Problem solving is a vital skill for most if not all careers. The ability to investigate the source of a problem and identify the most appropriate solution is a skill that most of us use daily. For example:
- An electrian who needs fix a failed lighting circuit
- A cable person who needs to find the reason for and fix poor TV reception
- IT executives who need to find the best solutions to solve their customer's problems
- An administrator who needs to quickly fix a broken printer
- A mechanic faced with a roadside repair
- A manager who needs to turnaround a under-performing sales team
- A CEO who needs more customers
- A General Practitioner (Doctor) who needs to diagnose a patient in just a few mins
These questions are great way to prepare for interviews because they use a very common model of interview questioning called the competency model.
Problem Solving interview questions
- Describe a situation in which you analyzed complex data and solved a difficult technical problem.
- Describe a technical or personal problem you solved in your last job.
- What do you do when confronted with a complex problem? What are the most important steps you take? Why?
- What problems do you foresee in your current position in the next two years?
- Describe a time when your work required you to quickly learn a new system, task, or process. What did you do?
- How would your manager describe your ability to grasp new concepts or learn new tasks?
- What do you do when you have to learn a lot of new things in your job?
- What would your peers and managers say about how perceptive you are?
- Sooner or later everybody makes mistakes. What was the most significant mistake you made on your last job and explain why you made it? What do you learn from it?
- What have been major obstacles that you have had to overcome on a past project? How did you deal with them?
- Tell me about a time when you had a sense about something that wasn't obvious to others at the time, yet ultimately was confirmed to be true.
- Give me an example of one of the most challenging problems you have ever had to solve on the job?
- Tell me about a problem that you failed to solve? What was it and why couldn't you solve it?
Competency based interview questionsCompetency focused questions are designed to help draw out a person's experience by asking for examples of when they have performed a function or have shown that they have a skill/competency. This style of questioning is popular because it is more likely to draw out whether a person has the competencies to perform a role.
Models that used closed questions like 'tell me what x means' tend to exclude younger or less experienced candidates and won't necessarily identify a person who has the right competence - experience of x doesn't mean you were good at x.