Organizations of any size wish to hire candidates who have the ability to think strategically. For positions specfically focused on strategic initiatives, that ability becomes even more important. By asking some specific types of questions during the interview process, hiring managers and HR professionals can evaluate this competency among candidates.
Thinking With the End in Mind
Strategic thinking involves focusing on a desired end point and considering all of the different steps, inputs, barriers and opportunities that affect the ability to achieve that end point. Interviewers hoping to assess candidates' ability to serve in a position can present candidates with situations and ask how they might approach those situations. Their responses will indicate whether they take a strategic or tactical approach in their thinking. For instance: "Our organization would like to increase sales by 25 percent year over year. What steps would you take to make that happen?"
Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
Behavioral-based interview questions are designed to assess what candidates have done as opposed to what they might do. So, instead of asking candidates for a strategic position about how they might approach a particular situation, interviewers would ask questions about how they have approached strategic situations in the past. For instance: "Can you tell me about a time when you had to choose between two or more alternatives in making a business proposal -- how did you make your final decision?," or, "Can you tell me about the most strategic decision you have had to make -- what the decision was, how you approached it and what the outcome was?"
Ability to Reason Strategically
Candidates for strategic positions can be presented with seemingly tactical situations and asked what approach they would take. Interviewers would listen for their responses to determine whether their approach was strategic or tactical. For instance, for a marketing position, a candidate might be asked: "Suppose you need to create a marketing brochure. What steps would you take?" A candidate whose response involved such considerations as determining the goals/objectives for the project, identifying the target audience and evaluating competitive products would exhibit a strategic response. A candidate who initially talked about writing copy, creating designs or brainstorming about headlines would be exhibiting a tactical orientation.
Dealing With Ambiguity
Employees in strategic positions need to be comfortable dealing with ambiguity and change. Questions designed to assess candidates' level of comfort with situations that are not black and white can help determine their capacity for strategic thinking. Some questions that can be used to assess this might include: "Before embarking on a new strategic direction, what level of certainty do you feel you should have about a positive outcome?," or "Have you ever made a serious mistake? What was the situation and what did you learn from it?"