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Give an Example of a Time You Were Creative

In an interview, you will likely be asked to share an example of a time you solved a problem creatively. In the workplace, you will face unforeseen challenges, so it is vital to show your interviewer that you are adaptable and can resolve an issue on the fly.

Here are some other ways this topic might be phrased:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to change your approach at the last minute. 
  • Tell me about a time things didn’t go as planned.
  • Tell me about a time you were faced with an unexpected challenge.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to be creative when solving a problem. 

Let’s dive deeper into the creative problem solving interview question and look at a sample for how to answer it. 

Why do interviewers ask this question?

A well-functioning team requires employees who can solve problems independently. A manager needs to feel confident in the decision-making abilities of their reports, lest they have to micromanage everything that everyone on their team does. Hearing you describe how you solved a problem will shed light on your decision-making capabilities and help a hiring manager trust that you’d make a capable and reliable staffer. 

Creativity breeds innovation, but it’s a complex trait to nail down. It’s one of those things where “you know it when you see it,” so learning about your past experiences is a good way for an interviewer to see your creativity in action.

What the interviewer is looking for in an answer

Problems are an inherent part of work. How you respond to them will make or break your success in a role. An interviewer wants to hear how a candidate approaches a problem with confidence and ingenuity.

They also want to learn whether you’re adaptable. When the typical approach doesn’t work, can you come up with an alternative on the fly, or do you get stuck? Craft your answer to demonstrate how your solution might not have been the most obvious, but wound up getting the job done.

How to answer the question “Give an example of a time you were creative at work?”

Find the right example

Since interviewers are looking for examples of your creativity, some of the best answers will stem from everyday scenarios where you took an unexpected path. Another strategy is to think of a time when your idea led to a change in your organization’s approach. 

Explain your thinking

Describe how you arrived at your creative solution. Did it stem from something someone said? Was it the product of what you’d learned from past experience? How did you weigh this option against the others to decide it was the best one?

Highlight required skills

Your answer is a great opportunity to incorporate other skills the job description asks for, whether technical skills, like working with a piece of software, or soft skills, like communicating with a team. 

Sample answer to “Give an example of a time you were creative”

Example #1

“I had a customer who needed a dress in a different size for an event she was going to the following day. Because it was after 2 PM, it was past the cutoff for a next-day shipment from our nearest fulfillment center. Using our inventory tracker, I could see that other store locations had the dress in stock. It occurred to me that because the west coast is several hours behind us, the stores there would still have enough time to set up an overnight shipment. I got on the phone and started calling our locations in California. I arranged an overnight shipment of the dress to arrive by 2 PM the following day. The package arrived in time for the event and won us a customer for life.”

Since there are different ways interviewers might phrase a question about creative problem-solving, it’s best to come prepared with a few different examples. Then, you can choose the one that fits best based on the specific question and what you think the interviewer is most interested in hearing.