Competency 2. Problem Solving
How to Show You Have Problem Solving Skills
Your problem-solving skills should be on display in the examples you have used for your application form. Be prepared to discuss these examples and the specific ways that they address the criteria of the competency during your interview.
Describe a complex problem you encountered at your last job and how you contributed to its resolution?
How do you answer this question in the best way possible, without getting mired in detail or rambling your way out of selection.
A simple technique we coach our clients with is the STAR technique.
STAR is an acronym that comprises: Situation, Task, Action, Result
or, alternatively you can used the CAR technique which comprises: Context, Action, Result
You simply replace the word task with “problem" in STAR and explain about the issue that developed. By framing your response this way, you'll avoid rambling and stay focused in your answer.
Here are the parts you'll want to include in your competency:
• What Was the Situation?
This is the opening scene in the movie. What was happening?
• What Went Wrong?
This is the central conflict, it’s what the opening scene in the movie develops into.
• What Action Did You Take?
Emphasize your role! What did you do? This is the body of the story. The main part.
• What Were the Results?
This is the outcome, how your actions affected the situation.
This will help to form a narrative that you can practice in advance of the interview.
• Describe situations that you encountered in previous roles
• Processes you followed to address the problems (here was my thinking in this scenario, so it lead me to take this action)
• Skills you applied
• The results of your actions.
(If you can support this with any knock on effects the result had it is always good)
The steps in problem solving include:
• Analyzing the factors or causes contributing to the unwanted situation
• Generating a set of alternative interventions to achieve your end goal
• Evaluating the best solutions
• Implementing a plan
• Assessing the effectiveness of your interventions
Think of a challenge/problem you faced and break down your role using the steps above, what did you bring to the table and how did it affect the outcome
Examples of Problem Solving Skills
The list below includes common strategies involved in problem solving. These skills can be useful to include in your answer to an interview question related to problem solving.
Using the list below, link real life examples to strengths you used from the list below.
Write out in detail how you used these strengths and then frame it using the STAR or CAR techniques
• Anticipating Obstacles to Implementation
• Assessing the Effectiveness of Interventions
• Brainstorming Solutions
• Determining Factors Impacting Stress
• Developing Hypotheses
• Drawing Consensus Around a Set of Solutions
• Evaluating Alternative Strategies for Reducing Stress
• Finding Middle Ground
• Flexibility to Try New Approaches (explain the competing factor pertaining to this)
• Identifying the Interests of all stakeholders
• Interpreting Data to Determine the Scope of Problems
• Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts
• Proposing Diplomatic Solutions to Disputes
• Recognising Invalid practices
• Identifying Ways to Improve Communication
• Repairing Malfunctioning Machinery
• Resolving a Customer Complaint
• Restructuring a Budget after a Revenue Shortfall
• Selecting Employees to Layoff During a Business Downturn
• Testing Hypotheses
• Validating Data to Correctly Identify Problems
The problem solving question can offer a great opportunity to shine. As you can prepare a fantastic example of when you did just that. So, if you have a great example of a problem you solved, don’t sell yourself short or play it down by being overly humble. We often see clients who are exceptional under a given competency and don't even realise it as there are doing something that is instinctive to them. H-Training has three decades of identifying people 'edge', so if you avail of our service we can help you understand what about your skill set separates you from the field.
Avoid a long pauses and a rambling, unfocused story. Have a sense of some of your big accomplishments from each position so that you can provide a coherent, relevant story. Remember: employers will be interested in seeing how you think and problem-solve. Telling the story will develop flow, but make sure you don’t learn off your lines by heart as this will flatten your delivery and it is very obvious to an interview board. Say it one way, then say it again another way and keep developing it. How do you tell a joke? You tell it once one way and then again another way. With practice you get a feel for the key information.
And Choose a good example:
This is a situation where a generic answer, such as "I always respond to problems quickly and efficiently" doesn't suit. Choose examples that will put your relevant skills on display. Avoid pointing fingers or placing blame, and keep the language neutral when describing the cause of the problem. Be careful also not to bring up something political, lest a member of the panel has a dog in that fight.
Make sure to emphasize results: Be specific about what you accomplished. If you can include numbers, such as "this increased sales 10% year-over-year" or "This lowered overtime costs by €1,000 a month" be sure to highlight this.