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Key Critical Thinking Skills and Examples

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What are critical thinking skills?Examples of critical thinking skillsTips to improve critical thinkings skillsCritical thinking skill benefitsHow to highlight critical thinking skills

Guide Overview

Understanding the value of critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills are a valuable asset to help you be successful in all aspects of life. At work, employers seek employees with the ability to quickly analyze a situation, identify possible solutions, and make the best possible decision based on available information. Making logical and informed decisions can save time and lead to greater success. Learn about some crucial critical thinking skills, review examples, review tips to improve your critical thinking skills and focus on how to highlight these crucial skills to help you succeed.

What are critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking skills provide the ability to objectively identify and analyze available information present in a situation and use that information to make the best logical decision for the desired outcome. Objectivity is crucial to successfully implement critical thinking skills and the reasoning process entails reflective and independent thought. These important critical thinking skills can help predict possible outcomes for each decision and avoid unfavorable results. A critical thinker is someone who can make independent decisions to advance projects, workflows and improve both personal and professional relationships.

Examples of critical thinking skills

Transferable skills such as critical thinking can help you reach your potential. Consider these basic critical thinking skills to develop to help you become an accomplished critical thinker:

  • Observation: Fundamental to critical thinking, observant people are vigilant and alert to their surroundings and often begin to identify a problem before it fully develops.
  • Reflection: Use curiosity to drive you to ask questions about the problem or situation and move you toward seeking an answer. Reflecting propels problem-solving into action.
  • Analysis: Active observation and a yearning for understanding lead to analysis. A critical thinker is someone who is always seeking answers to thought-provoking questions.
  • Synthesis: Synthesis, a sign of independent thinking, is the ability to sort through an assortment of information, decipher what is important, and succinctly summarize key components of the information while providing useful insights.
  • Envisioning or projection: Basic critical thinking skills also require you to hypothesize and be able to somewhat accurately predict an outcome. The capacity to anticipate the effect of certain actions requires foresight and understanding of cause and effect.
  • Deduction: Critical thinkers are adept at weighing all options and deciding which would be the most desirable.
  • Communication: Once critical thinking ability has helped you arrive at a decision, it is necessary to communicate your decision effectively to others, whether at work or within your personal life.
  • Rationalization: The ability to legitimize your rationale for a decision is crucial to the process of critical thinking. Good critical thinking skills use rationale based on logic rather than emotion or mere gut feeling.

Constantly observing and analyzing, even after a decision is made is yet another critical thinking skill many utilize. To objectively look at your decisions and grow from the experience by learning what made it successful or not supports the growth mindset many critical thinkers have.

Tips to improve critical thinkings skills

Even if you are already an objective thinker who exhibits these elemental critical thinking skills, consider these tips to further improve on these abilities you already have.

  1. Enroll in courses. You’ll want to focus on in-depth understanding of a narrow topic in order to help you fine-tune your critical thinking skills. The more you understand about your focus area, especially in your line of work, the more easily you will be able to anticipate problems within your industry.
  2. Volunteer at work. Asking to contribute outside of your assigned tasks can serve as beneficial training and help you acquire skills you would not otherwise be introduced to in your regular responsibilities.
  3. Network with colleagues. Be open to discussing your work with others in your industry and ask for opinions. Critical thinkers can gain insight from having different perspectives.
  4. Seek a mentor. Having a manager or mentor give you feedback on your performance, or on their own experiences, can serve as a springboard for you and guide learning. A manager might identify a skill you can work on developing that you have not considered.
  5. Play challenging games. An enjoyable and beneficial way to practice critical thinking is through playing games such as chess that require inference and analysis.
  6. Read a book. Learning through reading helps to reduce stress, improve organization skills, and increase vocabulary and comprehension.

Critical thinking skill benefits

Critical thinkers utilize information to make things better for themselves and others. Critical thinking skills in the workplace can be beneficial for these reasons:

  • Purposeful action: Employees take more pride in their work because they understand the necessary steps required to complete a project.
  • Data-based decision making: Decisions are well-informed and contribute to overall improvement.
  • Professional growth: Self-reflection leads to individual professional growth and goal attainment.
  • Shared knowledge: Colleagues can teach and learn from one another.

How to highlight critical thinking skills

Many employers seek to understand how prospective employees utilize critical thinking skills on a daily basis. Here are some ways to emphasize your strong critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills for a resume and cover letter

You’ll want to demonstrate your critical thinking abilities on a resume by showing how you have implemented these skills and how that has led to your success or benefit for your employer. Indicate how you created certain practices because your research and data analysis indicated changes were needed. Consider explaining how you helped a customer solve a problem by talking through issues and brainstorming solutions. Highlight your abilities by providing concrete and specific examples.

Critical thinking skills for a job interview

During a job interview, you have the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with the hiring manager. Give specific answers that show how you acted based on observations and information. Consider framing your responses using the STAR technique which offers a descriptive situation, identifies a task to be completed or a problem that needed solving, details the action you took, and describes the results.

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