I stumbled upon this Attention to Detail Clerical test, and since I'm a sucker for online tests, I decided to take it. For the record, I don't think of myself as a detail oriented person. I'm a big picture person. That said, I'm very good at checklists and not forgetting important steps, but I was curious as to where I'd end up on this test.
The test is only three minutes long but it might make your brain hurt. I scored a 14, which is "above average," so maybe I'm more detail oriented than I thought. But, I think it indicates that when I need to be detail oriented I can be.
Is detail oriented always a good thing? Depends. Sometimes we think details are more important than the big picture and we forget why we're doing what we're doing. I've noticed this recently in a surprising area--Cub Scouts.
I grew up with scouting and have been to about a million Blue and Gold banquets over the years. I've even planned some Blue and Gold banquets. For most of my life, Cub Scouts was run by the moms, and these banquets were a sight to behold. Blue and gold decorations, fancy cupcakes, little place cards, food, and carefully planned skits. However, the Cub Scout troop my son is in is run by the dads.
Stereotype alert, but in my experience, the dad's just don't care that much about table decorations. These Blue and Gold banquets now are definitely run by people who don't pay attention to detail. There are no table clothes. No decorations. It's pot luck. Skits are put together in the hallway before the event begins.
And you know what? It's awesome. It serves the purpose of celebrating the year in Cub Scouts and awarding awards and thanking everyone for their hard work. The boys love it. I love it too--because my job is to show up with seven layer bean dip and a bag of chips and then help clean up at the end. I don't have to worry about decorations or costumes or any of the other things. The question is, are these details important?
It's a debatable thing. What details matter in your business is also debatable? Some things are not debatable--your taxes have to be accurate. Legal documents need to be air tight. Other things? Well, that's up to your culture.
So, when you ask candidates if they are detail oriented, maybe you should think about what details they need to focus on. Not every detail is as important as you may think they are.