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Critical Thinking Skills: 4 Ways to Stand Out in Your Job Search

critical thinking skills


Critical Thinking Skills: 4 Ways to Stand Out in Your Job Search

Let’s talk about critical thinking skills. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

One of the most sought-after skills in job search candidates is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is considered both a career readiness skill and a soft skill. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed employers in the United States and found that over 98% of employers in 2022 consider critical thinking extremely important for job search candidates. However, those same employers admit they believe only 55.8% of college students and recent graduates possess strong critical thinking skills.

There’s a gap between what employers want and what the entry-level candidate pool offers.

The good news is if you do possess strong critical thinking skills, you’re ahead of the competition. The trick is knowing how to convey or show those skills to employers during the job search and hiring process.

What exactly are critical thinking skills? Why do employers care so much about critical thinking? And how can you demonstrate competency during the hiring process?

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking is typically defined as “the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not.”

Even in the definition, there’s a hint of decision-making and problem-solving.

Most scholars and career readiness experts agree that these three soft skills—critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving—are inseparable and interdependent.

critical thinking skills job

Critical thinkers typically do the following regularly:

  • Ask important questions clearly
  • Gather relevant source material when conducting research
  • Assess research material, interpreting it effectively using critical reading strategies
  • Reach logical conclusions and test them

In addition, critical thinkers are characterized by the ability to remain open-minded, even in the face of differing opinions and beliefs.

They are also noted for communicating collaboratively to find solutions or reach conclusions. And lastly, critical thinkers are trailblazers. They don’t sit around complaining endlessly about what’s wrong with the workplace. They brainstorm, dialogue with others, and search for solutions to problems.

Why Employers Need to Hire Critical Thinkers

It’s easy to see why employers want to hire critical thinkers, right?

If you’re a critical thinker, chances are you are also a great decision-maker, problem-solver, communicator, and collaborator. That list includes five top soft skills. In addition, critical thinkers tend to be more open-minded, which usually means they prioritize inclusion in the workplace.

They’re also much more creative; critical thinkers don’t usually keep doing what they’ve always done, getting the same results. They brainstorm, troubleshoot, and consider new possibilities. They’re agile enough to flex from day to day. And don’t forget that critical thinkers make excellent leaders who exercise great wisdom and discernment when making decisions that impact employees, budget, and strategy.

Not only do critical thinkers possess a plethora of necessary soft skills, they also tend to be more productive and make fewer costly errors in the workplace. Thus, critical thinkers are good for the bottom line.

And that’s something every employer needs and wants.

How to Showcase Critical Thinking Skills

There are multiple ways job seekers can highlight and showcase their strengths related to critical thinking during the hiring process.

Write a Strong Cover Letter and Resume

Did you know critical thinking, reading, and writing skills are tightly intertwined?

Your ability to think critically and convey those thoughts clearly in writing on your cover letter and resume will speak volumes to employers.

critical thinking skills at work

Employers don’t just want to know what you have done and can do. They want to know how well you’ve done it and how well you can repeat it in the context of the job role you’re applying for. The best way to make this obvious for employers is to detail all relevant accomplishments and skills on your resume, yet do so in clear and concise language.

In addition, you’ll want to address the “whys” in your cover letter, things you cannot easily and quickly express in writing on your resume. Examples include why you have a gap in your employment history, why you drastically changed career fields, and why you’re applying for a specific job role.

Your job as the candidate is to answer “whys” and “hows” for employers on your resume and cover letter. Make it easy for them to select you for the interview process.

Ask Great Questions During Interviews

Another great way to showcase critical thinking skills during the hiring process is by asking strong questions during job interviews. But how do you generate these questions and determine what to ask?

First of all, conduct research on the organization, the career field, the specific job role, and the team you’ll be joining (if possible).

Next, try to think like a consultant. What problems, discrepancies, or potential pitfalls do you think the company is facing? In your potential new job role, how could you help solve these problems? Ask questions related to these problems, and be prepared to throw out potential solutions, too.

Do Research

Again, it’s necessary to thoroughly research the company or organization prior to the interview. It’s actually beneficial to you as a job seeker to research the company or organization before applying for the job role.

critical thinking skills job search

If you discover red flags related to organizational structure, pay rates, benefits, flexibility, etc., it’s better to know now rather than later.

Once you have been invited to interview, you need to spend time researching the organization, but don’t forget to look at the big picture. This is part of being a critical thinker.

Consider the job role. What is the job outlook for this role? What is the average pay range, and where does that company fall on the range? If the pay isn’t fantastic, are there other benefits, perks, or attributes of the company which compensate for the lack of great salary?

However, before you can adequately research and weigh your options, you have to first spend time assessing your own career needs and wants, too.

When you can communicate how the job role satisfies your career goals during the interview process without focusing too much on yourself, you signal that you have used a critical thinking process to evaluate yourself, synthesize your research, and draw conclusions.

Share Your Thought Process

Lastly, don’t expect the employer to pick up on the fact that you’re a critical thinker. Tell them you are. Show them you are. You can best demonstrate this by verbally walking the employer through your critical thinking process when you respond to interview questions.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the employer asks you why you are interested in the job role. A great response, which demonstrates critical thinking skills, might be:

“I’m really interested in this role because after researching your organization, I feel your mission aligns with things I care about. I also feel this role matches my current skills and my career goals as well. I spent time researching then evaluating what I perceive as the needs of your organization right now, particularly your X team. As a leader, I would be able to help you build a stronger team and better brand the organization, too.”

critical thinking skills workplace

When you respond in a thoughtful way, detailing your critical thinking process which involves research, assessment, reflection, and problem-solving, you’re communicating the strength of your soft skills.

Continual Growth

As a job seeker, it’s crucial to convey your ability to use critical thinking skills to weigh options, conduct research, assess results, and make decisions. But it’s just as crucial to keep growing.

One aspect of critical thinking employers look for in potential employees is a growth mindset and willingness to learn. Don’t overlook the value of seeking jobs that allow you the opportunity and encourage true professional development.

Remember, while it’s great to meet the needs of your new employer, it’s more important to meet your own needs related to long-term career fulfillment.

Bethany Wallace
Bethany Wallace
Bethany Wallace partners with mission-minded organizations to build better workplaces through soft skills solutions. Bethany aids leaders in strengthening workplace relationships through communications consulting, training, executive coaching, keynote presentations, & career coaching. Bethany enjoys presenting research at conferences and contributes regularly to major publications & recognized podcasts, including Glassdoor, College Recruiter, Zip Recruiter, Jobscan, FlexJobs, the New York Daily News, BusinessTech, Human Resources Online, Life After Teaching, Love Your Story, The Conversation Guy (10 Minute Mindset), Everyday People Podcast, The Success Chronicles, and more.

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