Tech & Work

How to interview for analytical thinking

Have you ever hired an employee who doesn't seem to be able to think on his own? Here are some questions to ask in the interview to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Comedian Bill Cosby used to do a bit about his kids and how frustrating giving directions to them was. He said, with his kids, it was not enough to tell them to go into the shower, you also had to tell them to turn on the water and use soap.

I've run into the occasional employee like that. You give them a task to do and they unable to act beyond it, or if they hit a snag, they're unable to use their own analytical thinking to connect the dots for a solution. It's called analytical thinking and it's really hard to test for it in an interview.

However, Bill Bonnstetter, Founder of Target Training International, offered in a piece he wrote for some great questions to ask a job candidate in an interview to figure out just how analytical he or she is:

  • Describe a situation when you anticipated a problem. What, if anything, did you do about it?
  • Give an example of when your diagnosis of a problem proved to be correct. What approach did you take to diagnose the problem? What was the outcome?
  • Describe the most difficult work problem you've ever encountered. What made it difficult? What solution was implemented and how successful was it in solving the problem?
  • What steps do you take toward developing a solution?
  • What factors do you consider in evaluating solutions?

I don't think a person who is not very analytical could answer these questions or talk about scenarios. Try them in your next interview. (Not a bad set of questions to practice answers for if you're a job candidate either.)


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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