Build your Problem Solving Skills for Job Interviews with the IDEAL Quiz

problem solving jigsaw

Learn how to see your problem solving skills with the IDEAL tool… and talk about these skills at job interviews!

Problem solving is one of those great skills that helps you in work, study and life. Being a good problem solver takes practice, logic and a calm look at things in times of stress. With our free Young Professional training you’ve been working on your self-management, being organised and planning for all outcomes. Even so, things go wrong sometimes… no matter how prepared you are!

First we covered the basics of problem solving – what it really means, the process to go through when faced with a problem and what the buzzwords are. You nailed it right?

Now you can start to recognise your problem solving skills. Learn how to understand and talk about them in a clear way – at job interviews, for example!

Use the IDEAL method to deal with problems

Problems won’t always announce their arrival. You might see little things going wrong, highlighting that a bigger issue is happening behind the scenes. Once you’re aware of a problem, you need some tools to help deal with it. And we’ve got an IDEAL set of tools for you!

The IDEAL method helps you making sure that you are tackling the problem. Whenever you’re faced with a problem, remember the IDEAL way to deal with it:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Examine solutions
  4. Act on your plan
  5. Look at the results of your actions and learn from them.

Sounds fair enough? Now take the quiz!

So how did you do?

The IDEAL method is a good tool to use when faced with any problems. You’re welcome! Now, let’s look at telling the world about your problem solving skills… like in interviews, for instance.

Talking about Problem Solving in Job Interviews

Very often in interviews for work, apprenticeships college you will be asked by an interviewer to give examples of your skills.

Here are some questions you might get asked:

  • Tell me about a time you you’ve had to overcome a problem?
  • Tell me about a time when something didn’t go to plan and the actions you took?
  • Tell me about a time you worked in a team and had to overcome a problem
  • Tell me about a time you have had to deal with a difficult situation at work?

Encountering problems is no-one’s favourite thing to do. When asked to talk about past problems we can tie ourselves in knots trying to explain the situation. Things can quickly get confusing. It’s worth having a set of examples ready and practising them.

REMEMBER: Explain the problem fully and give real examples using the STARS method: Think about the Situation you faced, the Task you had to complete, the Actions you took, and the Results you achieved. Then Strengthen your problem solving skills by looking back on how you did.


  • Explain the situation you were in and the problem that arose


  • What did you do, and what did the task or role involve?
  • Make sure you highlight your roles and responsibilities


  • What did YOU do to meet the objective of/complete the task?
  • You might want to cover what you did and how you did it, including what skills you used.
  • An interviewer is looking for how you assessed and decided what was the appropriate response to the situation, and how you got the other team members involved – which in turn is a great way to demonstrate your communication skills.


  • What was the outcome?
  • Did you make a difference?
  • Can you quantify this?


  • What did you do well?
  • What didn’t go as well as you’d hoped?
  • After reflection, what would you have done differently?
  • What could have been improved to achieve an even greater success?

What not to say:

This is about you highlighting your skills – but this isn’t your chance to show off. It’s not going to impress the interviewer if you claim that every problem was someone else’s fault and you fixed them single-handedly because you are brilliant, or claiming there’s never been a problem in any team you’ve worked in because you are wonderful!

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