Tough Interview Question - What major problem have you had to deal with recently?

What major problem have you had to deal with recently?

Similar interview questions:
Tell me about a time where you had to solve a problem on your own.
How do you handle problems and issues when they come up in your work?
Give me an example of a recent problem you had to solve and what you did to solve it.
What is the most complex problem you have had to solve in your work?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
This is a broad question which will allow the interviewer to drill further into specifics. The question has two primary goals from an interviewer perspective: 1) it will show what you consider to be a major problem by what you select as the problem to answer; and 2) it will show your competency in dealing with and resolving problems. Note that the word “problem” can often prompt a variety of definitions in the mind of the candidate. So showing how you define what is a problem is often as telling and insightful as how you respond to the problem itself.

The best approach to answering this question:
Focus on a problem you have already effectively resolved. Walk the interviewer through how the problem came about, what actions you took to resolve it and the final results. Do not select a personal problem and do not select another person as the “problem” with which you are dealing. Select a problem that is tied directly to your work.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"We had a very difficult problem come up recently at work which several people tried to solve and could not. We had a customer make a request for functionality in our product that does not currently exist. The initial view internally was that the problem was too difficult to solve. However, I found a way to not only meet that customer’s request for the functionality, but also further built it out as a major new selling feature for the product. Let me walk you through the steps on what I did specifically from start to finish…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"In my recent internship, I was given a technical problem that no one internally had yet been able to solve. It had to do with a performance issue on our product which was negatively affecting the external user experience. I was able to effectively not only solve the problem, but also developed a way to track and measure the system performance in the future so that we would know before the external users when a performance issue like that came up again. Here is what I did when I was approached with a request to resolve the problem…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"There is a person on our team who has been a major problem that I’ve had to deal with recently. He isn’t carrying his load for the rest of the team. I tried to work with him in getting him to be more productive, but, well, that failed. And since I’m accountable for the overall productivity of the team, I didn’t want to stick around and deal with the negative effects. So my way of dealing with it is to leave and go somewhere else. Which is why I am here today, interviewing with you…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Common Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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