How to answer "Can you walk me through how you approach problem-solving?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why Employers Ask This

When an interviewer asks this question, they are trying to assess your problem-solving skills and your ability to think critically. They want to see if you can break down a problem and come up with a plausible solution. Additionally, they want to know whether you use data and evidence to inform your approach and if you can be creative when necessary. Employers are also interested in understanding your problem-solving process and how you handle complex situations. By answering this question, employers can determine whether you possess the skills and mindset needed to solve problems in the workplace.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it is important to showcase your problem-solving process and how you approach challenges. Here are some tips to help you answer the question:

  1. Provide an example: Rather than talking in abstract terms, provide an example to illustrate your problem-solving abilities. Choose an example that relates to the position you are interviewing for.
  2. Explain your thought process: Walk the interviewer through your thought process and how you approached the problem. Be specific and detail-oriented.
  3. Highlight your skills: Highlight any skills that you used when approaching the problem that would be relevant to the job. Let the interviewer know that you use data and evidence to inform decision making. Additionally, let them know if you were particularly creative in finding a solution.
  4. Emphasize your actual results: Explain the results you achieved by using your problem-solving approach. Let the interviewer know how your solution benefited an employer or business. Talk about how you executed your ideas and what you learned from the process.

Remember to be confident in your abilities and don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths. By showcasing your problem-solving skills and thought process during the interview, you can increase your chances of being seen as a valuable asset to an employer.

Sample answers

  1. Bad answer:

    Oh, I just try different things until something works.

    Explanation: This answer lacks structure and shows a lack of a defined problem-solving process.

  2. Okay answer:

    First, I identify the problem and its root cause. Then, I research possible solutions and evaluate their effectiveness. Once I have found the best solution, I implement it and monitor the results to ensure success.

    Explanation: This answer outlines a basic step-by-step approach to problem-solving but lacks specific examples and results.

  3. Good answer:

    The first thing I do is define the problem clearly. Once I know what the problem is, I research different possible solutions, evaluate their effectiveness, and prioritize them based on the impact they would have. I then develop an action plan for the best solution, breaking it down into specific tasks with deadlines. Throughout the process, I monitor progress and adjust as needed to ensure success. For example, when I was working as a project manager, we faced an issue with a delayed production cycle that was causing severe bottlenecks. After working with the team to identify the root cause, we developed a plan to reorganize the production facility, streamline processes, and improve communications. We tracked our progress closely and were able to reduce production cycle time by 20% within six months.

    Explanation: This answer demonstrates a well-defined problem-solving process with concrete examples and measurable results.

  4. Great answer:

    My problem-solving approach begins with a deep understanding of the problem and its impact on key stakeholders. I then gather input and insights from colleagues and subject matter experts to generate a comprehensive list of possible solutions. Before deciding on the best solution, I assess the risks and opportunities of each option and consider their short- and long-term implications. Once a direction is defined, I create an action plan, delegating tasks and setting clear timelines. To ensure success, I stay engaged throughout implementation and closely monitor progress, making necessary adjustments to keep on track. For example, when facing a customer service challenge, the team and I implemented a comprehensive training program that brought our customer satisfaction scores up by 15% in six months.

    Explanation: This answer showcases a thorough and flexible problem-solving approach, with detailed focus on stakeholder involvement, risk assessment, and measurable, impactful results.

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