How to Ask Problem Solving Interview Questions

A hiring manager asking a job candidate problem solving interview questions.

Interviewing candidates is a crucial step of the hiring process. In addition to questions that gauge a candidate’s skills and experience, you’ll also want to see how they handle challenging situations. Including problem solving interview questions can help you assess the candidate’s thought process and provide a strong indication for how the candidate will solve problems at your company.

Questions that focus on problem solving skills are typically more focused than common interview questions that linger on past experiences and usually have no right or wrong answer. After all, the goal is to learn about the decision-making process of the candidate and whether they’re solution-orientated and proactive.

Below you will find a list of examples that will help you gauge the candidate’s ability to solve problems at work. The three main categories of interview questions that will help you assess problem-solving skills include:

  1. Behavior-based questions
  2. Scenario-based questions
  3. Case-based questions

1. Behavioral Interview Questions

Great problem solving interview questions focus on behavior, revealing how candidates have handled stress or adversity in the past and highlighting their temperament. Understanding the candidate’s past behavior will allow you to predict how they will act in the future in similar situations, which is beneficial when looking for someone with the right amount of maturity and mental toughness.

Some examples of interview questions that reveal a candidate’s behavioral tendencies include the following:

  • How do you handle stress?
  • What is the biggest mistake you’ve made on the job and how did you resolve it?
  • Can you give an example of a deadline you missed and how you handled it?
  • What is your first step when you’re assigned to a new project?
  • How do you prioritize working on multiple projects?
  • Give an example of a time when your client wasn’t happy with your work. What did you do to resolve this?
  • Can you give an example of the hardest work problem you’ve had and how you handled it?
  • Do you speak up to your manager if you disagree with them?
  • How do you deal with tight deadlines?

Check out these top behavioral interview questions for more ideas on what to ask candidates.

2. Scenario-Based Interview Questions

Finding candidates with the right experience and industry knowledge is your top priority. For most employees, scenario-based questions are very helpful for gauging the ability to solve problems. Your goal is to find out how they might handle a challenging work situation, particularly if it’s analogous to something they might face on the job (however, save questions pertaining to the specific role for later).

Consider asking candidates the following scenario-based questions:

  • Your co-worker calls in sick the morning of a big meeting and asks you to take over his presentation, what would you do?
  • You’re on the phone with a client who needs a definite answer on the spot, but you haven’t talked to your manager about it, what do you do?
  • Your co-worker is taking credit for your work, what do you do?
  • Your deadline has been moved up, which means you won’t be able to complete it on time. What do you do?
  • Your manager has an idea and needs your opinion, but you don’t like it. How would you phrase this?
  • It’s Friday afternoon and you’re ready to go home, but your client calls with a request. Will you help them right away or complete it over the weekend?
  • Your manager asks you to come in on your free day. What do you do?
  • You’ve noticed your co-worker is lazy and unreliable. What would you do?

3. Case-Based Interview Questions

Case-based interview questions are like scenario-based interview questions, but they’re directly related to the actual company or job responsibilities the candidate will have. By focusing more on the essence of the job requirements, you’ll get a better sense of how the candidate may apply their problem-solving skills to the day-to-day duties of the job.

The following case-specific problem solving interview questions have been generalized to fit most occupations, but you will want to customize these so they’re more in line with your open position:

  • How can you bring production costs down?
  • How do you keep your schedule organized?
  • Do you prefer working in a fast-paced work environment?
  • What do you do to deliver great customer service?
  • How do you handle a difficult situation with a different department?
  • Who do you report to in case of any work-related issues?
  • How do you convince your coworkers to choose your idea?
  • What is included in your research approach?
  • What are factors you take into consideration when helping clients?

Use These Problem Solving Interview Questions to Efficiently Find the Best Candidates

These questions will help you focus on the problem-solving skills of potential candidates and efficiently narrow down the best employee for your company. Continue to grow your knowledge by receiving more managing and recruiting advice from Monster.