Regardless of their trade or level of seniority, each employee will be faced with difficulties they cannot overcome with a simple internet search. This is why it is important to evaluate an applicant’s capacity to resolve complex issues in a professional environment.
How can we define this skill and how can we evaluate it? Paul-Louis Caylar, ex-Partner at McKinsey & Company, and COO of Maki answers.
How would you define the ability to problem solve?
It is the ability to analyze and solve an issue in a business context. In other words, it means evaluating the right data to make the right decision at the right time. It is all about knowing how to collect, sort, and analyze the information I have in order to make good decisions.
One must have very good listening skills and showcase a results-oriented mindset so as not to “lose” oneself in the data, and to know how to make decisions without having performed all the possible measures.
To make better decisions fast (or at least faster than your competitor), you have to identify all the elements of an issue that will have a significant impact on the solution, and only focus on those. For example, if you look at a company that wants to improve its profitability by analyzing its different cost categories, the first thing to do would be to estimate the impact of better purchases for each category, to focus on the few high-impact areas, and to completely overlook the other ones.
Additionally, once the decisions are made, it is important to communicate with the team to ensure they are on-board with the strategy.
Can a person learn this skill ?
Yes, being capable of leading analyses that will support decision-making is something people learn and perfect throughout their career.
According to you, what segments of a company most need “problem solving”?
All of them! This skill is important for all the employees who need to analyze data to make decisions. This means that managers, as well as operational roles like business analysts, project leads, the CEO’s close collaborator, sales roles, developers, etc. In truth, everyone should learn problem solving.
How do you evaluate this skill in an applicant ?
So far, the most widely used method has been problem solving testing using case studies. But it is extremely time consuming for both parties involved. A skills test is an interesting way to evaluate an applicant’s problem-solving abilities. This solution is more engaging for the applicant, and much easier to assess for the recruiter, who can send the same test to all the applicants.
However, a test must remain an additional tool and cannot be the only one used in the hiring process. The test must be followed with a structured interview to better understand the applicant’s methodology, and especially to uncover how he/she searched for the information he/she used to come to a decision. A structured interview will also create the opportunity to answer any potential question.