How To Demonstrate Your Problem Solving Skills on Your Resume

Help Desk laptop with post-its

This blog post offers practical tips on how to demonstrate your problem solving skills on your resume using examples of your past success solving problems.

The key qualities and behaviours of a skilled problem solver are defined, and problem-solving processes are explored to help you to write your achievement stories.

To Demonstrate Your Problem Solving Skills You Should Provide Examples of Your Problem Solving Success

To prove you are a skilled problem solver, you need to give examples of when you have previously solved problems well. You can use examples from your study, work, or volunteer roles.

The best examples are those where you can demonstrate that you solved the problem effectively. In other words, you are looking for examples that show a sound problem-solving process and a good outcome (or result). So, no band-aid solutions or temporary quick fixes. Instead, you are looking for examples where you identified the underlying cause and resolved.

Problem Solving Achievement Stories for Resume

You will then use these examples to write achievement stories for your resume. The most straightforward formula for writing an achievement story is: Accomplished (X) by doing (Z).

You should state the result (X) and then describe what actions (Z) you took to achieve that result. 

The actions (Z) are as important as the result (X). For your problem solving example, your result will be the outcome of your problem-solving success. The actions will give insight into your problem-solving process.

To help you write your actions (problem-solving process), here are some notes on the qualities and behaviours of a skills problem solver. Within your examples, a potential employer will be expecting to see some of these qualities and behaviours that indicate your problem-solving strengths.

Qualities and Behaviour of a Skilled Problem Solver

Effective problem-solving requires several skills and personal qualities. For example, a capable problem solver is creative, analytical, resilient and persistent, with strengths in lateral thinking and logical reasoning.

Also, keep in mind that identifying a solution is only step one. From here, you need to implement your plan. This will often require communication, persuasion and negotiation skills.  

Behaviours of a Skilled Problem Solver

  • Approaches a problem objectively; detaches emotion to identify the problem and cause
  • Explores solutions through brainstorming and seeking different points of view
  • Communicates solutions clearly and builds support for the proposed action
  • Works hard; is focused and persistent, ensuring no time is wasted
  • Thinks outside the box; doesn’t always select the obvious solution
  • Builds networks and collaborates with other people and teams
  • Identifies a range of solutions and potential courses of action
  • Breaks down problems and identifies all components
  • Addresses the underlying causes of a problem
  • Involves others in the problem-solving process
  • Seeks advice or asks for help when required
  • Applies approaches from other disciplines
  • Evaluates action after implementation
  • Shares knowledge and information
  • Sets realistic expectations

Sound Problem Solving Process

The team huddled over a large sheet of paper with  words "Solution Problem Solving Ideas Strategy Concept"

There are many frameworks or models for problem-solving; for example, the Productive Thinking Model or the IDEAL problem-solving method. The best approach will depend on the problem and the context.  For instance, a model specific to law enforcement is the SARA model.

However, there are some common elements of an effective process for problem-solving. You should keep these elements in mind when you develop your achievement stories for your resume.

  • Identify the problem and define the desired outcome. This includes gathering all available information to determine the extent of the problem and help form possible solutions.
  • Explore solutions by looking at alternatives, brainstorming, and gathering different points of view. You should evaluate options by examining the benefits, costs, and risks.
  • Decisively take action and implement your solution.
  • Look back and evaluate the outcome of your actions.

This ten-step problem-solving process is also a good resource: The 10-Step Problem Solving Process to Overcome Any Issue

Selecting Your Problem Solving Examples for Your Resume

Selecting the right example is critical. You are looking for an example where you effectively and efficiently provided a sound solution to a problem. Ideally, you need to be able to provide evidence that the solution was a good one.

Prompt Questions

Here are some prompt questions to help you think of examples:

  • What was the most challenging aspect of your previous job? how did you handle or overcome it?
  • Have you identified a small problem and fixed it before it become a major problem?
  • Have you resolved a technical problem? How did you troubleshoot the problem? What was the outcome?
  • Have you identified a potential risk? What steps did you take to mitigate the risk?

Choose your best examples. Your best examples will be recent and relevant to the position you are applying. Most importantly, you will be the star of the story.

Example Problem Solving Achievement Stories for Resume

A Note on Resume Writing Conventions: The examples provided show different approaches to writing your resume. That is, varying degrees of ‘resume writing speak’ (or resume writing conventions). For example, writing in first-person implied (leaving out pronouns), eliminating articles (a, an, the), or using short sentences. Your resume should have an authentic voice. Therefore, the best approach is the one that feels genuine for you. For more information, see Resume Writing Conventions.

  • Identified store front step as a tripping hazard and took action; on first shift in the new store, noticed that two customers missed a step on exit. Immediately placed a sign on the door and arranged for a step visibility strip to be installed.  
  • Uncovered team member skill gap and provided training; determined computer skills were not adequate based on role requirements. Clarified expectations and provided software training. Performance improved to a level of expectation.  
  • Saved $150K by reducing store payroll from 18% of total revenue in 2015 to 16% in 2015; implemented payroll budgets.  Introduced a new web-based rostering system.

Additional Resources

For assistance writing your achievement stories, see: How to Write Achievement Story

Understanding how skills are performed well is helpful for writing your resume.
For additional advice on demonstrating key skills on your resume, see How Skills Are Performed Well

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