Critical Thinking Skills List and Examples
Critical Thinking Skills and Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews
Critical thinking is one of the most sought after qualities that employers look for in job candidates in almost any industry. Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment.
Read below for a list of critical thinking skills that employers are looking for in resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Included is a detailed list of five of the most important critical thinking skills, as well as an even longer list of critical thinking skills.
Also see below for information on how to demonstrate your critical thinking skills during your job search.
Why Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking involves the evaluation of sources such as data, facts, observable phenomenon, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information and discriminate between useful and less useful details for solving a problem or making a decision.
This is important for almost any job in any industry. Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and come up with the best solution. Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions on his or her own, and will not need constant handholding.
Examples of critical thinking vary depending on the industry. For example, a triage nurse would use critical thinking skills to analyze the cases at hand and decide the order in which the patients should be treated.
A plumber would use critical thinking skills to evaluate which materials would best suit a particular job. An attorney would review the evidence and use critical thinking to help devise a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
How to Use Skills Lists
If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, you want to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.
Include this phrase and related terms in your resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
Firstly, you can use these critical thinking skill words in your resume. In the description of your work history, you can use some of these key words. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.
Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.
Finally, you can use these skill words in an interview. Be ready to mention a particular problem or challenge at work, and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve the issue. Try to use some of the keywords listed below in your answers to questions.
Some interviewers will even give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your answer rather than the answer itself. The interviewer wants to see you use analysis and evaluation (key parts of critical thinking).
Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer.
Also review our other lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.
Top Five Critical Thinking Skills
Part of thinking critical is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, and then understand what it means, and what it represents.
Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to clearly communicate with others to share your ideas. You might also need to engage in critical thinking with a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking often involves some level of creativity. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at, or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye.
To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments, and simply analyze the information you are given. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.
Problem solving is another important critical-thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating a solution, and implementing and then assessing that plan. After all, employers don’t simply want employee who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with effective solutions.
Critical Thinking Skills
- Applying Standards
- Asking Thoughtful Questions
- Cognitive Flexibility
- Decision Making
- Embracing Different Cultural Perspectives
- Identifying Patterns
- Information Seeking
- Logical Reasoning
- Making Abstract Connections
- Making Inferences
- Open-Minded Thinking
- Problem Solving
- Questioning Evidence
- Recognizing Differences and Similarities
Read More: Employment Skills Listed by Job | Lists of Skills for Resumes | Soft vs. Hard Skills | List of Keywords for Resumes and Cover Letters
Use these sample critical-thinking interview questions to discover how candidates evaluate complex situations and if they can reach logical decisions.
Why test candidates’ critical-thinking skills
Critical-thinking skills allow people to evaluate situations through reasoning to reach logical decisions. Companies benefit from employees who think critically (as opposed to mechanically performing tasks) because these individuals use an independent mindset to seek ways to improve processes.
Critical thinkers are great assets in all teams and roles. They are:
- Responsible. You can count on them to make tough decisions.
- Consistent. They’re top performers who check their facts before acting.
- Unbiased. They keep their emotions in check to reach sound decisions.
- Creative. They suggest out-of-the-box solutions.
Challenge candidates with complex critical thinking questions to reveal their skills. But, present them with realistic problems related to the job. Brainteasers (e.g. some Google-type questions) are off-putting for candidates who already feel the pressure of the interview process. Questions like “How many haircuts happen in America every year?” are very popular online, but may not reveal much about their skills. Asking something like “How would you explain cloud computing to a 6-year-old?” will more accurately show you a candidate’s way of thinking.
Keep your challenging interview questions as job-related as possible. Sometimes it’s not important to assess whether the answer is right or wrong. Puzzling questions are your opportunity to evaluate how candidates react outside their comfort zone.
These critical-thinking interview question examples will help you identify candidates with high potential for future leadership positions. Combine them with various behavioral interview question types (like problem-solving and competency-based questions) to create complete candidate profiles and make better hiring decisions.
Examples of critical-thinking interview questions
- Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. What did you do?
- During a live presentation to key stakeholders, you spot a mistake in your manager’s report, but your manager isn’t at the presentation. How do you handle this?
- Describe a time when you had to convince your manager to try a different approach to solve a problem.
- You’re working on a project and you struggle coming to an agreement with your team about your next step. What would you do to make sure you choose the right direction and get your co-workers onboard?
- What’s the best sales approach: increase prices to achieve higher revenues or decrease prices to improve customer satisfaction?
How to assess critical-thinking skills in interviews
- Use hypothetical scenarios and examples from candidates’ past experiences to understand their mindsets. An analytical way of thinking (comparing alternatives and weighing pros and cons) indicates people who make logical judgments.
- When problems arise, employees don’t always have ample time to design a detailed action plan. Opt for candidates who strike a balance between good and fast decision-making.
- Critical thinking requires questioning facts and the status quo. Look for candidates who have implemented new procedures or applied changes to processes in their past positions. These are signs of professionals who actively seek ways to improve how things get done, as opposed to taking the “this is how we always do it” approach.
- Candidates who are intrigued by solving problems are more likely to effectively manage challenges and stressful situations on the job. During your interview process, keep an eye out for candidates who show enthusiasm and don’t easily quit when faced with problems, even if they can’t immediately find solutions.
- They don’t fact-check. If you present candidates with a hypothetical problem and they don’t ask for clarifications, it’s a sign they take information for granted. A critical thinker should always research data for accuracy before relying on it.
- They make assumptions. Beyond taking things for granted, employees who make assumptions tend to jump to rushed and often biased conclusions. Look for candidates who use logical arguments to justify their decisions.
- They don’t answer. If they don’t at least try to solve the problem, they’ll probably keep procrastinating when something goes wrong or push their work onto to someone else. Asking for help when you face a challenge is more than acceptable, but avoiding problems reveals irresponsible employee behavior.
- They give you the obvious answer. Tricky questions are tricky for a reason. Candidates who go with the first answer that comes in mind are more likely to approach challenges superficially and avoid using critical-thinking skills to come up with the best solution.