Use interview questions to uncover problems to solve

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jul 28

Rare is the department that doesn’t have problems to solve. Problems like finishing a critical project on time, fixing a broken process, figuring out how to do the mountain of work faster or with better quality. How to cut the cycle time of getting products to customers. The list, shall we say, is endless.

Your work needs to solve problems

The hiring manager interviews people to solve a problem. Sure, you can say the hiring manager needs someone to handle the workload in the department, but smart managers also try and build out their team so that they can solve more problems. The more problems a department solves, the better reputation for the department, manager and team. Like you.

So one of your objectives before or during the interview is to figure out what problems need solving in the department and then show how your work can help solve the problems.

Figuring out what problems to solve is tough

Yet, too many managers are reluctant to talk about the problems in the department. They are afraid of admitting problems to their own management team much less to you, this nice person they are interviewing that they have never seen before.

Consequently, it can be tough to determine what problems are out there to solve.

And that’s where your interview questions of the manager can uncover problems to fix.

“Problem” is the right word, but “challenge” is the one to use

No one likes to admit having a problem; managers are no different. So the first way to uncover problems to solve is to use the word “challenges” in the question.

“What is the biggest challenge your team overcame last year?”

“What is the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?” (and if it is the same one as last year…run!)

“What is the biggest challenge your team will face in the next six months?”

Any of those questions will give you good insight as to what the team is facing that you can help solve.

Blend your skills to the challenge

Once you find out the challenge (better to find more than one), you need to blend your answers to the interview questions to the challenge at hand and show how you have solved problems like the current one in the past.

Use your answers to not only show you have solved the problems in the past, but that you learned from each situation and built your job skills. Managers are human; no one likes someone who thinks they can solve every problem on the planet — especially theirs. So combine showing your performance that solved a similar problem, but be humble enough to also show what you learned from the experience.

Business, despite all of it’s “objectivity” and “data,” is really a social medium of  people working together on a common purpose. People don’t like to talk about their problems to strangers and like it less when the stranger they are talking to thinks they know the answer.

The Cubicle Warrior job skill is to uncover problems to solve through interview questions and then show how you can help the hiring manager solve the problem through your performance with humility.

It’s not easy, but getting there will put you in the front of the pack looking to land your next job.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.