Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking is one of the most sought after qualities that employer seek in job candidates. Employers list this skill as a job qualification in a broad range of job postings including both professional and non-professional positions. Regardless of the job for which you're applying, critical thinking skills will be an in-demand asset.

Read below for a detailed definition of critical thinking, including examples of ways people use critical thinking, and a list of critical thinking skills.

Then read for tips on how to demonstrate your own critical thinking skills during your job search.

What is Critical Thinking?

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.  

Critical thinkers can present coherent reasons for adopting a position and debunk faulty reasoning regarding a proposal or assertion.  

Examples of Critical Thinking at Work

  • 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.  
  • A job seeker would use critical thinking to analyze a vacancy and decide whether to apply for a job. Then they would evaluate which of their assets as a candidate should be emphasized in an interview for that job. 

List of Critical Thinking Skills

Below is a list of specific skills related to critical thinking.

Each skill includes a definition.

  • Analysis – Analysis refers to the ability to examine something, and then be able to understand what it means, or what it represents.
  • Clarification – Clarification is the ability to not only restate information, but to state it in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Evaluation – Evaluative skills are those related to assessing or judging the validity of an idea.
  • Explanation – Explanation is similar to clarification, and refers to the ability to clearly state information, and even add one's own perspective to that information.
  • Inference – This relates to the ability to draw conclusions based on the information that one is given (which might be limited).
  • Interpretation – Interpretation is the understanding of information. Often, it refers to communicating the meaning of information in a format that is clear for a particular audience.
  • Judgment – Like evaluation, judgment is the assessment of an idea or a piece of information.
  • Objectivity – Being objective means that you evaluate an idea fairly, without bias.
  • Problem Solving Problem solving is another important skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating a solution, and implementing and then assessing that plan.
  • Reasoning – Reasoning refers to thinking logically about a question or problem.

How to Demonstrate Your Critical Thinking Skills

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 in your resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Think back to previous roles you have held, from past jobs to volunteer positions. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem. You can mention one of these examples in detail in your cover letter. You might also include bullet points in your resume that highlight your critical thinking experiences for different jobs.

In interviews, be prepared to provide specific examples of times that you demonstrated critical thinking skills. Be ready to mention a particular problem or challenge at work, and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve the issue.

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).

Related: Creative Thinking | Problem Solving | Decision Making

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Read More: Soft vs. Hard Skills | How to Include Keywords in Your Resume | List of Keywords for Resumes and Cover Letters | Skills and Abilities

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