Do employers care if their hires think?

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“What are your strength and weaknesses?” This tragically common interrogation seems to be the preferred arrow in an interviewer’s quiver. Desperate for a good job and the self-worth it connotes, we swallow it and try to piece together some unwieldy answer as if we spend our free time making a pro and con list about ourselves.

This begs the question, do employers really care that their employees know how to think?

As an experienced BYU student-employee, I once again ran the job search gauntlet this past summer. Excited about a new job, I submitted a high volume of applications to all different kinds of positions.

As the applications were processed and interviews began I became increasingly exasperated. Without fail, the interviewer posed the aforementioned question and others of the same cognitively stifling variety. What’s something your previous boss did you liked? What was a problem you solved? Why should we hire you?

When the interview ended, I wanted to scream, “Ask me what the last book I read was. Why did I read it? Has it changed my opinion or behavior? Ask me what I do to stay up on current events. What would I do if I were in charge of the U.S. response to Syria? Ask me what I think about in my spare time and have those thoughts ever led me to action.”

I wanted these potential employers to ask me to demonstrate my deeper-level thoughts. Wouldn’t a person with that type of thinking ability be the best fit for any job?

I don’t mean to decry the value of self-reflection and analysis. Such efforts enable the identification of what we should pursue and what we need to improve or reject. And it may very well be that employers are in fact trying to solicit evidence of thought with their current questioning. However this culture of interviewing, where the interviewee is evaluated on the ability to deliver a rote self-analysis, establishes dangerous expectations.

If that’s the shallowness of thought we expect in interviews it’s all we can expect in the work place.

If organizations want deep thinkers who solve problems then they need to start effectively demanding evidences of that thought in interviews.

Brad Stewart
Walnut Creek, CA

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