Problem-Solving Behavioral Interview Questions

Problem-solving behavioral interview questions will explore a candidate's ability to analyze a problem by :

  • gathering all relevant data
  • organizing and understanding the information
  • identifying underlying issues
  • identifying cause-effect relationships
Image of yellow light bulb with problem solving icons surrounding it

 And their ability to then solve a problem by:

  • considering alternatives
  • weighing the pros and cons of each alternative
  • committing to the most appropriate action
  • obtaining desired results

Problem-solving behavioral interview questions will focus on specific examples when the candidate demonstrated the ability to effectively analyze and solve a problem.

General problem-solving behavioral interview questions

These sample problem-solving interview questions apply to all positions, regardless of job-type or job-level.

Describe the biggest work-related problem you have faced in the past year. How did you handle it?

Give a specific example of a time when you used good judgment in solving a problem.

Describe a complex problem you had to deal with on your job. How did you identify and gain an understanding of the problem?

Tell me about a time you had to gather information in order to identify the cause of a problem at work.

Can you give me an example of when you were able to identify a small problem before it escalated into a bigger problem?

How did you weigh the pros and cons before making a recent decision?

Describe a time when you faced a problem at work that required quick thinking under pressure.

With little or no work experience:

What types of data and information have you gathered for your job search. How have you used this information to optimize your job search?

Tell me about a time you faced a challenge you’ve never previously experienced. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time you found your coursework overwhelming. How did you manage it?

Describe a time you lacked the right resources to successfully complete a project. What did you do?

Answering behavioral problem-solving interview questions

Employers  are looking for a candidate to describe a logical and considered problem-solving process that includes gathering all the relevant information, analyzing the information and making sound decisions based on the information.


"When I detect a problem at work, I typically start by gathering as much relevant information about the problem as possible. I clearly define the problem and get agreement on this definition. I analyze this information to understand the underlying issues and root cause of the problem. I am then able to identify possible alternatives to address the problem, weigh up the pros and cons of each alternative and decide which approach works best for me and the organization. I determine the actions which need to be taken and commit to the process."

When asked for a specific example to illustrate and support your behavioral interview answer, use the STAR method in order to keep your answer focused and relevant.

The 5 steps to problem analysis

Answers to problem-solving behavioral interview questions that explore a candidate's ability to understand and analyze a problem in order to develop solutions should include these 5 steps:

  • detect the problem and recognize a problem exists
  • gather all relevant information on the problem including facts, inferences and opinions
  •  clearly define the problem and gain agreement on the definition from stakeholders
  •  identify underlying issues or root causes by asking why the problem exists
  •  recognize cause-effect relationships including direct and indirect causes and effects of the problem

The 5 steps to problem solving and decision-making

The essential steps to successful problem solution and decision-making include:

  • define the solution criteria including boundaries and constraints
  • determine alternative courses of action that may solve the problem
  • weigh the pros and cons of alternatives and evaluate the possible outcomes of each alternative
  • commit to the best course of action and develop and execute an action plan
  • evaluate the results to determine if the problem is resolved and how to prevent a repeat of the issue

Problem-solving behavioral interview questions for different jobs

These behavioral interview questions help employers evaluate how candidates use their analytical skills to evaluate information in order to determine the most appropriate course of action within a particular job-related context. They explore how candidates will address problems that they are likely to encounter in their specific role.

Management/Supervisor Role

Describe a problem you encountered with your team when trying to achieve a specific objective. How did you go about finding a solution?

Describe a time where you were having difficulty in motivating your team to improve their performance. What did you do to improve the situation?

Give me an example of when you improved a project workflow based on your analysis?

Describe a time you came up with an innovative solution to tackle a complex management problem.

Manager behavioral interview questions


Tell me about a time you didn't meet a sales target. How did you identify and manage the cause?

Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with other sales team members to overcome a difficulty.

Tell me about a challenging sale you closed recently. What was your approach?

Give me an example of a time when you failed to meet a client's expectations. How did you try and rectify the situation?

Sales behavioral interview questions

Customer Service

Give an example of when you had to explain something quite complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle the situation?

Tell me about a time you had to handle a disgruntled or dissatisfied customer? How do you go about resolving the issues?

How have you used the data you have available to adjust your approach to a difficult customer?

Tell me about a time where you identified a potential problem with a customer and were able to prevent it from escalating.

Customer service behavioral interview questions


Tell me about a time you weren't able to meet a deadline. How did you handle it?

Describe a time when you had to solve a  fairly complex problem independently. What was the outcome?

Describe a time when you faced a tough challenge in doing your job efficiently. How did you sort it out it?

Tell me about a time you found a project or task to be overwhelming. How did you deal with it?

Administrative interview questions


Tell me about a time you made a mistake in your work. What steps did you take to rectify the situation?

Tell me about an improvement you made to increase the efficiency of a work process.

Describe a tough experience you had putting together a financial report. How did you manage a successful outcome?

Can you give me an example of an unexpected problem that rose during an important project. How did you handle it?

Accounting behavioral interview questions

What else should be evaluated with problem solving behavioral interview questions?

These critical competencies should also be considered when evaluating a candidate's problem-solving ability:

  • the ability to recognize patterns and inconsistencies in relevant information gathered
  • the ability to break a complex problem down into more manageable parts
  • the ability to ask meaningful questions to understand the problem and its root causes
  • the ability to anticipate obstacles and constraints to possible solutions
  • the ability to determine the implications of each alternative solution
  • the ability to find creative and innovative approaches to a problem
  • the ability to act decisively by committing to a course of action
  • the ability to get buy-in from stakeholders

Essential job interview questions

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