problem solving

‘Can you tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it?’

Why are recruiters asking this?

Problem solving interview questions test your skills of analysis, information gathering, and logical decision making. They usually take the form of “Tell me about a difficult problem you had to solve. How did you solve it?”

Companies want to know how you will handle (normal) problems that happen at work.
To answer this kind of question, tell a specific story where you solved a problem, listing the information step-by-step and describing your critical thinking.

Checklist for a great answer 

  • Explain your thinking
  • Use the STAR Method
  • Focus on results and end on a good note!


When I was working as a retail manager, I had a customer who came in to pick up a dress that she had ordered online. But when I went to collect her order, I found that the dress had accidentally been put back on the sales floor and purchased by another customer. I called another of our store locations and asked them to hold the same dress in the customer’s size. I had it shipped to her home within 2 days for free. A week later, I found out that the customer had called our corporate headquarters to mention how much she appreciated the gesture. In the moment all I was concerned about was making sure the customer would return to our store. We are all human and mistakes happen, but it was important to me that I rectify the situation. In the end I realized that in my efforts to serve the customer well, it positively affected my standing with HQ.

Other similar questions

  • Describe a time where you had to make an important decision quickly. What did you decide? What were the results?
  • Have you ever had a project that had to change drastically while it was in progress? Why? How did you do it?
  • Talk about a difficult problem you’ve had to solve. How did you solve it?
  • Tell me about a problem you solved in a creative way.

How do I get better at these questions?


The illustrious economist and statistician EF Schumacher once said: “An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.” We at Mockmate strongly believe in exactly this, which is why we created our AI-powered job interview simulator.  Now is the time to stop reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos, and begin to perfect your interview skills by actually doing it! Get started here!

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