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Giving an Example of When You Used Logic To Solve a Problem
Updated March 10, 2023
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Interviewers often ask candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving skills in a professional context. If candidates can prepare an effective example of their logical abilities, they could increase their chances of progressing in the hiring process.
In this article, we explain why interviewers ask you to give an example of a time you used logic to solve a problem, list the steps for how to answer this question and provide some example responses to review.
Why do employers ask you to provide an example of when you used logic to solve a problem?
Employers typically ask this question to better understand your critical thinking skills in the workplace, including how you might approach a project process or resolve an unexpected issue. Hiring managers often value employees who can use logic to determine the most optimal course of action for different situations. By providing a concrete example of your problem-solving skills, they can determine whether you might benefit a department and fit into a team structure.
How to answer a question about a time you used logic to solve a problem
Follow these steps to prepare an effective answer for this common interview question:
1. Reflect on your previous experiences
Spend some time reflecting on your professional and personal experiences to select a situation with a successful and quantifiable outcome. For instance, you might share an anecdote about a production process you altered that resulted in a revenue increase, or describe how you researched salaries in the job market to help you choose between two career paths. If you're an entry-level candidate, you can share an experience from an academic class, like a time you received a high grade on a challenging assignment. It may also be helpful to select an example with a step-by-step process.
2. Align your example to the job description
Review the job responsibilities listed in the original description to narrow your options, then give your experiences a context. It's important to connect your example to a job position's expectations, as this approach can help a hiring manager visualize you in the role. Consider selecting a few keywords from the job description to use in your response, as this approach can indicate your knowledge of a company's language and protocols, which may differ from general industry standards.
3. Research the company's values
3. use the star interview method.
The STAR interview method describes four steps you can use to structure an example using key storytelling techniques. It can help you construct a distinct beginning, middle and ending for your anecdote, giving it a logical flow and clarifying each step you took to solve a problem. The STAR method can help you form concise and specific responses, which many hiring managers value during an interview. It can also make your response more engaging and memorable, as people can often better recall a well-constructed story.
Here are the four steps of the STAR method:
Situation: First, discuss the context of your example. It's important to give enough key details about the specific problem you solved, so a hiring manager can better understand the circumstances and why you applied logic to the process.
Task: Explain the overall goal you strived toward in your example through a problem-solving process. For instance, your objective might involve increasing customer engagement during a sales event.
Action: Describe each part of your problem-solving process using illustrative details. Be mindful to focus on your own actions during an event, even if you worked in a team-based environment and used a colleague's input.
Result: At the end of your response, reveal how you solved the problem and accomplished your goal. Consider discussing the lessons you learned from this experience and how you might apply them to the job position.
4. Compose your answer
It's often helpful to compose your STAR response in a document you can study. Depending on your preference, you can either write full sentences or prepare an outline of key points to introduce. Consider the following strategies while writing your response:
Emphasize your enthusiasm for problem-solving. Hiring managers may appreciate a candidate who enjoys the problem-solving process, as this can indicate an ability to innovate new ideas and work independently.
Consider how a job position benefits the company. All positions play a different role in a company's day-to-day operations. It may be helpful to specify whether your actions helped a company achieve its goals.
Include any positive feedback. If a previous supervisor ever highlighted your logic skills and problem-solving efforts, you can reference this feedback in your example. For example, you might share how a manager responded to your project results.
Check in with the interviewer. Consider asking the hiring manager whether your response answered their question sufficiently. Including this line in your document may help you recall this follow-up strategy during the interview.
5. Practice your delivery
Consider practicing your response in a mirror or with a trusted peer before your interview date. It may be helpful to study presentation strategies through an online tutorial, as these methods can help you explain your logic steps both clearly and confidently in an unfamiliar environment.
Here are sample responses to an interview question about a time you used logic to solve a problem:
Customer service example
In my previous retail job, many customers approached the register one day with questions about a new discount offer. When they tried to apply the code we emailed through the store's mobile application, the system failed to recognize it. To ensure the customers received the discount, I verified each individual entered the key using correct spelling and capitalizations. Then, I tested three different discount codes to confirm our system functioned correctly. The IT team used my findings to solve the issue quickly, resulting in messages of appreciation from customers who used the code afterward.
Health care example
As a nurse practitioner, I often use problem-solving techniques to diagnose my patients and provide the best possible treatment options. Last year, I had a patient who presented with cold symptoms and a stomachache. My team initially determined they had a stomach virus, but I decided to inquire more about their recent dietary habits.
I discovered the patient recently ate multiple meals at a new restaurant near their home. After researching the ingredients of each meal through the restaurant's website and conducting a rigorous testing procedure, I determined the patient had a mild walnut allergy. Four months later, they reported zero symptoms after eliminating this food from their diet.
Consider the following example response from a business perspective:
Two months ago, my department decided to reduce costs in our product supply chain. My supervisor instructed me to research and hire a new manufacturing company able to fulfill this request and maintain the same quality. Using market research and quantitative analysis, I determined the company might lose more revenue in the yearly report by hiring a new team. After conveying my findings to my supervisor, they instructed me to negotiate terms with our current partners. As a result, we decreased our manufacturing costs by 17% and the company's owner commended my efforts to find a logical solution.
In my last position at a large corporation, I analyzed datasets on a day-to-day basis to research competitor strategies. During a high-traffic month, I noticed our significant competitors increased their monthly sales by 5%, which deviated from our current forecasts substantially. To create more accurate forecasts in the future, I determined we needed to adjust our competitor analytics model using both updated market research and key historical data. After testing each adjustment multiple times, I increased our forecast accuracy by 20%.
College graduate example
While completing my degree, I learned how to use logic to solve multiple issues, which can help me succeed in a job position. For instance, when designing my class schedule for my last semester, I realized I needed to finish four more courses to graduate on time. I also needed to finish my independent study requirement, which only offered half the typical credits of a college class. To solve this problem, I realized needed to either take an extra class or negotiate the terms of my independent study plan.
As my senior-year classes were rigorous and I often worked part-time during my usual study hours, I decided to forgo the extra class option and proposed a more in-depth independent study plan to qualify for extra course credit. My advisor approved my plan, and I graduated with high marks and honors at the end of the semester.
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A Logical Problem Solving Strategy
This page was developed by David DeMuth based on: Heller & Heller, "The Competent Problem Solver, A Strategy for Solving Problems in Physics", calculus version, 2nd ed., Minneapolis, MN: McGraw-Hill, 1995. If you are a faculty member or researcher and would like a complimentary copy of "The Competent Problem Solver", please contact McGraw-Hill Publishing @ 1-800-338-3987-3, or go to McGraw-Hill Higher Education Website .
At one level, problem solving is just that, solving problems. Presented with a problem you try to solve it. If you have seen the problem before and you already know its solution, you can solve the problem by recall. Solving physics problems is not very different from solving any kind of problem. In your personal and professional life, however, you will encounter new and complex problems. The skillful problem solver is able to invent good solutions for these new problem situations. But how does the skillful problem solver create a solution to a new problem? And how do you learn to be a more skillful problem solver?
Research in the nature of problem solving has been done in a variety of disciplines such as physics, medical diagnosis, engineering, project design and computer programming. There are many similarities in the way experts in these disciplines solve problems. The most important result is that experts follow a general strategy for solving all complex problems. If you practice and learn this general strategy you will be successful in this course. In addition, you will become familiar with a general strategy fro solving problems that will be useful in your chosen profession.
A Logical Problem-Solving Strategy
Experts solve real problems in several steps. Getting started is the most difficult step. In the first and most important step, you must accurately visualize the situation, identify the actual problem , and comprehend the problem . At first you must deal with both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the problem. You must interpret the problem in light of your own knowledge and experience; ie. Understanding . This enables you to decide what information is important, what information can be ignored, and what additional information may be needed, even though it was not explicitly provided. In this step it is also important to draw a picture of the problem situation. A picture is worth a thousand words if, of course, it is the right picture. (If a picture is worth a thousand words, and words are a dime a dozen, then what is a pictures monetary value?) In the second step, you must represent the problem in terms of formal concepts and principles, whether these are concepts of architectural design, concepts of medicine, or concepts of physics. These formal concepts and principles enable you to simplify a complex problem to its essential parts, making the search for a solution easier. Third, you must use your representation of the problem to plan a solution . Planning results in an outline of the logical steps required to obtain a solution. In many cases the logical steps are conveniently expressed as mathematics. Forth, you must determine a solution by actually executing the logical steps outlined in your plan. Finally, you must evaluate how well the solution resolves the original problem.
The general strategy can be summarized in terms of five steps:
The strategy begins with the qualitative aspects of a problem and progresses toward the quantitative aspects of a problem. Each step uses information gathered in the previous step to translate the problem into more quantitative terms. These steps should make sense to you. You have probably used a similar strategy when you have solved problems before.
A Physics-Specific Strategy
Each profession has its own specialized knowledge and patterns of thought. The knowledge and thought processes that you use in each of the steps will depend on the discipline in which you operate. Taking into account the specific nature of physics, we choose to label and interpret the five steps of the general problem solving strategy as follows:
Focus the Problem:
Describe the physics:, plan the solution:, execute the plan:, evaluate the answer:.
Consider each step as a translation of the previous step into a slightly different language. You begin with the full complexity of real objects interacting in the real world and through a series of steps arrive at a simple and precise mathematical expression.
The five-step strategy represents an effective way to organize your thinking to produce a solution based on your best understanding of physics. The quality of the solution depends on the knowledge that you use in obtaining the solution. Your use of the strategy also makes it easier to look back through your solution to check for incorrect knowledge and assumptions. That makes it an important tool for learning physics. If you learn to use the strategy effectively, you will find it a valuable tool to use for solving new and complex problems. After all, those are the ones that you will be hired to solve in your chosen profession.
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Why logic problems.
A logic problem is a general term for a type of puzzle that is solved through deduction. Given a limited set of truths and a question, we step through the different scenarios until an answer is found. While these problems rarely involving coding, they require problem-solving and the ability to articulate plausible outcomes.
You may encounter logic problems during technical interviews for a programming position so it’s worth developing a strategy on how to approach these questions. They’re also a fun way to strengthen your algorithmic reasoning skills!
Our Question: Apples, Oranges, or Both?
We’ll start with the following problem. You’re faced with three jars labeled “Apples”, “Oranges”, and “Both”. You cannot see the contents of these jars, but you’re informed that each is mislabeled . The contents of the jar are not decribed by the label.
How many times would you need to draw from a jar in order to accurately label each jar?
Our Solution: Using the Information
Let’s boil down our problem into factual statements we can use to draw conclusions.
- The jars are mislabeled
- There are three jars
- One jar is a combination of the contents of the other two jars.
We can use these facts to deduce further information which will be instrumental in solving the problem.
First we can rephrase “the jars are mislabeled” as “the jar labeled ‘Apples’ does not contain Apples “. It’s the same information but presented in a way that will be easier to work towards a solution.
We should also be drawn to item 3: there’s more information available in the “Both” jar which makes it a more “fruitful” source of inquiry. In general, be aware of any exceptions or abnormalities in the phrasing of the question.
Our Solution: Filling in Scenarios
Now we’ll begin walking through hypothetical situations. Being able to reason through the problem and articulate your thought process is essential to performing well in a technical interview.
Let’s imagine we draw a fruit from the jar labeled “Apples”. We know this jar doesn’t only contain apples, but we’re faced with two possibilities. We could draw an apple or we could draw an orange. If we drew an apple, we’d know this was the “Both” jar, but what if we drew an orange? Then this jar remains a mystery, either “Both” and we just happened to draw an orange, or it’s purely “Oranges”. We’re still in the dark!
The thought process is the same for drawing from the “Oranges” jar, so now imagine drawing from the “Both” jar. Again, we may draw either type of fruit, but we’ve learned something more substantial. If we draw an orange, we know this is “Oranges”. If we draw an apple, we know this is “Apples”. There is no ambiguity because the jar is mislabeled as “Both”.
Our Solution: Drawing Conclusions
We’ve identified one jar, do we need to make additional queries? We should return to our Use the Information step. Let’s say we’ve identified “Oranges”.
We have the old “Both” jar, now correctly labeled “Oranges”, and two mislabeled jars: “Oranges” and “Apples”. Can we draw further conclusions? We can!
“Apples” and “Oranges” are both mislabeled, but we have new information. We know where the true “Oranges” is. This doesn’t help us with the mislabeled “Oranges”, it could be either “Both” or “Apples”.
It does help with “Apples”. We know “Apples” is not “Oranges” because we’ve already identified “Oranges”. We also know “Apples” isn’t really “Apples” because it’s mislabeled. That leaves only one option, this jar is “Both”.
With two correctly labeled jars, the third is easily identified as “Apples”
To wrap it up: “Both” –> “Oranges”, which leads us to “Apples” –> “Both” and “Oranges” –> “Apples”
Practice Makes Perfect!
We’ll finish this article with a few practice problems for you to try on your own. Each problem has a link which will take you to an explanation of the solution.
Knights and Knaves
“Knights and knaves” are a popular type of logic puzzle that involves an island inhabited by two types of people: knights and knaves.
- Knights always tell the truth
- Knaves always lie
On the island, you encounter three people, Ted, Ben and Lil.
Ted says, “at least one of the following is true, that Lil is a knave or that I am a knight.”
Ben says, “Ted could claim that I am a knave.”
Lil says, “neither Ted nor Ben are knights.”
Who is a knight and who is a knave?
Here’s the solution.
Three Fastest Horses
We’d like to find the three fastest horses from a group of 25.
We have no stopwatch and our race track has only 5 lanes. No more than 5 horses can be raced at once.
How many races are necessary to evaluate the 3 fastest horses?
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