Employers value creative thinking skills in the workplace. The reason for this is that employees who are innovative, think outside of the box and are forward-thinking in their approach can help their company gain a competitive advantage. Therefore, it’s important to be able to demonstrate your creative thinking skills since they are important in many professions and workplaces.
Usually, interview questions about your creative thinking skills require you to provide the interviewer an example of a situation in which you applied them. Such questions are called behavioral job interview questions. In this case, this type of interview question focuses on work situations that you encountered in the past and how you have used your creativity. The way you respond to such questions tell the interviewer more about your ability to think creatively and outside of the box. For interviewers, the best indicator of your future job performance is by analyzing your behavior in previous positions. The answers you give during a job interview should convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the position.
Interview questions about how you apply your creativity might sound challenging. However, it’s actually a good opportunity for you to demonstrate that you’re a great fit for the job. With the right preparation, you can use your answers to your advantage by demonstrating how you’re creativity made a positive contribution to the company.
In this article, creative thinking is discussed in more detail. Also, find out why the interviewer is interested in these skills, and how you should answer them. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here. Check our job interview preparation checklist to come as well-prepared as possible.
Why the interviewer is interested in your creative thinking skills
So, what exactly is creative thinking, and why is it so important in the workplace? Creativity can mean several things but in general, means looking at something in a different or new way. Think of coming up with new ideas, implementing solutions, developing strategies, improving existing processes, solving problems, or cutting costs. Creative thinkers look at problems and situations from a fresh perspective. They are curious, imaginative, and optimistic in general. Creative thinking skills help the company work more efficiently and productively. You can imagine that employers look for employees who can bring such contributions.
In some professions, you can, for sure, expect job interview questions about creativity and creative thinking skills. For example, jobs in marketing, sales, media, design, advertising, etc. However, when you’re applying for a supervisor, manager, or any other leadership position, you should expect some of these questions as well. The main goal for the interviewer is to find out if you can think creatively with regard to solving problems.
Creative thinking skills involve approaches such as:
- Looking for several and different approaches rather than just one.
- Besides looking for sensible suggestions allowing out-of-the-box and unconventional ideas as well.
- Not ruling out ideas early in the process. It’s important to approach all ideas as if they may be the key to success or at least could grow into something successful.
- You are allowing yourself to play with an idea, theory, or suggestion to figure out if it could work.
- Not being afraid to make mistakes but always learning from what has not worked, but also what did work in the past.
During job interviews, the interviewer wants to identify the level of creativity of applicants in order to find the right candidate. They are looking for specific skills that indicate that you possess the needed creative thinking skills for the job.
Top skills that indicate creative thinking skills:
Analytical thinking skills
The skills give you the ability to analyze and understand the situation you’re in. Before you can start to think of creative solutions to a problem or challenge, you need to understand what it actually is that you need to work on. Analytical skills allow you to analyze things closely to fully understand what they mean. Whether you’re working on strategies, processes, data sets, you need to be able to analyze information to problem solve and make decisions.
This skill regards the ability to stay focus on multiple tasks, and use your energy, time, strengths efficiently and effectively to reach the desired outcome. Organizational skills are a big part of channeling your creative thoughts into a plan of action. Once you have come up with a creative idea to handle a specific situation, you need to be able to convey your plan to others so that they understand your plan as well. The ability to structure an action plan after coming up with a creative idea t that includes goals and deadlines is essential.
If you want to innovate you need to be open-minded. Innovation does not only regard coming up with new ideas but also approaching existing things differently. Open-minded means considering alternative approaches to problem-solving while setting aside any assumptions or biases. It requires you to look at things from a different perspective.
Problem-solving skills help you determine what caused a problem or challenge and find an effective solution to solve it. Key problem-solving skills include performing research, analysis, active listening, and decision-making skills. Therefore, it’s important that when you’re discussing creative thinking skills during a job interview that you not only highlight your ability to think creatively but also that you possess the skills to solve problems and challenges.
Once you have identified a problem and came up with a creative way to solve it, it’s important that you know how to communicate this to others as well whether this is a colleague, supervisor or client. Clear communication is essential in the workplace and helps reduce any confusion, which in turn makes the implementation of an idea easier and more efficient. Active listening is another part of great communication skills. Through active listening, you’re able to process ideas and concepts better. By asking the right questions and thoroughly understanding challenges and problems, you can come up with unique approaches to address these issues.
Behavioral questions about creative thinking
The most effective way to assess your creative thinking skills is by asking behavioral job interview questions. These are strategic questions that require you to provide the interviewer with work situations that you encountered in the past by describing how you handled them. The way you respond to these questions tell the interviewer more about your personality, thought processes, work methods, and ethics.
There are multiple reasons why behavioral interview questions are used. The main objective of an interviewer is to find and hire the best candidate for the position, but also the one that fits the company culture.
Behavioral interview questions often start with:
- Give me an example of
- Tell me about a time when you
- Have you ever
- What do you do when
- Describe situations where
As you can see, they require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and ask from you to elaborate on a specific situation. An example of a commonly used creative thinking ability interview question is ‘tell me about a time you had to develop a creative approach to solve a problem.’ This question requires you to provide an actual situation from your past experience in which you used certain skills to solve a problem at work.
Behavioral interview questions are used to assess key skills such as creative thinking, but also communication, adaptability, leadership skills, and conflict resolution. The questions the interviewer asks relate to the most important characteristics needed for the job that you’re applying for. Your behavior and approach to past situations are the most accurate predictors of your performance in similar situations in the future.
Interviewers consider the following when using behavioral questions in a job interview:
Costs of bad hires
Making wrong hiring decisions is an expensive mistake to make for a company. Not only does it cost time and money to find candidates, once they are hired and turn out not to be the right person for the job, but they can also have a negative impact as well. Bad hires can have an impact on the rest of the team by, for instance, being an underperformer. This can, in turn, impact productiveness. This is the most important reason why interviewers ask you different kind of interview questions to assess your suitability for the job.
Important details of your behavior in the workplace
Behavioral questions require you to provide an example of how you have acted in past work situations. The information that you give in your answers is used to determine how your past performance aligns with the current hiring needs of the company. Furthermore, it gives them insights into your personality, creativity, problem-solving skills, and any other skill that they are looking for.
The best predictor for future performance is how you have acted in the past
The reason that employers are interested in how you handled situations in the past is that it’s the best indicator they can get to gauge your future success. It’s a proven technique that gives more insight into your future work performance. It’s therefore advisable to prepare for the most common interview questions and specific questions that you expect based on the job description and the research you have done on the company. Based on your answers, the interviewer wants to assess if you’re the right person for the position.
Hiring the right candidate and avoiding bad hiring decisions
Ultimately, behavioral interview questions are used by employers to make the best hiring decision. You previous patterns in work-related situations play an important part in this decision. Your answers give more insight into how you handle critical situations. Also, it shows if this approach matches the ones required for the job you’re applying for. If you prepare your interview in the right way, you can make sure that your answers include important aspects of the job’s requirements. As you can imagine, the interviewer is looking for candidates that fit the job description, so make sure to make your answers related.
Why creative thinking skills matter to the interviewer
As described earlier in this article, creative thinking skills are essential for companies to be successful. Employers are, therefore, interested in how you handle certain situations. This is also the reason that during job interviews, you should be able to demonstrate that you have used creative thinking skills in the past. The answers you provide should demonstrate that you can take on the day-to-day tasks required for the job and that you have development potential.
Behavioral interview questions about your creative thinking skills are used to find out who you really are and how you go about handling certain situations. The interviewers want to get the following questions answered:
- How well developed are your problem-solving skills, and will they help you in the challenges you will face in the position?
- Are you able to adequately analyze and creatively respond to situations when needed?
- Can you communicate effectively with others in the workplace?
- Are you able to adjust to changing work environments?
- Can you perform under pressure?
- Are you flexible in your approaches to situations at work?
Frequently asked job interview questions about creative thinking
- Tell me about a time you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem.
- Describe a time when you took an existing process and used your own creativity to make it better.
- When have you had to develop a creative approach to problem-solving to get the job done?
- Tell me about a time you had to encourage someone else to be more creative and innovative.
- What is the most creative project or idea that you have generated in a previous position? How was it received?
- Tell me about a time you worked on the creation of a new product or service.
- Give me an example of your creativity.
- Tell me about ideas you have created that benefited your current/former employer.
- Describe a time where you worked on a project where a conventional approach was not suitable.
- Tell me how you go about encouraging ideas in others.
Preparing answers to job interview questions about creative thinking
When you’re preparing your answers, it’s important to consider a couple of important elements during your preparation.
Start by researching the job description and company. By doing so, you can identify the needed skills, abilities, and competences for the job.
Create a list of skills, abilities, and competences
Behavioral questions are a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the position. Based on the skills, abilities, and competences that you found through your research, you can prepare your answers. For a lot of companies, similar skills are important such as creativity, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, taking responsibility, etc. You can rank the skills on importance in relation to the requirements of the position that you are interviewing for.
Think about your greatest achievements
Create a list of your work experiences that include the required skills, abilities, and competences for the job. Highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior that shows your suitability. Focus on delivering a to-the-point and concise answer.
Provide successful situations and include challenging ones
It’s obvious that you should highlight situations that had a successful outcome. However, the interviewer might also be interested in challenging situations that you encountered during your previous jobs. It’s therefore important that you prepare to answer such questions.
Describe to the interviewer how you handled a certain situation, what you did, why you did it, and what the results of your actions were. Also, explain what you learned from the situation. Based on the information you give, there’s always a chance that the interviewer will ask follow-up questions. They do this to test your self-awareness by, for instance asking ‘how you might handle a similar kind of situation differently‘ now.
Structure your answer according to the STAR method
The interviewer wants you to elaborate on past work situations. Think of a common creative thinking interview questions such as: ‘Tell me about a time you had to use your creativity to solve a problem at work.’ By preparing example scenarios to questions you’re expecting, you can give answers that the interviewer is looking for. Make sure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. This is called the STAR-method and is discussed in more detail later on in this article.
The STAR method allows you to provide to-the-point answers that are logically structured if you follow each step. Below the STAR method is discussed step by step.
General elements to consider when you’re preparing your answers:
- Already write down your answers in the form of a story and structure it story logically. Use the STAR interview technique to do this. STAR stands for the situation you were in (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are always the basic steps you take in your walkthrough.
- Display the skills and abilities that are needed for the job you’re applying for and that the interviewer wants to see. Make sure you match your qualifications to the job and skills as mentioned in the job description.
- Be honest. Interviewers will notice when you’re making up a story on the spot. Furthermore, they will ask follow-up questions to go more in-depth into the situations you provide them with. Prepare several example answers that demonstrate the skills that you think will be discussed based on your research.
STAR Interview Technique
As stated earlier, most creative thinking questions can be categorized as behavioral interview questions. The best way to answer these questions is by using the STAR method. This method allows you to provide the interviewer with a to-the-point answer of how you handled previous situations. Below the STAR acronym is broken down into steps.
Start by providing context around the situation or challenge that you were facing in your work. Provide the needed relevant details but stick to the essentials and keep it concise.
After you provide the context around the situation, provide the interviewer with information on your task. Discuss your specific responsibilities and what your role was in that situation.
Next, describe the actions that you took to resolve the situation or challenges you faced. The best way to go about this is by providing a step by step description of the actions you took.
After you discussed the situation, your task, and the actions you took, focus on the results. Describe the outcomes of your actions and make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. This part of the answer should include what you accomplished but also what you learned from the situation. Always focus on positive results and positive learning experiences.
Mistakes to avoid when answering creative thinking questions
Below a couple of common mistakes are discussed. Make sure to avoid them during your job interview.
Always make sure that your answer relates to the skills needed for the position that you’re applying for. A common mistake that job candidates make when they’re not prepared for such interview questions is providing an unrelated answer. Unrelated answers provide the interviewer nothing that they are looking for and should, therefore, be avoided.
Rambling during a job interview can suggest that you’re unorganized in your thinking. However, it can also indicate that you did not prepare. When you’re walking the interviewer through your story, it’s easy to go into details and start rambling. By doing so, you might actually end up confusing the interviewer. It’s important that you prepare for different interview questions so that you stay on track during the actual interview. Use the STAR method that’s mentioned above to do this.
Not showing confidence
Interviewers look for candidates who are able to demonstrate their abilities in a confident manner. If you’re unsure about your accomplishments or you deliver a half-decent answer, this will hurt your chances of getting the job. It’s, therefore, a smart strategy to think of several example situations that you can use during your interview.
Sample answers to interview questions about creative thinking
Below some example answers to commonly asked creative thinking questions are discussed. However, these are only ‘general’ examples for your inspiration. Do not forget to structure your own answers and relate them to the requirements of the job to demonstrate your suitability.
Creative thinking interview question example 1:
The first question requires you to discuss a time when you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem. It’s important that you talk the interviewer through your creative process that brought you the positive results.
‘Tell me about a time you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem.’
‘In my current position as a business development manager, I’m responsible for a team of five and was tasked with identifying new business opportunities and maintaining relationships with existing clients. Last year, a client approached me who was looking for an additional service in our software that we did not yet provide at the time. For me, this was a great opportunity because it was a request for a new product on top of our current service that came from a client.
I told our client that we did not offer that service at the time but that we could develop it fairly quick. I asked them how they used our product and how the new service in our software would benefit them in order to get a better understanding of their request and help them improve their business. After that, I contacted our development department, and we made a plan to develop the service within the next couple of months.
I presented the plan to our client and discussed that they could use the service for free on a trial basis to help us finetune the software. This allowed us to test the new features with an actual user of the product to get it ready to launch in the market. The client was impressed by our efforts in order to satisfy them and happily agreed with our solution. We were able to develop the new feature within three months and made it available for other clients after six. For our team, this was a great achievement that did not only help satisfy an important client but also generated additional turnover.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- The answer demonstrates that you are creative in problem-solving and discusses the strategy of how you approached the problem.
- Also, the answer has a positive outcome, which is important when discussing your skills. Satisfied clients and additional turnover are always great outcomes. If you can quantify this, it’s even better.
- The answer shows that you are willing to take the initiative, that you’re determined, possess analytical thinking skills and that you’re result orientated.
Creative thinking interview question example 2:
This question regards the ‘most’ creative project you have worked on in your career. This is an opportunity to highlight an accomplishment. Furthermore, it allows you to demonstrate that you have what it takes to successfully perform the job.
‘Tell me about the most creative project you have worked on.’
‘I worked on several projects that required creativity, but one really stands out. I had to make a plan to increase market share for our products and present this plan to our board. The company was going through a bit of a rough patch, and there was no room for an increase in the marketing budget. I analyzed several components that ranged from regionally expanding our footprint into new markets, distribution channels, differentiation of products, marketing, customer segments, and pricing structures. I tried to come up with a creative solution to provide the board with real options that would impact sales.
Based on my research, I advised the board to have a closer look at the distribution channels and how we’re currently selling our products. This was the ‘easiest’ way to increase market share without increasing the marketing costs too much. Up until that time, our products were sold through specialized dealers and as the availability at the point of sale is very important to customers, increasing our distribution footprint could offer us the potential to increase our market share. The demand for our product was higher than the availability through our dealers. The board was willing to try this new strategy, and I, together with my team, made a plan to start making the products directly available to customers through online outlets and retail stores.
Through the implementation of our new distribution strategy, we saw the first increase in market share within the first two months. At the end of that year, the sales of that product line were up over 25%, which was a great accomplishment.’
Why is this a strong answer?
- The answer demonstrates your creativity by showing that you can figure out approaches to problems in challenging situations.
- Also, the answer demonstrates that you take the initiative and provide creative solutions in complex projects.
- The answer has a positive and quantified outcome, which is great to make a good impression on an interviewer.