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Interview questions about critical thinking

Use these interview questions about critical thinking and find out whether this is something the applicant can do. Ask candidates how they appraise complex situations and whether they can make logical decisions.

Why you should ask candidates about their ability to think critically

Critical thinking enables people to assess situations, reach conclusions and thus make logical decisions. Companies benefit from staff who think critically (in contrast to tasks performed mechanically) because these people demonstrate an independent way of thinking in order to find ways forward and make processes better.

Critical thinkers are a great boon for all teams and job roles. They are:

  • Responsible. You can rely on them when difficult decisions need to be made.
  • Consistent. They are high-performers who check the facts before they act.
  • Impartial. They keep their emotions in check so that they can make sound decisions.
  • Creative. They think outside the box and put forward relevant solutions.

Stretch your applicants with questions that really make them think in order to discover where their skills lie. However, you should still present them with realistic problems connected with the job. Brainteasers (like Google uses in its job interviews, for instance) are a scary prospect for candidates who are already struggling with the pressure of the application process. Questions like “How many haircuts are done in the U.S. every year?” are very popular online but may not reveal much about your candidates’ abilities. Something like “How would you explain cloud computing to a six-year-old?” will tell you more about how an applicant thinks.

Keep your challenging interview questions as job-focused as possible. Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter whether you think an answer is right or wrong.

These sample questions about critical thinking will help you identify applicants with great potential for future leadership roles.

Combine these interview questions with those on problem-solving and analytical skills to produce well-rounded candidate profiles and be able to make better recruitment decisions.

Sample interview questions about critical thinking

  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without having all the information at your fingertips. What did you do?
  • During a live presentation to key stakeholders, you spot a mistake in the report written by your manager, but he’s not around. What do you do?
  • Describe a situation in which you had to persuade your manager to try a different approach to solving a problem.
  • You’re working on a project and you and your team can’t agree on the next step. How would you proceed to make sure that you were going in the right direction and getting your colleagues on board?
  • What’s the better sales tactic: hike prices to bring in more money or cut them to make your customers happier?

Tips for assessing candidates’ ability to think critically

  • Use hypothetical scenarios and examples taken from the candidate’s own experience to gauge their attitude. An analytical way of thinking (comparing alternatives and weighing up advantages and disadvantages) suggests that a candidate can make logical judgments.
  • When problems arise, employees don’t always have enough time to draw up a detailed plan. Pick candidates who can keep a healthy balance between sound and speedy decision-making.
  • Critical thinking requires close scrutiny of the facts and the status quo. Keep an eye out for applicants who introduced new processes or changes in their last job. These are signs of professional employees who are actively searching for ways to improve how things are done. They are the opposite of the mindset that says “Well, we always do things this way.”
  • Candidates who are fascinated by solving problems are more likely to tackle challenges efficiently and overcome stressful situations in their job. During the interview process, you should try and spot applicants who show enthusiasm and don’t give up easily when faced with problems – even if they don’t find any solutions straight away.

Warning signs

  • Applicants don’t check whether facts are correct. If you place a hypothetical problem in front of a candidates who doesn’t then ask for explanations, this suggests that they take information for granted. A critical thinker should always verify that the details are correct before relying on them.
  • Applicants make assumptions. In addition to taking things at face value, employees who readily make assumptions tend to reach overhasty conclusions that are often unduly influenced. Look for candidates who use logical arguments to justify their decisions.
  • Applicants don’t answer the question. Candidates who fail to even try and solve the problem are also likely to procrastinate if something goes wrong, or hand the work over to someone else. Asking for help when faced with a challenge is perfectly acceptable, but skirting around problems indicates irresponsible behavior on the part of an employee.
  • Applicants give the obvious answer. Tricky questions are tricky for a reason. Applicants who pick the first best answer they think of tend to approach challenges superficially and avoid thinking critically in order to find the best solution, even if it takes some time.

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