This question can be worded in different ways and always pops up in a behavioral interview. It is a typical problem solving question to assess the problem solving and critical thinking skills of the candidate. At the human resource panel it is known as the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) methodology to check critical response of the candidate to different problems that might occur. Interviewers these days also use this methodology to check the potential leadership capability of the candidate to take initiatives.
· Can you describe a difficult Problem and how you dealt with it?
· Describe a situation where you had to deal with an irate customer. Did you rectify the problem?
· Describe a difficult problem you had to solve?
· Tell me about a time when you increased revenue. What steps did you take?
Philosophy behind the Question
This question comes in other forms like:
- What is the most difficult situation you have faced?
- Could you describe a difficult problem and how you dealt with it?
This question is sure to come up and though the interviewer asked how you dealt or solved the problem, he really wants to hear how you worked to solve a problem. This is a problem solving question that tests your critical thinking skills and is looking for two pieces of information: Your definition of difficult and how you handled the situation.
This is a great question for showing that you are creative and capable problem solver. You should have at least one of these stories ready to go that will make you look good (it’s okay to brag a little in an interview), but having a few of them will allow you to further expand on the question. Try to avoid co-worker related problems unless you had to fire someone.
Philosophy behind any typical STAR Question
When you use the STAR method to answer frequently asked interview questions, you’ll never be at a loss for great examples. Here is what the STAR really suggests,
|Situation, background set the scene (As an office manager for Microware Electronics, I took pride in running a smooth operation…)|
|Task or Target, specifics of what’s required, when, where, who (I was challenged to reorganize our digital filing system in data control department….)|
|Action, what you did, skills used, behaviours, characteristics (I called several vendors and asked about computer programs that fit our departmental needs.)|
|Result – Outcome, what happened (I negotiated a fair price for a software program and the files were organized ahead of the deadline.)|
A good answer to this question can be shaped as;
“Yes; a relevant example being at my last company, where I was initially a software developer, In a team of 6 developing a new finance module for our core accounting product.(Situation)
The project was critical as launch dates had been set with a lot of sales and marketing investment riding on the product being ready. However the project was behind schedule, when our team leader unfortunately became ill, and had to leave. (Task)
I had been sports team captain at school, where I loved the challenge and responsibility of leadership. So I volunteered to stand in, and by using my technical analysis skills, spotted a few small mistakes made in the initial coding, that were causing the sporadic errors, and slowing us down. I then negotiated with our product director a small bonus incentive for the team, and budget for two pizza evenings, so we could pull a couple of late night shifts to correct the coding and catch up with the critical project landmarks. (Action)
Though this took us 1.5% over budget the software was delivered on time with a better than target fault tolerance. The project was seen as a great success as the additional project cost was minimal compared to the costs of delaying the launch, and the negative effect on our product branding. The team where delighted with the extra bonus and I have now been officially promoted to team leader as a result.” (Result)
“We were getting a lot of complaints about late deliveries. (Situation)
I investigated and found that requests for new inventory were not been processed fast enough. The backlog was in the orders department as they were not following up adequately with the suppliers. A system for regular follow up was quickly implemented. (Action)
- Never give a straight answer that your opinions and decision were never valued.
- Never make it appear as if you’re faking and engineering the answer to satisfy the interviewer
- Look back to a problem that you were faced with.
- Define the problem, the expected outcome, and possible solutions.
- Then talk about the people you had to work with and what was expected of them and the how you tied it all together to reach your goal.
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