Interviews are often just as difficult for the employer as they are for the prospective candidate. It’s difficult to craft job interview questions that evaluate whether or not the applicant is a fit for the position as well as your business. These sample job interview questions are designed to help hiring managers evaluate a candidate’s critical thinking.
Critical thinking involves a person’s ability to think independently, analyze and evaluate an issue, or understand logical connections between ideas. A job candidate who has good critical thinking skills is likely to be self-motivated and innovative.
Here are some sample job interview questions that can help you determine how a candidate has used critical thinking in the past as well as motivations that may affect his or her current critical thinking skills.
Behavioral Job Interview Questions
These questions ask a candidate to describe previous experiences that demonstrate critical thinking ability.
- Describe an instance when you set a goal and met it.
- Give an example of a time when you were required to make a split-second decision.
- Tell me about a time when you took on a leadership role.
- Describe a time when you anticipated a problem and took measures to prevent it?
- Tell me how you’ve handled disagreements with peers at work.
Job Interview Questions About Motivation
Motivation questions reveal a candidate’s reasons for acting in a particular way. These questions can help you discover whether or not your business environment will prove motivating for the candidate and also whether the applicant will be able to motivate other employees.
- Where do you see yourself in five years? What is your plan to get there?
- What role does your manager play in motivating your best performance at work?
- In the past, when you have struggled with motivation at work, how have you overcome it?
- Tell me what you didn’t or don’t like about your previous or current job.
- Describe a project that you worked on where you went above and beyond what was expected. What was your role? What got you excited about that particular project?
Situational Job Interview Questions
A situational question probes whether a candidate will be a good fit for the company and the candidate’s ability to do the job. These types of questions help an employer gain information about a candidate’s communication, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.
- Describe a time when your work was criticized and how you handled the criticism.
- Share an idea or innovation that you implemented at a previous job.
- Tell me about your most difficult boss and how you dealt with him or her.
- What is your strategy for dealing with an upset customer?
- Provide an example of a time when you had to explain a complex technical issue to somebody who didn’t have relevant technical experience.
Job Interview Brainteasers
Candidates can’t prepare for brainteasers. The answer doesn’t matter nearly as much as the candidate’s ability to express her thought process. She is forced to think on the spot, allowing employers to evaluate how she handles pressure and whether she can think on her feet. Here are a few sample brainteasers that can be used to assess critical thinking.
- What is the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand of a clock at 6 p.m.?
- Why is the sky blue?
- Describe the internet to somebody from the 1800s.
- Which U.S. state is the most important and why?
- What was the last book you read, and what was the best part about it?
What are your favorite job interview questions to ask? What do they tell you about the candidate? Share your insights with other small business owners in the comments below.
About the Author
Lauren Edmondson is a freelance marketing content writer. She earned a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and a J.D. from The George Washington University School of Law. Her interests include reading, watching football, and spending time with family.
Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.
Use these sample critical-thinking interview questions to discover how candidates evaluate complex situations and if they can reach logical decisions.
Why test candidates’ critical-thinking skills
Critical-thinking skills allow people to evaluate situations through reasoning to reach logical decisions. Companies benefit from employees who think critically (as opposed to mechanically performing tasks) because these individuals use an independent mindset to seek ways to improve processes.
Critical thinkers are great assets in all teams and roles. They are:
- Responsible. You can count on them to make tough decisions.
- Consistent. They’re top performers who check their facts before acting.
- Unbiased. They keep their emotions in check to reach sound decisions.
- Creative. They suggest out-of-the-box solutions.
Challenge candidates with complex critical thinking questions to reveal their skills. But, present them with realistic problems related to the job. Brainteasers (e.g. some Google-type questions) are off-putting for candidates who already feel the pressure of the interview process. Questions like “How many haircuts happen in America every year?” are very popular online, but may not reveal much about their skills. Asking something like “How would you explain cloud computing to a 6-year-old?” will more accurately show you a candidate’s way of thinking.
Keep your challenging interview questions as job-related as possible. Sometimes it’s not important to assess whether the answer is right or wrong. Puzzling questions are your opportunity to evaluate how candidates react outside their comfort zone.
These critical-thinking interview question examples will help you identify candidates with high potential for future leadership positions. Combine them with various behavioral interview question types (like problem-solving and competency-based questions) to create complete candidate profiles and make better hiring decisions.
Examples of critical-thinking interview questions
- Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. What did you do?
- During a live presentation to key stakeholders, you spot a mistake in your manager’s report, but your manager isn’t at the presentation. How do you handle this?
- Describe a time when you had to convince your manager to try a different approach to solve a problem.
- You’re working on a project and you struggle coming to an agreement with your team about your next step. What would you do to make sure you choose the right direction and get your co-workers onboard?
- What’s the best sales approach: increase prices to achieve higher revenues or decrease prices to improve customer satisfaction?
How to assess critical-thinking skills in interviews
- Use hypothetical scenarios and examples from candidates’ past experiences to understand their mindsets. An analytical way of thinking (comparing alternatives and weighing pros and cons) indicates people who make logical judgments.
- When problems arise, employees don’t always have ample time to design a detailed action plan. Opt for candidates who strike a balance between good and fast decision-making.
- Critical thinking requires questioning facts and the status quo. Look for candidates who have implemented new procedures or applied changes to processes in their past positions. These are signs of professionals who actively seek ways to improve how things get done, as opposed to taking the “this is how we always do it” approach.
- Candidates who are intrigued by solving problems are more likely to effectively manage challenges and stressful situations on the job. During your interview process, keep an eye out for candidates who show enthusiasm and don’t easily quit when faced with problems, even if they can’t immediately find solutions.
- They don’t fact-check. If you present candidates with a hypothetical problem and they don’t ask for clarifications, it’s a sign they take information for granted. A critical thinker should always research data for accuracy before relying on it.
- They make assumptions. Beyond taking things for granted, employees who make assumptions tend to jump to rushed and often biased conclusions. Look for candidates who use logical arguments to justify their decisions.
- They don’t answer. If they don’t at least try to solve the problem, they’ll probably keep procrastinating when something goes wrong or push their work onto to someone else. Asking for help when you face a challenge is more than acceptable, but avoiding problems reveals irresponsible employee behavior.
- They give you the obvious answer. Tricky questions are tricky for a reason. Candidates who go with the first answer that comes in mind are more likely to approach challenges superficially and avoid using critical-thinking skills to come up with the best solution.