Analytical skills are the skills necessary to analyze information, solve problems and make proper decisions. These skills are essential in virtually every job in some capacity, but if you're applying for a job that highlights analytical skills to a significant degree, you'll want to make sure your skills shine. After all, analytical skills are the ones used to solve company problems, so there will always be a high demand for candidates with analytical skills.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about analytical skills, including what they are, how they're used, how they're developed and how you can show off your analytical skills on your resume and to any prospective employer.
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills are how you apply analytical thinking to problems you may encounter on the job. Analytical thinking is how you develop more complex ideas and a greater understanding after performing research and making observations. Analysis is typically a process involving a few steps you must undergo first. These steps are as follows:
- Encountering a problem
- Making observations and conducting research
- Hypothesizing solutions based on your understanding
- Testing those solutions and taking notes of the results
- Reviewing what worked and what didn't
If this sounds a lot like the scientific method, you're correct. Analytical thinking is at the core of science, and because science is the best way to determine what is most probably true and find answers to questions of the unknown, it naturally follows that analytical thinking is the most reliable way to solve problems in a business environment. This trial-and-error method is key to determining what the best solution is, but that's just the beginning of what analytical skills can do.
Trial and error can get you to the right answer eventually, but businesses have to move fast to stay competitive. That means your analytical skills will be put to the test to speed up the process as much as possible. The key factor in finding success here is being able to quickly identify cause-and-effect relationships. This will let you add new information to your testing parameters that allows you to rapidly approach the correct solution while eliminating other possibilities without having to test them all individually.
Are analytical skills hard or soft skills?
While virtually every position requires analytical skills of some kind, it's important to know whether they qualify as hard or soft skills so you can give them the appropriate emphasis they require during the job search process. These skills are unique, however, in that they can be hard or soft depending on the context. For the most part, analytical skills and analytical thinking , in general, are soft skills, while some positions such as data analyst and scientist require relevant analytical hard skills as well. The same is true for other positions like programmer and even customer service.
Ultimately, analytical skills are considered hard skills whenever the position calls for analytical thinking as a central aspect of the job. A lab analyst's need for analytical skills is obvious, but even someone like a teacher will use analytical skills as a central part of their everyday job, considering that they have to identify problems that students are having and come up with solutions based on information, research and testing.
Examples of analytical skills
Analytical skills can come in quite a few different forms. If you're looking to show off your analytical skills, be sure to determine which will be the most relevant to the specific job you're applying for. Here are examples of the most common analytical skills used across a wide variety of different positions:
Critical thinking is among the most common ways that analytical skills manifest in the workplace. At its core, critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information and make decisions based on that information. It's your basic method of problem-solving that's applicable across a wide array of different jobs and industries.
Data analysis is how one can look at an array of data and spot certain relevant patterns and trends. While this is obviously going to take priority in positions like data analyst, the skill can be applied across various industries. For example, a financial analyst may need to use data analysis to determine a return on investment and general costs. Even in the technology industry, predictive analysis plays a major role in programming and designing machine learning programs.
Research is a basic skill that seemingly transcends job positions. A scientist will have to conduct plenty of research, as you might expect, but even those workers in the customer service field will benefit from having research skills. Something as simple as checking whether the change given is accurate is an example of research skills. If you're looking to impress for a customer service position, however, research into customer behaviour may be more useful, such as how many customers opt into a promotion you're offering as a cashier.
Every job requires communication skills, whether you have to communicate with customers and clients or other members of your team. Either way, analytical skills are key to effective communication. Active listening lets you hone in on the most important aspects of what someone is saying to you, while being sensitive to problems and able to identify them quickly allows the entire problem-solving process to be sped up significantly. Even something as simple as being able to communicate orally requires analysis of the best way to convey information to a specific person to get the desired outcome.
While you may not think of creativity as an example of analytical thinking, it's more relevant than you might initially assume. Creativity is useful for identifying patterns and trends, and when the best solution isn't the most obvious out of a set of options, creativity can help you spot it. Essentially, creativity is analytical because it involves using different perspectives and incorporating more information and prior knowledge into your testing and problem-solving.
How to improve analytical skills
If you improve your analytical skills, your potential job prospects can only increase, making it easier for you to reach your ultimate career goals. To make sure you're honing your analytical skills to stand out from the competition, follow these simple steps:
1. Learn more about your industry
A major aspect of analytical thinking is using prior knowledge to help you find solutions to new problems. When you expand your knowledge of the industry, you'll spend less time testing and solve problems faster.
2. Research common best practices for your industry
This step can help in two ways. First, the simple act of researching will help improve your overall research skills, which is an analytical skill in its own right. Second, the information you find will help you determine the best ways to solve problems in your industry, cutting down on the time it takes to find solutions even further.
3. Practise your analytical skills
Practising analytical skills can take on many forms. You can participate in a team sport that forces you to work together and strategize against opponents, or you can simply read a book. Some games that require analysis include chess and strategy-based video games.
4. Sharpen your analytical skills at work
Just because you're at work doesn't mean you can't practise your skills. By honing your analytical thinking abilities within your current role, you will not only be more effective in your current position, but you'll demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to take on greater leadership roles in general.
5. Take on leadership roles
By taking on leadership roles, your analytical skills will truly be evaluated. This is your chance to demonstrate and improve your skills even further because the outcome of their use is more important than ever before.
How to highlight your analytical skills
Having excellent analytical skills is always helpful, but it won't mean much if you can't show them off to potential employers. Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can implement to make them stand out on your resume and in interviews.
Analytical skills on your resume
Obviously, you can put analytical skills in your skills section, but that's just the beginning. You can also implement them in your summary and professional history. The summary section is particularly useful for this because it allows you to describe an instance in which you used analytical skills.
Analytical skills in an interview
You may not experience a job interview where the interviewer asks you to describe an instance in which you used your analytical skills, apart from jobs like data analyst and similar positions. Instead, you'll need to determine how valuable analytical skills are to your prospective position and demonstrate your competence with them when answering other questions. A common way to do this is to highlight analytical skills when asked how you work as part of a team.