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Open the Box: Thinking Laterally to Solve Problems in Job Interviews

In a job interview, recruiters want to know if you possess problem-solving abilities and creativity. Answering this question well is your chance to prove your value.

What is the hiring manager looking for?

Employers ask this question to uncover two things: Your capacity to overcome challenges by employing unconventional strategies and your ability to utilize a structured problem-solving process.

How to structure your answer

A solid response begins with identifying the problem’s essence. Explain the steps taken to resolve it, emphasizing your creative approach. Summarise the positive results of your actions, tying them to the desired qualification.

Tips to answer this interview question

Avoid rambling or going off-topic. Be concise and utilize specific examples to illustrate your point. Moreover, avoid sounding rehearsed or talking down to the interviewer.

Example interview answers to this question

Interview Question: Can you share an example of when you had to think outside the box to solve a problem?

I found myself in charge of a project that required collaboration from multiple departments. However, each department had conflicting priorities. To address this, I arranged a workshop where participants could brainstorm creative solutions. This session helped us to identify key areas of compromise and develop strategies for dealing with the conflicting objectives.

Explanation: This answer shows the ability to think creatively and manage complex situations. It also highlights the candidate’s leadership skills and ability to unite diverse teams toward a common goal.

During a product launch, a critical component was found to be defective, and we couldn’t procure a replacement quickly. I took the initiative to modify an existing component to make it compatible with our product. This required reverse engineering the component and making necessary adjustments. The modified component performed even better than the original one.

Explanation: This answer not only signifies the candidate’s problem-solving skills but also demonstrates their resourcefulness and ability to think on their feet. Modifying an existing component to perform better exhibits adaptability and a proactive approach to problem-solving.

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