Critical thinking is one of those incredibly important skills that can help you make decisions in life and work. It’s also a skill you can learn!
What is critical thinking?
Skillsyouneed.com defines critical thinking as “the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.” This means that you think things through from multiple angles before coming to a decision or solution. When you make decisions, you rely on data and logic instead of simply using intuition (“going with your gut feeling.”)
Good critical thinkers don’t passively accept information. Instead, they question everything rigorously. Critical thinkers question their assumptions rather than just taking them to be correct. They are open to changing their mind when presented with new information.
Critical thinking at work
You might see “must be a good critical thinker” on the job description when you’re applying for jobs. This is becoming more and more common, as employers realise the value that people with strong critical thinking skills can bring to their workforce.
Interestingly, there is a Critical Thinking A-Level available which is offered at some colleges. You might want to consider this if you’re not sure what A-Levels to take. It’s so versatile and will help you out in almost any future career!
Unless you have a specific qualification such as the Critical Thinking A-Level, critical thinking skills are also a difficult thing to assess in a short interview. Critical thinking skills tend to be easiest to show off when they’re applied to real life situations. For this reason, a lot of employers use something called a Situational Judgement Test, or SJT (also known as a Critical Thinking Test).
What is an SJT (situational judgement test) and how does it work?
A situational judgement test (SJT) is designed to explore your responses to hypothetical or imaginary situations.
You might be presented with a range of situations that might happen in the job you’re applying for. You then get to pick which action you’d take from a range of options.
Let’s look at an example scenario.
Question: Imagine you’re working on the shop floor of a busy clothing store. A customer approaches you holding a dress and asks if you have it in their size. You know that all the stock is currently out. Do you…
- Say “if it’s not on the rack, we don’t have it” and let the customer find something else they like?
- Explain that you don’t have it in stock, but write down the link to your store’s site so they can order it online?
- Tell them it’s out of stock but say that you saw something similar in a rival store last week and suggest that they try there.
- Offer to order the dress in for them, take their details and promise to call them as soon as it arrives?
This question is designed to test how you’d respond to a situation where you can’t help the customer immediately. Even if an item isn’t in stock, your potential employer would still want you to offer great service and attempt to keep the customer’s business.
If you chose answer 4, well done!
This option shows proactive problem solving as well as excellent customer service.
Answer 2 is also acceptable, though less ideal as it puts more of the effort into the customer’s hands.
Answer 1 would demonstrate poor customer service.
Answer 3 would not make your employer very happy at all!
This is just one example of many questions that you might get in a critical thinking test or SJT. It’s worth doing a few of the free tests available online to boost your skills, whether you’re applying for jobs or happily employed and just looking to do even better in your work. As with anything else, it gets easier with practice. You’re likely to find that if you do a few tests, you’ll start getting better and better results – and this will show when you’re applying for jobs or faced with real-life situations in your work!
How else can I show good critical thinking when I’m applying for a job?
Perhaps your potential employer doesn’t ask you to do a SJT as part of the interview process. But you can still show off your skills!
Almost all job interviews will contain some variation on questions that begin “tell me about a time when…?” Usually, these revolve around a problem or issue you faced at work, and how you solved it. (For example, for a customer service job you might be asked “tell me about a time you were faced with an upset customer and how you dealt with it?”)
Another variation on this question, especially for entry-level jobs where candidates have very little experience, is “how do you think you would react if…?”
These questions are the perfect place for your critical thinking skills to shine! Your employer wants to know that you can think on your feet, look at a situation objectively, and quickly and efficiently offer a solution that will create the best possible outcome for all involved.
Critical thinking resources and links
- https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/situational-judgement-test.htm – this is an excellent free test you can use to hone your skills
- https://wabisabilearning.com/blogs/critical-thinking/critical-thinking-skills-cheatsheet-infographic – a fun critical thinking skills cheat-sheet.