What are Critical Thinking Skills (Examples + How to Develop)

Critical thinking skills are key to your success. They help draw connections between ideas and facts and let you think more rationally. Scroll down to learn all about them.

Bart Turczynski
Editor-in-Chief
What are Critical Thinking Skills (Examples + How to Develop)

Definition: Critical thinking skills refer to your ability to think in a rational fashion, detaching yourself from subjective opinions, emotional responses, or biases. It involves using the available data, facts, or other information to define a problem and devise effective solutions.

Did you know?

 

Critical thinking is the number one soft skill 60% of managers feel recent college graduates lack. And another report showed that a full 93% of employers will take critical thinking over undergraduate degrees. 

 

That makes sense. 

 

After all, critical thinkers can bring innovative solutions to the table and help organizations remain competitive.

 

But—it’s not just entry-level candidates that need critical thinking skills. Whether you’re an intern, individual contributor, or manager, knowing how to think critically can help you land a job in 2021.

 

Good news?

 

In this guide, you’ll see:

 

  • A critical thinking skills definition.
  • A list of strong critical thinking skills examples.
  • How to improve your critical thinking skills.
  • How to add critical thinking skills to your resume.

 

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And once you’ve perfected your critical thinking skills, check out a selection of other resume writing guides.

 

 

Check out more skills guides:

 

Critical Thinking on a Resume Example

 

Alice Hill

Software Engineer

 

Personal Info

 

Phone: 123-456-7890

E-mail: alicehill14@gnail.com

linkedin.com/in/alicehill

 

Summary

 

Professional software engineer with 4+ years of experience, skilled in software development using different programming languages. Seeking to provide optimal software solutions at Appls. At Citadel, developed a Market signals system with a 12% annual ROI on average. Worked closely with different teams to improve company’s operational readiness, faster data communication between teams, and build critical software solutions for end-users.

 

Experience 

 

Software Engineer

Citadel, San Francisco, CA

December 2019–May 2021

  • Developed a system which analyzes different markets and market signals with a ~0.5 forecast variance, resulting in a 12% annual ROI on average.
  • Worked closely with the risk management team to improve the systems’ operational readiness and minimize potential risks to client portfolios.
  • Led a team of 4 software engineers on building critical software solutions for end-users.
  • Improved SQL queries on the company’s database and software for faster data communication between different teams.
  • Trained 3 new hires on the proper operation of the company’s project cycles.

 

Associate Software Engineer

Dycom Industries, Inc., San Francisco, CA

April 2017–November 2019

  • Collaborated with different teams to build different cloud-based systems and web-based solutions for both the company’s subsidiaries and end-users.
  • Directed the design and development of a new HTML5 application for the company.
  • Optimized different end-users’ webpages for faster browsing and a more positive user experience.

 

Education 

 

Carnegie Mellon University, BS in Computer Engineering

2013–2017

  • Participated in club activities, ECE Outreach
  • Most Creative, The Boeing Blue Skies Award

 

Certifications

 

  • Oracle certified Java Developer
  • PCAP certification
  • Microsoft SQL certification
  • Microsoft Azure Cloud Certification
  • HTML5 Certification : HTML CSS JavaScript for Web Developers (Coursera)

 

Awards

 

  • Unsung Heroes Award, Citadel, December 2020
  • Q2 Top Performer, Citadel, July 2020
  • Rising Star Award, Dycom Industries Inc, May 2017

 

Additional Activities

 

  • Reading mystery/detective books and novels
  • Going to the gym 3-4 times a week

 

Key Skills

 

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication
  • Efficiency
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Team player
  • Time management
  • Database management
  • Java/Python/C++/C#/.NET
  • HTML5/JavaScript/CSS/XML
  • SQL/PL/pgSQL
  • Microsoft Azure

 

1. Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important?

  

Critical thinking lets you make better decisions—whether it’s about communicating information, developing a strategy, or completing a project—that ultimately lead to major dividends for the business.

 

Need an example?

 

Let’s say you work in HR. You’re tasked with resolving a conflict between an employee and their direct manager. To resolve it, you’ll need to use critical thinking and conflict resolution skills to understand the driving force behind the conflict, objectively examine each party’s take on the situation, and present an action plan.

 

So—

 

It’s only logical that most recruiters favor employees with strong critical thinking skills, especially in roles where you’ll need to tackle unique problems and come up with unorthodox solutions.

 

2. Top Critical Thinking Skills Examples

 

So far, so good.

 

You know you need critical thinking skills to land the perfect job or climb the next rung on your career ladder.

 

So, here’s a list of five critical thinking skills examples:

 

1. Observation

 

Observation skills often act as the starting point for your critical thinking ability. It involves paying attention to subtle details, noticing patterns, and often predicting a workplace problem before it even occurs.

 

2. Information Seeking

 

Rather than relying solely on self-knowledge, it’s crucial to find as much information as humanly possible to make better-informed decisions, particularly if you work in journalism or law enforcement. 

 

3. Analysis

 

In essence, it’s your ability to process collected data, facts, or information to analyze and evaluate a situation. 

 

4. Inference

 

Once you have all the information at your fingertips, you’ll need to ensure the collected data is accurate, sufficient, and reliable before you can move on to addressing a problem. 

 

5. Risk Assessment

 

The modern workplace is rife with risks that can lead to profit losses or legal consequences. Having strong risk assessment skills in your arsenal will help you identify potential hazards and act on them in time.

 

6. Communication

 

Before you pull the trigger, it’s important to run your ideas by colleagues, your direct manager, or other stakeholders. You will not only need to know how to communicate your possible solutions effectively, but also convince others to go ahead with your plan.

Expert Hint: It’s always good practice to get feedback from other people in the company. After all, it’ll help you make better-informed decisions.

7. Problem Solving

 

Once you’ve identified a problem, analyzed it, and devised a possible solution, you’ll then need to bring it to life.

 

8. Creative Thinking

 

Creativity is a valuable skill that’s closely related to critical thinking, and it’s handy regardless of your line of work or level of experience. After all, it lets you develop innovative ideas, make processes more efficient, and generally drive innovation in the workplace.

 

9. Open Mindedness

 

It’s no secret that your upbringing, life experiences, and even education can leave their mark on your ability to evaluate and perceive certain situations. But if you grow aware of such biases, you’ll elevate your critical thinking and overall decision process at work.

 

3. How to Include Critical Thinking Skills on Your Resume

 

Now—

 

Let’s look at how to craft a resume, so it’s chock-full of critical thinking skills.

 

1. Start with Your Resume Profile

 

When you start writing your resume, the first key section you want to include is a resume profile, which is also known as a resume summary statement or resume objective statement. Interestingly enough, it’s likely the first section the hiring manager will check. So, you need to spotlight your critical thinking skills there and grab the employer’s attention right from the get-go.

 

Here’s how:

 

Critical Thinking Skills in the Resume Summary

Good example

Summary

 

Professional software engineer with 4+ years of experience, skilled in software development using different programming languages. Seeking to provide optimal software solutions at Appls. At Citadel, developed a Market signals system with a 12% annual ROI on average. Worked closely with different teams to improve company’s operational readiness, faster data communication between teams, and build critical software solutions for end-users.

 

2. Make the Most Of Your Work Experience Section

 

Your work experience section plays a central role too. If you manage to present your professional experience right, you’ll likely get a callback from the employer. So, put your best foot forward and highlight your critical thinking skills. 

 

Below are three resume tips for acing this section, followed by an example:

 

  • List your professional accomplishments from past and/or current roles thanks to your critical thinking skills. Whenever possible, use numbers to quantify.
  • Leverage accomplishment statements to show recruiters how well you did in the past, rather than just mentioning what you were responsible for.
  • Opt for action verbs such as “implemented”, “designed”, “saved” instead of less impactful phrases like “responsible for”, “assisted with”, etc.

 

Job Description with Critical Thinking Skills

Good example

Experience 

 

Software Engineer

Citadel, San Francisco, CA

December 2019–May 2021

  • Developed a system which analyzes different markets and market signals with a ~0.5 forecast variance, resulting in a 12% annual ROI on average.
  • Worked closely with the risk management team to improve the systems’ operational readiness and minimize potential risks to client portfolios.
  • Led a team of 4 software engineers on building critical software solutions for end-users.
  • Improved SQL queries on the company’s database and software for faster data communication between different teams.
  • Trained 3 new hires on the proper operation of the company’s project cycles.

3. Max Out Your Education Section

 

If you lack tangible work experience (e.g., because you’ve just graduated from college), your work experience section might be underperforming. So, you need to make the most of your education section instead. 

 

To do it, highlight your GPA, include individual modules you’ve studied, and/or mention extracurricular activities you’ve completed to prove you have the critical thinking skills necessary for the position you’re applying for.

 

Critical Thinking Skills in the Education Section

Good example

Education 

 

Carnegie Mellon University, BS in Computer Engineering

2013–2017

  • Participated in club activities, ECE Outreach
  • Most Creative, The Boeing Blue Skies Award

4. Brush up Your Skills Section

 

Your skills section needs to be focused and impactful if you want to improve your chances of success. So, avoid throwing a random list of hard and soft skills into your resume. 

 

Below are a few pointers:

 

  • Be sure to tailor your resume for each job and don’t send a generic application. To do it, read the job ad carefully and note the skills listed. Then, pepper the required skills over your resume to boost your match rate.
  • For each skill, pen a short statement that gives the employer an idea of how good you are at it.

 

Critical Thinking in the Skills Section

Good example

Key Skills

 

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication
  • Efficiency
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Team player
  • Time management
  • Database management
  • Java/Python/C++/C#/.NET
  • HTML5/JavaScript/CSS/XML
  • SQL/PL/pgSQL
  • Microsoft Azure

5. Include Extra Sections

 

If you’re still unsure your resume is good enough for the employer, consider adding extra sections to further spotlight your critical thinking skills.

 

Below are some ideas for inspiration:

 

  • Add a language section if you speak other languages than just English. It could tip the scales in your favor, as it’s an important communication skill.
  • List hobbies and/or interests if they are relevant to your desired job or demonstrate your critical thinking competencies. A good example is podcasting since it involves knowledge sharing, and research/analysis aspects.

 

Critical Thinking Skills in the Extra Sections

Good example

Awards

 

  • Unsung Heroes Award, Citadel, December 2020
  • Q2 Top Performer, Citadel, July 2020
  • Rising Star Award, Dycom Industries Inc, May 2017

 

Additional Activities

 

  • Reading mystery/detective books and novels
  • Going to the gym 3-4 times a week

Expert Hint: Don’t forget to feature your critical thinking skills in your cover letter. Although you might think cover letter writing is growing obsolete, as many as 83% of HR pros still read them.

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4. How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

 

1. Know Your Biases

 

While human thought is amazing, the level of its speed and somewhat automation can put us in a disadvantageous position when we have to think critically. That’s because our brain uses mental shortcuts to explain what’s happening around us, often relying on common biases such as cognitive bias or action bias. 

 

As a critical thinker, you need to be aware of such biases and prejudices and know when they could impact your objectivity.

 

2. Ask Basic Questions

 

It often happens that an explanation grows too complex and the original question slips through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to continually go back to the basic questions you had when you approached the problem at work. 

 

Examples of basic questions include, “What do I know already”, “How do I know that?”, or “What am I trying to prove/disprove here?”

 

3. Don't Reinvent the Wheel

 

When faced with a problem, look at other similar work that’s been done in the same area. Perhaps someone has already come up with a solution. 

 

That said, before using someone else’s solution, evaluate it critically to ensure you don’t reach the wrong conclusion. Ask yourself, “Who collected this evidence?”, “How did they collect it?”

 

4. Remember to Think for Yourself

 

These days, most of us tend to Google for solutions before thinking for ourselves first. But, this can be your most powerful tool. So, don’t get bogged down in research and reading other people’s thoughts unless you can’t find a solution on your own.

 

5. Seek Out Diversity of Thought

 

While it’s tempting to stick to people who think or act like you, sharing the same cultural background, for instance, we become more rigid in our thinking. That’s why it’s important to get outside your personal bubble, so we can gain richer insights. 

 

A good place to start is to ask for input from people unrelated to your field of expertise or ask your team members to email their opinions separately to avoid the group’s influence.

Expert Hint: Make a point to continually practice your critical thinking skills even when faced with a simple obstacle in either your professional or personal life. You’ll feel much more comfortable using them when you put them into action.

6. Don’t Forget to Look Ahead

 

When you make a decision or come up with a solution, consider how others might feel about it. To do it, make a habit of determining the possible outcomes of your actions and changes (both positive and negative) they’ll likely bring. In the end, it’ll help you make better and more considerate choices.

 

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Key Points

 

With strong critical thinking skills on your resume, you automatically become a more appealing candidate. After all, critical thinkers in the workplace can drive innovation and help organizations stay ahead of the competition.

 

So—

 

Take the opportunity to highlight your critical thinking on a resume to ensure your candidacy gets noticed and put aside some time to improve your critical thinking competencies.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’re still struggling with critical thinking skills definition or just need some advice on adding them to your resume, let us know in the comments section below. We’re here to help.

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Bart Turczynski
Bart Turczynski is a career expert and the Editor-in-chief at ResumeLab. His career advice and commentary has been published by Glassdoor, The Chicago Tribune, Workopolis, The Financial Times, Hewlett-Packard, and CareerBuilder, among others. Bart’s mission is to promote the best, data-informed and up-to-date career advice on ResumeLab’s blog as well as through numerous online communities and publications. At ResumeLab, Bart manages a large team of career experts and editors in delivering top-quality, unique content. Bart’s life-long passion for politics and strong background in psychology makes all the advice published on ResumeLab unique, accurate, and supported by detailed research.

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