- Analytical skills are soft skills that help you identify and solve complex problems.
- Some popular analytical skills include critical thinking, data analysis, research and communication.
- Demonstrating analytical skills on your resume and interviews can help you be a competitive job candidate.
Analytical skills are in demand in many industries and are listed as a requirement in many job descriptions. Analytical thinking can help you investigate complex issues, make decisions and develop solutions—and you likely already possess many analytical skills that employers value. In this article, we explore the definition of analytical thinking, how to identify which of these skills you possess and how to highlight these qualities during the hiring process.
Related: Best Skills to Include on a Resume
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills are the traits and abilities that allow you to observe, research and interpret a subject in order to develop complex ideas and solutions. You can apply analytical thinking in just about every situation, such as developing or improving programs or products, relational issues, processes, identifying audience and client needs and more. Analyzing a subject means that you’ve cultivated an in-depth understanding of it and are able to speak to it with some level of expertise.
Most analytical thinking requires trial and error. Those with strong analytical thinking skills are often capable of quickly analyzing a situation, topic or problem, and often work well in a team setting to accomplish goals.
The analytical thinking process
The process of applying your analytical skills usually involves several steps, including:
1. Identifying a topic, problem or issue
2. Gathering information through testing and observation
3. Developing solutions or deepening your understanding of the topic
4. Testing solutions or new ideas based on what you’ve learned
5. Post-analysis, or reviewing what solutions worked, to assess and apply your new knowledge
A key element to analytical thinking is the ability to quickly identify cause and effect relationships. This means understanding what might happen during the problem-solving process, for example, and examining how new ideas relate to the original topic.
Why are analytical skills important?
Analytical skills are important because they allow you to find solutions to common problems and make informed decisions about which action to take next. Understanding problems and analyzing the situation for viable solutions is a key skill in every position at every level. Developing this ability can improve your work, help you achieve company goals and eventually support your personal career goals.
Using analytical skills in your everyday work shows you’re a reliable and pragmatic thinker, able to base your decisions on meaningful data. For example, you have a limited amount of time to spend on work each day. Deciding how to spend your time in a way that will make an impact for your business can quickly make you a valued and indispensable team member. You can use your analytical skills to determine which tasks will help you make the most progress towards your goals.
If you are seeking a role specific to analytics such as a data analyst or lab analyst, you should build analytical thinking skills specific to your industry. While analytical thinking is a soft skill, analyst jobs will also require you to have specific hard skills that relate to the position. This also applies to roles with required technical knowledge like nursing, engineering or scientific research.
Many other jobs—including computer programming, architecture, teaching and customer service—regularly require the use of analytical skills.
Analytical skills list and examples
There are several analytical skills you may find valuable to include on your resume. Here are a few examples:
1. Critical thinking
Critical thinking skills are necessary in every job at every level—from associates and individual contributors to CEOs and entrepreneurs. Critical thinking skills provide the ability to question an idea, assertion or opinion that’s before you. For example, if you’ve been told that a certain task can’t be done or a certain goal can’t be met, critical thinking skills require that you ask deeper questions so you can understand what’s at the root of the issue:
- Why can’t it be done?
- Will time, money, manpower or expertise would allow us to solve the issue?
- Will investing in solving the issue be worth the reward?
What might we spend our time on instead of solving this issue, and what would be the payoff of investing there instead?
Critical thinkers are also capable of identifying all aspects of a problem and understanding why a problem exists. They take the time to fully understand a problem in order to develop a workable solution.
2. Data and information analysis
Data and information analysis is one of the primary parts of analytical thinking. Once a problem is identified, it’s important to know how to review and analyze the data or information that will be essential to solving the problem. Collecting the right data is an integral part of being able to eventually apply analytical thinking skills. To start with the right data, it's important that you first know the right questions to ask.
Research is an integral part of the analytical thinking process. Once a problem is identified, it’s important to perform research for a solution. Research can be as simple as asking a co-worker or manager who may have more knowledge of the problem, to conducting more extensive online searches through official sources. Part of the research process also involves knowing what information is valuable or essential to solving the problem.
Read more: Research Skills: Definition and Examples
It is essential to be in constant communication with stakeholders while identifying problems, developing solutions, carrying out research and discussing results. Once a problem or solution is identified, communicating it out to an individual, team or company is essential to achieve the end goal. Transferring this information clearly and thoroughly is a key skill in the analytical thinking process.
After a problem, situation or area of improvement is identified and research is complete, it is important to solve for a solution. You will use analytical thinking skills to sort and organize data uncovered during the research phase to find a reasonable and effective solution with problem-solving skills.
How to improve your analytical skills
Improving your analytical skills can help you achieve various career goals. Highlighting your analytical skills on your resume and during your interview can also help you stand out as a candidate in the hiring process when applying for jobs.
To improve your analytical skills, consider taking some of the following steps:
- Take on leadership roles that require the use of critical analytical skills.
- Practice key analytical skills in your current role.
- Take classes that emphasize the use of analytical skills.
- Participate in activities that require the use of analytical skills such as team sports, games or reading.
- Seek advice or mentorship from professionals in your field or desired industry.
- Conduct research on best practices for your industry.
Improve your subject-matter knowledge, which is essential to faster problem-solving.
Take some time to consider which analytical skills you possess and those where you have room for improvement. Write down specific times when you have used analytical skills to improve something or solve a problem whether it was at work, in a volunteer position or in school.
How to highlight your analytical skills
Once you have a good understanding of your current analytical skills, work them into the job application process including your resume and interview answers.
On your resume
There are three places in your resume where you can include analytical skills including your summary or objective, professional history and skills sections.
For example, you may write a summary section that mentions how you’ve used analytical skills:
An experienced and attentive nursing assistant with a proven ability to quickly and efficiently identify and solve patient needs.
In your professional work history section, you can include analytical skills in specific achievements on the job:
Nursing Assistant, Jefferson Medical Center
- Offered first-line patient care
- Researched proper medications per patient to avoid medical complications
Offered after-hours and emergency care as needed
You should also include key analytical skills as part of your skills section:
*Accounting skills: CNA, CPR certified, Knowledge of common prescription medications, Working knowledge of HIPAA, Fast and efficient problem-solver, Active communicator*
In your cover letter
Your cover letter is a great place to elaborate on your analytical skills. After reviewing the job description, select a specific story you can tell about a time when you used analytical skills that are relevant to the employer. Relate your story back to the job and why it makes you a strong candidate for the position. You should also use numbers where possible to prove your impact.
In the job interview
Before your interview, it's always a good idea to prepare answers to commonly-asked interview questions.
You should also prepare to answer skills employers may ask specifically to judge your analytical skills as it relates to the job. Here are a few examples of common analytical skills interview questions:
- Describe a time when you were given a problem without a lot of information. How did you handle this situation?
- How do you use information to make decisions?
- Describe your problem-solving process.
- How do you decide how to prioritize your time?
- Tell me about which metrics would be of most use to you in this role.
- Tell me about a time you analyzed the performance of a program.
What is your approach to testing new ideas?
During the job interview, you should provide detailed responses about how you’ve used your analytical skills in the past and how it improved or solved issues for previous employers. You might also be able to show your analytical skills through pre-employment assessments some employers use to filter candidates. These are more common in technical roles such as data analysts or developers.
On the job
Once you get an offer and begin working, you can begin using and improving your analytical skills on the job. Offer to help solve problems when they arise and be proactive in identifying problems and solutions. You might also volunteer for team or individual assignments that give you an opportunity to display the analytical skills you possess or have been working to improve.
Every industry requires analytical thinkers who can identify problems, evaluate those problems and develop solutions. Before applying for jobs, identify your analytical strengths and highlight them during the application process. Then, work to refine your analytical skills and develop new ones as you grow in your career.