Strategic thinkers are critical to your organization’s success, adding value by being forward-looking, seeing the big picture, keeping aware of emerging trends and having a global perspective.

How can you tell whether a job candidate is a strategic thinker?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, HR thought leader John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University, shared tips to help you screen for strategic thinkers during the interview process.

  • Give candidates a real problem to solve and have them walk you through investigating and resolving it. Sullivan said essential steps include compiling a list of potential problems, consulting key stakeholders, pretesting solutions with customers, measuring success and making adjustments.
  • Ask candidates to review a flawed strategic plan and identify potential problems. If the individual can’t find a significant percentage of what you know to be the flaws and omissions, it’s unlikely they are a strategic thinker, he said.
  • Look for strategic phrases within the candidate’s answers, such as “strategic goals,” “cross-functional,” “data-driven decisions” and “root cause analysis.” Ask candidates who use one of these phrases to define it and explain its importance to make sure they are not just using catchphrases to impress you, he advised.
  • Consider the questions candidates ask. The right candidate will proactively ask their own questions related to strategy, such as: “How does this job fit into the corporate strategy?” Because the best thinkers are action-oriented, expect them to ask questions related to the implementation of ideas, he said.

For the rest of Sullivan’s hiring tips, see the full Harvard Business Review article: “6 Ways to Screen Job Candidates for Strategic Thinking.”

Topics Talent