9 critical thinking interview questions plus sample answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Critical thinking skills may help people overcome tough challenges. Potential employers can ask questions about your ability to analyse information and develop an effective solution in an interview. Learning about problem-solving interview questions can help you improve your responses and demonstrate your skills. In this article, we discuss nine examples of critical thinking interview questions and provide sample answers you may use to prepare for a successful interview.

9 critical thinking interview questions

Hiring managers ask critical thinking interview questions because it's a skill set that applies to almost every industry. Unlike having studied or memorised knowledge and facts, critical thinking is a process that's useful for solving many problems in the workplace. Here are nine examples of critical thinking questions hiring managers may use to evaluate your critical thinking skills, including their sample answers:

1. What's the most difficult situation you've handled at work?

Interviewers ask if you have experience working in challenging situations and applying critical thinking skills. Show the interviewer that you use a decision-making process that analyses information. Structure your answer using the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action and results.

Example: 'In my last job as a manager, I promoted one assistant manager from two candidates. It was hard to pick a candidate because they both had excellent qualifications and had made a significant impact on the company's performance. The assistant manager managed the daily operations of the department members, and my job was to represent the department in higher management.

Since both candidates had been at the company for a significant amount of time, I conducted a secret survey to determine which candidate was more popular among other employees. After promoting the candidate, their department's performance improved because the team members were comfortable working with the candidate I promoted.'

2. How do you decide without all the information?

Interviewers ask this question to analyse if you can make moral decisions using logic and reasoning. It may be a common interview question from employers in a fast-paced work environment. In your answer, describe a situation that shows a logical thought process with a positive outcome.

Example: 'I usually try to have all the information before deciding, though I understand situations vary. In such a situation, I try to get as much information as possible and use logic and context to fill the gap in the missing information. In my previous job, a client had to change the deadline because of an emergency and we had to give the presentation earlier than expected.

Since I had yet to complete the research, I looked at other studies relevant to my client's work and took inspiration from them. I also applied some logic because the previous research had gaps. The client liked our presentation and our ideas helped improve their company's revenue by 20%.'

3. How do you handle a situation where your manager or supervisor makes a mistake?

Interviewers ask this question to assess how you may handle an uncomfortable situation or disagreement with your supervisor. In your answer, show that you can use a professional and constructive approach to the situation. Explain the action you may take and the thought process behind it.

Example: 'If I noticed an error in my manager's work, I'd approach them privately and politely to discuss the issue. I understand that such a situation may be uncomfortable, but it may be the best action for the business. I'd also offer to help make necessary corrections.

This has been effective in the past, as I noticed an error in my manager's report and approached them politely before we published it. I offered to make the changes, including adjusting some statistics and formatting errors. They appreciated my attentiveness and we resolved it quickly.'

4. What's your decision-making process?

Interviewers may ask this question to understand key factors of your decision-making process. Give a step-by-step explanation of how you decide. Demonstrate that you rely on information and analysis to make thoughtful decisions.

Example: 'When deciding, the first step I take is to collect as much information as possible on the subject. Quality and abundant information provide multiple perspectives which can expect different outcomes of my decision. After gathering the information, I analyse how it may affect my work team and the company. If the decision is tough and important, I may get a second opinion from my colleagues to check if we have considered all perspectives.'

Related: Models of decision making: descriptions and processes

5. What's critical thinking?

Interviewers ask this question to check your understanding of the concept of critical thinking. In your answer, briefly define critical thinking and discuss its importance or key aspects. You may also distinguish it from normal thinking to better understand the concept.

Example: 'Critical thinking can have multiple definitions. I define it as thinking that focuses on self-improvement. It's thinking about what you're thinking and how you can make it better. Critical thinking involves having discipline and restraint in our thoughts while maintaining open-mindedness. It relies on quality information and may take more time, which differentiates it from spontaneous thoughts.'

Related: Why critical thinking is important plus definition and tips

6. What steps can you take to appraise business allies and partners?

Partnerships may be important in the work environment, as they support achieving common goals. Critical thinking may help you determine which allies and partners affect your work and goals. In your answer, discuss the steps you will take and the qualities you look for in a suitable partner.

Example: 'When selecting strategic partners or allies, I consider everyone's proposal and analyse their impact, maybe. An excellent candidate understands our company's values and may be flexible to allow the relationship to thrive. I also consider influential decision-makers because it may be a sign of critical thinking skills.'

Related: What are the different structures of a business? (With tips)

7. How do you approach new ideas or processes?

Interviewers ask this question to determine whether you're open-minded, which may signify critical thinking skills. In your answer, express your willingness to listen to others to find innovative solutions. You may also mention how open-mindedness has helped you in your career.

Example: 'I understand new ideas may cause innovative solutions in a business. Open mindedness is also important to the team's motivation because listening to their ideas can make them feel motivated and improve employee retention. In my last job as sales manager, one of my team members suggested we incorporate remote working and try to market our products online. After trying the concept, we found that flexible working hours had improved productivity as had job satisfaction. We also opened an online store which increased our sales by 20%.'

8. How do you resolve disagreements between team members?

Interviewers may ask candidates applying for a managerial role or other leadership positions. People in work environments may have different values and opinions. In your answer, describe conflict resolution steps you may take in this situation.

Example: 'I believe that disagreements in the workplace can be healthy and promote different opinions. If they become personal, they may hinder productivity. I try to take a patient, proactive and impartial approach in conflict resolutions. In my previous job, two co-workers disagreed with a new strategy.

The disagreement escalated into a situation where they were not on speaking terms. I had a one-to-one chat with each member to show that I appreciated their input and expressed the importance of collaboration towards achieving the company's goals. They understood my reasoning and reconciled.'

Related: Forming relationships with work colleagues

9. If you have five projects and only have time to complete two, how do you choose the projects to prioritise?

Your ability to prioritise projects can be a sign of critical thinking skills. When you have multiple projects with a colliding deadline, you can use critical evaluation to distinguish the importance of tasks using factors like effort, time and value. Explain how you may select the projects using these factors in your answer.

Example: 'The first step I take is to list all the tasks depending on their urgency. I also analyse depending on importance to the company I work for and our clients. Next, I analyse them to determine which tasks I can easily delegate to my coworkers. I choose to work on those that have shorter deadlines and achieve more value.'

Tips for answering interview questions effectively

Here are some tips to prepare and guide you when answering critical thinking interview questions:

  • Practise your answers. Review as many interview questions as possible to help you learn how to answer different questions. Review the key points and adjust your answer to the question to avoid making your answers sound memorised.

  • Get help when preparing. Ask a friend, relative or colleague to help you prepare for the interview. They could ask you mock interview questions for you to practise answering.

  • Use the STAR method to structure your answers. STAR is an acronym for situation, task, action and result. Your answers may be more effective if they describe the situation, discuss the task you were to accomplish, highlight the action you took and provide the results of your actions.

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