The reason the "What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision?" interview question is such a common one is because it very clearly and unambiguously asks a candidate to break down his or her problem solving strategies in a way that demonstrates the process behind them. That way- hiring managers are better able to understand the quality of an individual's overall work process and not just the results he or she gets in individual situations. Variations on this question include "How do you approach learning about a new problem?" and "What methods do you use to familiarize yourself with a challenge before you get started?"
The key to answering these types of interview questions effectively is understanding what a consistent and quality process looks like- and then tailoring your natural problem solving approach so that the description you give is matched to the traits your interviewer is looking for. That way- you can be sure that you have fully explained your process and that it hits all the notes they are evaluating for most closely.
How to Answer the 'What Steps do You Follow to Study a Problem Before Making a Decision?' Interview Question
Match Your Process to Your Role: Since this question is about your general approach- you want to make sure that the steps in your process reflect the role you are currently filling- but that they also match up with the job you are interviewing for. That way- you clearly demonstrate that your process works in multiple contexts- but you also show exactly how it will fit in to your new role if you get hired for the prospective job. Matching those elements also gives definition to the more general traits you are discussing- but select your examples carefully so your answer stays concise and detailed. Otherwise- an interviewer might lose the thread that ties it together.
Emphasize Quality and Assessment: One of the most important traits assessed by problem solving and process-oriented interview questions is a prospective employee's ability to self-correct. Showing that your problem solving process is complete and multidimensional enough to meet this need is key if you want to impress a hiring manager- because the ability to self-check and to approach solving problems with an eye toward long-term or unintended consequences can be a difficult one to train. Chances are- your process will need to adapt to the employer's needs because no one way of moving through problems is totally complete and foolproof- but showing that you have a consistent and sophisticated method also shows the interviewer that you are prepared to make the adaptation
Write Out Your Organization: Answering interview questions is a lot like competitive public speaking because it is fairly easy to predict what the likely prompts are going to be- so when you are preparing sample answers and approaches- it really helps to be able to see how much information you have and whether or not it covers the topic clearly and completely. Taking the time to organize your thoughts on paper- in addition to performing practice answers until you feel comfortable with the question- helps to make sure that you are in complete control of what you say and how you say it. That way- each answer is just clear and detailed enough to make an impact without losing momentum or losing the interviewer's attention.
Sample 'What Steps do You Follow to Study a Problem Before Making a Decision?' Interview Answers
1. I make sure that I am assessing the problem from all the available angles I can figure out first by asking myself and my team questions like 'who does this impact and how?' and 'what is likely to happen if we do not address the problem?' By understanding how it is currently impacting people and what will happen without intervention- I can better understand the consequences of any potential solutions. From there- I like to gather more detailed information that allows me to begin brainstorming- either alone or with others- what it is that needs to happen to resolve this in the best way for everyone who is impacted by the situation.
2. When approaching a new problem- I look for expertise from those around me. That way- if there is anyone who has dealt with a similar problem- or anyone who has ideas- I can gather that information. From there- it is a matter of learning enough to know what the differences are between this new problem and the closest experience my teammates have. Sometimes- when none of us have knowledge about a challenge we're facing- this means breaking for outside research. It can be a little time consuming- but I find that it is worthwhile when you compare the time it takes to understand what has worked for similar problems to the consequences of acting without understanding what has worked and what has not worked in the past.
Remember- the key here is to make the process transparent and to also highlight the ways that you evaluate your information to make sure you have a built-in quality control process.