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Sample Critical Thinking Questions Interviews

Critical Thinking Interview Questions

What does a hot dog sound like? Why are manhole covers round? How would you figure out an accurate estimate of the number of people who watched ‘Get Him to the Greek’ in New York City during January 2013? These are all tough questions that you may be faced with someday during an interview, but it seems pretty pointless, right? Why would the interviewer want to see if you know why manhole covers are round? It’s a stupid question, right?


The interviewers couldn’t care less why manhole covers are round. In fact, there’s no right answer there. Manhole covers are square in other parts of the world, and some of those parts of the world have better healthcare systems than we do so who is to say they’re wrong? The manhole cover question was made famous by Microsoft as an interview test question to evaluate the thought process of job seekers, or their critical thinking process. Employers don’t expect your brain to be loaded with useless information, but they do want to see how you get from A to B when attempting an answer. That’s why this is a very important question and others like it should not be taken for granted. In fact, you should start practicing right now with some of the tips and practice questions listed below.


Critical thinking is the process of analysis. Can you get from step to step with a logical and sane progression? That’s what employers are asking you when they ask you a critical thinking question like the famous manhole cover question. If you want to prepare for these questions you have to have a basic understanding of logic. A good way to practice this is by creating your own syllogisms in your free time. Here’s an example of a syllogism:

All Americans eat beef burgers,

All beef burgers are made of beef,

All beef comes from cows,

All cows are four legged animals.


All Americans have eaten a four legged animal.

It’s known as ‘all As are Bs’ logic, and if you weren’t able to notice on your own each line links to the line before and after it, like parts of a bridge. That is the natural thought process of critical thinking even though we don’t think about it too much, but syllogisms are the foundation of critical thinking. Once you get the hang of it, try out the practice questions below and see what sort of answers you come up with (you won’t be able to solve all of them with syllogisms; some will have concise answers and some won’t).

Practice Questions:

Why are manhole covers round?

How would you measure out 4 gallons of water with a 3 gallon and 5 gallon bucket?

Two U.S. coins add up to thirty cents and one is not a nickel. What are the two coins?

Have you ever faced a tough critical thinking question? Were you successful with your answer? Share in the comments!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Wrote

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions are a big part of most job interviews. Employers and hiring managers use these types of questions in order to get an idea if you have the skills and competencies needed for the job.

The rationale is that if they know how you performed in the past it will help give a sense of how you might do in the future.

For you as the candidate, you’ll need to prepare answers (basically “interview stories”) that highlight the different competencies and skillsets the employer is looking for. The problem is most candidates might have a general idea of how to answer these questions, but the answers usually come out way too long and unfocused, and won’t put the candidate in the best light.

That’s why you’ll need to make a concerted effort to create these stories and adapt them to the relevant competencies.

Below is a list of some common behavioral interview questions, and in-depth lessons on how to create the strongest answers to them (including tons of examples).

To truly excel in your job search, you’ll want to consider hiring an interview coach (like Pamela Skillings) or using a training program (like Big Interview) that will provide you with fast and intensive training you’ll need to ace your interview.

NOTE: This is Lesson 10 from the Big Interview interview training system. Take a quick look here if you want to learn more about it.

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Here are a few lessons to help you tackle some behavior-based interview questions.

1. Teamwork Interview Questions

If the role calls on being a team player, here’s specific advice on how to show that you work well with others.

2. Leadership Interview Questions

If people may be reporting to you (or you’re a project manager), then you should expect questions about your ability to lead and motivate others.

3. Handling Conflict Interview Questions

Some roles require a lot of interaction with clients or prospective customers (or challenging situations with other employees). The employer may ask for examples of how you handled or defused tricky situations.

4. Problem-solving Interview Questions

If the role requires creativity and critical thinking, then the employer may want to hear about challenging issues/situations that required some innovation or outside-the-box thinking.

5. Biggest Failure Interview Questions

More and more recruiters and hiring managers are asking failure questions. Whether you like it or not, you need to be prepared to have a good answer.

6. Work Ethic Interview Questions

Every hiring manager loves a hard worker. No matter the job or the industry or the experience level, they want to hire someone with a strong work ethic and a commitment to getting the job done.

7. Greatest Accomplishment Interview Questions

Every manager wants to hear about your “greatest hits.” They want to know you’ve left a trail of amazing accomplishments.

8. Intercultural Fluency Interview Questions

Questions about your global and cultural awareness and being asked more and more by employers. Don’t get caught off-guard.

Inside Big Interview, our complete training system for job interviews, we give you video lessons, sample answers, and an interactive practice tool for all of these different types of behavioral (or competency-based) questions. Watch this brief video to learn a little more about Big Interview, and then take a quick look at the step-by-step system we’ve developed to get you ready for your interview.

About the Author: Pamela Skillings is one of the nation’s top interview coaches. She is the co-founder of Big Interview and President of Skillful Communications.