“Attention to detail” is a crucial requirement for many jobs, such as: accountants, software developers, translators, surgeons, lawyers, newspaper editors and many more. Each of these professions might require job-specific technical tests in order to assess a candidate’s competency.
However, there are still some additional general sample questions you might want to ask as a recruiter in order to get a better idea about the candidate’s focus on details. For example:
- If you would have the chance would you prefer to work with the “big picture” or the “little details” of a situation? Can you share an episode that proves your preference?
- Think about the jobs you had in the past. Did they require a great deal of attention, moderate or little attention to detail? Can you provide me some examples that illustrate this requirement?
- Did you ever find errors in your work. What was the cause for it? What steps did you take to correct them?
- Give me an example about an episode when your attention to detail was particularly useful to your company.
- Can you describe a situation in which attention to detail was critical to success? What was your contribution in that regard?
- In many projects, it’s important to keep records of details while still managing the big picture. Can you tell me about a project where you could do this effectively? How were you able to make sure that everything got done properly? How did you keep yourself focused on the larger goal?
- Can you tell me an experience in which you found it difficult to work with details?
- Please share a situation where you had the option to take care of the details yourself or to leave the details to other team members. What was your experience?
Now I would like to tell you on what things I focused on when assessing my candidates’ degree of detail-orientation:
- I had a close look at the cover letter and CV that the candidate submitted. Was it free of any grammar and spelling mistakes? If not, then I would not have invited the person to an interview in the first place.
- Once a candidate got the invitation to an interview I looked at the punctuality of the candidate. Did the person turn up on time? Let’s bear in mind that turning up late is (at least in the western world) equivalent to not taking the other person seriously, not respecting the other person’s time and not really caring a lot about the other person.
- I looked at a person’s appearance. It can also reveal in a more indirect way to what extent the person is detail-oriented. For example: How well shaped are the candidate’s eyebrows (I must admit this might be more appropriate for ladies!). How well maintained are the candidate’s hair? For men only: How well maintained is the man’s beard? How polished and well maintained are their shoes? Often people focus on their attire but completely forget the care of their shoes. One might think these are all small things, but I do strongly believe that it might make a difference in the end whether someone is being offered the job or not. It often depends also on the hiring person. One might care about it, another might not find it particularly important.
- I perceived a candidate who took notes (about the most important points of the conversation) during an interview as more serious and detail oriented.
- You might think I take it a bit too far now but if you have any chance to accompany your candidate to their car after an interview I can assure you that that experience might give you an additional impression about the potential candidate. I would not judge the person based on the car brand that s/he is driving but on the state of the car from the outside and inside. Is it nicely cleaned and polished from the outside and inside? Does it look presentable or would it put you off to sit inside? Would you not think that if someone doesn’t take care of their appearance and their possessions (in this case the car) someone would also not care a lot about the job they are doing? Think about it! Image does matter and as you see it’s not just about you but also about the things you have that other people notice.
I remember once I had to hire an accountant and I knew that I will have to test the candidates on their detail-orientation. While I was faced with four good candidates at the end I’ve chosen the male candidate who after the final interview sent me a Thank You Note. It was not the note that impressed me but the picture that the person attached to it. It showed how in his drawer at home he keeps his 11 ties: each of them rolled up and in small separate compartments. He used this picture to prove that he doesn’t just pay attention to detail in his job but also in his personal life. I thought “what a brilliant idea” to make you stand out from other job applicants! As you can see from this personal episode you need to be creative in today’s competitive job market, no matter whether creative thinking skills are required for the job you are trying to apply or not!