Tough Interview Questions - What problems have you encountered in your work?

Following is a tough interview question:

What problems have you encountered in your work?

Similar interview questions:
What are the most significant barriers to success in your work? What issues keep you from completing your work? Walk me through your approach to solving problems and issues at work.

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer wants to know about what type of problems you may face in your role, either problems which are ongoing or problems which may come up on a periodic or one-time basis. But the interviewer doesn't really want to know about the problems themselves. Rather, the interviewer is seeking to explore what your approach is to these problems and how you are solving the problems. Note that some interviewees use this question as a way to sound off on the unsolvable problems at work. That is usually a pretty quick disqualification in the interview.

The best approach to answering this question:
A better way to think of this question is to take it as: "What problems have you solved in your work?" All jobs include problems that need to be solved. The focus of your answer should be more on how you solved the problem rather than the problem itself. If you can show diversity in your approach to solving different problems in different situations, your answer will be even better.

An example of how to best answer this question:
"I can tell you about a problem I had to deal with this past month. I identified a high incidence of customer service calls coming in on a particular product that we were selling online. This was a long-time product from a long-time seller, so it wasn't immediately clear why we were having problems with it. So I called a quick scrum meeting of all of the customer service agents who had received calls about the product to get their direct input. We found that the manufacturer had apparently changed a key design detail on the product which affected about 4% of purchasers with older versions of the operating system. This change was not reflected in the product description at our site, so a small percentage of purchasers were buying the product and ended up returning it because it didn't work with their operating system. When we came together as a group, we were able to identify the specific problem and come up with the solution. We immediately had the description changed online to properly reflect the compatibility issue, then sent out an e-mail to all those with orders pending to make sure that customers were aware of the compatibility change. We then sent out a complimentary gift certificate to all customers who had ordered the product and needed to return it, apologizing for our error. Even though the manufacturer had failed to inform us of the change, we took responsibility for it with our customers, which they appreciated. In the end, our ability to make the change quickly saved several thousand dollars in return shipping costs and restocking costs, as well as retained the goodwill of our customers. We also informed the manufacturer, which has since put out a new release covering previous versions. We then offered the updated product version to all who returned the product and gave them the opportunity to buy it at a discount with their gift certificate."

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Wow, do we have problems! Where do I begin? Well, most of the problems are internal, just people not working well with each other. I have one person on our team who is a real problem, but it seems like management is afraid to do anything about it. So we all end up having to do extra work to cover for this person, who just doesn't work. We all say that he's retired in place. I think he's just holding on until retirement in a couple years. But he's a real problem. I complain about it--a lot--but nothing ever seems to get done. I've even written negative reviews about the person, hoping he will get canned, but it doesn't happen. I can't wait for him to retire."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!