Job interviews are a great way to learn more about candidates’ abilities and soft skills. However, getting a clear view of a candidate’s strengths and attention to detail can be tricky. Most candidates will tell you that they pay strong attention to detail, but not all of them are as thorough as they say. If you want to identify truly detail-oriented candidates, you’ll need to know how to get past the basic questions and canned responses.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of behavioral interview questions that can help assess whether a candidate actually possesses excellent attention to detail skills. We’ve also compiled some added tips to help you find the best candidate that will produce high-quality work.
Attention to detail interview questions
Here are several attention-to-detail interview questions to ask candidates to verify whether they truly pay close attention to detail when completing work.
1. Do you tend to focus on the big picture or the small details while working on projects?
Detail-oriented employees typically do a better job of honing in on the smaller details of a project, but they should still be able to piece them all together and look at the big picture as well. A good example answer here would be that they pay close attention to the small details as they understand that those details all contribute to the big picture.
2. How do you minimize distractions while working?
Part of paying great attention to detail in the workplace is creating an environment that allows you to focus on your work. This is an especially important question when hiring remote or hybrid team members, as they will have greater control of how they set up their work area to limit distractions.
Example answers that you may be looking for include creating a quiet work environment, limiting unnecessary notifications, keeping only relevant programs open on their work computer, or setting timed focus periods and scheduling intermittent breaks in between focus periods. Some people do like to listen to podcasts or certain music while focusing on tasks, and that’s alright too if it helps them maintain the necessary level of attention and focus needed. The key is that the candidate should know what works for them and be able to clearly articulate how they maintain a distraction-free work environment.
3. Can you tell me about a time that you found a mistake in your work? How did you correct it and what do you do now to prevent similar errors?
Even incredibly detail-oriented people will make small errors sometimes. What’s important is that the candidate can recognize and promptly correct those errors when they happen. Hopefully, they also learn from their mistakes and use them to improve their proofreading or quality-checking processes. In the candidate’s response, listen to how they approached the realization, their attitude towards the matter (are they willing to admit their mistakes?), and what their takeaway from the e
Questions like this are also a great way to get past basic, canned responses from job candidates. Asking for specific examples from their past work experience typically provides clearer insights into how the candidate approaches their work and often elicits more genuine responses.
4. How do you balance accuracy and efficiency when working on a project with a short turnaround time?
Maintaining accuracy and paying close attention to detail is a lot more challenging when working with a tight deadline. Often attention to detail wanes on these types of projects because workers have to rush through their work or don’t have enough time to double-check their work with their full normal process.
Ideally, the candidate will give you a response that shows their organization and time management skills. For example, the candidate may say that they break the project into several parts and set deadlines for each to help them stay on track and ensure that they finish far enough before the deadline to fully check their work (and have time to take a break and come back with a fresh perspective for a better review).
5. How do you approach a manager or coworker when you’ve found an error in their work? Can you give me an example of a time that you had to do that?
This is a great question as it incorporates attention to detail and communication skills, two very important attributes to assess when hiring. You want to hire someone that is detail-oriented but still a respectful team player who can bring up discrepancies in a kind manner. Some extremely detail-oriented people veer into perfectionism and can be a bit off-putting to others when discussing small mistakes or typos. On the other hand, others may be uncomfortable correcting others, especially supervisors, but that means that mistakes will often not get addressed or corrected which is also a problem.
Ideally, the candidate will explain that they politely and privately bring the error to the other person’s attention. They could also offer to help correct the mistake or explain what the error is (if it’s not something obvious like a clear typo).
6. What tools or processes do you use to check the accuracy of your work?
There are a lot of great digital tools available to help workers double-check their work. Even detail-oriented people may benefit from tools like Grammarly that add an extra layer of proofreading on reports or important emails. People may also have their own processes such as checklists that they use to double-check different aspects of their work before sending it out. It’s helpful to understand how candidates go over the details of their work and verify that everything is correct, as this final step is a big part of paying attention to detail and creating excellent, error-free work.
7. How do you maintain strong attention to detail while doing repetitive tasks?
Often the work tasks that require the greatest attention to detail are relatively boring, repetitive tasks like data entry. You need your client databases, billing records, or other key information to be entered accurately.
The candidate’s answer to this question should demonstrate that they understand the importance of these repetitive tasks and still do thorough work. They should also explain what their strategy is to maintain focus and attention to detail during the tasks. For example, they may break large batches or repetitive work into smaller blocks and schedule breaks or switch to other projects in between those blocks.
8. How do you decide when a project is fully done and ready to submit?
There is a fine line between someone being detail-oriented and someone being a perfectionist. You want to hire someone that pays attention to detail without overly sacrificing productivity through excessive-quality checking, and that’s what you’re looking to assess with this question.
The candidate should be able to summarize their final steps. They may give their work an initial review and then use an automated tool like Grammarly to check for any mistakes they may have missed. Some people like to have someone else check their calculations, writing, or other portions of their work. Others take a break from a project and try to come back to it with fresh eyes to double and triple-check their work. All of these things are good. The key is that they have a process and they know when they’ve reached the end of it and need to let the project go.
Other ways to assess attention to detail
One problem with assessing attention to detail during job interviews is that almost everyone is going to say that they are detail-oriented during the hiring process. After all, candidates know what you want to hear. Therefore, including attention to detail as a requirement on the job application and asking detail-oriented interview questions may not give you the full picture. Here are some other ways to assess attention to detail skills throughout the hiring process.
Review application materials
Take a moment to look closely at everything the candidate submitted. Often recruiters and hiring managers get a ton of applications and end up skimming through resumes and cover letters fairly quickly, but if you’re interested in a candidate and want to know if they’re detail-oriented, you’ll need to pay attention to the details too.
One tip here is to look at the original application materials. Most recruiters use ATS software that pulls data in from each candidate’s resume to organize the data in a searchable and standardized format. However, some data may not port over and you also won’t get to see the attention to detail that they put into the actual formatting of the resume.
A detail-oriented person will likely put a lot of effort into making sure that they are presenting themselves well with their resume, cover letter, and even LinkedIn profile. On the other hand, most people will pay more attention to detail when creating their resume than the average daily work task, so a resume with noticeable errors is a red flag if you’re hiring for a role that requires a high level of detail.
Give them a short assessment
Sometimes the best way to evaluate someone’s skills is to see them in action. Consider including a short assessment or practice exercise in the interview or job application process to test candidates’ attention to detail. There are a variety of online tests and resources that can be used for this step. Indeed even offers an attention-to-detail assessment that employers posting jobs on the site can utilize. Employers can also make their own. Often these assessments are proofreading exercises, spot the difference tasks with sample data sets, or other tasks that demonstrate that someone can pick out small details well.
Don’t go overboard with pre-employment assessments. A simple five-minute exercise should be adequate. It’s also best not to make the test overly complex, particularly if you will be giving them the test in-person before or during the interview as candidates will naturally be a bit nervous in such situations.
Ask follow-up questions
If it feels like a candidate is giving you a generic response, don’t be afraid to follow up and ask them to get more specific or provide additional examples. If a candidates’ answer feels vague or short, ask them for examples from their previous work experience. For example, if a candidate states that they frequently worked on projects that required a high level of attention to detail, ask them what kind of projects they worked on and how they approached them.
Let them ask questions too
Detail-oriented people will be paying close attention to what you share during the interview about the role, the company, and even yourself. They are also typically the type of candidates who do a lot of research on the company before interviews and comb over the job description for key details about the role. As such, they are likely to ask insightful questions that show that they paid attention throughout the interview and picked up on small details about the job or organization.