Problem solving techniques for interviews

How to answer creative problem-solving questions

19th January 2022

For interviews, it’s often the case that you are never sure what to expect. As much as you prepare, the likelihood is that something will appear that you haven’t been able to prepare for, one such item is when the interviewer throws in a creative problem-solving question.

Here are a few tips on how to problem-solve in interviews to get the best result.

However, if you are prepared, no matter the question, you can find a great answer through the STAR method.

Why do interviewers use problem solving questions?

Interviewees are asked these questions so the hiring manager can understand how they handle different scenarios and how they gather and interpret information. Problem solving questions aim to provide interviewers with a snapshot look at how a candidate thinks and handles both situations and pressures, so it is a test.

How to problem solve in interviews

The format of these questions can be quite free, but a number of interviewers will usually start the question by asking you to ‘describe a situation where …’. However, if you are prepared, no matter the question, you can find a great answer through the STAR method.

  • Situation: Explain the event, the problem, who was involved and where it happened.
  • Task: Describe your duties, responsibilities and what was expected of you for this particular situation.
  • Action: Explain how you addressed the situation, and what steps did you take to come to a resolution. 
  • Result: What were the result of your actions? Where you can, always end on a positive note, preferably in a quantifiable way.

For example, for a sales role the question might revolve around a time when sales numbers were behind with a looming deadline, how did you manage to handle that situation and meet the target? You may explain how you increased your productivity, changed your way of working, or came up with a new way of selling in order to hit a target, before explaining how much over the target you ended up with.

Creative Problem-Solving Examples For Interviews Example

Example – Describe a situation where a customer had an issue? How did you handle it?

“A customer was upset that some parts of their order went missing. So, after checking that the customer issue was valid, I went to find out what had gone wrong. After getting in touch with the supplier I understood what had happened and managed to re-order, so the customer left satisfied that their needs were met.”

While the example above is a great guide, it is always important to add specific details relative to a situation you have been faced with by following the STAR process detailed above.

PE Global are on hand to help

No matter where you’re being interviewed, whether it’s remotely or face-to-face, it’s likely that this type of question will come up. We’ve already looked at other different types of questions too, so be safe in the knowledge that to take the next leap in your career, PE Global is on hand to help.

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