Critical thinking is a process. It involves several steps or phases, each of which enable you to make reasonable, rationale and well-thought out decisions about the tasks and challenges you face at work. Critical thinking skills also enable you to refine and analyse information, so that you continue to make great decisions, and better understand the connections between ideas, people and systems.
Here’s some advice on developing a better understanding of critical thinking skills, and advice on how to highlight them as you apply for that next great job.
Why is critical thinking important?
Critical thinking skills, like leadership and strategic thinking skills, are about being proactive, not reactive; being able to analyse, not just accept; and approaching problems in a thorough, systematic way. People in possession of strong critical thinking skills will likely be able to take the following actions, applying them to all parts of their role:
- They demand information and answers
But they don’t settle for the first or easiest answer. As the name suggests, critical thinking is about being critical. It requires ideas and plans to be scrutinized and tested, treating each objectively until the best and most efficient solution is found.
- They see connections between concepts and projects
Critical thinkers will have the ability to visualise and understand how the different projects they work on, and the teams they interact with fit into and complement one another. Whether it’s drawn out on paper, mapped onto a computer program or in their head, critical thinkers are able to see the whole picture, not just individual or isolated elements. This ability to see how things work together also allows for projects and processes to be streamlined, cutting costs, resources and labour.
- They continually evaluate and analyse
This is about breaking down concepts and drawing meaning from projects, campaigns and research. It’s about identifying and eliminating inconsistencies and reflecting on errors, determining what can be improved for the future. Evaluation and analysis are constant processes for critical thinkers, who are always looking for the best and most rewarding solutions to the challenges they face.
Show off your critical thinking skills
While it’s easy to list technical proficiencies in a resume, or show evidence of your formal qualifications in a job interview, an aptitude for critical thinking can be more challenging to convey. Making reference to your critical thinking skills is easy, just follow our tips to show prospective employers that you possess this vital ability:
- Cover letter
This is the first document that an employer will see, so make sure you reference your critical thinking skills clearly but concisely. Make connections between your past experience and the demands of the role you’re applying for, detailing how your refined critical thinking skills will allow you to transition into the role easily, and hit the ground running. Additionally, weave into your cover letter a short answer to the question, “why is critical thinking important to me?” In your response, you might note how you always seek out workplaces that respect and help develop critical thinking, or that you understand it’s a skill that fosters idea generation and healthy debate within an organisation.
In this key application document, detail how your critical thinking skills played an important role in the successful outcomes of projects you worked on. Use powerful verbs like ‘identified’, ‘analysed’ and ‘managed’ to describe your efforts. If possible, provide any metrics related to the project, like increase in sales or growth in client base. Providing concrete examples of your accomplishments will make clear that you possess critical thinking skills and understand how important they are in the modern workplace.
- Job interview
Arrive at your job interview armed with several examples of how you’ve handled making important decisions or solving complex problems. Practice weaving examples of your critical thinking skills into your responses so you can make mention of them without being directly asked about this ability.
You may also be presented with hypothetical scenarios, and asked how you’d use your critical thinking skills to find solutions. Draw on your examples and experiences, but be prepared to adapt them to better fit the scenario your faced with. Talk through your reasoning and considerations to exhibit that your thinking is logical and methodical.
If you’re set an online or remote work task as part of the recruitment process, the key is to detail your thinking and strategy. How did you arrive at the answers? Why did you pick this particular planning model? Keep notes for yourself as you work through the task you’re assigned, and include it at the end as an executive summary, or as accompanying notes. They don’t need to be long or verbose, but they do need to exhibit how your critical thinking skills were engaged. We’d recommend using steps or bullet points to illustrate your process.
From administration to construction, IT to executive, even a brief look at job advertisements and role descriptions reveal how widely desired critical thinking skills are. They are important to all industries, and by hiring employees who have exceptional critical thinking skills, organisations grow pools of highly capable and talented thinkers. If you’re looking to secure a promotion, ensure your ability to think critically is always evident to employers.