Let me make a hiring-related confession to you. When I’m reviewing résumés, I barely pay attention to the candidate’s school, their degree, and their grade point average. Of course if someone applying for a developer position had a 1.2 GPA in Comic Art from San Jacinto Trucking College, that would catch my attention. But what matters to me most goes way beyond college transcripts.

One of the key areas I focus on is the candidate’s Critical Thinking ability – and that’s especially important during the start-up phase of your ISV business. If a candidate isn’t able to execute the six steps of Critical Thinking, they likely won’t be able to handle complex issues that are sure to arise as your business evolves. Here are the six steps to Critical Thinking along with some questions you should ask yourself when assessing a candidate.

  1. Fully understand the best practices.

Best practice information is gathered from several sources including company philosophies/principles, company procedure documents, research (books, magazines, websites, blogs), the experience of co-workers, and life experience. Ask yourself: “Do they have work and life experiences that have appropriately prepared them for this job?”

  1. Fully understand the situation.

Most people fall short here. They “go with what they know” instead of skeptically considering if they have an information blind spot. Ask yourself: “Are they humble enough to understand they might not have all the information and need to seek more data?”

  1. Clearly define the desired outcomes.

Determine the Business Outcomes and Emotional Outcomes you want to achieve. Clear, specific, measureable outcomes are best. When determining Business Outcomes, you are answering the question, “What is to be accomplished in order to help the customer?” Emotional Outcomes are a little trickier and are often overlooked. Here you are answering the question, “What is to be accomplished in order to leave the customer feeling a certain way?” Ask yourself: “Do they have self-control to think through the outcomes before taking actions prematurely?”

  1. Detail an action plan.

A complete action plan answers specifically who, what, and when. Ask yourself: “Do they have the discipline and an ‘operations mindset’ to craft and execute a detailed plan?”

  1. Evaluate your plan.

Be skeptical and obviate how the customer may respond to your questions. Ask yourself if this plan will achieve your intended outcomes. Adjust your plan as needed. Ask yourself: “Are they humble enough to review their plan with appropriate skepticism?”

  1. Develop a contingency plan.

Assume that parts of your original plan won’t work. What will you do if the plan does not achieve the desired outcome? Ask yourself: “Can they anticipate where things may go wrong? Do they have emotional control to react constructively when the plan needs adjusted?”

Three tremendous interview questions ISVs can ask about Critical Thinking:

  • Can you give me an example of a time when you had to solve a really complex problem that required multiple steps across weeks or months?
  • Many obstacles can prevent an organization from achieving goals. Tell me about a time when you met such an obstacle. What did you do to overcome this challenge?
  • Give the candidate a copy of your company’s guiding principles. Between now and our next interview, review these documents and come back with questions and comments about our principles.


Jim Roddy is a Reseller & Software Developer Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services and he’s author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. Jim has been active in the IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak to software developer executives at conferences in the IT industry.