Hiring is the most important thing you do.

Improve your interview skills – better interview, better hire.


Hiring is undeniably one of the most complex and challenging competencies to master within the realm of management. Yet, it stands as one of the most strategic and impactful functions a manager or leader can undertake. The profound implications of hiring decisions on a company’s performance and success cannot be overstated.  

A McKinsey study has quantified this impact, revealing that superior talent can be up to eight times more productive, underscoring the dramatic relationship between talent quality and business performance.  

In a world where organizations constantly seek growth and must navigate through difficult times, the ability to successfully identify an  A-list candidate during an interview becomes the new superpower.

However, this mission is often fraught with time constraints, forcing hiring managers to make crucial decisions swiftly. It’s almost like having to commit to a long-term relationship after just a few very short dates. Learn now how to do it better and skip the article.

By the way, this interview approach works for any position and any industry.

The Strategic Significance of Hiring – Some Background

Hiring is not merely a routine HR task; it is a strategic imperative that can determine the trajectory of an organization.  

In today’s knowledge-driven economy, where innovation and expertise are at the forefront of competition, the people you bring into your organization define your competitive edge.  

Consider this: A company’s success is fundamentally linked to the capabilities, creativity, and dedication of its workforce. Therefore, hiring is not just about filling vacancies; it’s about shaping the future of the company. 

Too often we hear from our clients, “New people we hire stay for 6 to a 18 months then leave.” or, “It’s easy to find people, but no one wants to work anymore.” or “There are too many programmers who can’t think their way out of a Logic Error.” That last one was just to see if you were paying attention, :).

The truth is, as a company’s hiring professional, you can make a simple change to your interviews that will improve your results by 2x – 4x.

Your Path to a Better Interview

The McKinsey study (not an affiliate link, click away) mentioned earlier reinforces the indisputable connection between talent quality and business performance. These individuals not only perform their roles more efficiently but also contribute to a culture of excellence that permeates the entire organization. 

A Better Interview is the only way to Hiring the Best for your Organization.

Sure, a great recruiter can improve the odds – but your interview technique will make the difference between hiring a talented complainer and hiring a talented performer.

A Harvard Business School Study (not an affiliate link, click away) based upon 1,000’s of conversations and surveys of executives suggests that “The smartest person in the room is the one asking questions”. That’s a prime example of critical thinking and is the most important skill to interview for PS. Harvard doesn’t have a monopoly on intelligence or research. You’ll know this if you clicked the last link.

Job Boards, Recruiting Firms, ATS companies will generally give you a list of standard critical thinking questions like: 

What’s the right way to charge for snow plowing services in the New York Metro area? 

Why do toll booths still exist? 

What local issue would you try to solve with $2.0 million USD? 

What does your region need to do to improve public transportation? 

While you may be doing better in your interviews by asking these questions or similar questions, they generally offer too much guidance and focus on problem solving skills rather than indicate how well the candidates think critically. 

Try this approach to determine the best critical thinkers in your short list.

Switch the interview around. Learn about the candidate’s approach to solving problems. Not about their ability to solve problems. It’s their ability to solve your problems and communicate those solutions that will improve your company’s productivity in significant and immediate ways.

Plus, if you ask them to solve a problem, they may “get lucky” and have been part of a team that solved that problem. They get the answer exactly right, you get a false positive.

Instead try this:

Ask open ended questions that are relative to the problems your candidate will encounter on the job like: 

We just organized a client meeting to discuss their marketing strategy. You are my boss. We have a week to prepare. Tell me what we should do. 


Our client is losing money in a neutral financial market. You are in charge of the meeting. How do we prepare? 

For these questions to work properly, explain that you are a research associate assigned to the candidate’s team with good experience working on behalf of the client. 

Good Answers / Responses will include: 

They will ask enough questions to understand the client, the client’s problem, and the current market dynamics the client is experiencing. 

Ask Follow-up Question 1: 

Based on my responses to your questions, what other information would you like before making a recommendation to the client? 

Ask Follow-up question 2: 

What are the first steps you would take to begin your preparation? 

Sure, you can adjust the scenarios to suit your company or industry. The key is to work with the candidate to bring their critical thinking and creativity to the fore.  


Only answer factual questions with facts. Any other question the candidate asks should be responded to by narrative. You are trying to simulate a working environment that reflects your role (research assistant remember?) and your company meeting discussion market. 

You do not want the candidate to provide solutions. You want them to create a portfolio of information in a logical way that can get them, and your team, moving to a solution properly. If the candidate starts with solutions, redirect them. Keep reminding them that you are a research associate and don’t know what the right answer is. 

Conclusion – A Better Interview

Successful candidates will exhibit a mindset rooted in critical thinking and supported by skills and facts – NOT led by them. Critical thinking is a skillset distinct from mere knowledge of analytical tools and methods. 

Thinking critically, in this context, entails several key elements: 

Clarity of Purpose: It involves having a clear understanding of the fundamental question at hand rather than getting lost in a vast sea of data. 

Questions that dig deeper: The faster you approach candidates with real problems they will face daily in this position the better. Value their desire to dig deeper into the scenario and their desire to uncover underlying assumptions and nuances.  Their questions help the team think deeper and enhance the groups’ approach. 

Connecting the Dots: An essential aspect of critical thinking is the capacity to connect disparate pieces of information, weaving them together into a coherent narrative. 

Telling a Story: Ultimately, it requires the ability to construct a narrative that is not just based on surface-level facts but is rooted in deeper truths, sound judgment, and a keen awareness of the broader context, thereby going beyond the mere reiteration of initial data points. 

If your candidates are truly pre-qualified, and you are armed with this method, you’ll need a single quality interview to know if they are right for the position. Then you can recommend them for an in-person team meeting.

In this meeting your only goal is buy-in by members of the Team and Team leader. We’ll write about all this in a future article.

Speak with us to learn our secrets. 

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