With critical thinking skills in high demand, you can get ahead with a resume that showcases those abilities
Soft skills like critical thinking continue to be vitally important for companies around the country and across the world. Unfortunately, many of those companies have long complained about their struggles to find candidates who demonstrate the crucial critical thinking skills that their enterprises need to succeed. The question job seekers need to ask themselves is simple: what critical thinking skills are companies looking for, and how can they be highlighted in a resume to ensure that they capture an employer's attention?
In this post, we'll define these important abilities, consider some examples of critical thinking skills, and examine why they are so important to today's companies. We'll also offer some helpful tips that you can use to develop your own critical thinking and provide guidance to help you to highlight those abilities on your resume.
What are critical thinking skills?
Before you can include critical thinking skills on your resume, you first need to understand what they are. The simplest definition is that they are a range of abilities that enable you to think and problem-solve using facts, deduction, and logic. This rational approach to thinking can enable you to connect seemingly unrelated facts, analyze information in an unbiased way, and resolve complex problems.
Critical thinkers do more than just gather facts and make decisions, of course. They use their cognitive abilities to infer missing information, connect ideas, and consider the outcome of any decision they make. These types of thinkers have the ability to act with independence and produce competent results with a minimum of ongoing supervision. For people who possess these skills, life and work choices tend to revolve around reason and logic. That rational approach to thinking is something that every employer prizes.
Examples of critical thinking skills
It's also helpful to explore some examples of different critical thinking skills, to better understand the types of abilities that employers will want to see in your resume. As you read through the following examples, you should be able to identify how each of these abilities is an essential part of the broader critical thought process. If you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, you will likely benefit from focusing on developing those skills.
The ability to conduct effective observations is an essential critical thinking skill. Problems can never be resolved until they are identified and properly understood. Your ability to observe can enable you to enjoy a deeper understanding of the facts surrounding a situation or potential problem. Just as important, those observational talents can assist you as you attempt to understand other stakeholders' different points of view and attempt to find areas of common ground to inform your decision-making.
It's crucial to keep an open mind whenever you engage in critical thinking. Being receptive to other points of view and all the available facts can help you to mitigate any personal bias that might otherwise cloud your analysis and judgment. True critical thought requires you to set aside your preconceptions and personal preferences to ensure that you examine the facts and evidence in an objective manner.
Of course, every human being has their own biases and no one expects you to erase those preconceptions completely. The key is to recognize them and have the self-awareness needed to set them aside whenever you need to look at things critically. For many people, this challenge is one of the biggest impediments to developing effective critical thought processes.
Analytical thinking is the process of evaluating data to identify patterns, prioritize facts, and eliminate irrelevant information. These skills are key in the workplace and as part of the critical thinking process, since they enable you to make reason-based judgments about the value of the information you gather and organize. This ensures that your decision-making process focuses only on the facts and details that matter, instead of focusing on information that might distract you from identifying the best possible solution.
Sound analysis skills necessarily include the ability to know which questions to ask to inform any decision. For example:
Can I trust the source of this information?
Do alternative facts exist, and how reliable are they?
Are there other points of view that I need to consider?
Do my data sources have their own biases and, if so, how might those biases impact my decision?
Do I have enough facts at hand to even begin to form an opinion or solution?
In many instances, the information that you have ready access to may be insufficient to help you to form a reasoned conclusion. That's where your research skills will come into play. Being able to conduct your own research can be a key factor in ensuring that you have the data you need to render a decision or resolve a problem. Fortunately, research is now easier than it has ever been, provided you know how to use the internet to seek out reliable data.
Proper research should always begin with an effort to define the questions that you want to answer. One effective strategy is to create a list of those questions and note why the answers will be relevant to your analysis. Then consult reliable online sources to learn more about the subject at hand. As you do so, try to avoid sites that offer opinion or fringe theories and instead rely on university websites, nonprofits, and trusted news sites. You should also consult multiple sources, to ensure that your gathered information is as trustworthy as possible.
The ability to think creatively will also be a vital component of your critical thinking process. Even after you've gathered and analyzed all of the available data, and made inferences to fill in any knowledge gaps, you will still have to use some measure of creativity to devise a solution to your problem. Now, if your first reaction to that idea is to suggest that you are not a creative person, think again. Everyone has some degree of creativity and that creative streak can be developed if you put in the effort.
Note also that this type of creativity has nothing to do with the ability to write a novel, paint a picture, or create the next great musical masterpiece. Instead, this creativity focuses on the ability to identify patterns and infer connections to create a variety of possible solutions to any given problem. With practice and focus, you should be able to learn to engage in this type of thinking to help you with your decision-making.
Inference is simply the ability to “fill in the gaps” between various pieces of data and evidence. For example, if you're at work and see a coworker grimace as they bite into a sandwich in the cafeteria, you may not know exactly why they made that face. However, you can use your own experience and judgment to infer some possible reasons. Perhaps the sandwich tasted bad. Or the person experienced pain, possibly due to a bad tooth or a hard object in the sandwich. You get the picture.
The ability to infer certain truths is essential in most decision-making and problem-solving exercises, since you may not always have all of the information you need to properly understand a decision. What you will have, however, is your own experience and knowledge, as well as the ability to make reasonable assumptions that fit within the fact pattern at hand. Well-honed inference abilities will empower you to fill in those missing gaps in the evidence to make the most rational assumptions possible.
Self-awareness and self-management
Self-awareness is a prerequisite to self-management, which is a vital component in the critical thinking process. You must be able to regulate your thoughts and emotions, which means that you need to possess enough self-awareness to recognize how you're thinking and feeling. This awareness and ability to regulate yourself will ensure that you have the objectivity needed to maintain an open and unbiased mind as you examine evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions.
Communication skills always end up being discussed in conversations like this - and for good reason. In both business and life, the ability to effectively communicate your ideas is essential for success. This is true in critical thinking as well, since you will almost certainly need to share your conclusions and solutions with other people at some point in the process.
When your available solutions or decisions are limited, that communication may be as easy as explaining your conclusion and choice. On the other hand, there will also be times when you'll need to go into great detail to share your results. For example, let's say that your critical analysis and thought process led you to several viable solutions and an equal number of potentially beneficial decisions. Communicating those complex results will require you to compare the options and the various pros and cons of each.
Why are critical thinking skills so important?
One of the biggest reasons that these abilities are so prized these days is that employers find soft skills like critical thinking in short supply. Of course, that's not a new problem. Nearly a decade ago, an American Management Association survey found that 72% of employers cited critical thinking as a vital component of their business success. However, only about half of those employers believed that their own employees possessed those vital skills.
Today, many employers continue to complain about a lack of critical thinking abilities in their prospective talent pools. A survey in 2022 found that many managers still cited critical thinking as a top-ranked skill they look for in job candidates. Those same managers, however, said that it was common for newer employees to lack those critical abilities - raising doubts about whether any real progress has been made in recent years to ensure that new workers have the thinking skills employees need to succeed.
The fact is that there are many reasons why critical thinking abilities are so vitally important for employers and employees alike:
Many occupations require critical thinking
Professional endeavors typically require more than just technical skills. Whether you're seeking a career in healthcare, scientific research, law, finance, or education, the ability to think critically can be essential to success. Every job that involves analyzing information, deducing facts, and solving problems creatively requires some measure of critical thinking.
Critical thinkers are more adaptable to new information
People who can think critically tend to be more amenable to changing their opinions and minds as new facts challenge their preconceptions. Critical thought requires constant self-reflection, to mitigate potential personal bias, and the ability to view facts and problems from many different perspectives.
Critical thinkers are adept at researching
Because critical thinking relies on information, these thinkers are forced to become talented researchers to get the data they need for their analysis. A great critical thinker not only knows how to gather new information, but also knows how to prioritize the data they encounter.
The best decisions tend to be the ones that are most reliant on facts and reason. Critical thinking processes enable you to recognize your biases, choose logic over emotional responses, and make reason-based decisions that provide superior solutions for any problem. Critical thinkers are able to enjoy these decision-making benefits in both their personal and professional lives.
How to develop critical thinking skills
Even if you're already talented in this area, it's important to know how to improve your critical thinking skills. Yes, that's correct: critical thinking abilities are not something that you're born with; they are skills that you learn and develop over the course of your life. Fortunately, there are easy ways that you can improve your own thinking skills to become a better critical thinker. For example:
1. Learn to ask basic questions
One of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills is to train yourself to ask more questions, even about basic things. By focusing on the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation or problem, you can often cut through complex possibilities and get to the heart of the issue. Questions can include things like:
Who was the last person to try to tackle this issue?
What are we trying to achieve here?
When does this need to be resolved?
Where can I find other data that might help us to solve this issue?
Why have we been using this process up until now?
2. Always question your own biases
Biases can cause you to make assumptions that may not be supported by the facts or evidence. By constantly questioning your own biases, you can improve your self-awareness and ensure that you take a more objective approach to your analysis and research during any critical thought process.
3. Take stock of your thoughts
Just as you must be conscious of your biases, you must also be conscious of your own thought processes. Humans think at such a fast pace that most of us end up taking mental shortcuts. This can cause you to miss crucial facts or even draw illogical inferences. Take your time and be aware of how your thoughts might be inhibiting your critical processes.
4. Get in the habit of examining evidence
Learn to examine facts and situations as they occur around you. This simple exercise in paying attention to the details can help you to hone your analysis skills.
5. Look for gaps in the information at hand
Practice your inference skills. When you see someone standing on a sidewalk impatiently, think about why they might be waiting in that area. Simple examples like that can get you in the habit of trying to fill in missing gaps in any pattern of evidence.
6. Always think for yourself
If you're someone who tends to follow others' opinions and conclusions, focus on learning to think more for yourself. Learn to trust your own judgment and instincts as you develop your analysis and observation skills. This will help you to prepare for more advanced critical thinking and problem-solving in the future.
7. Focus on developing leadership traits
Learn to be a leader by developing the skills and traits that can empower you in a leadership role. Practice being more decisive, adaptable, and resilient. Focus on empathy to develop your ability to understand other points of view. For more information about leadership, check out our post, These 14 Leadership Traits Can Fuel Your Career Success.
Tips to help you show critical thinking skills on your resume
To properly highlight your critical thinking skills on a resume, you should focus on using language that emphasizes your ability to solve problems. You should include this language within your resume summary, your job experience section, and your listed skills. Do not, however, simply list “critical thinking” within your skills. Instead, you'll want to include those skills that demonstrate your critical thinking abilities.
Highlighting critical thinking skills within your resume summary
It's important to draw attention to your critical thinking abilities within your resume summary, since that's the first thing that hiring managers see when they review your resume. Again, you don't need to include a direct reference to critical thinking, unless that term is included within the job description. Instead, you can simply make references to those abilities as you describe yourself and your achievements in that summary paragraph. For example:
Data-driven analyst and creative problem-solver with 10 years of experience in the technology industry. Managed multiple large projects and implemented complex technology solutions for companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $100 billion.
With this summary, the job candidate highlights their ability to rely on data analysis and creative thinking to solve problems - which is just another way of saying that they just might be the critical thinker that this prospective employer is looking for!
Showing examples of critical thinking in your work experience section
To properly showcase your critical thinking ability in your work experience section, you should include an example of a time when those skills helped you to accomplish a goal or resolve a problem for your employer. Do this by citing the example within your bulleted list of achievements for each company. For example:
- Identified and resolved deficiencies within the company's vendor logistics network by devising and implementing a new process that reduced supply delays by 30%
- Managed the team responsible for analyzing network security weaknesses, identifying new solutions to enhance protection and implementing strategies that reduced serious threats by 89%
- Initiated and led a project that crafted new client retention solutions, reducing client loss by 60% after implementing new client management protocols and revised service personnel training and oversight processes
Listing critical thinking skills in your skills section
As we noted earlier, you should not generally include the words “critical thinking skills” in your resume's skill section. Still, you'll want to emphasize the skills that enable you to think critically by including terms like:
Ask for resume help
With employers continuing to focus on their need for critical thinkers, it's more vital than ever to ensure that your resume properly conveys your critical thinking skills. By understanding which skills are essential for critical thinking, and working to develop your own abilities in this area, you can better position yourself and your resume to stand out from other job candidates in your field.
Need to ensure that your resume effectively highlights your important critical thinking skills? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!