Need Big Thinkers? Screening Food & Beverage Professionals for Strategic Thinking

November 19, 2018 in HR Best Practices



Regardless of size, location or specialization one thing is certain:

Every food & beverage organization needs strategic thinkers.

Strategic thinkers help your organization:

  • anticipate trends;
  • think systematically;
  • capitalize on the right opportunities;
  • prepare for what’s next.

And according to a large-scale global business study conducted by Management Research Group, a “strategic approach to leadership” was, 10 times more important to the perception of a manager’s or executive’s effectiveness than other behaviors studied. It was twice as important as communication (the second-most important behavior) and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors.

Unfortunately, there’s no litmus test for strategic thinking, and most professionals and executives will tell you that they’re skilled at complex, high-level thinking.

When you need strategic thinkers, what’s the best way to screen for this ability?

Whether you’re hiring from outside your organization or promoting from within, the job interview is your best opportunity to identify individuals with this rare talent. In this Harvard Business Review article, Dr. John Sullivan shares the following ways to assess a professional’s capacity for thinking big:

Present a strategic problem to solve.

Describe the problem. Give the candidate a few moments to think it through and then present their solution. Ask them to walk you through the steps they took to form the answer. You can either choose a current, unsolved problem (which may yield usable solutions) or a problem that’s already been solved (which allows you to judge the individual’s thinking process and answer against the solution you developed).

Regardless of which type of problem you present, a sound response should include the following:

  • a full exploration of the scope and implications of the problem;
  • checking the organization’s strategic plan and forecasts;
  • identifying and consulting key stakeholders who are impacted and/or should be involved in developing the solution;
  • ideas for systematically evaluating options and testing potential solutions for viability;
  • metrics for gauging success after implementation, and then using that data to make adjustments.

Red flag: A response that dives right into the solution and focuses on tactical implementation.

Present a flawed strategic plan.

Have the candidate review a plan with known errors and omissions, and then ask for their candid feedback. If they’re unable to identify glaring flaws or gaps, it’s unlikely they’re a strategic thinker.

Ask situational and behavioral interview questions.

Here are a few you can customize:

  • When you are engaged in a strategic initiative, how do you identify the relevant stakeholders needed to design and execute it?
  • What have you done throughout your career to develop your strategic thinking skills?
  • Describe a time when you proactively identified and helped address a high-level issue in your organization.
  • How do you measure the effectiveness of strategic initiatives in which you participate?

Related post: 7 Exceptionally Revealing Food & Beverage Interview Questions

Listen for strategic phrases.

True strategic thinkers will identify themselves throughout an interview. You’ll hear phrases like: strategic goals, looking ahead, connecting the dots, data-driven decisions, cross-functional, multiyear plan, bottom-line results and more.

Consider their questions.

Strategic thinkers will ask questions related to strategy in an interview. They may ask:

  • how the position fits into your organization’s mission;
  • what opportunities the position provides for contributing to business strategy;
  • strategic initiatives planned for their department.

Need to hire strategic thinkers?

Building a team of strategic thinkers is essential for success, and recruiting them requires specialized skills. As a leading national food and beverage recruiter, Kinsa Group can deliver the strategists, leaders and innovators your organization needs by:

  • pinpointing relevant hard and soft skills that align with strategic thinking;
  • formulating behavioral and scenario-based questions to identify essential thinking skills;
  • administering assessments to gauge strategic thinking abilities;
  • direct-recruiting passive food & beverage talent with proven strategic thinking skills;
  • effectively marketing your opportunity to appeal to candidates with strategic thinking skills;
  • accelerating the recruiting process to minimize drop-off of A-level talent.

Contact a Kinsa recruiter today to get started.