7-Step Problem-Solving Framework

You can demonstrate the strength of your problem-solving ability by walking an interviewer through the following seven-step framework while describing how you solved a real-life problem in a previous job. When discussing that scenario, you should demonstrate the ability to: 

  1. Define the problem: Have the candidate identify what went wrong by including both a cause and an effect in the definition of the problem he or she solved.
  2. Define the objectives: Have the candidate explain the outcome he or she wanted to achieve as a result of solving the problem.
  3. Generate alternatives: How many alternatives did the candidate generate? Did the quality of the alternatives vary greatly? Was there a significant difference in the hard—and soft—costs associated with each idea? This is the area in which the candidate can demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness as a problem solver.
  4. Develop an action plan: Have the candidate recap a detailed action plan. Most action plans for tough problems involve taking several steps over a period of time. In his or her recap, does the candidate specify who did what? And by what dates? The devil is in the details, and detailed problem solvers are usually more effective than generalists.
  5. Troubleshoot: This is where the candidate can recap the worst-case scenarios. What could have gone wrong in this plan? What might have been the side effects? How did the candidate ensure that this plan would work? Were there unintended consequences?
  6. Communicate: Getting information to the right people is key in getting buy-in to make any change a success. Have the candidate address which individuals or groups affected the success of his or her action plan. Does the candidate explain who was impacted by it and who needed to be informed about it? How did he or she communicate with relevant parties? The most effective executives are those who can leverage their time and talents by getting things done through other people. This is your opportunity to build your company’s management bench.
  7. Implement: Have the candidate explain who carried out the plan and monitored its implementation. Who was accountable for each part of the solution? What were the consequences of failure to meet the plan? Try to determine: As a manager, will the candidate be hard on the issues and soft on the people?

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