Hiring employees becomes inevitable for any business that significantly grows over time. Hiring the right employees can be the single most important decision central to how your business subsequently performs. There are so many approaches that can be used in the hiring process. One of them is the use of interviews as the sole hiring process or at least them being a part of the hiring process. There is so much to talk about regarding interviews but today I want to zone in on one particular interview question. That is the focus of this article.

A Bit Of Background…

There are many possible interview questions (that also entails variations of the same) that can be asked. One of such questions is a question that asks the interviewee to describe challenging they have ever encountered and how they solved them. Depending on the interview some can float it to be a general question whereas some can require that the response be based on one’s previous vocation. Anyways, this is definitely an important question to ask to access the suitability of a prospective employee. That sets the tone for what I am about to get into…

An Interesting Variation…

Elon Musk once tweeted something interesting related to this interview question. Here is what he tweeted: “When sending your resume, please describe a few of the hardest problems you solved and exactly how you solved them.” You see what I mean when I say it is an interesting variation to the aforementioned question. In essence, the interview question would be “Kindly describe a few of the hardest problems you solved and exactly how you solved them.”

There is, however, an interesting aspect to bear in mind here. You can and must have this as an interview question. Circumstances might differ though i.e. it can be an in-person interview or a virtual one. If in-person you can stipulate that candidates send in the response when sending in their CV – just like in the Elon Musk example. Alternatively, you can have them write it down during the in-person interview. If it is a virtual one then the former setup would apply i.e. sending in the written response. Whichever the case, to bring out the best by this question it must be in writing – I will explain why a bit later. Now let us break down the question so that you see why it is a witty interview question to ask.

Breaking It Down…

This is our strategic interview question:

Kindly describe a few of the hardest problems you solved and exactly how you solved them.

Not Just Ordinary Problems

Do you notice how it says, “…hardest problems…”? This means we are not just looking at small or ordinary problems. We are interested in the toughest problems the person ever encountered. This helps employers get someone who has tackled the most challenging problems.

Seeking Out The “How”

Did you see the part it says, “…exactly how…”? Well, this is meant to get a clear picture of how that person solved or solves problems. We are seeking to know the process – rather whether the individual has a process that they employ in problem-solving. Ideally, you would want someone to have a demonstrable and reproducible problem-solving process.

Seeking A Pattern Of Problem-Solving Ability

The question has “problems”, not “problem”; that is deliberate. Anyone can at some point deal with a tough problem but it can be once-off in some cases. What we are more interested in are several instances when someone has solved challenging problems. That way we get to see a pattern, a pattern where consistency is the indicator we are after.

Testing Writing Skills

I myself am a writer and I will be the first person to underscore the importance of being a good writer. Not just writing like I do or writing books and the like but in general – you ought to have good writing skills. Due to the sharp rise in digital communication writing has become a huge part of the employee’s life. Things such as emails, briefs, and so forth are now the order of the day. Thus by stipulating that candidates write down their responses to the question you are seeking to test their writing skills.

With just one question you get to kill at least 4 or 5 birds with one stone. As an entrepreneur when times that you have to hire employees put this interview question to the test. You will be amazed at how it will smoothly separate the chaff from the wheat. All the best in your hiring processes!