What else is a typical human life, if not a succession of problems we have to solve? Of course, this depends on a few things. One’s perspective for a start, because for some people everything is a problem, while others take life more easily, and do not worry much about tomorrow. Other thing is your present situation, economically speaking. Sad but true, hundreds of millions fight to barely survive every day–that’s their main and only problem. No time or capacity to focus on anything else. But an average Joe or Jane in the US (or any other “first world” country) has their share of problems too. Job problems, relationship issues, debts, and so on. At the end of the day, life’s not a walk in the park for almost anyone, and we have to deal with stuff, and solve problems. But what problem should you talk about in an interview?

It depends. In an ideal case, you should describe a problem you solved in your past job, one that demonstrates your skills and experience in the field, and the fact that you solved it should help convince the hiring managers that you are the right person for the job, and have the necessary qualification and skills. This is easy to say, but often hard to do. Maybe this is your first job application ever, or you worked in a different field before. Or you actually failed to solve problems in your previous job, and it is the main reason why you find yourself without any job at the moment. In any of these cases, you can talk about problems you solved in your personal life, at school, or even problems related to your mentality, self-confidence, and other.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this tricky question right now. I tried to come up with a nice mix of answers for problems from different areas of life, including some out-of-the-box answers. Hopefully at least one of them will resonate with you, and give you an inspiration for your own unique interview answer. Just do not forget that your attitude matters more than anything else for the hiring managers. Regardless of the problem you narrate, they should get an impression that you faced it with your head high, and tried your very best–regardless of the eventual outcome.


7 example answers to “Tell me about a time you solved a problem” interview question

  1. The last one I remember was in my last job in a restaurant. I found it really hard to get along with one of the colleagues. For some reason they didn’t like me, the communication didn’t really work, and on the top of that they did not work as hard as other people on the shift did. I could ask the manager to address the issue, but I decided to solve the problem on my own. Asked the colleague out for a coffee during the break, and openly, without emotions, explained them my point of view and why we should start to cooperate and communicate normally, in order to make things better for everyone. I also showed interest in their feelings and opinions, trying to understand them better. It turned out to be just the first of several talks we had together, and at the end, we became friends and everything improved.
  2. My last job of a process engineer was all about solving problems. Because I had to find ways of making the production process more efficient. Hence I not only solved problems–I identified them, identified areas for improvement, and then tried to implement some solutions. A really difficult one was to solve a bottleneck we faced in the manufacturing process of the printers. Two steps in the production process were slowing the entire process down a lot, and I had to come up with new processes, trying to increase our daily production capacity. This required a lot of studying, testing, experimenting, and also failing. But eventually I came up with some improvements which resulted in 10 percent increase of the daily production capacity of the plant, which was something huge for my employer. On the top of that, I learned a lot in the process, and hope to benefit from it in my new job with you.
  3. This is my first job application, but I recall many problems I had to solve at school. For example coming up with difficult presentations, or even passing the exam from a subject I struggled with. But I always remained calm, and simply did my best to prepare for the exam, or to get the presentation done. This often meant sacrifices, such as spending long hours studying, instead of enjoying some leisure time activities with my friends. But it eventually paid off, I graduated, and now I have a chance to apply for this great job with you. I honestly believe that problems belong to life, and as long as we don’t get scared and face them with courage and enthusiasm, we will solve most of them.
  4. To be honest with you, my entire life is a problem to solve right now. I’ve lost my partner a year ago, which was a hard blow. I haven’t been able to start a new relationship ever since. What’s more, I’ve been struggling with debts, have some health issues–which can be related to the other issues I face, and so on. But I am still here, I haven’t resigned on life, and I try my best to get back on track and sort my problems out. Getting this great job with you will help me a lot, since it will help me out with the debt I have, which will take some burden out of my shoulders, and allow me to move forward also with other things I have to address.
  5. In my opinion, the primary cause of unhappiness is never really the situation, but our thoughts about it. Look, I have my issues and problems, just like everyone else. But I focus on the good things I have i life–a family, decent health, luck to be living in a rich country with opportunities always present. On the top of that, I try my best to live in the present moment, always giving 100% of my focus and attention to the task I am working on. And the magic does happen, because not only I am rarely stressed about things, I also mange to solve all the problems I face, be it at work or in my personal life.
  6. My biggest problem was lack of self-confidence. It impacted me in all areas of life, including my job search. To be honest, I battled with this problem for years, never quite knowing how to address it. Eventually I decided to do two things. First, to visit a psychologist and start working with her. And secondly, to work on my physical condition and appearance, because I knew it had an impact on my self-confidence. It has been about a year since I made this move, and it really did wonders for me. As you can see now, I can speak here with you without nerves, and I believe I can achieve things in life. With some problems it may take you longer to solve them, but if one doesn’t give up and persist in their efforts, they will eventually overcome them. I am a living proof of it.
  7. I am solving one right now. Have been without a job for more than 12 months, and I find it hard to encounter anything new. In my late fifties, many companies do not even give me a chance to interview with them and prove that I feel much younger than that, and can still work hard every day. I am extremely grateful that you gave me an opportunity to interview here, because I do not only want a job, I need one. And I sincerely hope that I will solve this problem soon. Because I am giving it my best shot, sending out dozens of applications every week, and trying my best to be prepared for the eventual interviews…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face in your interview:

Matthew Chulaw
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