Critical thinking interview questions - hiring manager tips

Written by
Changeboard team

23 Jul 2019

23 Jul 2019 • by Changeboard team

These critical thinking interview tips will help hiring managers recruit candidates with strong decision-making skills - especially at a senior level.

See also: 12 critical thinking interview questions to ask candidates

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills a candidate can have.

Senior candidates obviously require critical thinking in order to be able to provide true value to the organisation in a role that largely requires decision-making. Even candidates seeking early career roles will benefit from having critical thinking skills. They may not need to make decisions now, but as they progress through the company, they could become a valuable asset.

When interviewing candidates - especially senior ones for management, senior leadership and c-suite positions - it makes sense to embed some form of critical thinking assessment into your interview process.

With these critical thinking interview questions and tips you can make your assessment structured, rather than taking the risk of going with your gut.

What specific critical thinking skills should candidates display in interviews?

General: The ability to identify problems and make careful decisions on next steps

Mid-management: The ability to make key decisions and resolve substantial problems

Leaders and c-suite: The ability to make top-level decisions with recourse to strategies that have had proven success, along with strong problem-solving capabilities

All candidates with strong critical thinking skills should be:

  • Creative - able to think outside the box and consider new ideas and processes
  • Analytical - able to think through solutions logically, even if there is a dearth of information and resources
  • Accountable - able to solve problems and evaluate solutions post-application. They should also be able to take responsibility for their decisions and justify them in an objective, logical way.

What can hiring managers learn from a candidate's response to critical thinking interview questions?

You have a wide range of critical thinking interview questions to choose from. Whichever ones you ask, your aim is to determine if the candidate  can:

  • Assess a situation
  • Apply logic in order to precisely understand goals, challenges, the background of the task, and potential solutions
  • Gain information through communication and/or data analysis to gain rich insight
  • Evaluate alternative solutions
  • Make informed, reasoned decisions that will objectively provide value to the organisation
  • Communicate their reasoning and process during the interview clearly, without ambiguity

The ideal candidate may also be able to demonstrate that they have successfully (and diplomatically) challenged assumptions in order to help final decisions be good ones. They may also be able to demonstrate that they can make decisions under pressure that meet deadlines but are not hasty.

What to listen out for when a candidate describes how they use their critical thinking skills in an interview:

  • Did they describe how they identified the key need/issue?
  • Did they describe WHY they knew the need/issue was key?
  • Did they talk about how they determined the best solutions out of possible alternatives?
  • Did they talk about how they resolved challenges like budget, resource and deadlines?
  • Did they talk about how they used evidence, analysis, research and collaboration to support their judgements?
  • Did they display a willingness to question their own thinking in order to achieve an objectively better result?
  • Did they describe any contingency planning or evaluation of actions once they were taken?
  • Did they aim to communicate their experience to you in a detailed, clear and unambiguous way?

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