Evaluate Critical Thinking

Have you ever hired employees whose technical skills haven’t turned out to be all they were cracked up to be? I’m using the expression “technical skills” to describe the subject matter expertise that a person brings to the job.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an attorney, a contractor, a sales professional, or an IT consultant. The bottom line is that it’s up to you to determine if your prospective employees really have the expertise that they claim they possess.

First, avoid close-ended questions, that is, questions that can be answered by yes or no. If you ask if they have experience doing xyz, of course, they’re likely to say yes. Second, don’t make assumptions based on resume assertions. According to an April, 2017 survey by Statistic Brain Research Institute, 53% of resumes contain false claims and 70% contain misleading references.

Third, carefully assess referrals from friends or colleagues. Although they may be well meaning, they often don’t have a clue as to a candidate’s actual technical acumen.

One way to offset these challenges is to evaluate critical thinking. This isn’t for the faint of heart, and requires you to do some work ahead of time.

Create several sample scenarios that represent typical situations that a person in that position would face. Ask how they would approach these scenarios. Use phrases such as “describe for me…”, “how would you go about doing….”, or “tell me the process you would use to do….”

Then listen. Don’t prompt answers. See how they handle these questions. You’re not looking for a right answer; rather, pay attention to how they approach their work. If you don’t interrupt or prompt, you’ll learn quite a bit about how they think.

You want to look for how they conceptualize, evaluate or synthesize information. How do they share examples or personal experiences? Are they curious and open to learning? Are they self-aware about their capabilities?

By the way, if they answer with a lot of jargon that sounds good but isn’t really substantive, consider it a red flag. Probe further and you are likely to hear a paraphrase of the first answer with even less substance. Caveat emptor!

Have a great day!


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