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Top 10 Skills – Problem Solving

Next up in our Top 10 Skills Employers Look For Series – Problem Solving

Problems pop up all the time, being able to troubleshoot effectively will ensure you are seen as an asset to any business.

Employers need to hire you. They’re looking to grow their business and they don’t have either the necessary skills or time to carry out certain tasks, so they choose to hire others.

And when they’re looking for employees, they’ll want to see more than just your qualifications. They’ll want to know you have the skills to do the job, and that you’re up to the task. 

One of the most hunted skills is Problem Solving. They want to see that you can analyse a problem and find a solution in any situation you’ll be placed in.

What does that mean? Well if you spill something on the floor they want to see that you could find a mop, clean it up, and let people know about the possible slip hazard, instead of just walking away or leaving someone else to deal with it. 

Employers need independent workers

Problem Solving is a job skill that applies to every job and industry, but not everyone is good at it. Employers value it because:

  • They save time and money by working through problems in-house
  • You’ll identify problems and find solutions quickly and with minimal input, meaning you can get back to your core role
  • Problem solvers are proactive and often identify potential problems before they arise

Advertise your qualities to potential employers

There are lots of ways to show you are a proactive problem solver. Here’s a few ideas of phrases you could use in your CV:

  • Self-motivated and independently resourceful
  • Able to approach problems analytically and creatively address them
  • Develop creative solutions to problems
  • Analytical and methodical approach to problem solving

And if you list these qualities on your CV, in an interview you can expect to be asked questions like:

  • “tell me about a difficult situation you have faced in the past and how you overcame it”,
  • “describe a time when you came up with new ideas to improve your work environment”, or
  • “tell me about a time when you identified a problem and solved it”

Quick tip: Employers want to hear how you solved a problem, try using the STAR method when using examples to answer the questions above:

S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result

Explain the situation you were in, what the task was (what needed to happen), what you did and what happened.

For example: “I was at in the kitchen at work and one of my colleagues dropped a pan of water. I needed to clean up the mess so we could get back to work safely, so I made sure my colleague was ok, then used slip alert signs to let others know about the hazard as I cleaned up the spill with equipment from the maintenance cupboard. This meant we could get back to work quickly”

These steps help you explain clearly how you can solve problems, and make things as easy as possible for the interviewer (which is a good thing). 

Think of examples where you have solved problems in the past, or find ways to get some experience you can use:

  • Look at previous roles – whether in academic, work, or volunteer settings – find examples of challenges you have met and problems you have solved. Maybe it was the time your dog really did eat your science project, or you were asked to do something you had never done before at work, or you had to interact with someone who didn’t speak the same language as you. How did you handle the situation, how did you resolve it?
    (Tip: Only choose examples with a positive outcome when you’re trying to impress the interviewer with your problem solving skills.)

  • You can use real life examples of problems you have encountered and using the STAR method think about how you resolved it e.g. you missed the last train home, you lost your passport while overseas, an outside event had to be relocated due to bad weather – what did you do next and what was the outcome?

  • Get involved with projects and remember to take note of any problems along the way and how you got around them.

Finally

You’ve identified these skills on your CV, you’ve thought of examples of where you have demonstrated problem solving abilities, practise answering potential interview questions using those examples and remember to use them in your interview.

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