Interview Techniques and Questions to Discover Critical Thinkers

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Traditional job interviews only provide a finite look into a job candidate’s background and experience. Asking the right questions is a critical part of understanding a candidate and discovering if they truly meet the expectations and requirements for the position. Hiring experts say that rushing to judgment during the interview process is a top reason employers make bad hires, but preparing the right interview questions is a smart first step toward avoiding this common mistake.

One of the more difficult skill sets to interview for is critical thinking. Finding critical thinkers to join your team is a worthwhile investment to make, but many employers struggle to confirm if a potential job candidate is truly a critical thinker, or if their past experience simply meets the job demands on the surface. Interviewing for critical thinking competency is one of the best ways to determine if a candidate will not only fulfill the role, but bring new perspectives and ideas to the team as a whole. The following questions and techniques are geared to help employers efficiently understand if the candidate they are interviewing is a critical thinker.

Describe a problem to the candidate that has missing information, then ask, “What further information would you seek out first before making a decision?”

The candidate will need to assess the given information and quickly seek out holes where more information is necessary. If executed properly, this question should reveal if the candidate can analyze problems and apply an investigatory mentality when they lack required information. In many business situations, employees are not given the precise information or resources that they need to make decisions with ease. This type of question prepares employees to think about how they can acquire the needed resources to make an informed decision.

Ask the job candidate to describe a problem or opportunity that they witnessed in a former job and how they dealt with the issue creatively. This question will allow the candidate space to reflect on their past experiences but takes a mere recount of their resume a step further. Candidates will have to describe a specific scenario that demanded a critical thinking application for the proper solution(s). This question format also allows for the interviewer to ascertain the level of responsibility the individual has to solving problems and following through.

Pose a question with multiple outcomes and options.

Ask the candidate, “Given the following options, which would you choose for the best results?” This question format requires that the candidate not only assess and select an answer, but also justify how they reached this conclusion, which should offer plenty of insight into their own critical thinking process.

Propose a hypothetical situation with details related to the job they are interviewing for.

Asking a candidate to solve for a problem on the spot will reflect their ability to think quickly and creatively. If the candidate can assess the risk, factors, and options for a given situation and propose a feasible solution, they are likely able to think critically and efficiently on a daily basis. Ensuring that this question format also relates to the job they are interviewing for should also reveal their ability to picture themselves in the role and to understand the type of work they would be doing, and how they would use their critical thinking in such a role.

One of the best practices for critical thinking interview questions is simply to ask follow-up questions to understand how an individual came to the conclusion that they offered. If the candidate answers a question too briefly, be sure to always follow up, saying, “how did you reach that conclusion?” Applying this simple rule will always take interview questions a step further and require critical thinking processes in the interview itself.

At Adecco, we help our clients to create the most beneficial recruitment strategies for their specific needs.

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