Identifying Your Skills

What employers want – Analytical Skills and Critical Thinking

What employers want –Regardless of the type of job that is on offer, we all know that employers are looking for a fairly standard set of skills that allow candidates to be productive and work with colleagues and clients.

Knowing this gives you, the candidate, the edge.  But how do you use this information to your advantage.

I am providing a series of short posts about these skills and will set you a task to help you respond to selection criteria or interview questions.  This task has two components.  After reading the post I would like you to reflect on how you have demonstrated that skill during 2020; and then turn that reflection into a story.  You will then be able to use your story in your application or interview.

Today I have clustered two skills together because they go hand in hand when problem solving – Analytical Skills and Critical Thinking

What are these skills?

Analytical skills relate to your ability to gather information, visualise and solve simple or complex problems with the information available. 

Critical thinking involves observing a situation or critically reading a piece of information, then using the facts to form an opinion.

Essentially managers want to know that you are capable of thinking for yourself and have the ability to resolve a problem.

There are many different ways to resolve problems, including techniques such as the 5 Whys (really great for root cause analysis) or the Fish diagram (also known as the Ishikawa Diagram).  Then there is the 6 thinking hats (a true classic), problem definition process, and many more.  For a really good list of problem solving techniques check out this article: 35 problem solving techniques and activities to create effective solutions | SessionLab.

However, before you can find the right solution for a given problem, you need to identify and define the problem that needs to be solved. ften we will try to short cut the process and go immediately to what we think the solution is going to be, that is, we jump at the solution before we critically evaluate whether it will be the best solution.  This is essentially put the solution first without doing the thinking.  The solution should come at the end of the process when we have moved through all the steps. 

The 7 step process:

1. Identify the problem or the issue

2. Understand everyone’s interests

3. List all the possible solutions (options)

4. Evaluate the options

5. Select an option or perhaps the best two options

6. Document what was agreed

7. Agree on contingencies, implement the solution, then monitor and evaluate.

An even simpler framework with fewer steps is:

1 – Define the problem

2 – Generate alternative solutions

3 – Evaluate and select a potential solution

4 – Implement and follow up on the solution

And yet another is:

1. Identify the problem

2. Prioritise the major problem (if there is more than one)

3. Investigate solutions and analyse the evidence

4. Consult and seek advice

5. Identify a solution based on your evidence

6. Make a recommendation

7. Implement the recommendation

8. Evaluate the effectiveness of the solution and monitor for any unforeseen consequences.

So, what is your problem solving story? 

To get you started you might like to develop a response to one of the following potential interview questions:

  • Describe a time when you had to solve a problem?
  • When did you participate in a problem solving process?  What was your role and what did you contribute to the eventual outcome?
  • Describe a time when you saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

Use the SAO method to develop your experiences into a great story which you can recount at interview or place into your cover letter or selection criteria.  Your story should be specific enough that it provides sufficient detail for the interviewer/reader to understand:

Your framework is:

  • What the situation was
  • What action you took; and
  • What the outcome was.

Write it down and refine it.  Then save it away in your interview question database.

If you need help to develop your cover letter or selection criteria – contact me for assistance.


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Cheers for now, Kate.