Importance of Critical Thinking Mindset in Interviews

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Human Resource departments must consider critical thinking mindset

Strong critical thinking skills result in employees who can identify significant problems, make well-reasoned decisions, and develop innovative solutions. The challenge is to know which candidates have the ability and motivation to think well. Critical thinking skills, however, are only half of the equation.

Effective leaders and problem solvers bring key attributes like commitment, focus, tolerance and resourcefulness to every interaction where decision responsibility is involved. Critical thinking mindset matters.

Examples of why employee mindset matters

Employers want practiced learners who are independently motivated to seek innovative ways to improve processes.

Employers want developers who will ask tough questions, investigators who will probe deeply for a full explanation, and decision-makers who will strive to anticipate the consequences of the various options.

Employers want people who can remain open to other people’s points of view, who are systematic and thorough, and who will not rest until important problems are resolved.

Employers need leaders who continue to evaluate an emerging situation, and who can adjust their directives as new key information emerges.

All of these attributes are examples of the critical thinking mindset.

Evaluating responses to thinking mindset interview questions

It is not easy to evaluate mindset in an interview.

Even for the skilled interviewer, questions that will display the candidate’s thinking mindset can be tricky.  We want to know if our candidate will approach decision-making honorably, open-mindedly, systematically.  Will they be motivated, honest, flexible, resourceful…etc. as they analyze problems, make decisions, and create work expectations for themselves and their peers?

Interviewers must first provide question prompts that turn the interview to mindset attributes. They then must be able evaluate the meaning and impact of the responses.

Image of two hands. One hand holds a ball with Question written on it; the other holds a ball with Answer written on it.

Three examples of thinking mindset interview questions:

These questions are provided as suggestions for those who want to embed some aspect of a critical thinking assessment into their company interview process

Question 1 focuses on the mindset attribute: FORESIGHT

 “Would you describe yourself as someone who thinks ahead and anticipates consequences?”

  • This question has uncertain results.
  • Ideally our candidate will say “Yes” and go on to provide examples of how they have exhibited foresight.
  • But if the answer is a simple “Yes,” not much has been learned, because this preferred response is too easily anticipated.
  • If the answer to this question is “No,” many would be inclined to terminate the interview.


When you see a problem situation, are you likely to jump in and try to solve the problem?”

  • This is another Yes/No example with a more holistic focus on being willing to problem solve:
  • In this case, “Yes” is wildly better than “No,” because we are at least learning that the candidate sees themselves as a problem-solver.
  • But we will not know whether they will approach the problem systematically, and with the need to understand it well before taking action.

Question 3 focuses on whether a candidate is OPEN-MINDED, COLLABORATIVE or TOLERANT.

“What has been your experience in working with others who may not share your perspective on an important issue?”

This question is likely to draw out a lengthy response. The interviewer needs to be planful in terms of how the response will be evaluated for evidence of the desired attribute. For example, it may work to listen for one of these themes to classify the response:

  • I work hard to listen to what the other person is saying so we can work together (desired response);
  • People usually end up agreeing with me;
  • I don’t waste time trying to collaborate;
  • Other.

Goal of critical thinking mindset interview questions

The goal of these questions is to elicit (1) information about some of the candidate’s critical thinking mindset attributes, as well as (2) a description of their approach to engaging important issues and problems with their critical thinking skills.

Given all the goals of the interview process, a comprehensive evaluation of a candidates critical thinking skills and mindset cannot be achieved unless a series of interviews are envisioned.

Benefits of prescreening candidate critical thinking

One extremely successful hiring practice is to obtain a pre-interview assessment of the candidate’s critical thinking skills and mindset.  The individual profile provides valuable objective data that can be used to guide the candidate interview. You should only interview, hire and promote the best thinkers in the pool.

Get the reliable, objective critical thinking data needed for hiring decisions

It is possible to identify employees with essential job-related thinking skills and the mindset to succeed in your company. You can make data driven decisions

INSIGHT offers proven assessment tools that provide validated data to be considered in your hiring decisions.  Strengths and weaknesses of skills and mindset attributes are analyzed and reported.  Objective metrics on 15 core components of strong thinking are included.  We offer online thinking skills and mindset assessments specifically calibrated for use in numerous industries. Our assessment and training tools are used worldwide.  They can be easily integrated into your hiring processes.

Contact us today. We can get you started right away.

Learn more

The Most Important Critical Thinking Interview Question

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