Critical Thinking Interview Strategy: The “Two Challenges” Approach

We all want candidates who can think, but standard interview questions simply do not allow the candidate to demonstrate their critical thinking skills and mindset in action. Every candidate can claim they have strong critical thinking skills on their resume, but how can managers determine whether the claim is true before taking the risk of hiring them? There is a way to assess critical thinking during a job interview, at Insight Assessment we call this the “Two Challenges Interview Strategy.” We give our candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their critical thinking by inviting them to work through two scenarios: one at the beginning of the interview, and another towards the end.

How to approach the Two Challenges Critical Thinking Interview Strategy

Step 1:
As the interviewer, you prepare by first thinking of two scenarios that would pose different kinds of problems for the person who is hired into the position. We suggest you present the same two challenges to each candidate you interview so you can appropriately compare the quality of the responses of each candidate.

Step 2: During an early part of the face-to-face interview, conversationally present the first challenge to the candidate. Offer the candidate a moment to think about the challenge. Then invite the candidate to explain to you how she or he would handle that challenge if they got the job. At this point your responsibility is to listen closely, without interrupting if possible. Use silence to let the candidate explain how she or he would address the challenge. Phrases like “Say more about that” open the door to the candidate to offer a deeper look into their thinking process.

Step 3: If the candidate cannot figure out how to start or needs a bit of prompting, then you can prompt with these three more direct questions:

  1. What does the candidate see to be the main problem?
  2. What are the top priorities and key considerations for the situation?
  3. What are the steps to be taken to achieve a workable solution?

Step 4: Mentally score the candidate’s overall response to the challenge as: Inadequate, Acceptable, or Impressive. Don’t worry if a candidate does not handle the challenge the same way you would have. It can be an advantage to hire people who come up with innovative approaches.

Step 5: Later in the interview, after a couple of the standard interview questions that all smart candidates expect and prep for, work the second challenge into the conversation by repeating steps 2-4.

Step 6: When the interview is complete, be sure to add the candidate’s scores on the two challenges to your interview notes so that you can easily compare their scores to other candidates.

A candidate with strong critical thinking skills and mindset should be able to tell you what they take to be the main problem in each challenge.

The candidate might identify the same central problem that you had in mind. Or the candidate might point to something else as the main problem. If that happens, you will have to decide whether the candidate focused on something that was more important or less important than what you had, at first, seen as the main problem. To identify the main problem correctly, the candidate must exercise the core critical thinking skills of Analysis and Interpretation.

The candidate will need to use two other core skills, Evaluation and Inference, when identifying top priorities and key considerations. Doing a good job of describing the steps that should be taken along with giving their reasons why those steps are sensible requires the critical thinking skill of Explanation.

Taking the time to think about the challenge before responding thoughtfully– and maybe even revising and amending the response as it is given– requires the most important critical thinking skill: Meta-cognition. This is monitoring and correcting your own thinking as needed. And, of course, the entire process is driven by a positive thinking mindset that includes maturity of judgment, inquisitiveness, foresight, truth-seeking, and open-mindedness.

Expedite the hiring process.

Our INSIGHT executive, professional, staff, and support level assessments can measure each core reasoning skill and thinking mindset attribute with great precision. Your hiring process can be expedited by screening out candidates with weak critical thinking early on.  Our assessments mitigate the risk of hiring someone with weak reasoning skills and mindset by allowing managers to focus on those who demonstrate strong and superior skills.

By first using a screening assessment and then implementing the Two Challenges Interview Strategy, you will be able to identify candidates who best demonstrate their willingness and ability to analyze, interpret, evaluate, infer, and explain their thinking about challenges that you know they will face if hired.

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