Are You a Big Picture Thinker or Detailed-Oriented

Interview Question: Are You a Big Picture Thinker or Detailed-Oriented?

How do you answer the interview question: Are you a big picture thinker or detailed-oriented?

A workplace is made up of different people with diverse skill sets and mindsets. This means that challenges are understood and approached in varied ways and no method works better than the other. However, every person or a team of like-minded people can handle some problems better because they are competently fitted to solve those issues. While the way employees solve problems and proffer solutions are sometimes determined by of course the problem, and their skillset, every employee tends to have an approach that comes naturally to them. Each individual’s personality plays a big role in how he views problems. As a job applicant, you need to figure out what problem-solving method comes naturally to you. That will help you determine which problems fit your talent. Carrying out the research or self-assessment will aid you in knowing the value you can add to the company you are joining. It also helps you answer the interview question, “Are you a big picture thinker or detail-oriented?”

First of all, what does it mean to be a big picture thinker or a detail-oriented person?

Big picture thinkers objectively approach a situation in its totality. They are imaginative, can set action plans, and have good foresight. However, they can be that employee that has a messy table, unorganized files, and folders and always forget to send that email or return that important client’s call.

What about detail-oriented thinkers? They are ethical and good at making plans. They can be difficult to satisfy and can make excessive demands because they expect precise accuracy, great care, effort, and attention. As the term “detail-oriented” suggests, they pay considerable attention to details. There’s a little downside to this group: they may find it difficult to form opinions and may also find it difficult to arrange or deal with things in order of priority or importance.

To help you better understand which category you fall under, here’s a breakdown of some of the characteristics of the two groups.


Big Picture Thinkers

  • They easily find reoccurrences in complicated problems.
  • They love to come up with fresh suggestions and proposals.
  • They do not really like work or activity performed with the intention or result of occupying time, and not necessarily to accomplish something productive. Big picture thinkers are not big fans of routine work of low priority undertaken just for the sake of avoiding idleness. They would rather stay “idle” than run boring errands like composing and sending emails.
  • They are good at giving sketchy details of what is expected to be achieved but find it tiring to give extensive information.
  • They are creative.


Detail-Oriented Thinkers

  • They put so much time into thinking about things to the minutiae that they forget to consider the grand scheme of things.
  • They prefer to revise and amend an agenda than coming up with a new plan. They work better as editors.
  • They do not overlook anything. Every sentence and note they take matters.
  • They are prone to overthinking.
  • They are logical-minded people.

Despite their differences, big picture thinkers and detail-oriented people work well together. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses and both types can be found in every organization.


How to Answer the Question

Like we mentioned earlier, every employee has a problem-solving style that is second nature to them but that does not hinder an individual from learning and adapting to a new approach or knowing when it is necessary to switch methods. During an interview, you should aim at convincing your prospective employer that you are versatile and flexible. Whichever your problem-solving skill is, remember that it can always add value to the organization. Most employers have realized that hiring candidates from the two schools of thought creates a  cohesive team especially when everybody is placed in a role that suits them. Big picture thinkers will feel comfortable handling big projects, spotting problems, and proffering solutions that will help the company make wise business decisions. Detail-oriented thinkers will be happy to oversee backend office roles and ensure the smooth running of company operations every day.

Before your interview:

  • Assess yourself to know which type of thinker you are.
  • Research the tasks and responsibilities associated with the role you are applying for. This will help you know which approach is the most suitable.
  • Prepare what you are going to say and practice it. Familiarize yourself with your answer so that you sound natural when speaking and not like someone reading off a paper. Here’s a tip: Write down your answer and practice it in front of an experienced friend or even your mirror!
  • It’s an interview. Don’t forget to use the opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer. No matter the type of thinker you are, convince them that you will get the job done and if need be, change your approach to fit any problem.
  • Make your answer brief and concise. You do not want your interviewers to become bored and fall asleep or worse, cut you short in the middle of a long answer. You might want to add a real-life example to spice up your answer and make it real, but make sure it’s relatable to what you are talking about.
  • While you try to present yourself as an in-demand brand, avoid painting yourself as perfect or a know-it-all. Make provision for your shortcomings and use it as an opportunity to show that you are ready to adapt and learn.

We have added a sample answer to guide you as you prepare your own.


Sample Answer

“I identify as a big picture thinker because I always imagine future benefits when faced with a project or problem. This makes it easy for me to identify opportunities that will benefit everyone in the long run and come up with ideas and solutions that colleagues and former employers have often praised as creative. At my former workplace, I was greatly commended for my foresight that led to the expansion of the business to regions that had otherwise been neglected. While I am very open to taking calculated risks, I still find it difficult to pay attention to the seemingly little things sometimes. However, I am learning to adjust and recognize when to take another approach”.


Interview Questions

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