Thinking: Selling Your Thinking Skills During an Interview

By: Ron Venckus

Have you ever tried to sit back to think about thinking? The problem is that thinking is like breathing; we do it to exist and we have no idea how to talk about it – i.e., sell it during an interview. Consider how important the idea of selling thinking is. There is not one thing in your life that has occurred without your thinking about it!

Thinking allows you to apply knowledge, deal with complex issues, make decisions, to plan meetings, to solve problems, to deal with people. Thinking allows you to love, to survive in the corporate atmosphere, and to criticize. When you find something that you have done or experienced that did not involve thinking, please let me know.

Okay, we cannot live without thinking taking place, so how do you show someone during an interview that you should be hired because of your thinking skills? The scientists tell us that the brain is 75% water and that water is one module of hydrogen and 2 molecules of oxygen. I doubt that many companies would be interested in you trying to explain how those modules bump into each other, talk to each other and create thoughts. However, selling your skills in developing thoughts and reasoning through those thoughts may be easier than you think!!!

According to Bramson, there are five thinking styles: Synthesis, Idealistic, Pragmatist, Analyst and Realistic. But let’s not get too scientific; let’s boil this down to what an employer really wants to buy. It would seem that the ability to analyze, conceptualize, and innovate are thinking styles/skills that a company would value.

Analytical thinking is the systematic process involved in problem solving. It is a matter of breaking apart a situation into smaller pieces to understand what  the base or root cause of the problem. How many times have you asked the right questions to determine the root cause of a situation? You used each one of those thoughts to guide you to a correct decision. So take a problem you solved or a decision you made and work it backward. Now all you have to do is to describe that process, to an interviewer using a SHARE (to learn more about what a SHARE story is, read my article, “I Bring With Me a Positive Impact”).

Conceptual thinking is the process involved in identifying patterns or connections between situations and data that appear to be unrelated, and then making sense of that data. When you do that you are using your creative reasoning. Suppose you are receiving information on a situation from a variety of sources. If you are normal, you are “thinking” about each piece of data and reasoning out what it means. Suddenly, you see information that can be applied to your work. Now you can put your “thinking” together in a SHARE and sell it to someone.

Innovative thinking is the process of thinking through comments made by your team and discovering a new and useful approach to deal with a situation. It is nothing more than looking beyond the obvious and seeing or “thinking” of a new approach to a thorny situation. There is little doubt in my mind that an executive has not come up with a new idea that worked with his/her team. So you take the new idea, work it backward and construct your SHARE.

When you read this did you notice that thinking seems to be the process of working backwards? Can you do it? Can you sell it?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that “Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.”

There are many areas covered during an interview: leadership, communications, decision making, problems solving, relationship building, developing strategies and plans, mentoring of staff, achieving revenue goals, and many more. As you think about each of those areas, you can easily conclude that to be effective will require some level of thinking and reasoning to take place. Thus it is important during an interview to develop approaches that will allow the showcasing of your thinking skills.

By the way, you can significantly improve your communication style by matching the interviewer’s thinking style. That is why it is important – in fact critical – to use the language in the job description and company web site to describe who you are during an interview. This will heighten your likeability and what is next: the OFFER.