Cartoon of people solving a giant Rubik's cube climbing up ladders and carrying giant blocks.
Image: © Marina Zlochin/

How to improve your problem-solving skills for work

20 Mar 2023

No matter what field you work in, problem-solving skills are crucial. Here are some tips on how to improve and prove yours.

When we talk about problem-solving, we don’t just mean working out complex equations – there’s a lot more to it than that. It depends on your role, but problem-solving comes into most careers in some form.

If you’re a software engineer, you’ll encounter problems and bugs with code that you have to fix. If you’re working in a lab-based career, experiments and tests may not produce the results you expect. If you’re in the business side of sci-tech, you’ll have to be adept at solving external problems such as working out your team’s response to recessions and supply chain issues.

Problems can arise in the less technical side of our working lives, too. Oftentimes, these sorts of issues are harder to solve. Things like employee dissatisfaction, personal conflicts in the workplace, an employee not pulling their weight or a difficulty in retaining staff.

Of course, there are different approaches required when it comes to tackling certain problems. There’s no hard and fast guide – only general things to bear in mind to help you.

First, let’s look at some of the skills you’ll need to be good at solving problems, before we move on to processes and ways you can prove to your employer that you can find solutions.


Patience, independence, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, research, communication, listening, teamwork, project management and diplomacy are some of the most important skills you’ll use when you’re trying to solve problems.

As discussed above, the problems working people encounter require a mix of hard and soft skills because the problems themselves are not always going to have a straightforward resolution ­– that’s why they are problems.


If you’ve got a job interview coming up and you want to prove to the interviewer that you have what it takes, a good thing to do is talk about the times in your working life when you have successfully seen off a challenge.

If you’re struggling to come up with examples of when you solved a problem, try thinking outside the box. It doesn’t have to be relevant to the job you’re interviewing for, but it would be best if it was. Perhaps you could find a creative way of making it relevant?

When you’re telling employers about times you solved problems or faced challenges, use the STAR method to organise your thoughts and keep you on track.

STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. It’s a good way of keeping your job-related anecdotes focused. Describe the situation you found yourself in, the action you took and the result of that action. Notice we left out one step – task.

When it comes to problem-solving the ‘task’ step might not be usable or relevant. Problem-solving is less about following orders and more about using your initiative.

You might want to replace the ‘task’ step with a step that shows how you worked out what you were going to do. Don’t be afraid to include examples of things you tried that didn’t work out.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading