Critical-thinking Interviews

If you’ve never had an interview that focused on your critical-thinking skills (or lack thereof), this might be news to you: Interviewers who zero-in on this skill can ask some really tough questions! That’s one of my take-aways from an article I read recently called “Interviewing for Critical-thinking Ability,” by Greg Fall on ERE.net. I’m not going to even try to note all the aspects he covers in his article, but the following information gives a teaser. Read the full article if you think more info might be useful the next time you have a job interview.

Why Would an Interview focus on Critical Thinking?

As Fall notes in his article, “critical thinking has been rated the #1 desired skill in key contributors and senior level leaders….And, as Socrates understood, although it can be learned, organizations today don’t have the luxury of teaching this skill. They need people already adept at:

* Accurately understanding problems,
* Analyzing evidence, and
* Making good decisions.

With 7-10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, the need for critical thinkers has never been greater.”

So this skill/ability/whatever-you-call-it is probably going to become increasingly in demand by employers. That being the case, you need to prepare for interviews that might focus on whether you have this skill and, if so, to what extent. Oh, and if you don’t already have some good value to offer in the area of critical thinking, yesterday would be a good time to begin developing and strengthening it, because it sounds as if many employers either can’t or won’t wait for you to develop expertise in it!

Sample Critical Thinking Questions You Might be Asked

“Behavioral Questions: Describe a complex situation in which you…had to make a critical choice based on incomplete data or inputs.”
“Behavioral Drill-down/Follow-up Questions: List your basic assumptions when you first considered the situation.”
“Situational Questions: …A strong-willed and influential peer attempts to win you over to their position by using erroneous information as foundational to their argument. Give a detailed description of how you would respond.”
“Situational Drill Down/Follow-up Questions: …Why did you choose to proceed that way?”

And that’s just a small sample! Wow! Obviously, it’s no longer enough–if it ever really was–to bone up on the company/industry, make sure you have all your success stories clearly in mind, and so on. It’s not that you don’t need to or shouldn’t do that. You just need to do more.

How Can You Prepare for Critical-Thinking Interview Questions?

First of all, realize that this is not a game of one-upmanship. You aren’t trying to fool the interviewer and, we hope, the interviewer isn’t trying to trick you. However, it’s essential that you understand what constitutes critical thinking, determine where you need to improve your abilities in that area and take the initiative to get yourself moving in the right direction. Start learning and practicing techniques that will help you (1) probe problems, (2) evaluate the information you obtain about them and (3) use your conclusions to execute appropriate, effective action. As the article mentions, some of this can be taught, so one solution could be for you to identify and access resources capable of teaching you to become a better critical thinker.

Then start applying what you’ve learned to real-world situations you have encountered or can envision encountering in the future. The above-mentioned article contains a number of questions to start you thinking along those lines. See if you can come up with some of your own.

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