According to the Wall Street Journal, employers are increasingly frustrated by a lack of “critical thinking” skills amongst young hires. According to the same article, young hires are increasingly confused about what exactly “critical thinking” even means in today’s job market.
Like any buzzword, the actual definition of “critical thinking,” often gets lost in the shuffle. Worse, it can often mean different things to different people. Often job candidates find that companies aren’t truly able to articulate what they are looking for. They simply “know it when they see it.”
Here are three suggestions for cutting through the noise and showing your next employer that you have what they are looking for.
Focus on Comprehension, not Memorization
Of course you should research a company before an interview and come prepared with some blurbs about what they do and how you might fit in. However, being able to adapt on the fly and abandon your prepared remarks, or ask questions when necessary is what shows an interviewer that you are capable of more than memorizing a mission statement on the company website.
Showing your interviewer that you are listening to what they are saying and being able to react in real-time instead of regurgitating the company’s own PR copy back at them will make everyone in the room feel more comfortable. It will also mark you as a candidate with potential.
Be a Problem Solver
When employers talk about critical thinking skills, they are often talking about problem-solving. To that end, most interviewers ask at least a few questions aimed at uncovering how you’ve dealt with problems in the past. Acing these questions isn’t so much about choosing the right problem as it is about showing them the plan you formed to solve that problem.
Practice talking about specific challenges you’ve faced at work and how you have used careful planning and strategy to overcome them. You don’t have to be overdramatic or throw old coworkers under the bus, you just need to show that you have experience identifying problems and working to fix them.
Don’t be Afraid to Share Ideas
You probably won’t walk into a job interview with a 30-day plan for doubling revenue. Still, if you find your brain buzzing with exciting ideas during your interview, it’s not a bad idea to share a few of them.
Employers who truly value critical thinking don’t expect you to have all the answers on day one. They are just looking for the spark – the signal that tells them you are the type of employee who digests new information quickly and uses it to inform your thinking. You probably won’t have the idea of the century during your job interview, but you can show your interviewer that you are capable of generating new ideas.