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6 Ways to Screen Job Candidates for Strategic Thinking

Source | Harvard Business Review : By John Sullivan

Every organization needs strategic thinkers. In a 2013 Management Research Group survey, when executives were asked to select the leadership behaviors that were most critical to their organization’s future success, 97% of the time they chose being strategic.

This is because people who are able to think strategically add value in four ways. First, by being forward-looking, they help ensure that an organization is fully prepared for a difficult-to-predict future. Second, their big-picture perspective helps a firm avoid major problems and conflicts by connecting the dots and seeing the interrelationships between business elements. Third, their external focus keeps everyone aware of emerging trends in the economy and the industry. And fourth, they have a global perspective.

Unfortunately, assessing whether a candidate is a strategic thinker is far from easy. Most people tell you that they are one if you ask, and most assessments give you false positives. The job interview is often the best opportunity to accurately separate out people who have this relatively rare talent from the high volume of candidates that only have tactical capabilities.

Don’t rely on your job applicant to tell you whether they are strategic. Instead, use one of these six interview approaches.

Give Them a Real Problem to Solve

This is the most effective approach by far: Provide promising candidates a problem to solve during the interview. You can use a real unsolved problem, which has the advantage of providing you with several potential solutions. Or you can use a problem that you’ve already solved, which means you’ll already know the critical steps that should be included in an answer. With either option, you should verbally describe the problem or provide a written description, give the candidate a few minutes to think, and then ask them to walk you through the steps they would take to investigate and resolve the problem.

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