How to Handle Questions About Handling Problems For a Teen Job

Answering This Question is No More Difficult Just Because You're Young

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If you're a teenager and starting to look for your first job or a new position, the process can be scary and intimidating. The best thing you can do for yourself is to research and prepare ahead of time. Most employers use very similar questions, some just worded a little differently. By reviewing potential questions, you can spend time brainstorming appropriate answers so you sound confident and professional during the interview.

Employers ask about how you handle problems in order to get a sense of your problem-solving skills. One question typically asked of teenage job seekers is "Tell me about a major problem you recently handled. Were you successful in resolving it?"

When answering the question, illustrate the example. Explain the situation and its importance, what went wrong, what impact the problem could have, what you did to fix it and the ultimate results. 

If you do not have work experience, it's okay to use examples from school. Just try to keep it meaningful and highlight your resourcefulness.

Sample Answer

A good example would be, "I had a major paper due for my biology class. It was an extensive research project and accounted for a big part of my grade. I was almost finished and was just writing the conclusion when a thunderstorm hit and the power went out. My professor has a strict lateness policy and accepts no excuses, so I knew I had to hand it in the next morning on time or I'd fail the assignment.

I used my phone to look up coffee shops that were open all night and that had wireless internet. I did backup my work frequently, so I only lost about a page and a half. I was able to go to the coffee shop, rewrite the sections of the paper I lost, add in my sources and proofread it. I handed it in the next morning on time, and ended up getting an A on the paper and in the class."

In this example, the candidate shows that he is prepared; he regularly backs up his work, so that shows he is careful and conscientious. When the power went out, he thought to look up area locations where he could work, demonstrating quick thinking and resourcefulness when faced with a problem. He found a way to get the work done and met the deadline, without sacrificing quality. That's an outstanding example that shows you're a good employee. 

During the Interview

While it's a good idea to have a few examples in your head to use if questions like this come up, do not try to memorize a script or a template. It's important that you sound natural and authentic. Employers want to see that you can handle high-pressure situations with poise, so take deep breaths and take your time when answering. With practice, you'll nail the interview.