Problem solving interview questions are part of any interview process, as they help hiring managers make decisions about the personalities they will bring on board. Interviews have two basic functions. The first is for you to assess your fit with the company. The second is for employers to assess candidates in terms of their fit.

All employers need to know that their people can solve problems that crop up any time and these can be either simple or complicated. If an employer thinks you can solve problems they know you will be an active employee who is able to not just function well, but thrive in challenging situations. This is the main reason they ask problem solving interview questions.

Plus, these types of questions help an employer measure an interviewee’s ability to think critically, perform under pressure, think fast in complex situations and keep their head under stress.

If you are going for an interview where these qualities are needed then this article might be useful. We have come up with the ten most common problem solving interview questions you may be asked.

problem solving interview questions

The top ten problem solving interview questions

  1. Tell us about the most challenging part of your previous job.

Problem solving interview questions like this are designed to give the interviewer some idea about how you have dealt with challenges in the past. It is widely believed that past behavior is a reliable predictor of how you will behave in the future. Answer this question clearly and give as much detail as possible to your interviewer(s). You are marketing yourself, so don’t hold back but do be truthful.

  1. Describe a situation where you found a creative solution to a problem.

When it comes to these types of problem solving interview questions, the interviewer is trying to see how creative you can be on top of your ability to solve problems. Do you use the same old solutions or do you have innovative ideas? Preferably, if you can, answer this question with some good examples that relate to the role you are being interviewed for.

  1. Tell me about a time when you identified a need and went out of your way to get things working

Basically, here an employer is trying to find out if you are able to recognize when things are missing, as well as how much of yourself you will put into filling that gap. This is a crucial step in the interview process, as employers want people with initiative who can think ahead and fix things before they get out of control. In other words, you are able to solve problems without being asked.

  1. Have you ever solved a problem using a new approach?

Basically problems happen because the dynamics of certain activities resulted in something going wrong. If the activities are repeated in the same way then the same situation will probably happen again.

This problem solving interview question is designed to test your initiative in breaking that cycle. For this one, think of some different things you did that stopped a problem from happening. Like any of these types of questions you can find examples from real life – not just work situations – where you did these things.

  1. Tell us about two improvements you came up with in the last year.

These types of problem solving interview questions put you on the spot during an interview. But it is one that is often asked. It might be about how you increased sales. Or reorganized something that wasn’t working well such as team conflict.

Start with the background – the situation you found that needed work and what part you played in it. Tell the story about what you did and then the outcome. What made you proud of this? As a behavioral question, this needs some preparation so plan your answer well before the interview itself.

  1. Please tell us the best idea you think you came up in your previous job.

The employer is looking at how you see yourself, as well as how you may have improved something in your last job. So this is mainly about how proactive you are. It may relate to something you did to improve yourself or the workplace – such as training. Your answer will also provide your interviewer with a sense of how you see yourself. In other words, why is it ‘the best’ idea?

  1. Can you tell us about a time when you saw a problem coming and what you did?

Problem solving is a skill, but the ability to foresee a problem and help prevent it is something that employers value a lot. Employers want to feel they have the staff members who are prepared to go out of their way to solve problems before they impact on operations or the bottom line. Like many of the other questions, this is about your initiative. Do not, especially in China, criticize others in your responses. It is not a good look.

  1. How do you build a troubleshooting process?

Ideally, this would mean coming up with methodical, logical, and well-structured steps that make things run smoothly. This is about your ability to plan and organize. But remember, all things should be reviewed and tested from time to time. Situations change and so troubleshooting processes also need to change if they’re not working. Make it clear that you understand how this whole process works and do not make it too complicated. It is about getting the job done.

  1. Could you please outline how you conduct risk management for personal/project performances?

Similar problem solving interview questions as these are designed to see how you plan. Remember that all risks are not bad – they can become opportunities. Gathering information and about and projects should be a regular thing in the workplace. Before any project the potential risks with both people and the project should be identified in different ways and then communicated. Obviously you would explain that you spend more time on the risks that potentially have more devastating results!

problem solving interview questions

  1. Tell me about a recommendation that was put in place following your risk assessment.

This question is asked to work out whether you can come up with workable solutions that satisfy an employer. Have you created workable solutions in the workplace? Your example must show clearly how the recommendation made people and things work more efficiently.

For most of these problem solving interview questions, you are being asked to show how creative you are and how you have initiative. So do not given vague answers like ‘most of the time I…’ . Also do not give your opinion (‘I believe…’). What the interviewer wants to hear for most of these questions is: the situation, what you did and the result.

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