Problem solving

There’s a good chance your manager won’t like you as a graduate if you are running to them every time you feel like you’re out of your depth. If you find a solution, work it through and present it, then you’ll stand a better chance of showing you have the ability to be independent!

Your problem-solving skills could be assessed at various stages of your application process: during psychometric tests,group activities and one-to-one interviews. Your use of logic here is tested hand in hand with your imagination, to see if you can come up with an intelligent solution to the prescribed problem. Other things that are also evaluated are your level-headedness and resilience to try again if your original solution doesn’t quite work out. Analytical skills, creativity and logical thinking - all help to reach a solution, along with good teamwork skills - if it’s a group task.


On applications:

Think of some examples of where you have solved a problem - starting with how you identified the problem, the solution you came up with and how you implemented it. As always, examples with quantifiable results are better, and complex situations make a successful result more impressive!

It’s good to use the STAR method and saying something along the lines of “I needed to find a solution to a complex problem X. By allocating resources Y and coming up with some innovative ideas Z I managed to overcome it successfully” - obviously using actual examples not the XYZ!

Try to avoid saying “there was this tricky situation I was forced to deal with, but luckily I’m pretty good at problem solving and it wasn’t that difficult.” Remember, claims mean nothing, demonstrating through examples are the way to succeed!

During assessment centres or interviews if you are set a problem you can use the IDEAL model to break it down and solve:

  1. Identify the issue

  2. Define the obstacles

  3. Examine your options

  4. Act on an agreed course of action

  5. Look at how it turns out, and whether any changes need to be made.


Developing problem solving skills

Problem solving is a pretty vital skill in daily life, which makes sense as to why graduate employers are keen on graduates possessing it! It’s more than likely you’ve got a tonne of experience in problem solving with tasks such as: sorting out a problem with your computer, resolving a dispute with a tricky customer, sorting out your tight student finances!

Problem solving skills are easily developed;  try out some extracurricular activities or volunteering, these are fun things to do that see you develop your skills at the same time!


skillsMaarten Karremans