All managers know how important it is for an employee to be able to think on his or her feet. During interviews, job candidates are more than happy to give you a laundry list of degrees and certifications, but it’s a little harder to discern how those people would go about solving a problem in the shop.

Target Training International Ltd. (TTILTD), a Scottsdale, Arizona firm that offers research-based solutions for getting and keeping star performers, offers some tips for discerning a job candidate’s analytical skills.

First, here are some interview questions to assist in identifying those skills:

  • 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 did you consider in evaluating solutions?

Bill Bonnstetter, TTILTD’s President, recommends including an assessment in the selection process to determine whether the candidate has analytical skills. He also suggests benchmarking the job you’re looking to fill to really understand what skills, behaviors, and motivators are needed to excel at it. Then you can compare these skills with the candidate’s.

Bonnstetter cautions that his preliminary research on personal assessments “indicates that people with analytical problem-solving skills are somewhat unique. They usually also have a passion, or motivation, for knowledge and the skill of continuous learning. Often, they also are described as suspicious, incisive, critical, exacting, organized and of high standards.” In other words, if a candidate is assessed as suspicious or critical, don’t necessarily write him off.