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How to use critical thinking tests in the hiring process


Reports suggest that over the next five years, 35% of the skills that are considered necessary in today’s workforce will be replaced by other skills. But regardless of what changes may come, some skills will always be important. According to the Future Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum, critical thinking ability is one such skill.

This guide will discuss how critical thinking tests help determine whether a candidate’s abilities align with your needs. It will also walk you through the basics of critical thinking tests and give you practical information on how to incorporate them into your hiring process.

Why is critical thinking so important?

Candidates with strong critical thinking skills possess many qualities that will make them an asset to your organization. For example:

They’re more open minded

Critical thinkers are open to accepting different approaches in any situation. This allows them to better handle everyday issues faced at work. A Journal of Education and Practice study found that strong critical thinkers tend to be more open to different views. That leads them to go beyond personal, cultural, and other barriers to reach a decision. Additionally, critical thinkers are also better able to handle and accept disagreements with colleagues and superiors.

They’re effective communicators

Poor communication in organizations can cost a fortune. According to a recent survey, the cost of employee misunderstanding and poor communication in US and UK businesses was estimated at $62.4 million per year.

Strong critical thinkers tend to be more effective communicators because they are able to support their case with convincing evidence and hard facts. 

They’re good decision makers

Critical thinking tests prove a candidate’s analytical thinking ability. Such candidates are more likely to take an informed approach instead of relying on guesswork, which will result in better decisions.

They’re great problem solvers

Critical thinkers are able to devise new approaches to complex problems. A balanced and reasoned approach involves two types of reasoning skills — inductive and deductive, and also the ability to know when to use which. Reaching decisions based on logic and reasoning over emotions, can help strong critical thinkers better address problems.

critical thinking is important for staff

What is a critical thinking test?

OK, so critical thinking is an important skill. But how do you test for it?

You’re in luck! There are many pre-employment tests that measure a person’s reasoning skills. They are used to determine an individual’s ability to evaluate issues, analyze different perspectives, and reach well-reasoned judgments.

Critical thinking tests, also known as critical reasoning tests, are designed to determine a candidate’s capacity to reason through arguments logically and recognize assumptions.

Effective critical thinking requires the ability to actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to make a judgment or formulate an innovative solution. 

Measuring critical thinking in interviews can be difficult, but critical thinking tests are specifically designed to quantify critical thinking ability so that hiring managers can factor it into their decision making process.

How does a critical thinking test work?

Critical thinking tests evaluate a candidate’s reasoning abilities by testing their ability to:

  • solve syllogisms through deductive reasoning,

  • interpret sequences and arrangements and draw sound conclusions,

  • evaluate cause and effect relationships, and

  • recognize assumptions.  

The test will present the candidate with a paragraph of information, including both numerical and written data. After reading the paragraph the candidate will be asked to assess a statement or multiple statements based on the given information.  

These tests are usually based on the Watson and Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal model that consists of five sections designed to determine how skilled an individual is at reasoning analytically and logically. 

The five sections are:


Assumption questions include a paragraph for the candidate to review. It is up to the candidate to then carefully evaluate the scenario and conclude whether anything has been taken for granted.

For instance, a statement within the paragraph might be “only employees in senior roles can afford to purchase luxury cars.” The statement is assuming that only a senior employee makes enough to purchase a luxury vehicle (unless the paragraph includes supporting information that backs up this assertion).

Evaluation of arguments

In this section, a candidate’s ability to separate strong arguments from weak arguments is tested. Candidates are presented with a statement, followed by a set of arguments in favor of and against the scenario. Candidates are then asked to determine whether the arguments are strong or weak.


This section asks the candidate to analyze a statement and a list of conclusions. The candidate is then asked whether the conclusion follows from the provided statement. Candidates will be expected to rely on the information provided in the statement and not outside knowledge.


In this section, candidates are presented with a statement and a list of inferences. The candidates are asked to indicate whether the inferences are definitely true, definitely false, probably true, or probably false, or if it isn’t possible to reach a decision with the information provided.

For instance, if you hear loud voices at a distance, you might infer that someone is having a heated discussion or fighting. But, that inference isn’t necessarily true. The voices may belong to a group of excited students. 


This section asks the candidate to evaluate a conclusion based on evidence provided. The candidate is provided with a statement followed by a set of possible conclusions. The candidate is to decide whether any of the conclusions logically follow from the information provided.

The importance of critical thinking tests

Employees with strong critical thinking skills are an asset to any company, because they can solve problems skillfully and independently. The difficulty in identifying such candidates can be addressed with online tests, like TestGorilla’s online critical thinking test.

This test (and others like it) can easily be conducted online, thus simplifying the selection or screening process for candidates. Additional benefits include:

They are predictive of performance

Studies show that employing critical thinking tests as a part of the hiring process helped 24% of employers hire a higher number of employees who exceeded performance expectations.

They are precise and reliable

Assessing a candidate’s reasoning skills can be difficult in interviews, but critical thinking tests help employers assess a candidate’s skills more precisely. That’s because they ensure that every candidate gets an opportunity to answer an equal number of well formulated critical reasoning questions. These questions are then scored according to scientifically validated approach.

They save time

According to a study, nearly 250 resumes are submitted for every corporate job opening. A majority of these tend to be from job-seekers sometimes known as ‘resume spammers’ who distribute their resumes across the web without considering the required qualifications.

So it isn’t surprising to hear that over 50% of job applicants don’t meet the basic qualifications of the job. This leads to most hiring managers not being able to thoroughly review every candidate’s application. 

Fortunately, when conducted in the early stages of the hiring process, critical thinking tests help skim through the barrage of candidates and so that the hiring team can focus on the msot skilled applicants. 

Other ways to test for critical thinking 

Though more difficult than testing, assessing critical thinking skills in an interview can help validate the results of a candidate’s assessment. An interview is a great venue to ask thought-provoking questions to understand how a candidate thinks about problems and how they approach decision making.

Here are some ways you can assess a candidate’s knack for critical thinking in an interview:

Use brain teasers

Good critical thinkers can quickly identify problems and solve them proficiently. Asking candidates brain teasers is one way to assess multiple critical thinking skills like problem solving, creativity, analysis, and performance under pressure.


Question: Michelle’s mom has four children. Her first child is named April, her second child is named May, and her third child is named June. What is the name of her fourth child?

Answer: Michelle is the fourth child.  

What this brain teaser reveals: Though many candidates will answer “July,” the candidate who comes up with the correct answer demonstrates listening skills, logic, and quick thinking.

Ask challenging, hypothetical questions

Present the candidate a problem with some information missing and ask them what information they would need to reach a decision. You will want the candidates to think about the question from multiple angles. Ideally, each angle brings forth a new set of questions and considerations.


1.  You spot a mistake in a high-profile report made by your manager, but it has already been sent out to stakeholders. How will you handle this situation?

2.  You find a cheaper, quicker, or less resource-intensive solution to a problem, and you try to explain it to your manager, but they don’t seem to understand. What will you do?

3.  You’re currently in a team of experts who all have very different ideas for the direction of a project. Deadlines are fast approaching. How will you find a way forward?

4.  A colleague proposes an uncomfortable solution to a problem faced by your organization. How will you handle the situation?

Source: Changeboard

Ask questions based on the candidate’s experience

Rather than ask the candidate questions, have them describe a problem they faced in a previous job and how they handled it. Candidates with superb critical thinking skills are more likely to provide specifics and reasoning for why they did what they did. 

Example questions:

1.      Describe a time when you had to make a decision without all the relevant information. What did you do?

2.      Describe a time when you needed to convince the team, managers, or senior leaders in your organization to try an alternative means to solve a problem.

3.      How do you proceed when you need to solve a problem? Can you give an example?

4.      How quickly do you make decisions, and can you describe your approach to a past decision you’ve made?

Source: Changeboard

Critical thinking tests will transform your hiring

Yes, critical thinking skills can be difficult to measure. but critical thinkers are crucial to the success of your business. 

Thankfully, there are a growing number of options that make it easier to quantify the critical thinking skills of your candidates. And some of these options can be administered with the click of a button.

A good critical thinking test and strategic interview questions are all you need to figure out which candidates will be an asset to your organization. For more information, be sure to take a look at some sample questions and read more about the test in our Test Library.


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