8 Ways to Show Your Problem-Solving Skills

problem solving skills

Problem-Solving skills are one of the most sought after skills on behalf of employers. But why? And how do you show your potential new employer that you have great problem-solving capabilities? These are good questions. And ones you should be asking.

With 6.6 million jobs available in the U.S., you are up against steep competition. While there might be more jobs available, there is an equal amount of potential employees competing against yourself to get the job. With a 3.5% unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2019, this means your competition might be vast.

Problem-solving skills allow your employer to receive additional value from you as an employee. It shows your ability to be proactive with your work. And inherently shows you’re passionate about the business and your role within the organization.

In this writeup we’re going to discuss:

Ready to jump in? Let’s go!

What Are Problem-Solving Skills?

What are problem-solving skills? Before we jump into what problem-solving skills mean to employers, lets first try to comprehend what the act of problem-solving means.

To give us some insight and a good starting point, here is how the Merriam-Webster defines problem-solving :

“the process or act of finding a solution to a problem”

OK, so this helps. Problem-solving is an act and it is a process.

What about a problem. How does Merriam-Webster define a problem:

“an intricate unsettled question” and “a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation”

Great. And lastly, solution. Let’s see what Merriam-Webster has to say about a solution:

“a set of values of the variables that satisfies an equation”

Got it. This should be helpful. So the act of problem-solving is about comprehending unsettled questions, in this case, our questions revolve around a business. And the notion that we have the capacity to satisfy those unsettled questions.

Does this mean problem-solving skills are a skill of itself or is problem-solving embodied by a number of other skills? Both. You can have problem-solving skills as well as have other skills which accompany your ability to problem-solve.

For example, you may have research skills, which are very important components to being able to efficiently and properly solve issues or propose solutions.

Why Do Employers Want Problem-Solving Skills?

Employees with problem-solving skills are valuable to the business. They not only bring the ability to manage or be part of a particular job function, but they can propose business solutions which improve the business as a whole.

For example, your duties are considered a baseline expected result from you being employed. If you are a customer service agent, answering the phone is expected. But if you have problem-solving abilities or skills, this means you might propose solutions to your business owner or manager that helps solve customer problems in a proactive fashion.

That act goes above and beyond your job responsibilities. Which makes you a valuable team player within the company. In layman’s terms, it means you not only do your job but you build the company up as well.

Why Employers Won’t Believe You When You Mention Your Skills

Here’s the issue with mentioning skills, employers don’t believe you. You might have read somewhere that listing skills on your resume is effective. And it is. But it not effective enough for companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oracle or other top US employers.

Listing skills on your resume can be a great conversation starter. And in that fashion, it makes it effective. But if you want your employer to believe your abilities, you have to give them statistics, achievements, and public accomplishments that support your ability to problem solve.

For example, do you think Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple has great problem-solving abilities? Absolutely. Everyone will be able to say that. Because they carry an iPhone in their hand and can visually see that he has that capability.

That is the same type of evidence you need to provide to your future employer. Supportive, public, usable evidence that supports your ability to problem-solve.

This may be the only way to ensure that your future employer truly believes you.

8 Unique Ways to Show Your Problem-Solving Skills

Before we start with the first method of unique ways to show your interviewer or future employer that you have problem-solving skills, note that these methods are unconventional. And should be taken with their appropriate knowledge that risk is involved.

These risks are that your employer or interviewer feels like you may be challenging them. Or that you might be causing friction within the interview. Take these methods in stride, based on the body language and connection levels you feel with the colleague or manager you’re interviewing with.

1. Challenge your interviewer with a problem to have you solve

Ask the interviewer to come up with a problem and have you solve it. Ask them to propose any type of problem. It might be a question like, “How would you move a mountain?” or some other type of unique question that has impossible challenges associated with it.

Be prepared to think on your feet and communicate how you would breakdown and piece together possible solutions to this problem. If the interviewer isn’t comfortable doing this, be sure to move on and mention to them that you felt it could be a fun exercise in showing problem-solving capabilities in the interview.

2. Ask for homework and a problem to solve or a small project to turn in

Similar to the method above, propose asking your future employer or hiring manager to assign you a homework project. This could be something as simple as a data entry project or something like redesigning their entire mobile application for customers.

Something that is going to show your capabilities of not only problem-solving but being able to think creatively and proactively towards parts of the job requirements.

3. Tell a business story in your cover letter

This method is effective if your interviewer reads your cover letter. Tell a business scenario that shows you have had to flex your problem-solving abilities. Was there a piece of innovation you were tasked with? Did the CEO say that you had to improve upon Google Maps and make it better? How did you handle that? What did you propose? How did you propose it?

Look upon your past to come up with business stories that show you know how to solve problems. These could be business problems or people problems, depending on the type of job that you’re applying for and the department you’re going to be part of.

4. Tell a business story in your interview

Similar to telling a business story in your cover letter, when the interviewer asks you a question, answer it with a story. If they say, “How do you solve problems?” Don’t simply respond with your answer. Instead, tell them the same or similar story that you might tell in your cover letter. A challenge you were faced with, the solution you came up with and why; then how you proposed that solution to your peers and leaders.

If you can, mention the end result of that effort. Even if it wasn’t successful, that’s okay. The fact that you comprehend how to address business problems with solutions and present them to your peers is what makes you valuable.

5. Propose solving a company problem as a research paper

It’s absolutely okay to be proactive about wanting to show both your passion and your problem-solving capabilities. Take the time to write a short, 3-page at most, research paper which outlines potential solutions to business problems the company is facing.

If you aren’t sure which business problems they have, search their press releases, about page, or financial reports that are reported through quarterly earnings. These can be helpful insights into what the company is trying to achieve that year.

Don’t concern yourself with trying to make this research paper entirely accurate. The point is that you propose unique, insightful thought towards business challenges.

6. Perform research for the business or team

Is this a trading firm? Financial firm? Or maybe they’re a consumer internet company. Whatever the industry, you should be able to perform some type of consumer research or data analysis to provide the company with insightful thought.

Even if you don’t have something to say or propose regarding that research, you can bring information or knowledge to the table. This shows your passion for the business as well as an understanding of what the business requires in order to propose solutions for them.

Think of this as the first step towards acting upon innovative thought-processes.

7. Iterate on an already solved problem of the company or the team

Was there a recent product or service release that happened on behalf of the company? Iterate on it. That means to take something that the team did and perform a slight improvement upon it.

Avoid trying to “redesign” the entire piece of work that the team accomplished. This could make you sound unappreciative. Instead, try to incrementally move the needle higher. This shows that you comprehend the level of expertise required by the team in order to create what they already have. And shows you can bring valuable insights and ideas to the table.

That is the same as problem-solving.

8. Play a mental capacity game

Memorization is often a skill that is accompanying problem-solving. When you solve problems, you have to recall the past correctly. This can be related to two colleagues having conflict issues and you resolving it (problem-solving). To you proposing unique business innovations.

In whatever regard it looks like, memorization and memory recall are going to be big factors in being able to effectively problem solve.

Communicate that to your interviewer and then ask to play a game. Have the interviewer write down 10 to 15 numbers. Then have them say those numbers to you and repeat those numbers back.

Aim for at least 65% in terms of correctly repeating those numbers. This is a fun, interactive game that can show your capacity for memorization and problem-solving.

What Types of Job Titles Require Problem-Solving Skills

While all jobs can benefit from problem-solving mentions in your job application assets, some job titles will challenge you for these capabilities more than others. Your employer will want you to show your capabilities in more depth.

As a baseline, most management positions, analyst positions, engineering positions, and innovation positions require problem-solving as a high competency.

Examples of those jobs would be:

Skills That Often Accompany Problem-Solving Abilities

There are accompanying skills that show your capability of problem-solving. And if you want, you can absolutely speak to these accompanying skills instead of directly speaking to problem-solving.

For example, your ability to perform research. This is a significant part of the process when it comes to proposing business solutions. Using our Tim Cook and Apple example again, do you believe that Tim Cook randomly proposes solutions or ideas? No, he performs consumer research, consumer trends research, and tries to understand human-behavior before he suggests directions on behalf of the business.

Here are a list of skills that you can either speak to, list on your resume, or use to accompany your problem-solving capabilities for your employer.


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