Problem solving behavioral interview questions
Mandy Giachetto, Director at Gingko Bioworks, ex-BCGPublished: February 23, 2022
Problem solving is a key set of skills tested in behavioral interviews. And most companies will test this in both behavioral *and* case interviews.
Cases interviews evaluate specific problem solving attributes: logic, focus, rigor, process.
Behavioral problem solving questions evaluate another: intuition, proactiveness, scrappyness, impact-oriented.
Intellectual & creative problem solving: Why both?
Problem scenarios that require intellect and technical skill are a critical aspect of the types of jobs you are likely applying for. That’s why case studies are incorporated into the hiring process. It’s a sure-fire way to test technical ability and skill in addition to how well someone may talk about a skill – i.e., “Can this candidate walk the talk in the way that we need them to?”
However, case-study-style problems do not represent the full reality of what it takes to excel in a role and add unique value to the company (which is what top companies want from their hires). There are problem-solving opportunities that occur in between assignments that can really move the needle for a team, a product line, and a business!
This duality in problem solving exists across Consulting, Product Management, Product Marketing, and Strategy & BizOps…among other fields and roles too.
Let’s dive in.
Problem solving through a case question (Top)
Not every role type will have case studies as part of the interview process, but most of the roles that we cater to in the RocketBlocks modules will.
Example case interview question #1: How would you improve the experience at Instagram for Content Creators?
As an open-ended case question, this one does not have a singular correct answer. What the interviewer looks for here is how well you would structure an approach to solving this problem well.
Let’s look at how a good response to this can exemplify each of the following attributes of an intellectual problem-solver:
By bringing these qualities to life through your case response, the more likely the interviewers will believe that you have what it takes to do the role exceptionally well.
Problem solving in behavioral interviews (Top)
Case interviews do not illuminate the problem-solving scenarios that show up more organically, in between discrete assignments and “business as usual”. Creative problem-solving is how you proactively bring an energy to the table that catalyzes positive change around you.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, these behavioral modules (i.e., Leadership, Collaboration, and Problem-solving) are not mutually exclusive. For example, being a great creative problem solver is oftentimes an attribute of a great leader. The “in-between” problem-solving is really what separates candidates from the pack. These moments can exist in so many different ways – both inside of a job in your professional life and outside of a job in your personal life. Both are fair game in answering behavioral interview questions, unless the interviewer is specifying on-the-job moments. Even in that instance, if your strongest example of exceptional instinct and impact was how you managed a family situation, you could run with that in an interview and be crafty in how you tie that back to how you approach things in your work.
Most likely, you have some great examples in the arsenal, even if you aren’t fully aware of it yet. Check out some examples of behavioral questions below and the response notes in the table to get the juices flowing.
Examples of problem solving behavioral questions: (Top)
Example question #1: Tell me about a time you convinced leadership to take action on a specific problem that you identified in the organization.
Example question #2: Tell me about a time you had to lead a project you knew very little about.
Example question #3: Tell me about a time when you found a particularly innovative solution to a problem that your team or company was facing.
Example question #4: Give an example of a project you worked on where the scope changed significantly. How did you handle it?
Let’s look at how responses to these types of questions bring out the attributes of a creative problem-solver:
All of the attributes I highlighted within both intellectual and creative problem solving are a general guide. Thinking in this direction should help you bring out the best in your problem solving skills, and you may discover that you have unique attributes that have led to success in the past that aren’t mentioned here: make them shine! While intellectual problem solving is likely more tightly defined by the role and responsibilities, there are many ways you can exemplify creative problem solving, which is what makes these behavioral questions fun!