With such a competitive dynamic in today’s job market, individuals often try to do anything they can to gain an edge and differentiate themselves from other candidates. Interviewers want to be convinced you will be able to solve tough problems and help the corporation achieve its objectives. Demonstrating your ability to think critically and provide innovative solutions to problems is a skill that can help you both secure the job during the interview, as well as climb the corporate ladder after you’ve landed the job.
It’s widely known that one of the best ways to answer interview questions is to make reference to situational experiences in which you successfully solved a problem. Success stories tend to be tales of the defining moments in one’s career when an individual overcame significant challenges to succeed. These stories create a memorable impression and give the interviewer anecdotes about you that identify your ability to think creatively, solve complex problems and provide a solution.
While many experts suggest relating interview questions to similar situations from earlier in one’s career to demonstrate specific experience in dealing with similar situations, this can prove challenging for students preparing to enter the job market for the first time. As we all know, challenges also tend to present opportunities. When preparing for an interview, think of where you use or have used the company’s products or services. Think about the context in which you used a product or service and ask yourself “what could have made that experience even better?” Chances are that you’ve had several occasions like this where the proverbial “light bulb” went off in your head as to what would have made your experience better. With the rise of crowdsourcing, businesses have quickly realized the value that can be derived from the consumers of their products and services – so much so that many large corporations have built full scale social media, consumer insight and guest experience teams to learn from and incorporate their customers’ innovative ideas for improving their products or services.
For instance, while preparing for a job at the corporate office of McDonald’s or Starbucks one may consider addressing an interview question centered around problem solving or critical thinking by drawing on an experience in which you observed an opportunity to improve something and exactly what your solution would entail. Starbucks, through its MyStarbucksIdea platform, solicits and reviews ideas from its customers and has implemented just over 300 ideas over the last five years. Things like WiFi, splash sticks and cake pops all originated through their crowdsourcing platform. McDonald’s recently began testing third drive-thru windows after its social media team picked up a tweet from one customer who decided to share his idea over Twitter by saying, “I hate waiting in line for 20 minutes during the lunch rush at McDonald’s when all I want is a simple McFlurry. Why doesn’t McDonald’s have a third drive-thru window for express orders?” Innovative ideas like these gain the attention from senior leadership throughout an organization.
Companies like 9th Dot, a crowdsourcing consumer insight platform, are gaining traction by serving as the connection point between consumers and businesses. By providing consumers with a “blank canvas” through which they can share their innovative ideas, and potentially earn rewards, 9th Dot enables consumers to showcase their bright ideas to businesses. Having the right portal through which you can share your idea effectively gives you the podium in front of a large lecture hall filled with businesses wanting to learn what they can do better.
Consider that the next time an interviewer asks you to describe the last time you’ve solved a problem and how you went about doing so!