12 Critical thinking interview questions to ask candidates

Written by
Changeboard team

23 Jul 2019

23 Jul 2019 • by Changeboard team

These critical thinking interview questions will help hiring managers recruit candidates who are able to make reasoned decisions at any stage in their career.

How can you evaluate a candidate's critical thinking skills in interviews?

It's easier to evaluate a candidate's critical thinking skills during a job interview if you adhere to a structured process. Hiring managers will want to read up on our how to ask and analyse critical thinking interview questions for a comprehensive answer.

Essentially, hiring managers can ask any of the critical thinking interview questions below, then use these tips to fully evaluate a candidate's answer.

Critical thinking interview questions - list of examples

You can determine a candidate's critical thinking skills by asking them to describe past experiences or presenting them with hypothetical scenarios.

Your questions should be thought-provoking, but not tricky for the sake of it. You are there to encourage a candidate to give a full response. That way you can get a feel for their reasoning and decision-making methods. Offering them brainteasers or riddles is likely to make them shut down, not open up - and your aim in this context is to test their critical thinking, not their resilience.

Critical thinking interview questions based on a candidate's experience

  1. Describe a time when you had to make a decision but you didn't have all the information to hand. What did you do?
  2. Describe a time when you needed to convince the team, managers or senior leaders in your organisation to try an alternative means to solve a problem.
  3. How do you proceed when you need to solve a problem? Can you give an example?
  4. How quickly do you make decisions, and can you describe your approach to a past decision you've made?
  5. Describe a work-based situation when you were presented with an idea you hadn't considered before. What did you do?
  6. Can you describe a time when you found out that your manager had made an error? What did you do?
  7. Can you describe a time when you anticipated a problem in advance and took steps to stop it from becoming an issue?
  8. How do you handle disagreements with peers and coworkers?

Critical thinking interview questions based on hypothetical scenarios

  1. You spot a mistake in a high-profile report made by your manager but it has already been sent out to stakeholders. How do you handle the situation?
  2. You discover a cheaper, quicker or less resource-intensive solution to a problem. You try to explain it to your manager but they don't seem to understand. What do you do?
  3. You're currently in a team of specialists who all have very different ideas for the direction of a project. Deadlines are fast approaching. How do you find a way forward?
  4. A colleague proposes an uncomfortable solution to a problem faced by the organisation. How would you handle the situation?

Analysing the answers to critical thinking questions in interviews

An ideal candidate will be able to learn from past mistakes. They are not too proud to crowdsource solutions or ask for information/advice when it will move the project forward. They can make decisions without jumping to conclusions. They can use logic to justify decisions and actions.

Importantly, candidates at a senior level will also be able to be sufficiently adaptive to understand there's a fine balance in making reasoned, informed decisions that still take restrictions like resource, budget and time into account.

See more tips for asking critical thinking questions in interviews.

FIND A JOB: See all HR and management jobs on Changeboard

Register for insights and updates or implement one of our levy-funded leadership programmes by clicking on the buttons below.