understand how you solve problems on your own and ensure that temporary setbacks don’t affect your performance.

I’ve been working remotely for three years now and my current employer prioritizes async communication, so I’m used to solving issues on my own. When I’m dealing with a coding problem, I usually head to Stackflow exchange to see if there are existing threads, plus search for reference architecture of similar solutions. There’s so much information available these days, so it’s easy to find answers to even the most niche problems. 

Problem-Solving Questions for Teamwork

A lot of issues arise due to misunderstanding and interpersonal dynamics. The employer wants to understand that you can diffuse tensions, handle arguments, and prevent conflicts professionally. So be prepared to answer some problem-solving interview questions around teamwork.

Your colleague proposes an alternative approach. The team can’t decide between your idea and theirs. What would you do? 

Here the interviewer wants to see how you reach consensus. Few teams like managers with their “my way or the highway” attitude. Your goal is to show that you’re not making decisions with your ego. 

I’d once again analyze both approaches holistically together with the team, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each. I always encourage everyone to probe my ideas, even though I’m a Senior Architect. Then ask again to contribute further thoughts and vote for the best option.

How do you usually handle workplace conflict between employees of the same level? 

A variation of such interview questions is common for managerial roles. After all, much of your job involves team-building. A good answer will include an example from your experience, demonstrating your conflict resolution strategies. 

I would have informal conversations with both at first to understand the source of animosity. In my last role, I had a UX designer and front-end developer constantly clash due to differences in communication styles. The developer lacked active listening skills and the designer wasn’t best at expressing their thoughts verbally. I’ve suggested they start a shared handover documentation file, where both documented the requirements from each side and leave helpful notes on design animation or tech constraints/compromises. Matters got better after this.

One of your team members is underperforming. This negatively impacts the group dynamic. How would you address this issue?

According to Gallup, 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined by the manager. Hence, employers want to ensure that you can identify and effectively address performance issues. The best answer to this interview question will include an example from your past work. 

A couple of months ago, I noticed that one of our senior developer’s velocity fell by almost 20%. Her code commits were also getting rejected by our CI/CD pipeline at the unit testing stage more often, slowing up the release cycle. Sarah was going through some family issues as learned in a 1:1. I suggested she take a 7-day PTO and also reminded her that we have free mental counseling available. She signed on for a couple of sessions and returned to her best in two weeks.

A stakeholder comments on the quality issues in your project. But these are not your team’s fault. How would you address their concerns while maintaining high team morale? 

Lack of appreciation and recognition of efforts from senior stakeholders can weigh heavily on the teams’ morale and, by proxy, performance. The purpose of this question is to test how you can advocate for your team. Your answer must demonstrate high emotional intelligence and professionalism in managing expectations. 

I would have a private conversation with the person to better understand the source of their concerns about quality. Then explain to them what part of work my team is responsible for and how this relates to the quality issues origination. I would then reassure them that I would speak to the manager, responsible for that line of work myself, and we’ll jointly work on optimizing this problem.

Problem-Solving Exercises 

Some interviewers also like to throw in a couple of weird interview questions , aimed at challenging your on-the-stop problem-solving skills. For example, Jeff Bezos once asked an interviewee to try counting the number of windows in Seattle. While the question may sound absurd, it gives the interviewer a good idea of how you structure your reasoning and employ logical thinking skills. 

In other cases, an interview may include several problem-solving exercises — cognitive puzzles or quiz-style questions you need to complete within a certain time. Some of these may require you to do some arithmetics to arrive at a precise answer. Others are just meant to test your logical reasoning abilities. 

Examples of problem-solving exercises for an interview: 

  • Can you count how many tennis balls would fit into this room? 
  • As a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?
  • You have 1000 bottles of wine, and one of them is poisoned. You also have ten rats to test which bottles are poisoned. What’s the fastest way to find a poisoned bottle?
  • You have 3 critical production tasks, requiring the same specialized equipment, but you can only afford to rent one at a time. How will you prioritize and schedule tasks to optimize resources? 
  • You have 3 containers with 20 balls. You have enough room to sort all balls of the same color into separate containers. How will you make sure that each container only has balls of the same time and that no two balls of the same type end up in different containers? 

Case Studies 

Case studies (or case problems) are context-rich, mock business scenarios, designed to test your problem-solving skills. They are common for roles in the consulting and financial sectors. However, many IT companies have also adopted them into their interviewing process.

Generally, you have 15 minutes to review the case study and ask supporting questions from the interviewer. Then another 15 to 30 minutes to prepare your answer. These tasks demand good business acumen — an understanding of the typical business goals and commercial awareness of the market and operating model. 

Your goal is to demonstrate that you understand the key issues and have a structured approach to finding the solution. You need to demonstrate which factors you’ve considered and their implication for the business. Then provide high-level recommendations, based on the data you have. 

Sample case studies for an interview: 

  • If you were a competitor entering a new regional market, how would you convince customers to select our product? 
  • A sports brand wants to launch an online employee advocacy program, where employees act as micro-brand ambassadors — showcase the goods on their social media and provide customer advisory. How would you recommend them to structure this initiative? 
  • A French wine producer wants to enter the Australian market. Prepare a summary, explaining why the market may be a good choice for them and which products may have the highest chance of success. 
  • A friend asks for your advice: They want to launch a new vegan DTC cosmetics brand. What type of go-to-market strategy would you recommend?

You can also find more sample case study interviews to practice at websites from big consulting firms like Bain , BCG , or Deloitte .   

How To Approach Problem-Solving Interview Questions?

When presented with any type of a problem-solving interview question your main goal is to narrate how you’ll use your analytics, situational analysis, and critical-thinking skills to best navigate the matter. You should always clearly communicate what you plan to do and why. Then highlight the outcome you’d aim to achieve. 

Demonstrate structured thinking and a logical progression in your response:

  • Reiterate the problem and ask clarifying questions if necessary. 
  • Explain your first action. Mention why you’ve chosen it over the others. 
  • Be precise with your arguments. State what data you’ve used for decision-making.
  • Explain your next steps and/or alternative course of action if the first option fails to work. 
  • Summarize the outcome you’ve achieved or expect to achieve as a result.  

Remember: the interviewer doesn’t expect you to come up with a highly elaborate multi-step roadmap. They just want to hear how you’ve solved similar issues in the past and how you might react to new challenges!

Elena Prokopets

Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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Problem Solving Interview Questions and Answers

What Are Problem Solving Interview Questions?

Why do employers ask problem solving interview questions, top tips for answering problem solving interview questions, final thoughts, problem solving interview questions and answers.

Updated May 13, 2024

Dr Sunny Kleo

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When you have an interview coming up, it’s worth thinking about the types of questions to expect.

Interviews can have varied formats and focus on different things. Some will be relaxed with the aim of getting to know you as a candidate; others will be highly focused on skills and knowledge.

One particular type of interview you will want to spend time preparing for is one based on problem-solving questions, as there are techniques you can practice beforehand.

These questions are designed to see how well you can collect the right data, analyze it logically and come to an effective resolution.

Problem-solving questions will also focus on how well you can manage multiple points of view and how you deal with conflict.

Companies use these kinds of questions to ferret out which candidates are able to think nimbly in a wide range of scenarios.

Sometimes these questions are formatted as situational judgment tests which help employers predict how you might behave in the future.

Problem-solving questions also aim to test your critical thinking and decision-making skills. Spend time thinking about the type of role you are applying for.

You can then work out which types of problems you are most likely to face – and prepare for questions that demonstrate your skills around those issues.

At any interview, you will be asked a variety of questions.

Some are designed to see how keen you are – they will test your company knowledge and the depth of the research you have done. Other questions, like problem-solving ones, are designed to test specific competencies , like mental agility and lateral thinking.

Problem-solving questions are important for employers because they can’t always predict the projects you will be working on, so they need to know you have a wide skill set.

In an ever-changing world, having a workforce that’s able to solve unexpected problems is a real benefit, so try and demonstrate this ability in your answers.

These types of problem-solving interview questions are especially popular in the technical industries.

They are also used by companies like management consultancies, which often work on a huge variety of projects.

Because they don’t deal with the same problems over and over, they need to test how good you are in being creative with new or unusual situations.

Problem Solving Interview Questions – Sample Questions and Answers

It’s a good idea to practice problem-solving questions so that you improve in confidence and are able to answer them fluently.

Remember your communication skills are being assessed in any interview, so how you explain your decision-making process is also important.

Here are some sample questions and answers for problem-solving situations that are designed to help you prepare for upcoming interviews.

You can practice answering these examples with a friend or someone you trust to give you helpful feedback on your performance.

“Have You Ever Been in a Dispute With a Colleague? What Did You Do to Resolve It?”

This type of question is designed to test your team-working abilities as well as how you are able to deal with stress or difficult situations.

The interviewer wants to know if you are able to show respect and empathy, while also sorting out the actual problem.

This question also helps the interviewer understand how well you learn from stressful situations. In this example, they would want to see how you might take action to minimize future disruptions with colleagues.

Sample Answer

In my last job, I had a colleague who was consistently late for project meetings I was leading . At first, I tried a couple of gentle reminders of good practice/time-keeping when sending the agenda out for these weekly meetings. After I found this was not working, I decided to speak to this colleague directly and asked him to join me for coffee at a nearby cafe. I was able to broach the issue in a more casual environment and this took the pressure off, as we weren’t surrounded by colleagues. We had time to get to know each other a bit too. I checked in to see if there was any particular reason for his repeated lateness and it turned out that he had a regular meeting just before mine at a different worksite. A quick fix was to move my meeting to a different day, which resolved the issue simply. Now I always check that new meetings I’m planning are held at convenient times for all attendees.

"How Do You React to Unexpected Challenges? Do You Have a Preferred System?"

This question looks at whether you are a planner or if you tend to jump straight into solutions. Depending on the job you are after, your interviewer may want to hear different types of answers.

If you’re applying for a role that requires analysis and deep thinking, you probably want to lean towards a reply that shows you have a methodical system for dealing with unexpected challenges.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in working in a fast-paced environment and the job description uses words like ‘nimble’ and ‘agile’, you would do better to describe your personal system for dealing with challenges as decisive and swift.

The best answers probably lie somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and most of us do genuinely find that we could respond either way. A good response is one that shows balance.

I’m aware that every challenge will have its nuances. Rather than have a generic system, I like to custom my approach to match what has gone wrong. For example, if an immediate solution is obvious and straightforward, I’ll implement it without over-thinking things. This happened recently when our IT system went down – I quickly directed the interns to use phone lines in order to call our clients who were expecting deliveries that same day. I’m also able to assess and take my time to fix unexpected problems that require a little more finesse – there was a situation recently when one of our clients canceled a large order. I called meetings with the team and the client separately, to work out what had gone wrong before offering a considered solution, which I’m glad to say worked really well as the client came back on board.

Five Frequent Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

"Tell Me About a Situation Where Things Went Wrong on the Day of a Big Deadline or Event?"

This question aims to explore how well you work under stress or time pressures. A good answer will show conceptual skills in problem-solving – thinking creatively and flexibly under pressure.

Not only do you have to show that you can utilize other people and work with them, but you also need to show a task focus, so that the deadline or function goes off without a hitch.

Again there is an opportunity here to show you can learn from mistakes, so think of an example that identifies a way in which you were able to avoid the situation recurring.

I work well to tight deadlines and often find that I am able to keep calm when others are losing their heads. As I often work in high-pressure scenarios, I’m regularly called upon to mediate between colleagues when there is a disagreement over how to handle sensitive matters. One example which comes to mind is when we had to hire several high-profile models for an ad campaign we were running. Two of them nearly came to blows when they disagreed over their styling. I had to step in, calm them down and work out a compromise where they agreed to stay on set and finish their assignments within the time frame of our schedule. It was certainly a hair-raising day but I was able to get the ad we wanted and without any further drama happening. Since that occasion, I’ve made sure to keep all agents on standby so that issues like this don’t arise again.

"What Would You Do if You Strongly Disagreed With a Colleague About How to Handle a Delicate Matter?"

This question not only explores your ability to demonstrate empathy, but it may also touch on issues of ethical responsibilities and the necessity to be discreet when necessary.

Employers want to know you are self-aware and able to reflect on important issues, rather than being overly bullish when it’s not appropriate.

Showing that you can employ a delicate touch is really important in certain roles like HR, so your interviewer will want to know how good your soft skills are.

You can also use a question like this as an opportunity to demonstrate your powers of persuasion or other transferable skills, so make sure you pick a strong example when you answer.

There was a recent situation where one of our team’s assistants was being monopolized by one particular person. We knew we had to address the issue as there was a backlog of work that just wasn’t getting done. My office partner wanted to handle the matter in a very up-front way, but I didn’t think that was the best approach. I persuaded her to take a more discreet route and stopped her from making a scene. I knew that the person who was causing the issue had certain problems at home – which were likely to be impacting his work and focus. Without giving away his private situation, I suggested that we speak to the monopolized assistant first, to see if he had any thoughts or preferences about how the matter was handled. This helped defuse the situation, as it turned out the assistant was happy to put in overtime to clear some of the backlog. It meant we didn’t have to confront our colleague right away. In fact, this bought us enough time so that some of his home and childcare issues were actually resolved. A month down the line, there was no longer an issue of the assistant being monopolized.

"How Are You Proactive About Avoiding Problems?"

This question asks the interviewee to show their ability to mitigate risk – particularly important in management roles or ones where leadership matters.

Your ability to understand human nature, to plan ahead and focus on having multiple backup solutions in place is being assessed.

When answering this question, you can also demonstrate your ability to think creatively and laterally.

Remember, almost every employer wants to hire someone who shows initiative and makes their lives easier.

I recently had to organize multiple networking events for our biggest departments. I knew that we would have an issue with incentivizing some of our busier sales staff to attend – as previous events had been rather tame. I collated some feedback from last year and applied the lessons learned. For example, I tried to ‘gamify’ the event and made sure there were enough aspects of the party that would appeal to a range of attendees. Not only did I hire top-notch caterers (and promote this fact), but I also organized entertainment to work the crowd and create a buzz to make sure that people stayed around – not just popped their heads in, as they’ve done in the past. One extra incentive, which hadn’t been used at our events before, was a raffle/goody bag concept which tied in with the next away day and even helped boost attendance there too.

There are many useful tips for preparing for an interview. While you can’t always predict exactly what you will be asked, you can practice your technique, answering commonly used questions in logical and analytical ways.

One of the most important things you need to do is give examples when answering each question – showing how you have demonstrated the problem-solving skill they are asking for.

To help with this, make sure you have created a mental bank or list of relevant work experience situations you can easily refer to.

It can help to think about the structure of what you’re going to say before you launch into answering an interviewer’s question – this also makes you look more considered.

One useful way to do this is by using the STAR technique where you break what you say into four sections:

  • The overall Situation
  • The Task at hand
  • The Action taken
  • The Results obtained

This helps you to avoid rambling and finishing off your answer in a weak way, which can happen when you don’t plan out what you want to say.

On an assessment day or in a group context , you may have to face problem-solving questions as a team.

Sometimes you will have to do a group task and then face questions on your processes afterward. Try and describe these in a step-by-step way and show self-awareness by linking your actions to competencies you believe are strong in you as a candidate.

When you are answering problem-solving questions in a group, make sure you stand out and say your part, but also show strong teamwork by praising or including quieter members. You should definitely avoid interrupting or criticizing team members at all costs.

One final tip is to avoid giving vague, generic answers. You can pose follow-up questions to clarify an interview question if you’re not sure exactly what they are asking.

It’s better to do this and then give a targeted answer, rather than waffle and hope you hit the right bases because you weren’t quite sure what the interviewers were looking for.

Being able to solve problems is a key work skill and one that every employer wants to see. While it’s important to practice your ability to answer these questions, do make sure you go into the interview with fresh energy so that your answers don’t sound too rehearsed.

Problem-solving interview questions are designed to push you and give you an opportunity to showcase your skills. If you plan for a range of questions and have a set of strong examples to draw upon, you will feel confident no matter what you are asked.

It can really impress interviewers if you answer problem-solving questions with positivity and enthusiasm. A willingness to engage with the issues they come up with shows that you are ready for the workplace and are able to creatively adapt to unexpected scenarios as they invariably occur.

You might also be interested in these other Wikijob articles:

Problem Solving Technique, Skills & Examples (2024 Guide)

Or explore the Interview Advice / Interview Questions sections.

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25 Job Interview Questions & Answers that Will Get You Hired

May 31, 2024

job interview questions and answers

Whether you’re just about to earn your bachelor’s degree in Engineering and are competing for your dream job in coding , or you’re simply applying for a low-stress job without a degree before you decide to take the plunge and start college, chances are you’ll need to do an interview before you can start working and collecting paychecks. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 25 of the most common sample job interview questions, along with strategies on how to answer them.

Because whether you’re totally new to the job market or you’ve gone to a college with excellent career services , it never hurts to hone your employment skills and practice with a few job interview questions and answers!

A Few Moves to Make as You Prepare for Job Interview Questions and Answers

Every interview will be different, but there are a few tried-and-true methods you can utilize to maximize your chances at an effective interview:

1) Have confidence . Did you know that in a 2013 study, interviewees who chronically self-promoted during hiring processes were more likely to be viewed favorably by potential employers? [i] While we’re not suggesting you need to continuously brag during an interview (though a little bragging is certainly okay!), it’s a good idea to feel prepared to answer the sample job interview questions below beforehand so you can exude self-assurance and a positive attitude.

2) Practice makes perfect . It’s an incredible finding, but it has been demonstrated that students and employees who are better prepared for interviews are often more successful at securing jobs than candidates who are more qualified, but less prepared for the actual interview. [ii] Does this mean you’ll automatically get a job as the CEO of a major company just by practicing some interview questions? Probably not. But it does mean that with a little practice, you can drastically increase your chances of securing a job that you are legitimately qualified for. So, grab a friend, parent, advisor, or counselor and review these strategies for answering sample job interview questions!

Sample Job Interview Questions & Answers (Continued)

3) Be succinct . First, answer interview questions directly before providing longer-winded answers. Listeners often retain the first sentence in a verbal explanation or presentation slide before their attention begins to wane. [iii] As such, it’s wise to begin each interview answer with your main point. Don’t start with a digression or with several sentences of throat-clearing. Instead, begin with a bottom-line assertion and then provide evidence to back up that assertion. Doing so will ensure that your interviewer first learns the main point of your response, and then can clearly follow all subsequent evidence and illustrations. This “assertion-evidence” method helps listeners quickly learn your ideas and then use follow-up statements to confirm what they already know.

Let’s take a look at an example:

Interview Question :

“What is most attractive to you about our company culture?”

Long-Winded, Digressing Answer :

“Well, something that’s really cool to me is sustainability. I think I included this on my résumé, but I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering for my community in terms of environmental clean-up. For the past few years, I’ve been helping purify our local river system – which will improve water quality – with the Green Power Association. I got involved with that after high school and have been into it ever since! I was reading about how your company has a few Green initiatives like the “Carbon Free Wednesday” program . That seems to be a great way for employees to get involved with caring for the environment. It’s also really neat that the company gives back to the community by donating money to the Clean Energy Project through their foundation. Both of those initiatives are really attractive to me in terms of the company’s culture.”

Bottom Line Up Front Answer: [iv]

“ I’m particularly impressed with the environmental initiatives this company has taken, including their “Carbon Free Wednesdays” and company foundation’s donations to the Clean Energy Project . These two initiatives complement the volunteer work I’ve done with my local Green Power Association, cleaning up our river system and ensuring better quality water for our community.”

In the first response, the actual answer to the question (bolded) is buried within sentences five, seven and eight (after a good deal of rambling!). In the second response, the answer (bolded) is provided immediately and succinctly in the opening sentence. All subsequent sentences are there to support this answer, provide illustrative examples, and demonstrate how the interviewee will be a great fit for the company. You can see how much clearer this second answer is!

  • Do your research . It’s crucial that you show up to an interview with a thorough understanding of the position you’re applying for. A few questions you should answer beforehand include: What exactly is the job you’re applying for? What will be expected of you in this position? What is the company’s mission statement? What does the company culture look like? If you cannot find answers to some of these questions, don’t worry! This means you’ll have something to say when your interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”
  • Don’t panic – pivot. You may be worrying, “What happens if I’m asked a question I haven’t practiced?” The good news is that most job interview questions and answers can be sorted into general categories by similar topics, with comparable strategies on how to answer each question within a category. Below, we’ve split the top 25 common job interview questions and answers into eight categories for just this reason! If you receive an unfamiliar question, simply pivot by answering with the methodology recommended for that question’s category.

Related Article: How to Reschedule an Interview

Sample Job Interview Questions and Answers

Very general “about me” job interview questions and answers.

  • Tell me about yourself. / Describe your background.
  • Take me through your résumé.
  • Tell me about your previous work experience.

Strategy : For these hyper-general job interview questions, it’s important to maintain concision and relevancy.

Using the “bottom line up front” or “assertion-evidence” methods above, make sure that each résumé highlight, previous work experience, or personal factoid is clear and to the point. It may be helpful to develop a ready-made list of previous jobs, courses and volunteer experiences so you can quickly provide them for your interviewer without devolving into a long-winded autobiography.

Additionally, make sure that any examples you list are relevant to the job at hand. For instance, if you’re applying for a managerial position, it might not be terribly helpful to say, “I was on my high school rowing team.” However, if you can say something like, “being co-captain on my high school rowing team taught me how to facilitate positive relationships amongst my teammates and keep everyone focused on the tasks at hand,” then you’ve provided an example that connects to the job.

Job-Specific Questions

  • How did you hear about this position?
  • Why do you want this job? / What interests you about this role?
  • Why do you want to work for this company? / What can you bring to this company?
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?

Strategy : Do your research on the position you’re applying for and be as specific as possible as you answer particular questions about the job.

For questions like these, it’s important to understand the employer you’ll be working for: does this company value customer service? Is it a fast-paced environment? Is there a particular mission statement the company abides by that you can echo in your responses to some of these questions? An excellent way to convey that you’ve given this position a thorough amount of consideration is to use actual language from the job description. In particular, highlight specific ways in which your previous experience has made you a valuable candidate for this job.

Positive Job Interview Questions and Answers

  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • Tell me about some of your achievements.
  • How has your education prepared you for this job?

Strategy : Answer positive job interview questions with ready-made examples that demonstrate your achievements and clearly connect to the job to which you are applying.

Just like in the “general” job interview questions above, it’s a good strategy to make a list of accomplishments, strengths, and scholastic or work-related achievements that you can quickly name to your interviewer. Additionally, try to find examples that gesture in some way to the job at hand. For instance, if the job is for an administrative assistant position at a marketing firm, it’s less helpful to mention that your greatest strength is leadership and you majored in Biology. Rather, a much more useful response might be that one of your strengths is organization and that in college, you took several courses on communication, business ethics and professional development.

Questions and Answers About the Future

  • What is your dream job?
  • What are your goals for the future?
  • Where do you see yourself in five / ten / fifteen years?

Strategy: Use specificity when describing your goals, and also describe how the skills you’ll utilize in this position will help you arrive there.

Be honest, but also try to make connections. If this is your dream job, you can simply highlight the ways in which the position you’re currently applying for aligns with your dream employment situation. If this isn’t your dream job, be tactful by describing how this position might function as a stepping stone toward your dream. What skills will you learn with this position that might help your future self? Are there opportunities for advancement within this company? Are there similarities (management, customer service, practical experience, research opportunities) between this current job and your dream job that you can use to make connections between the present and future?

Questions and Answers About Previous Employment Challenges

  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why were you let go from your previous job?
  • Why is there an employment gap on your résumé?

Strategy : With job interview questions and answers about previous employment challenges, it’s crucial to stay as positive as possible.

If you’re leaving your current job, focus on why this new job will provide positive opportunities for your career advancement (rather than focusing on the negatives of your current work). If you were laid off due to budget cuts, you can simply say so. Alternatively, if you’ve had to take time off work for personal reasons, explain these briefly and then highlight the ways in which you are prepared to return to the work force.

If you took an intentional gap year, tell your interviewer what you learned on the year that will prepare you for employment. Finally, if you were fired because of your performance at a previous workplace, you’ll need to provide an explanation for your behavior. In cases like these, it’s important to not play the victim or lie – rather, be honest and focus on how you’ve grown since your last job and how you plan on improving your work in your next one.

Questions About Work Strategies

  • How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
  • How might you manage a difficult employee?
  • Do you prefer working independently or on a team?
  • Describe some of your organizational strategies.
  • How do you handle conflict in a workplace setting?

Strategy : Tailor your answer to the job at hand and provide concrete examples if possible.

It’s a great move to demonstrate how, specifically, you will fit in with a particular work environment as you answer these types of “work strategy” interview questions. For instance, if the job you’re applying for is primarily conducted remotely, now is a perfect time to provide examples of how you work efficiently when unsupervised. Do you time yourself? Stick to detailed routines, calendars and schedules? Can a previous employer or portfolio of completed projects speak to your remote work ethic?

For questions on interpersonal work relations, it’s important to focus on your emotional stability and communication and problem-solving skills. Again, if you can provide examples – great! Perhaps you helped defuse an uncomfortable interpersonal situation between coworkers. Maybe you’re great at galvanizing others to do their best work. Even if you have no previous job experience, it’s a good idea to brainstorm how you might address some of these “work strategy” situations with employees, coworkers, and bosses in this specific future position.

Sample Job Interview Questions about Salary and other Jobs

  • What are your salary expectations? /What is your current salary?
  • Are you applying for other jobs?

Strategy : Be honest, realistic, and potentially flexible as you state your salary requirements and current job prospects.

Just like asking for a raise , stating your salary requirements can be daunting. While these questions may feel awkward, it’s important to answer them honestly so that you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. Many job descriptions will list a salary range, and it’s best to realistically stay within or very near this range as you complete your interview. If no range is listed at all, you can compare salaries for comparable jobs in the same area to help formulate your salary expectations.

As you calculate your ideal salary requirements, be sure to keep in mind job benefits. While these includes big-ticket items like health insurance, retirement packages, parental leave and vacation days, don’t neglect smaller benefits like parking, travel, and compensation for uniforms or electronics that you’ll use on the job. [v]

If you’re willing to be flexible on your potential salary, it’s okay to think about how your salary and benefits may increase over time. While answering questions about your salary expectations, gesture toward the future. Do you hope to receive a raise within a year? A promotion in five years? In what ways can you expect upward mobility within this job or organization?

Closing Job Interview Questions and Answers

  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to add? / What would you like me to know about you that’s not on your resume?

Strategy : Speak up!

Even if you have no questions or anything to add, it’s important to prepare something to say in answer to these closing questions. Doing so will demonstrate your genuine interest in the position. A few options include asking specifics about the position’s start date, particular job requirements, or work culture. This is also a golden opportunity to bring up any achievements or skills you may have that make you especially qualified for the job.

Sample Job Interview Questions & Answers – Works Cited

[i] Paulhus, Delroy L., Bryce G. Westlake, Stryker S. Calvez, P.D. Harms. “Self-presentation style in job interviews: the role of personality and culture,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology . 10 September 2013.

[ii] Hansen, Katharine, Gary C. Oliphant, Becky J. Oliphant, Randall S. Hansen. “Best Practices in Preparing Students for Mock Interviews,” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, Vol. 72, Issue 3, 20 May, 2009.

[iii] Garner, Joanna K. and Michael P. Alley. “How the design of presentation slides affects audience comprehension: A case for the assertion-evidence approach,” International Journal of Engineering Education . Vol. 29, Issue 6, 2013.

[iv] BLUF (The Topic Sentence Handout). Carnegie Mellon Student Academic Success Center: Communication Support.

[v] Crawford, Hallie. “Employee Benefits to Consider During Your Job Search,” U.S. News & World Report, 28 May, 2021

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Jamie Smith

For the past decade, Jamie has taught writing and English literature at several universities, including Boston College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. She earned a Ph.D. in English from Carnegie Mellon, where she currently teaches courses and conducts research on composition, public writing, and British literature.

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Unusual Interview Questions and How to Answer Them: Part II

Published: Feb 23, 2024

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Welcome back to our series on unusual interview questions. If you haven’t read part one yet, you can at the link. These questions are somewhat rare, and you may never encounter them in a real-world setting; however, they’re great for running practice interviews because they force you to think outside the box. Now, without further ado, here are five more strange, puzzling, and unique interview questions.

“What is something not on your resume that differentiates you and makes you the best fit for the job?”

This question is designed to catch you off guard, as it forces you to discuss aspects of your personality and experience that aren’t included on your resume. Here, the interviewer is looking for unique qualities that set you apart from other candidates, such as your values, goals, or any additional skills that are relevant to the role at hand.

When preparing for an interview, go back and review the job listing, the company’s website, and if possible, the social media profiles of the leadership team. Do your goals and values align with the company’s? Perhaps you’ve got some skills that aren’t listed in the job description, but that would be of significant relevance to the role you’re interviewing for. In any case, the key here is to leverage any unique skills or characteristics that might be of great value to the company you’re applying to.

“Please describe a task, project, or effort where you had to make a particularly difficult decision. What was your role and what made it difficult? What did you learn?”

The ability to take charge and make decisions, especially under stressful circumstances, is extremely valuable to potential employers. The interviewer may ask you to describe a challenging scenario in which you were the decision-maker so they can determine how well you understand your role, how you approach and solve problems, and what you’ve learned from past experiences.

The best way to answer this type of question is to implement the STAR  (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. Using this method, you can describe the specific situation, the challenge, your role in overcoming it, and what you took away from the experience. Familiarize yourself with speaking about any past situations you may have before your interview. If you get tripped up, take a breath, organize your thoughts with the STAR method, and speak slowly and clearly. The worst thing you can do is rush and stumble through your answer to a question like this. " Tell me about a time when your work was criticized. How did you respond?"

Over the course of your career, it’s important to learn how to take criticism. For instance, constructive criticism is intended to provide feedback that can be used to make improvements in a certain area. When the interviewer asks you to describe a situation where your work received criticism, they’re attempting to measure your level of self-awareness, as well as your problem-solving skills.

Being able to handle criticism is extremely important to your professional development. When you’re able to reflect on yourself and your work, and acknowledge that there’s room for improvement, it demonstrates emotional maturity and intelligence. To answer this question, choose an example where you understood the reasoning behind the constructive criticism, and explain how the feedback helped you grow as a professional.

“If you could choose any fictional character to be your mentor, who would it be?”

The purpose of this question is to test your creativity and communication skills, while also gaining insight into your values, goals, and which leadership qualities inspire you. An interviewer may also be able to tell whether you’re a good fit for the company’s workplace culture depending on your answer, so it should go without saying that you wouldn’t want to respond with “Emperor Palpatine” or “Cobra Commander.”

When answering a question like this, choose from characters who are empathetic and who have a strong moral compass. A great example of this is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird , as the character embodies integrity and compassion. That being said, you could choose a character from almost any form of media; just make sure their values align with your own and be prepared to discuss the reasons why you made your choice.

“If you could go back in time to any point in history and bring anything you want with you, where would you go and why?"

An interviewer may use a question like this as an icebreaker, or to ease the tension in the room. With such an open-ended question, the interviewer will also be able to learn more about your personality, as well as your ability to think creatively, and how well you communicate ideas. There is no “wrong or right” answer here, but you can use the opportunity to showcase your interests and values.

An example answer to this question might be: “I would go back to the space race of the late 1960s, and I would bring a modern laptop loaded with information on engineering, technology, and space exploration. I am driven to contribute to the advancement and success of those around me, and it would be interesting to see what the scientists of that era would do with modern tech and information.” Here, the speaker reveals a bit about their interests, as well as their motivations and willingness to collaborate with others.

When preparing for a job interview, you want to be ready for anything. Depending on the company, the interviewer might ask questions that are designed to confuse you or throw you off guard, and if you’re prepared, you’ll have an opportunity to impress them with your knowledge, creativity, and problem-solving skills. You may also be surprised at what you learn about yourself when coming up with answers to these types of interview questions.

6 Mock Interview Questions To Practice And Perfect

How can you perfect interview questions? With practice.

The secret to acing an interview? It’s always preparation.

Thankfully, hiring managers are often not the most creative people when it comes to thinking up questions, meaning several typical interview questions in their arsenal get reused. This makes it easier to plan your answers, rid yourself of nerves and, therefore, help you to present yourself calmly and effectively when questions like this come up.

The Most Common Mock Interview Questions

1. tell me about yourself.

Regardless of the role you’re interviewing for, this will almost certainly be the first question you hear. First impressions are key, so keep it brief – come up with a short paragraph that describes your working history, focusing on your successes. You should include a few personal details to come across as human but aim for a ratio of 70% career history to 30% biography.

Your answer shouldn’t be a simple recitation of your resume or CV, instead, focus on your assets – what makes you different and where do your major strengths lie? Outline what you can offer in terms of experience, personality and enthusiasm. Make sure you address the particular qualities the employer has stated they are looking for and provide specific examples of what you’ve done so far in your career that demonstrate how you’re perfectly suited for the role.

2. Where Do You See Yourself In X Years?

It would be surprising if anyone truthfully knew the answer to this, but again, an interviewer will be impressed if you have considered your short-term and long-term goals. Always relate this to the position you’re applying for and be realistic in terms of your aspirations. It’s helpful to avoid mentioning a goal of working for a competitor.

Talk of your ambitions, skills you hope to gain by then, and how this job in question would help you work towards it. Most employers won’t look kindly on people who talk of their company as a stepping stone; they want to hear about your passion to develop professionally in the position they’re hiring for, as well as a sincere desire to further the industry with your ideas, motivation and skill.

3. Why Do You Want To Work Here?

Here you should remind yourself that although bill-paying is a high priority, passion and interest in your work are even more important. Even if that passion and interest come from high-earning potential. They want to know that you didn’t just apply to every vacancy with your target job title.

Focus on why the job advertisement appealed to you personally. You’ll have to do a little research and find something that stands out and is worth mentioning. This is how you show that you have taken an active interest in their work. Some items to consider include:

  • The company’s reputation in the industry.
  • What is recent company news?
  • The company’s growth in recent years.

4. What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Give an answer that is too high, and you risk disqualifying yourself. However, you don’t want to earn less than you are worth. Your interviewer might push you to give a number, so come prepared with a figure. Remember, it is better to give a range of salaries rather than the exact figure.

Be flexible – indicate that you’re willing to willing to negotiate for the right opportunity and confirm that you value the position strongly. Make sure you have researched a good salary for this role, within this sector, and in this location using tools such as Glassdoor and

5. What Are Your Strengths Or Weaknesses?

It’s crucial to tread the line between humble and overconfident – too humble and you’d downplay your strengths, too confident and you risk sounding arrogant. Choose three examples of traits the employer is looking for and give examples of how you have used those strengths in a work situation. Ideally, include a mixture of tangible skills, such as technical or linguistic abilities, and intangible skills, such as management skills.

Consider how you have approached your perceived weaknesses in the past and what you’ve done to address them. If you’re honest about your weakness but show motivation to improve, the interviewer will see strength in character, proving you have integrity, self-awareness and ambition.

6. Do You Have Any Questions For Us?

This is normally the final question during many interviews. The answer to this question is never ”no.” It is necessary to have some questions prepared ahead of time. A few intelligent questions show your interviewer that you have seriously thought about what life would be like as a new employee, as well as demonstrating your initiative.

Here are a few questions to try:

  • What is the working culture like at your company?
  • What are the opportunities for growth within this role?
  • How will my success in this role be measured?

Always remember to be your most compelling self during an interview. This is vital whether it’s one-on-one or with a panel. Interviewers remember the most persuasive and charismatic candidates and the best way to do that is by storytelling and not reciting facts and figures.


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