Initiative to Resolve a Problem

Describe a Situation When You Had to Take the Initiative to Resolve a Problem

How to Answer the Interview Question: Describe a Situation When You Had to Take the Initiative to Resolve a Problem

The world of work is engrossed with challenges and problems; most of these drawbacks can halt the progress and growth of an organization. These problems may be interpersonal, interdepartmental, customer-related, or among coworkers. Have you been in a situation where you had to come up with urgent solutions to a problem? How do you resolve human and work-related conflicts? What do you do to ease the tension that may arise from employees trying to pitch an idea to a supervisor? How often do you creatively resolve an emergent challenge in the course of work? Employers worldwide are looking for individuals who can instinctively use their initiative boldly and confidently to resolve problems.

The interview process is in different stages or phases; recruitment managers tend to ask questions related to your qualifications, field, and importantly behavioral questions. Additionally, having problem-solving skills is an essential part of life; employers and organizations want to know that they will be getting a creative thinker, someone who will be able to resolve problems as they come. Moreover, problem-solving skills have been earmarked as one of the core skills individuals and job seekers should possess.

Similarly, no one wants to hire workers that rely on given instructions alone to function; every supervisor wants that worker who can take the bull by the horn, initiate, and develop solutions to inherent and new challenges. Therefore, it is no surprise that questions like-describe a situation when you had to take the initiative to resolve a problem form a key part of most interviews. Arguably, this question and other behavioral questions determine the job applicant that eventually gets the job. When hiring managers are faced with the dilemma of choosing between two excellent candidates, for example, answers to this question often serve as the tiebreaker.

Your potential employer or organization wants to know that you can effectively work through a difficult situation on the job, so be sure to avoid a self-deprecating attitude. While people love self-deprecating humor in real life, the short period of a job interview isn’t the time for it. Also, when interviewers talk about resolving problems, they are talking about your ability to handle or resolve difficult or unexpected work situations. Organizations rely on workers who can assess situations and calmly focus on identifying solutions; they view people who are creative in their thinking and can adapt to situations as essential cogs for success.

Why Hiring Managers Ask the Question in a Job Interview

Recruiters and hiring managers ask this question to have valuable insight into;

  • The problem-solving abilities of each candidate, since the question entails being faced with a difficult task.
  • This is undoubtedly a tough question; employers want to see the ability of candidates to stay calm under pressure.
  • Your ability to effectively reflect on prior and past experiences and learn from them.
  • The ability of an individual to comfortably move forward from challenges without getting overwhelmed by them.
  • Your ability to align or merge your storytelling skills with reality.
  • Employers want to see how you’ll respond to similar situations in their organization.
  • Also, they want to see if your tactics in handling high-pressure situations fit into their culture.
  • When a hiring manager gets a handle on this, they then know how a candidate will most likely respond to unforeseen challenges and difficult situations in the role they’re interviewing for.
  • Your answer to the question gives employers insight into how you deal with conflict, deadlines, and work pressure.

How to Respond to the Question

As with most behavioral questions, the STAR Framework is the ideal rubric to use to answer the question. This framework is the perfect tool to use when telling a story and providing a structured answer. It allows you to explain the specific situation, the exact task carried out, the distinct action plan used, and the outcome or result of the endeavor. Relatively, the STAR method helps you structure your answer logically and concisely. The breakdown of how to use the components of the STAR framework to describe a situation where you needed to use your initiative to resolve a problem is given below;

Set the stage by sharing the situation: You should tell the hiring manager the organization you worked or are working with, your specific position in the company, and what was the general project you were working on at the time you needed to use your initiative to solve the particular problem. When creating a situation for your story, make sure to add your responsibilities, the coworkers or employees involved in the scenario, and how the problem came up or arose. Similarly, the interviewer is interested in knowing how creative and industrious you are. However, make sure you summarize the responsibilities; you don’t want to spend the whole time talking about only one aspect of your answer.

Talk about the task assigned to you: When working as part of a team, you will be assigned a specific task to accomplish individually or collectively. Therefore, try and highlight the actual task you are or were asked to do. Additionally, explain to the interviewers why you were assigned the task; tell them the ultimate and end goal of the task as well. Also, briefly explain what made the task difficult, as well as the importance of the task to you, the team, and the organization at large.

Tell them what you did (Action): After setting the stage, it is time to walk them through the action you took to solve the problem. Interestingly, your interviewer isn’t concerned about your actions alone; they want to know your reasons for taking those actions. Therefore, articulate your thought process, share why you made certain decisions and how you evaluated your options. This gives interviewers an idea of your ability and expertise in prioritizing actions, reacting to stress, and evaluating options. Thus, tell the interviewer your initial reaction to the situation, how you weighed different options and priorities, and the steps you took in acting.

Share the result of your action: This is the most important part of your response to the interview question. After explaining what you did, the ultimate question the hiring manager has is “well, what was the result of your actions “? You have ideally chosen an example where you helped solve a problem; the best possible story also yields a positive impact for the employer, such as a reduction in costs or increased sales. Stories, where the client was ultimately satisfied, are also excellent choices. The ending of your response can include how the task or situation was resolved, what your manager thought, how the client felt, and ways your employer benefited.


Things to Avoid When Answering the Question

  • You should refrain from speaking poorly, badly, or ill of former or current team members, supervisors, or organizations.
  • Don’t be self-focused to the point of discussing yourself in a superior light.
  • Don’t discuss your shortcomings, unless you emphasize your growth.
  • Avoid using examples or scenarios that aren’t job-related.


Sample Answer to the Question

I remember a situation from my previous job in Next Cash and carry Abuja Nigeria. I was a retail assistant in the delivery and warehouse unit. I worked as part of a team to ensure that accessories and delivery were processed and arranged on the shop floor. On that particular day, one of my coworkers did not show up for a night shift because of illness, and I noticed that the workload was very heavy. My other team members would struggle to handle the incoming stock and the expedition. I approached my supervisor and suggested that I would stay back at work for three extra hours and help the team on the night shift; since the workload was too much. Of course, I was tired, I worked for 6 hours before that, but I still felt it was the right thing to do and so I did it. When I came in for my regular shift the next day, my supervisor called me to his office and offered words of thanks and other incentives for the extra hours I spent. He was happy because the team was able to meet up with the target. All stocks were processed and displayed on the shop floor. Customers were happy; according to my supervisor, we had one of our best days with regard to sales.

Interview Questions

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