How to answer "What is your approach to problem-solving?" (with sample answers)

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

Why Employers Ask This

The question "What is your approach to problem-solving?" is a commonly asked question in job interviews. This is because employers want to know how you handle challenges and overcome obstacles, as problem-solving is an essential skill in any work environment. They need someone who can think critically and come up with effective solutions to workplace problems.

Employers also want to understand your problem-solving process to see if it aligns with the company's culture and values. They may ask about your approach to problem-solving to see if you are a strategic thinker who can prioritize tasks and make sound decisions under pressure.

How to Answer the Question

When answering this question, it's essential to understand that the interviewer is looking for specific details about your problem-solving approach. Here are some tips to help you structure your answer:

  1. Describe the Problem: Start by describing the problem you faced. Explain the context, who was involved, and what caused the problem. Be specific and use examples to support your statements.
  2. Explain Your Approach: Next, describe the steps you took to solve the problem. Be clear about your methods and tools used, while also considering the company's core values in your approach. Make sure to highlight how your approach addressed the problem's root cause and achieved a meaningful resolution.
  3. Share the Outcome: Finally, share the outcome of your actions. Explain how your approach was successful, how you measured it, and what benefits it brought to the organization. If you were not able to solve the problem, explain what steps you took and what you learned from the process.

Remember to use specific examples, demonstrate your problem-solving skills in the best light possible, and share outcomes to show initiative and showcase your ability to effectively address problems.

Sample answers

1. Bad answer:

My approach to problem-solving is to just come up with a quick solution and see if it works. If it doesn't, I try something else until I find something that works.

Why it's bad: This answer shows a lack of preparation and planning. It doesn't demonstrate any critical thinking or analytical skills that a potential employer would value.

2. Good answer:

My approach to problem-solving is to first assess the situation and gather all the information I can. Then, I break down the problem into smaller parts and identify any potential obstacles or challenges. Once I have a clear understanding of the issue, I brainstorm a range of possible solutions, evaluate each option, and select the best course of action. Finally, I implement and monitor the chosen solution to ensure its effectiveness and make adjustments if necessary.

Why it's good: This answer shows a structured and methodical approach to problem-solving. The potential employer will appreciate the candidate's attention to detail and ability to work through complex problems.

3. Good answer:

My approach to problem-solving is to involve my team members and stakeholders. I find that collaborating with others brings in different perspectives that I may not have thought of on my own. I encourage open communication and brainstorming sessions where everyone is free to contribute their ideas. Then, we evaluate each idea and select the best one together as a team. This helps create a sense of ownership and buy-in from everyone involved.

Why it's good: This answer shows strong leadership and teamwork skills. The potential employer will appreciate the candidate's ability to work well with others and successfully navigate group dynamics to find the best solution.

4. Okay answer:

My approach to problem-solving is to stay calm and reflective. I take a moment to step back, assess the situation objectively, and then determine what actions to take. I try to look at the problem from different angles to find the root cause and develop a strategy to resolve it.

Why it's okay: This answer shows a level-headedness in managing stressful situations and a willingness to think outside the box. However, it could benefit from more specific examples that demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

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