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26 Good Examples of Problem Solving (Interview Answers)

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good examples of problem solving for job interviews and cover letters

Employers like to hire people who can solve problems and work well under pressure. A job rarely goes 100% according to plan, so hiring managers will be more likely to hire you if you seem like you can handle unexpected challenges while staying calm and logical in your approach.

But how do they measure this?

They’re going to ask you interview questions about these problem solving skills, and they might also look for examples of problem solving on your resume and cover letter. So coming up, I’m going to share a list of examples of problem solving, whether you’re an experienced job seeker or recent graduate.

Then I’ll share sample interview answers to, “Give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem?”

Examples of Problem Solving Scenarios in the Workplace

Problem Solving Examples for Recent Grads/Entry Level Job Seekers

You can share all of the examples above when you’re asked questions about problem solving in your interview. As you can see, even if you have no professional work experience, it’s possible to think back to problems and unexpected challenges that you faced in your studies and discuss how you solved them.

Interview Answers to “Give an Example of an Occasion When You Used Logic to Solve a Problem”

Now, let’s look at some sample interview answers to, “Give me an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem,” since you’re likely to hear this interview question in all sorts of industries.

Example Answer 1:

At my current job, I recently solved a problem where a client was upset about our software pricing. They had misunderstood the sales representative who explained pricing originally, and when their package renewed for its second month, they called to complain about the invoice. I apologized for the confusion and then spoke to our billing team to see what type of solution we could come up with. We decided that the best course of action was to offer a long-term pricing package that would provide a discount. This not only solved the problem but got the customer to agree to a longer-term contract, which means we’ll keep their business for at least one year now, and they’re happy with the pricing. I feel I got the best possible outcome and the way I chose to solve the problem was effective.

Example Answer 2:

In my last job, I had to do quite a bit of problem solving related to our shift scheduling. We had four people quit within a week and the department was severely understaffed. I coordinated a ramp-up of our hiring efforts, I got approval from the department head to offer bonuses for overtime work, and then I found eight employees who were willing to do overtime this month. I think the key problem solving skills here were taking initiative, communicating clearly, and reacting quickly to solve this problem before it became an even bigger issue.

Example Answer 3:

In my current marketing role, my manager asked me to come up with a solution to our declining social media engagement. I assessed our current strategy and recent results, analyzed what some of our top competitors were doing, and then came up with an exact blueprint we could follow this year to emulate our best competitors but also stand out and develop a unique voice as a brand. I feel this is a good example of using logic to solve a problem because it was based on analysis and observation of competitors, rather than guessing or quickly reacting to the situation without reliable data. I always use logic and data to solve problems when possible. The project turned out to be a success and we increased our social media engagement by an average of 82% by the end of the year.

Answering Questions About Problem Solving with the STAR Method

When you answer interview questions about problem solving scenarios, or if you decide to demonstrate your problem solving skills in a cover letter (which is a good idea any time the job description mention problem solving as a necessary skill), I recommend using the STAR method to tell your story.

STAR stands for:

It’s a simple way of walking the listener or reader through the story in a way that will make sense to them. So before jumping in and talking about the problem that needed solving, make sure to describe the general situation. What job/company were you working at? When was this? Then, you can describe the task at hand and the problem that needed solving. After this, describe the course of action you chose and why. Ideally, show that you evaluated all the information you could given the time you had, and made a decision based on logic and fact.

Finally, describe a positive result you got.

Whether you’re answering interview questions about problem solving or writing a cover letter, you should only choose examples where you got a positive result and successfully solved the issue.

What Are Good Outcomes of Problem Solving?

Whenever you answer interview questions about problem solving or share examples of problem solving in a cover letter, you want to be sure you’re sharing a positive outcome.

Below are good outcomes of problem solving:

Every employer wants to make more money, save money, and save time. If you can assess your problem solving experience and think about how you’ve helped past employers in those three areas, then that’s a great start. That’s where I recommend you begin looking for stories of times you had to solve problems.

Tips to Improve Your Problem Solving Skills

Throughout your career, you’re going to get hired for better jobs and earn more money if you can show employers that you’re a problem solver. So to improve your problem solving skills, I recommend always analyzing a problem and situation before acting. When discussing problem solving with employers, you never want to sound like you rush or make impulsive decisions. They want to see fact-based or data-based decisions when you solve problems. Next, to get better at solving problems, analyze the outcomes of past solutions you came up with. You can recognize what works and what doesn’t. Think about how you can get better at researching and analyzing a situation, but also how you can get better at communicating, deciding the right people in the organization to talk to and “pull in” to help you if needed, etc. Finally, practice staying calm even in stressful situations. Take a few minutes to walk outside if needed. Step away from your phone and computer to clear your head. A work problem is rarely so urgent that you cannot take five minutes to think (with the possible exception of safety problems), and you’ll get better outcomes if you solve problems by acting logically instead of rushing to react in a panic.

You can use all of the ideas above to describe your problem solving skills when asked interview questions about the topic. If you say that you do the things above, employers will be impressed when they assess your problem solving ability.

If you practice the tips above, you’ll be ready to share detailed, impressive stories and problem solving examples that will make hiring managers want to offer you the job. Every employer appreciates a problem solver, whether solving problems is a requirement listed on the job description or not. And you never know which hiring manager or interviewer will ask you about a time you solved a problem, so you should always be ready to discuss this when applying for a job.

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Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.

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This list of functional words was professionally selected to be the most useful for a child or adult who has difficulty with problem solving scenarios.

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Home practice will make progress toward meeting individual language goals much faster.

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are only able to see students/clients 30-60 mins (or less) per week. This is not enough time or practice for someone to handle Problem solving scenarios.

Every day that your loved one goes without practice it becomes more difficult to help them. 

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Problem Solving Skills & Examples

Problem Solving Skills & Examples

Updated January 11, 2023

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There are many definitions of problem-solving – but at a basic level, it focuses on the ability to accurately assess a situation and arrive at a positive solution.

Solving problems is an analytical skill that many employers look for when reviewing candidate application forms.

This particular skill isn’t restricted to a single sector, industry or role, though employers in the engineering and legal industries, in particular, tend to look for proficiency.

Consequently, questions about your problem-solving ability are commonplace in interviews.

Strong problem-solving skills can be hugely beneficial for your career. In every sector, problems are inevitable and will arise in one form or another as you go about your day-to-day duties.

When problems do occur, employees are expected to use their initiative and develop suitable solutions to avoid the situation escalating into something more serious.

What Kind of Problems Typically Arise in a Professional Context?

There are many situations where problems could present themselves in the workplace, from a client's concern through to assisting a technical team resolve a website or database error.

The issues that you come across will often vary in complexity, with some situations requiring a simple solution and others demanding more thought and skill to overcome.

Business managers will spend a lot of their time solving problems and consequently require their employees to be creative and intuitive when it comes to addressing them.

Being confident in your approach is really important, and as you learn which processes are most effective to overcome obstacles, so your confidence will grow.

Without suitable processes in place, your solutions may fail or they could even create additional problems.

A good problem-solving process involves four fundamental stages: problem definition , devising alternatives , evaluating alternatives and then implementing the most viable solutions .

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Managers are looking for recruits who can be creative and intuitive when it comes to addressing business problems.

How to Improve Problem-Solving Skills

There are several ways you can improve problem-solving skills. It helps to approach each problem through a series of logical steps.

First, identify what the problem is. This requires examining a particular situation to determine what specifically is causing the problem.

Rather than looking at a problematic situation as a whole (for example, a customer is upset), try to break it down and determine the cause of the problem (why is the customer upset?).

The Five Whys (or 5 Whys) technique can be helpful here, which essentially involves asking 'why' five times to determine the root of a problem.

There may be several elements causing the problem or one specific element. Either way, breaking a problem down into smaller parts makes it much easier to solve each of the elements or issues contributing to the problem.

Next, come up with a range of potential solutions. Techniques such as problem tree analysis and mind mapping can help to lay out problem elements and potential solutions.

Some of the potential solutions won't be as effective as others, and that's okay. The goal at this stage is to evaluate each potential solution and determine which one is likely to be the most effective at solving the problem. You may require several different solutions to solve different elements of the problem as a whole.

Once you have decided on a solution, follow a step-by-step plan to implement that solution. Just as breaking down a problem into key elements makes it easier to identify solutions, an action plan with various steps makes it easier to implement those solutions.

What Are Problem-Solving Questions?

Questions about problem-solving will typically arise within a competency -based interview and will require you to demonstrate your particular approach.

Questions about problem-solving can be asked in a range of different ways, but some common examples of problem-solving are:

Why Are Employers Interested in Testing Your Problem-Solving Skills?

Effective problem-solving requires a combination of creative thinking and sound analytical skills . Employers look for hires who can demonstrate each of these skills in the workplace to deliver positive outcomes.

Managers would far rather employ a member of staff who can take action to resolve a problem than someone who doesn't act and relies on someone else to think of a solution. Even if it isn't outlined as a requirement in a job description, many employers will still be evaluating your problem-solving ability throughout the application process.

Effective problem solvers are those who can apply logic and imagination to make sense of the situation and develop a solution that works. Even if it doesn't prove as successful as you had hoped, resilience is important, so you can reassess the situation and try an alternative.

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What Form Do Problem-Solving Questions Take?

If problem-solving skills are an integral part of your role, it is likely that you will have to complete some kind of assessment during the application process. There are a number of forms that a problem-solving question can take, but the majority of them will be scenario-based .

Employers may base problem-solving questions around three main areas:

Past Challenges

Some employers believe that the way you approached a situation in the past is a good indicator of how you will approach a challenging situation in the future. Therefore the best way to understand how someone would respond to a specific scenario is to ask a question such as 'explain an occasion when…’

As the employer wants to assess your problem-solving skills, they may ask you to outline a situation where something went wrong and what happened. This could be an example of a time when you faced something unexpected, or you were approached by a client about a concern.

Situations Specific to the Job

Managers will often relate one or more questions to the role you are applying for. Sometimes this may take the form of a question about what the applicant would do if they had too much or too little work to complete.

These types of questions usually begin with the recruiter asking how you would deal with a specific situation followed by some kind of challenge. For example, how you would deal with a colleague who was relying on you to do all of the work or falling short of a target.

Questions Throughout the Application Process

Although these aren't questions as such, they may be used by some recruiters to see how you handle unexpected changes. This could be rearranging the time of your interview or sending an email without attaching something important. Both of these - even if they are unintentional - could be used as a way to assess how you approach something that is unforeseen.

How to Answer Problem-Solving Questions

If you know that you are likely to face problem-solving questions in the application process, it’s good practice to research the typical questions and scenarios that candidates are presented with.

This will not only increase your confidence but also help you to refine your answers and provide a stronger response.

In this section we provide three examples of common questions and suitable responses:

You have been asked to schedule in a rush project but you cannot complete the piece of work you need to, since you require information from another colleague who is not currently available. How would you deal with the situation?

You are working on a project and halfway through you realise that you have made a significant mistake that may require you to restart the project to resolve it. How would you approach this so you still met the deadline?

How would you deal with a customer who wasn't happy with your service, even though you haven't done anything wrong and it is the customer who has made the mistake?

Tips, Common Mistakes and Further Practice

When it comes to answering questions about problem-solving skills, we recommend the following;

Select a strong example that truly demonstrates your problem-solving ability in a positive manner.

Choose examples that are relevant to the job you are applying for . If you are applying for a project-based position, give an example of how you resolved a problem with a work or academic project.

Be specific with your responses and use an example with enough detail to show how you approach situations and the way you think. Take the time to come up with possible answers and scenarios before the interview .

Make sure the problem is unique . If you have a problem, simply calling someone else to solve it is not impressive. The best answers will show tailored solutions to tasks that may seem mundane.

Make sure the problem is simple . If you have switched from a legal career to an engineering career and your problem is legal in nature, ensure your problem is easy to understand and explain it to your interviewer without using jargon.

Choose a weak or boring problem , or one that reflects you in a negative way.

Generalise your answers with responses such as ‘you consider yourself to be a great problem solver’ or ‘you regularly solve problems’. You need to demonstrate how you solve problems effectively.

Raise any areas of concern by giving examples of negative situations that were a result of your own actions , even if you solved a problem successfully.

No matter how interesting the story that you have to tell is, don’t spend too much time providing too much detail , because the recruiter will soon get bored. Keep your answer short and to the point.

How to Demonstrate Problem-Solving in Your CV or Cover Letter

During your written application and at interview, employers will expect you to evidence your problem-solving skills. In your written application you should demonstrate them via relevant keywords, statements and achievements. If you solved a problem and it had a positive impact on the business – such as improved customer service standards or resource savings – say so on your CV.

If you are invited to an interview try to use the STAR technique to structure your answers. This technique focuses your responses on a Situation, Task, Action and Result. Following this process will help your answers to be focused, concise and strong.

Where problem-solving is a main element of your role, an employer may incorporate a relevant psychometric test and/or an activity to carefully assess your problem-solving skills.

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Problem-Solving Interview Questions and Answers

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How to Nail your next Technical Interview

You may be missing out on a 66.5% salary hike*, nick camilleri, how many years of coding experience do you have, free course on 'sorting algorithms' by omkar deshpande (stanford phd, head of curriculum, ik).

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What are problem-solving skills? (Examples included!)

Life in the 21st century is all about efficiency and development. The unending quench of discovering the unknown, materializing one dream after another, has helped push the limits through the sky. But have you ever thought what the key to all of these astronomical successes is?

It is the zeal to solve a problem with the resources available to generate the best possible results. 

Here's what this article will cover:

What are problem-solving skills, how do problem-solving skills help or act as your pillars of success, how do employers assess your problem-solving skills.

Skills to hone for an apt solution-finder

Examples of problem-solving techniques.

Dos and Don'ts in interviews

How to improve your problem-solving skills?

How to highlight problem-solving skills.

Problem-solving is hunting; it is a savage pleasure, and we are born to it." –Thomas Harris .

The truth is, problem-solving skills are acquirable for some people while others adapt to it like fish in the water. Working in IT, web development, coding, machine learning, and the likes demand the ability to make decisions at a moment's notice.

So, do you want to back off when the time comes or take it up as a challenge? 

Brush up your problem-solving skills or better, enhance them, and make them your forte by reading this article. No technical interview preparation guide is complete without tips to improve such problem-solving skills.

Also read: Why do FAANG companies test for problem-solving skills in their interviews.

Larry and his team suddenly face a major crisis. Not a single developer in his team who is good with String is coming to the office, but there is an urgent client requirement. Larry asks his team if anybody is confident enough to pull it through, and surprisingly, he sees one solitary hand of Jim in the mix. But it is a 4-men job, at least. Realizing that there is no way out other than working with another team(s), he wastes no time. He sends out emails to other teams asking for at least two more developers, counting himself and Jim. 4 more fellow coders came to the rescue and delivered the project before the deadline! 

Problem-solving skills enable you to observe the situation and determine the contributing factors of the issue. Identifying the root cause and the ability to take necessary steps with available resources are integral in finessing your problem-solving ability.

All  technical interview preparation courses , therefore, cover this crucial aspect. 

Employers seek problem-solving skills in their employees. And why not? 

Who wouldn't want to have an efficient employee like Larry? The knack of not backing down from a challenge is the perfect catalyst for business expansion.

Problem-solving skills help you attain insight into the source of the problem and figuring out an ideal solution. However, several skills and their correct implementation are essential, which are listed below.

Employers today prioritize hiring people with soft skills like problem-solving abilities to maximize business output even when the going gets tough. Your problem-solving ability is judged based on:

Steps to execute problem-solving skills 

"We cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created them." – Albert Einstein

James was getting an error code during the execution of specific UI updates. He started analyzing the code and rechecking the repository for any possible mistake. To his delight, his hunch turned out to be accurate. He immediately made the necessary changes, and the updates were successfully executed. 

Analysis of contributing factors and its repercussions in the ebb and flow of the task is a preliminary attribute of an able problem-solver. To acquire perfection in analysis and problem-solving skills, you must ensure a thorough:

Working at a software development firm, Donald is perturbed by the lack of advancement in the deep learning project. Lack of idea and innovation is leading to nowhere. He decided that enough is enough. He asked for a group session to brainstorm in the hope of generating some leads. The session was a huge success, and Donald was finally able to catch a breather. 

It is not an unknown fact that 'we' is always more productive than 'I' under any circumstance.  

Utilizing the versatility of your available resources with the help of various sessions can work miracles. Such sessions can be for:

This is more up the alley for managers and team leads. To become adept at evaluating solutions, one must gain prolonged experience in corporate decision-making. The evaluation process needs to consider potential costs, available resources, and possible hurdles of project completion.

Remember Donald?  

Yes, he is a team lead, and therefore, he had the authority to initiate a brainstorming session with multiple teams to bring in new ideas. 

The secret to evaluating solutions?

Choosing the right course of action is the preliminary step to solve the problems. The success of the execution is streamlined with the help of quality benchmarks to indicate its effectiveness.

"A problem is a chance for you to do the best!" – Duke Ellington .

Knowing the right people to do it for you is essential for successful implementation. It is also crucial that you are accustomed to your organization's operating procedures before you formulate the best possible strategy. 

Skills you need are:

An ideal way to detect whether a solution is effective or not is to check if the problem still exists after applying the solution. Benchmarks need to be set as per organizational standards to help them assess the situation and if any further changes are required in the interim. 

"A problem well stated is a problem half solved." –John Dewey

Sam has come to an interview for a team-lead profile. The recruiter asks a situation-based problem in regards to machine learning software. Though tricky, Sam knew the exact way around for the problem and answered it precisely to the point. The recruiter is delighted and hires Sam for the position. 

Tom has been applying frantically for a job since he moved to Arizona but seemed unable to find just the right one. When he sees his attempts are futile, he decides to add some of his previous company's achievements, thinking it might help. Oh, boy, did it help! Tom writes about when he was asked to handle a team of 12 single-handedly while his manager suddenly went on a sabbatical. Tom had no prior experience of leading a team but appeared to come out of this fix with flying colors. 

Megan is currently looking for a step up in her career. She carefully drafts a cover letter that entails her achievements with clarity. The cover letter explained her contributions in reviving team spirit in the office after her predecessor, with his poor man-management, had successfully built a wall of distrust among the employees.  

If you are adequately seasoned with problem-solving skills with dedication and practice, you're already almost there. Proper interview preparation tips can further help you in this regard.

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71+ Free Social Problem-Solving Scenarios

Do you have kiddos who struggle with their social problem-solving skills? Teach your students the simple process of how to solve a problem along with having them review how well their solution worked or didn’t work.

Learning to problem solve is an essential skill that is used not only throughout childhood but also into adulthood. Social problem solving is the ability to change or adapt to undesirable situations that arise throughout our day. On a daily basis, a child will encounter social problems that they will need to solve. Anything from arguing with another student, to hurting a friend’s feelings, to having a difficult conversation, or working with others.

Start with Small Problems

Many of the “problems” children encounter are often small problems which the child may be over-reacting to, such as wanting a different coloring crayon or wanting to be first in line, however, these small problems are still very real to the child. Practicing problem-solving with these small problems can be a great learning opportunity. Children can practice problem-solving with a small problem which can help them learn how to handle bigger problems in the future.

Problem Solving Importance

Social problem-solving skills are critical to a child’s social interactions, personal and professional relationships. A child’s ability to handle change, cope with stress, and handle challenges improves with a child’s ability to successfully solve social problems.

The ultimate goal is that the child will be able to solve social problems all on their own, but until they can independently solve a problem they will need to learn how to communicate and self-advocate to positively solve their problems.  

Students with Autism Problem Solving

Students with autism and other social challenges need to learn to problem solve as well. These social problem-solving skills will help them throughout their childhood and into their adulthood. Children can be taught how to problem solve through a guided process of breaking down the problem and using simple steps to solve the problem. Learning specific steps to problem-solving can allow children to remember how to solve a problem when they become overwhelmed or stressed. Although learning to solve a problem independently can take some time and practice it is well worth the investment to have a child who can eventually solve most social situations in a positive manner on their own.

Make Problem Solving Easier with this Freebie!

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Teach your students the 4 steps to becoming a social problem-solver.

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What we learnt about solving problems is don't freak out, if one thing doesn't work , try something else out. And work together as a team. #melthammathsweek #MELTHAMPUPILVOICE @problemsolveit — yr6melthamce (@yr6melthamce) February 4, 2019

Problem Solving Review Form

After your students go through the social problem-solver have them use the social problem-solving review form.


71+ Social Problem Scenarios + 6 Blank Scenarios

Use the 71 social problem-solving scenarios to have your students get great experience practicing how to solve a social problem. Also, included are 6 blank scenarios. Then laminate them so you can use them over and over again. Therefore, create social problems that the student experiences and needs help solving.

Problem Solving Scenarios

Wordless Video teaching Problem Solving

Watch this super cute wordless animation with your students and have them discuss the problem they see and how to best solve the problem.

Use this as a fun practice example to get your students started towards learning how to problem-solve.

Demonstrate Through Modeling

Teach Communication

Encourage Independency

Teach How to Disagree and How to Make Up

Get your free social problem solver today!

I hope you and your students love this freebie!

Students are really having to stretch their brains today. It's @NSPCC #NumberDay and @problemsolveit are challenging Y9 and 10 to solve the escape room boxes. It's not as easy as it looks! The promise of a few sweet treats for the winners seems to be helping though! — CongletonHS (@CongletonHS) February 2, 2018

Have your students use task card scenarios to help them identify how they and others might feel in different social scenarios. Be sure to discuss the problem, identify possible solutions, identify the consequences of those possible solutions, and then based on those consequences pick the best solution. Make social problem-solving a game by telling the students that they are social detectives and that it is their job to use what they know about social rules to help them identify the possible and best solutions. Start practicing today with 71+ free social problem social task cards! Do your students need more practice? Be sure to check out my other freebie for 31 wordless animated videos to teach problem-solving and so much more.

Get More Problem Solving Time Saving Materials

Next, be sure to check out the following time-saving materials to continue to teach your students how to solve their social problems in addition to this freebie.

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I recommend you read Problem Solving Wheel: Help Kids Solve Their Own Problems , 61+ Free Fillable SLP Planner Pages 2020-2021 , 430+ Free Multisyllabic Words List Activity Bundle , or 432+ Free IEP Goal Bank to Save You Time posts because they include freebies as well and who doesn’t want more freebies!

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Monday 30th of January 2023

Hello! I have entered my name and email twice (yesterday & today) to receive to 71+ Free Social Problem-Solving Senarios, but I have not received anything yet. Not even an email back to mine in order to subcribe. Thanks for your help! Tracy

Melissa Berg

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Hi Tracy, Thanks so much for reaching out! Sorry about that. We went ahead and sent you an email with the PDF attached. Wishing you all my best, Melissa

Problem Solving Skills

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

I truly love your site. Excellent colors, theme and writing. Thanks for sharing.

Laura Ricca

Monday 11th of April 2022

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

Hi Laura, I'm glad you found this resource helpful. Melissa

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Problem Solving Wheel: Help Kids Solve Their Own Problems - Speech Therapy Store

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10 Examples of Problem Solving for Job Candidates

10 Examples of Problem Solving for Job Candidates

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What is one good example of problem-solving that a candidate can reference in a job interview?

It’s common interview advice you’ve likely heard before: provide specific examples of your past accomplishments. Need some help narrowing down just which accomplishment you should share during an interview? Try referencing a time when you provided a solution to a tricky business-oriented problem.

This is sure to impress any interviewer, but don’t take our word for it. Here are 10 recruiters weighing in with examples they’d love to hear when interviewing candidates.

Sold reluctant team members on a new process, rescued the team from a website crash, got creative with a limited, tight budget, discovered & corrected their own mistake, delivered on a time-crunch deadline with limited resources, a comeback from a lagging project to on-time delivery, didn’t let conflict indefinitely stall a project, thought outside of the box for an innovative solution, used a competitor’s mistake as a learning opportunity, sought external partnership to address a budget crunch.

A good example of problem-solving is when a candidate I was interviewing for a position told me about the situation in which he was working with a team, and he wanted to implement a new process, but the whole team was against it. The candidate was able to go around and talk to each person on the team individually, work out their concerns and then present that information in a way that everyone could understand and agree with. This allowed the team to progress on the project, which helped them meet deadlines and ultimately implement the new process.

This is a great example, and especially so with how he described it in an engaging and convincing storytelling fashion. It shows that the candidate can work with people from all different backgrounds and personalities. It also shows that he has the ability to listen, understand, and communicate effectively in order to get a problem solved while working in a team.

Shaun Connell, Connell Media

situation for problem solving

Discuss an unexpected challenge that you handled without managerial input. For example, maybe the website crashed or some site assets were delayed for a new product launch. How did you come to the rescue for your team and use your problem-solving skills to find a resolution? This shows that you can take initiative and don’t panic at the sight of conflict.

Natália Sadowski, Nourishing Biologicals

One great example of problem-solving a candidate can reference in a job interview is a time they worked through a limited budget. Finding creative solutions to money problems is always a desired characteristic, even outside accounting. It shows a candidate knows how to make use of what they have. Specific examples of resourcefulness will also go a long way in an interview.

Sasha Ramani, MPOWER Financing

Problem-solving requires multiple reasoning stages—from recognizing the problem, analyzing it, looking for a solution, and finding the winning one. Sharing how you fixed your own mistake is probably the best way to include all of those elements. If you talk about your own experience, you can describe how you discovered your error and your step-by-step journey to finding the appropriate solution. This story is double-beneficial. Besides showing your problem-solving skills, it shows that you are an ambitious, independent employee.

Karolina Zajac, PhotoAiD

A job candidate can reference an instance where they resolved a time-management problem. While this is specific to each applicant, it can be a situation where a deadline was crucial and resources were lacking. Describe how you resolved the resource issue to meet the product or service deadline along with the results afterward. Your answer should describe the steps you took to resolve the problem as well as how you came up with the solution to meet the need.

Tanya Klien, Anta Plumbing

The interviewer likes to hear a story that demonstrates you can face obstacles under pressure while working well with others. Speak briefly to a project and what proved challenging. For example, you can talk about a specific social media campaign that required involvement from many different departments. You realized that some of the departments were behind the deadline, so you arranged one-on-one meetings with them. You heard these workers out on how you can help them get the job done on time and scheduled follow-up meetings to check their progress. The project was delivered on time.

Monte Deere, Kizik

situation for problem solving

A fantastic problem-solving example to use in a job interview is conflict resolution. Tackling disagreements between others whether they include you or not can show off valuable skills that an employer would be interested in. It shows that you are adaptable and have excellent negotiation skills, making yourself that much more attractive as a candidate. Think of any kind of disagreement that could have stalled the progress of work and explain how you went about efficiently addressing everyone’s grievances and how the conflict was ultimately resolved.

Adrien Dissous, Babo Botanicals

Refer to a situation where, thanks to thinking out of the box, you were able to come up with a new, innovative solution never used before. Be specific about the problem in question and explain why solving it mattered. Don’t forget to mention how proud you felt once your idea turned out to be successful. The given example covers a wide range of aspects worth noting by potential employers.

Actually, you indirectly show that you are determined, creative, and willing to improve your work environment. An action-driven approach, not standing still, and willingness to find the “ways out” are precious. Therefore, they should be valued and appreciated in all workplaces as the benefits they may bring are universal.

Agata Szczepanek, Resume Now

You don’t have to be an expert to give a generic problem-solving example. Such as, you might explain your approach to a problem by pointing out a mistake made by a competitor and how you would have handled the situation differently. If the same situation occurs at your new company, mention what you learned from the mistake and how you plan to handle it.

Jon Torres, Jon Torres

situation for problem solving

To showcase your problem-solving skills, the best example is about saving money for the organization. You can think of a situation where the lack of funds could drop or decrease the company’s profits. You can start by giving the background about how the lack of funds occurred and how you solved the issue. A typical example can be as simple as a department facing a money crunch due to previous delayed payments.

This is an especially difficult time as new projects often need new and costly pieces of equipment. But the lack of funds resulted in you digging up and finding a collaborative partner for an organization that helped complete the work with minimum investments. A situation like this will make the current recruiter aware of your management skills and dedication to saving money, allowing the organization to prosper.

Nathan Hughes, Art Ignition

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Problem solving: the mark of an independent employee

Problem-solving abilities are essential in virtually any graduate role you can think of. Discover how to develop your problem-solving skills and demonstrate them to eagle-eyed recruiters.

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Interviewers will be interested to discover how you'd approach problems that could arise in the workplace.

Problem solving is all about using logic, as well as imagination, to make sense of a situation and come up with an intelligent solution. In fact, the best problem solvers actively anticipate potential future problems and act to prevent them or to mitigate their effects.

Problem-solving abilities are connected to a number of other skills, including:

Identifying a problem is often the kernel for a new business or product idea – and, as such, problem solving is an essential ingredient of entrepreneurialism . It is also a key component of good leadership .

Short on time? Watch our one-minute guide to problem solving


Our targetjobs careers expert gives you a quick guide to showing off your problem-solving skills in a job interview.

Why all graduates require problem-solving skills in the workplace

Some graduate careers revolve around finding solutions – for example, engineering , management consulting , scientific research and technology . Graduates in other careers, meanwhile, will be expected to solve problems that crop up in the course of their jobs: for example, trainee managers should deal with operational problems (such as delays in the supply chain) or resolve conflict between team members.

In fact, the ability to solve problems is an essential part of any employee’s skill set, even if it isn’t specified on the job description.

How to improve your problem-solving skills

Get the insights and skills you need to shape your career journey with Pathways. Learn and practise a selection of simple yet effective reasoning strategies to take your problem solving to the next level.

How will employers assess your problem-solving skills?

Your problem-solving abilities can be assessed in three ways: by asking for examples of times when you previously solved a problem; by presenting you with certain hypothetical situations and asking how you would respond to them; and by seeing how you apply your problem-solving skills to different tests and exercises.

Competency-based application and interview questions about problem solving

You may be asked for an example of when you solved a problem on an application form – for instance, an engineering firm’s application form has previously included the question ‘Please tell us about a time when you have used your technical skills and knowledge to solve a problem’. But these questions are more likely at interview. Typical problem-solving competency-based questions include:

Hypothetical interview questions about problem solving

Interviewers will also be interested to know how you would approach problems that could arise when you are in the workplace. The precise interview questions will vary according to the job, but common ones include:

Problem-solving exercises and tests for graduate jobs

Different tests that employers could set to gauge your problem-solving skills include:

How to develop and demonstrate your problem-solving skills

Here are some tips on how to develop the problem-solving techniques employers look for.

Seek out opportunities to gain problem-solving examples

Dealing with any of the following situations will help you gain problem-solving skills, perhaps without even realising it:

There should also be opportunities for you to develop problem-solving skills through your studies. Many assignments in subjects such as engineering and computer science are explicitly based around solving a problem in a way that, for example, essay topics in English literature aren’t. But, then, English literature students may also encounter academic problems, such as difficulties in tracking down the best source material.

Some professional bodies (for example, those in construction) run competitions for students, which often ask students to suggest solutions for problems facing the industry; entering these can provide good evidence of your problem-solving skills.

Games such as Sudoku and chess can also strengthen your ability to think strategically and creatively.

Practise recruitment exercises beforehand

Any candidate, no matter how high-flying, may be thrown by undertaking an online test or attending an assessment centre for the first time, so do everything you can to practise beforehand. Access our links to free and paid-for practice tests. Contact your careers service and book in for a mock-interview or mock-assessment centre.

Keep in mind this problem-solving technique

If you’re provided with a scenario or a case study during the graduate recruitment process, you could try using the IDEAL model, described by Bransford and Stein in their book Ideal Problem Solver . It breaks down what you need to do to solve a problem into stages:

Give detail in your answers

You will need to explain how you identified the problem, came up with a solution and implemented it. Quantifiable results are good, and obviously the more complex the situation, the more impressive a successful result is. Follow the STAR technique outlined in our article on competency-based interview questions .

If you tackled a problem as part of a team, explain how your role was important in ensuring the positive solution, but also explain how your group worked together. This could be an opportunity to promote your teamworking skills as well.

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Answering Behavioral Interview Questions About Problem Solving Like a Pro

situation for problem solving

Many candidates prepare for interviews by focusing on highlighting soft skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication. They tend to ignore getting ready for problem-solving interview questions and that could prove to be a huge mistake.

If interviewers ask you about your problem-solving skills, it’s tough to wing it, especially if improv is not your strong suit. You’ll definitely want to be prepared, or you’ll end up mumbling your way through a weak answer. Even worse, you might just say nothing.

In this article, you’ll learn how to properly answer interview questions about problem-solving. Let’s begin!

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

Before we define problem-solving skills, we’ll first need to remind ourselves what a behavioral interview question is.

Behavioral interview questions are the ones that ask you for specific examples of past work experiences. Studies have shown that the best way for hiring managers to predict future job performance is by understanding past performance.

These behavioral questions typically start with “Tell me about a time…” or “Give me an example of…” Each question focuses on a desired competency area (a few examples: communication skills, time management, creativity).

Read our Behavioral Interview Questions 101 Guide for more.

“ Problem-solving skills” relate to your ability to identify issues, obstacles, and opportunities and then develop and implement effective solutions.”

Clearly, there are many different types of problem-solving — and different fields and types of companies prize different aspects of problem-solving. This is why some candidates stumble when trying to answer this question.

Here are just some of the competency areas that can be considered part of “problem-solving:”

As always, it’s important to thoroughly review the job description and try to understand what types of problems you would be solving in the role . This analysis will help you choose the examples from your past that are most likely to wow your interviewer.

Behavioral Questions About Problem Solving

Here are some popular behavioral questions related to the competency of problem-solving:

How to Answer Behavioral Questions About Problem Solving

You probably solve many problems in a typical week on the job. If you haven’t prepared in advance, this type of behavioral question can throw you off because it can be hard to pull up a strong example (and all of the relevant details) on the fly.

I highly recommend preparing a few stories about your greatest problem-solving hits. Think of the most impressive challenges that you’ve overcome, the most creative approaches, and the solutions that made the biggest difference for the organization. These can be job-specific problems or higher-level strategic issues.

As always, use the STAR format as a framework for your story. The STAR format will help you focus your thoughts and turn your example into an interesting (non-rambling) and convincing (impressive) story.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to write and memorize a script. With the STAR format, you can simply capture a few bullet points for each of the key aspects of your story (Situation/Task, Approach, and Results). This will allow you to keep your example concise while still hitting all of the key points that make you look good.

Sample Answer — “Tell Me About a Time You Had to Solve a Challenging Problem.”

Here’s an example that shows how the STAR format can be used specifically to detail a problem-solving experience

S/T (Situation/Task)

Give a brief overview of the project or situation. Provide only enough background to give context and help your interviewer understand the difficulty and importance.

Example Situation/Task Bullets

Why We Like Them

This is a nice concise overview of the candidate’s role, what the business problem was, and why it was important to the organization.

Notice that the candidate included a brief description of the company’s business and her team’s area of responsibility. This may not always be necessary, but don’t assume that the hiring manager knows all about your former company if it’s not a household name. I see this a lot with my coaching clients — they don’t provide enough information about the context of the problem and lose the listener.

Tip: Don’t give in to the temptation to pile on the details. You don’t need to fill the interviewer in on all of the different events and locations and agendas and speaker line-ups. You don’t have to share the history of the business development team or the detailed methodology behind tracking attendance. Stick to what’s relevant.

A (Approach)

— Once you’ve set up the problem, it’s time to walk through the key actions that you took to address it. What exactly did you do and why?

Example Approach Bullets

He gives us a step-by-step breakdown of how he analyzed the problem and how he came up with solutions. He makes it clear that he took initiative to understand the causes of the issue, listened to constructive feedback, made decisions, and took action.

R (Results)

Remember that a good STAR interview story always features a happy ending. The last part of your answer should describe the positive result(s) of the actions that you took. Hard numbers are always especially impressive (increased revenue by 41%, came in 20% under budget or 2 weeks ahead of schedule) , but anecdotal results can also be powerful (My client said I was a hero, my VP gave me a raise based on my stellar performance).

Example Results Bullets

This is indeed a happy ending. The candidate covers a couple of different positive outcomes:

Tip: It’s nice to have specific metrics around increased attendance and client evaluations, but the anecdotal results are also strong in this example. The CEO’s recognition shows that the project was important and that the results were valued by the company.

If you’d like to learn more about behavioral interview questions, we’ve made an awesome video that contains some super helpful advice. Check it out!

This is only one of the lessons you’ll have access to if you want to join Big Interview .

Also, you’ll be able to spruce up your answers with the Answer Builder. It’s a great tool if you’re looking to answer problem-solving questions like a pro and it’s extremely user-friendly.

Photo a Big Interview's Answer Builder start page.

Select Behavioral and you’ll be well on your way to crafting amazing answers.

Screenshot of Big Interview Answer Builder - Selecting Behavioral

It’s time to name your story. If you’re unsure how there’s a video on the page to help you.

Screenshot of Big Interview Answer Builder - Naming Your Story

You’ll want to describe your situation next. You could check out some more sample answers and learn how to outline the problem.

Screenshot of Big Interview Answer Builder - Describing Your Situation

After you’ve described your situation, give a detailed account of your approach, and mention the results and the competencies you’ve demonstrated. You’ll then be able to review your answers and improve them until you’re pleased.

Why Interviewers Ask About Problem Solving

Hiring managers ask behavioral questions about problem-solving to get a better understanding of how you work.

Are you a go-getter who proactively looks for ways to contribute? Are you someone who can be counted on to help the team perform better? Will you step up to improve things or sit around waiting for instructions?

The interviewer is likely looking for a general problem-solving orientation to your personality. For many jobs, the hiring manager is also looking for a proven track record in addressing the types of challenges that are common in the role.

For example, a customer service representative should be able to deal with an upset customer. A project manager should be able to handle a deadline change. A senior-level operations person should be able to fix an inefficient process.

Remember that you are probably competing for the job with many other qualified candidates . You probably all look pretty good on paper.

But which of you is most likely to step up and excel — to make the hiring manager look good and make her job easier? I’d always prefer to hire the proven problem solver — often even over someone with more education or experience.

More Tips for Handling Behavioral Questions About Problem Solving

1) select a strong example:.

Choose an example that truly demonstrates your problem-solving skills at their best. Don’t settle for a lame or boring problem — or one that makes you look bad. (“I kept oversleeping and getting to work late, so I decided to buy a better alarm clock.”)

Go with examples that are relevant for the job description. If you are interviewing for a job with a project management component, choose a time when you overcame an obstacle on an important project. If the posting stresses analytic skills, go with that time you used your Excel macro skills to save the day.

Don’t try to skate by with generalities like, “I consider myself a great problem solver. I solve problems every day in my job.” You’re not answering the question. Pick an example to illustrate your point.

Avoid raising red flag s by talking about problems that you caused or negatively contributed to. Remember that you want to be the hero in your interview stories whenever possible (we’ll talk about responding to behavioral questions about negative experiences in a future post).

2) Be Specific About Your Actions

To stand out from the crowd, you need to provide enough detail to give a sense of who you are and how you think. Many of my coaching clients have made the mistake of rushing through their stories and leaving out the most interesting and memorable details. Good stories offer an opportunity to connect with your interviewer. Give them some details that they can relate to.

Of course, you must also keep your story concise. It is easy to wander off into extraneous details if you haven’t prepared your stories in advance. The goal is to find a nice balance between interesting detail and conciseness. The beauty of the STAR format is that it keeps you focused .

Reminder: The STAR format isn’t about scripting and memorizing stories (and it’s certainly not about fiction writing). The example above is more scripted than you want or need. We did it this way to illustrate how the final delivery might sound.

When preparing your own STAR stories, it’s not necessary to write complete sentences with clean transitions. Just jot down the rough bullet points for each section. You want to create a framework that ensures you hit your key points, but your delivery will likely be a little bit different each time.

3) Practice

If you’re a regular reader, you know how we feel about the practice. Over several years of working with thousands of job seekers, I have seen the magic of practicing for the job interview , especially when it comes to answering behavioral questions.

I know that practice interviewing can feel awkward, but please don’t skip this step. It really does make a difference. Academic studies and my own experience consistently show that the candidates who practice land more job offers. Practice makes you more eloquent and more confident and will considerably increase your odds of getting hired.


Need a hand? There are 2 ways we can help you:

1. Learn how to turn more job interviews into job offers here . (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users) 2. Learn how to successfully negotiate a better salary. (Take a sneak peek of one lesson for free here )

Pamela Skillings

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Problem Solving Resources

Case studies, problem solving related topics.

What is Problem Solving?.

Quality Glossary Definition: Problem solving

Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.

Problem Solving visual

Problem Solving Chart

The Problem-Solving Process

In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below.

1. Define the problem

Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes .

The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps. These steps support the involvement of interested parties, the use of factual information, comparison of expectations to reality, and a focus on root causes of a problem. You should begin by:

2. Generate alternative solutions

Postpone the selection of one solution until several problem-solving alternatives have been proposed. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your ideal solution. Once you have decided on the "what should be" model, this target standard becomes the basis for developing a road map for investigating alternatives. Brainstorming and team problem-solving techniques are both useful tools in this stage of problem solving.

Many alternative solutions to the problem should be generated before final evaluation. A common mistake in problem solving is that alternatives are evaluated as they are proposed, so the first acceptable solution is chosen, even if it’s not the best fit. If we focus on trying to get the results we want, we miss the potential for learning something new that will allow for real improvement in the problem-solving process.

3. Evaluate and select an alternative

Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative. They consider the extent to which:

4. Implement and follow up on the solution

Leaders may be called upon to direct others to implement the solution, "sell" the solution, or facilitate the implementation with the help of others. Involving others in the implementation is an effective way to gain buy-in and support and minimize resistance to subsequent changes.

Regardless of how the solution is rolled out, feedback channels should be built into the implementation. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing of actual events against expectations. Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes.

You can also search articles , case studies , and publications  for problem solving resources.

Innovative Business Management Using TRIZ

Introduction To 8D Problem Solving: Including Practical Applications and Examples

The Quality Toolbox

Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action

One Good Idea: Some Sage Advice ( Quality Progress ) The person with the problem just wants it to go away quickly, and the problem-solvers also want to resolve it in as little time as possible because they have other responsibilities. Whatever the urgency, effective problem-solvers have the self-discipline to develop a complete description of the problem.

Diagnostic Quality Problem Solving: A Conceptual Framework And Six Strategies  ( Quality Management Journal ) This paper contributes a conceptual framework for the generic process of diagnosis in quality problem solving by identifying its activities and how they are related.

Weathering The Storm ( Quality Progress ) Even in the most contentious circumstances, this approach describes how to sustain customer-supplier relationships during high-stakes problem solving situations to actually enhance customer-supplier relationships.

The Right Questions ( Quality Progress ) All problem solving begins with a problem description. Make the most of problem solving by asking effective questions.

Solving the Problem ( Quality Progress ) Brush up on your problem-solving skills and address the primary issues with these seven methods.

Refreshing Louisville Metro’s Problem-Solving System  ( Journal for Quality and Participation ) Organization-wide transformation can be tricky, especially when it comes to sustaining any progress made over time. In Louisville Metro, a government organization based in Kentucky, many strategies were used to enact and sustain meaningful transformation.


Quality Improvement Associate Certification--CQIA

Certified Quality Improvement Associate Question Bank

Lean Problem-Solving Tools

Problem Solving Using A3

NEW   Root Cause Analysis E-Learning

Quality 101

Making the Connection In this exclusive QP webcast, Jack ReVelle, ASQ Fellow and author, shares how quality tools can be combined to create a powerful problem-solving force.

Adapted from The Executive Guide to Improvement and Change , ASQ Quality Press.

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10 Everyday uses for Problem Solving Skills

situation for problem solving

Many employers are recognizing the value and placing significant investments in developing the problem solving skills of their employees.  While we often think about these skills in the work context, problem solving isn’t just helpful in the workplace.  Here are 10 everyday uses for problem solving skills that can you may not have thought about

1. Stuck in traffic and late for work, again

With busy schedules and competing demands for your time, getting where you need to be on time can be a real challenge.  When traffic backs up, problem solving skills can help you figure out alternatives to avoid congestion, resolve the immediate situation and develop a solution to avoid encountering the situation in the future.

2. What is that stain on the living room carpet?

Parents, pet owners and spouses face this situation all the time.  The living room carpet was clean yesterday but somehow a mysterious stain has appeared and nobody is claiming it.  In order to clean it effectively, first you need to figure out what it is.  Problem solving can help you track down the culprit, diagnose the cause of the stain and develop an action plan to get your home clean and fresh again.

3. What is that smell coming from my teenage son’s room?

The problem solving parent knows from experience that the source of the funk is probably in the bottom of the closet or under the bed.  The challenge is figuring out how to contain and mitigate the impact and develop an actionable solution to avoid the situation in the future.

4. I don’t think the car is supposed to make that thumping noise

As with many problems in the workplace, this may be a situation to bring in problem solving experts in the form of your trusted mechanic.  If that isn’t an option, problem solving skills can be helpful to diagnose and assess the impact of the situation to ensure you can get where you need to be.

5. Why is the baby crying?

Is this just an incident that can be resolved with a diaper change, feeding or some sleep?  Or is there an underlying problem like stress, illness or discomfort that requires further investigation and attention?  Problem solving skills are a parent’s best friend.

6. My daughter has a science project – due tomorrow

Sometimes the challenge isn’t impact, its urgency.  Problem solving skills can help you quickly assess the situation and develop an action plan to get that science project done and turned in on time.

7. What should I get my spouse for his/her birthday?

As with many problems, this one may not have a “right answer” or apparent solution.  Its time to apply those problem solving skills to evaluate the effects of past decisions combined with current environmental signals and available resources to select the perfect gift to put a smile on your significant other’s face.

8. Someone flushed an entire roll of toilet paper and water is backing up in the tub.

Uh oh, time to think quickly.  There is an urgent situation that must be addressed to contain the impact, a cause to be identified (who is responsible) and an action plan for bringing things back to normal.  Problem solving skills can help you avoid panic and the potential for costly cleanup.

9. Proposal deadline got moved up to this afternoon!

You’ve been working on that big proposal for weeks and its down to the final 3 days when your receive a call that the deadline has been moved up to today.  Problem solving skills can help you figure out whether you will be able to meet the new deadline and how your approach may need to change.

10. What’s for dinner?

Whether you are planning to eat alone, with family or entertaining friends and colleagues, meal planning can be a cause of daily stress.  Applying problem solving skills can put the dinner dilemma into perspective and help get the food on the table and keep everyone happy.

Problem Solving skills aren’t just for the workplace – they can be applied in your everyday life.  Kepner-Tregoe can help you and your team develop your problem solving skills through a combination of training and consulting with our problem solving experts.

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