Someone that can make decisions using logic and problem solving skills is someone that is going to be far more successful than someone that is overwhelmed and chooses their decisions mostly at random. While no one actually makes decisions truly randomly, the better you are at describing your process, the more confident that employers will be with your abilities. That’s why you’re likely to get many different interview questions about problem solving, including questions about how you think about a problem before actually loving it.
Behavioral Interview Question: What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision? Why?
This is a tough question for most people to answer. You essentially have to avoid the obvious response – “I just make decisions,” – and try to come up with a formal process for thought. Luckily, the answer the employer is looking for is a bit more obvious. They are looking for someone that says some variation of:
- I look for historical averages and/or past instances of this problem and their outcome.
- I consult with the right people who have both relevant knowledge and experience.
- I create some type of spreadsheet that weighs the pros and cons.
This is oversimplified, to be sure, but they are essentially looking for you to have a formalized process that makes sense, and that you don’t ask everyone for help all the time.
An example answer includes:
“When the problem is work related, I try to see what has been done in the past at the company, and then compare the actual outcome to the ideal outcome. Most problems that occur in any company have already happened before, so I take what has happened into consideration, look at the outcome, compare that to the strategies that make the most logical sense, and then apply a solution. If it’s a recurring problem, I’ll also take note of the response and bring it to management so that we can try to avoid the problem again in the future.”
Ideally you can use specific details, or maybe a past example, but this generic style answer will tick the box for the interviewer, who is looking for an awareness of problem solving strategies. Notice also the end of the answer, where you talk about your strategies to avoid future problems. All employers love to hear what you will do to make sure that they are problem free in the future, so adding some type of story about following up and problem prevention is worthwhile.
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