Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

Depending upon your industry, you may be asked to answer problem-solving questions at some point during your interview with a hiring manager. These questions are common in IT, engineering, and other technical sectors where strong data analysis and problem-solving competencies are essential. However, once in a while, you’ll be asked to field a problem-solving interview question even if you aren’t in a strictly technical discipline.

Here’s how to prepare so that you’ll be able to “think on your feet” should a problem-solving question be asked.

Why Companies Ask Problem-Solving Questions

Problem-solving questions often fall into the category of interview questions without a right (or wrong) answer. Companies seek proactive, solutions-oriented employees for many of the jobs they are filling, and are more interested i n the approach you’d take to solve a problem than they are in you providing the “correct” answer.

These types of questions are good examples of situational interview questions. Employers try to predict how you could solve a work problem for them in the future, based upon how you have either done so in the past or are currently doing so in the interview.

These questions may also be asked to assess your command of a key industry-specific process or technology. This holds true especially for interviews conducted by tech employers. If you are in a technical field, be ready to discuss how you would solve common project development, implementation problems, or obstacles.

Techniques for Answering Problem-Solving Interview Questions

How you should answer a problem-solving question will depend upon whether you are participating in a solo or a group interview.

Tips for Problem Solving in a Solo Interview

If you are asked to solve a problem in a solo interview, it’s an excellent strategy to demonstrate how you are able to follow the five primary steps in problem solving:
  • Analyze the factors that caused the problem.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Evaluate the cost and potential viability of these solutions.
  • Implement a plan.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your intervention.
Alternatively, you may be asked how you solved a problem in the past. The Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) interview response technique is a highly effective way to structure a detailed anecdote in response to a situational or a behavioral interview question. In this technique, you describe: 
  • A Situation (S) in which a problem arose
  • The Task (T) — in this case, a problem that you had to solve
  • The Action (A) or process you initiated to solve the problem
  • The Results (R) of your problem-solving action