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Advent Calendar advice Applications competencies Interviews STAR

Careers Advent Calendar: Demonstrate your problem-solving skills

Employers want to know how you would tackle problems. Can you use logic and imagination to find solutions? Better still, can you anticipate problems and find ways to prevent them?

Good problem-solvers possess the following skills:

  • analytical skills
  • innovative and creative thinking
  • a lateral mindset
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • level-headedness
  • initiative
  • resilience (in order to reassess when your first idea doesn’t work)
  • teamworking (if problem solving is a team effort)
  • influencing skills (to get colleagues, clients and bosses to adopt your solutions).

How can you prove your problem-solving skills?

You might be asked in an interview to talk about a time you solved a problem, or you could be given a hypothetical situation and asked how you would respond to it e.g.

Give me an example of a time when you ran into a problem on a project. What did you do?

OR

How would you react if given negative feedback by a manager on an aspect of your performance?

In both these cases, you should refer to the above list of skills and how you demonstrated each when giving your answer. 

Developing your problem-solving techniques 

The following situations are all good examples of using problem-solving skills:

  • Sorting out a technical problem with your phone, device or computer.
  • Resolving a dispute with a tricky landlord in order to get your deposit back.
  • Carrying out DIY.
  • Serving a demanding customer or resolving a complaint.
  • Finding a way round a funding shortfall in order to pay for travel or a gap year.
  • Turning around the finances or increasing the membership of a struggling student society.
  • Organising a student society’s trip overseas, overcoming unforeseen difficulties on the way.
  • Acting as a course rep or as a mentor for other students.
  • Course assignments that involve problem solving

Articulating your skills

You will need to explain how you identified the problem, came up with a solution and implemented it. Follow the STAR technique outlined on our website. If you tackled a problem as part of a team, explain how your role was important in ensuring the positive solution, but also explain how your group worked together. This could be an opportunity to promote your teamworking skills as well – bonus!

For more advice on developing your problem-solving technique, visit the Target website

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Career planning competencies Employers GradFest2020 Interviews STAR

4 Ways to prep for a job interview, according to our career experts

This four-point interview prep checklist has been put together by our awesome Careers Team to help you nail that all-important job interview.

1. Cover the basics

Be in the right place, at the right time

Make sure you know who you are meeting, when and where. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people mess up the logistical details of job interviews – either by miscalculating the time it will take to get to the interview location and arriving late or by noting the time or location down incorrectly. Confirm the date, time and location, along with your attendance when you respond (promptly) to the interview invite. Avoid awkward introductions my memorising the name of the person you are meeting.

If it’s a video, skype or phone interview, make sure you are in a quiet location that has a good connection.  For video or skype, make sure that your surroundings and the clothes you are wearing look professional.

For more tips on virtual interviewing and assessment  centres, check out our Masterclass on the GradFest2020 site.

2. Do your research

Employee testimonials can give you a feel for company culture

Look up the company’s website, paying particular attention to their mission, strategy and values – try to weave these into any answers you give about why you want to work for the organisation. Learn who their clients/customers are and who their competitors might be. Don’t just look at what a company says about itself (many employers provide company information via MyFuture), but what employees and past employees say about them. Review sites such as Glassdoor allow you to read what employees say about the company culture as well as interview experience. 

Take time to investigate what is going on in the relevant industry and how that impacts upon your prospective employer.

For top tips on how employers are navigating the post COVID-19 workplace, check out our Masterclass on adapting to the changing world of work.

3. Know what job you are applying for

Research what you’ll be doing and who you’ll be reporting to

Read and re-read the job description so you can refer to it in your interview answers. Look at the company website for more role information and how that fits in the structure of the organisation. Look for networking opportunities to speak to people in the company or the industry.

Our LinkedIn Masterclass has loads of tips for networking online. 

4. Sell yourself

You are awesome – you just have to show them how

Once you have an understanding of the organisation and the role for which you are interviewing, think about your key selling points and how they relate to this job. Evidence with examples each of the elements in the person specification.
It can be useful to use a mind map to remind yourself of elements from your degree, your extra-curricular activities and your work. Or to use a timeline for the last few years to draw out the key milestones and what you gained from them. Pay attention to the things you really enjoyed and the challenges you overcame.
Use this evidence to prepare STAR-formatted answers for each of the skills elements in the person specification.

Check out our employability skills resources for key skills employers are looking for and how you can develop them.