Critical thinkers and problem solvers

A person plays with a Rubik's Cube


The icon for Critical thinkers

Employers will expect you to discover solutions, think through issues, and make decisions efficiently. Problem solving and critical thinking is the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to analyse and find the solution that best resolves the problem. You will use these skills in your everyday life, but non-routine problems may require more innovative approaches. As a critical thinker you rarely accept things at face value and often question ideas in a logical way. This might involve you "thinking outside of the box" and discovering innovative ways of accomplishing tasks and goals. You may reflect critically on your learned experiences and make effective decisions by avoiding common mistakes.

The Importance of Critical Thinking
  • Are you curious and questioning – able to challenge and analyse information?
  • How can you show you use research and analysis to solve complex problems?
  • How have you developed your critical thinking and research skills through your course?

In the next section you will see how you can develop this skill.

Develop your critical thinking and problem solving skills!

Here you will find some suggested activities that you can do to enhance your critical thinking and problem solving skills:

Study - You could study additional courses in your subject area that require critical thinking and analysis, for example Masters courses with industry-specific or technical skills.

Volunteer - Actively volunteer to solve problems in team activities on your course or with your current employer, for example, tasks requiring research and data analysis.

Networking - Seek advice from professionals in your field. You can do this at networking events, in the workplace, at university or on professional networking social media. How have they solved similar issues in the past?

Games - There are video games that can help with many aspects of critical thinking. Also consider Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Jigsaw puzzles, Chess and Board games.

Apply critical thinking every day

To learn more about employability and how to access opportunities to help you develop in this area, take a look at our employability booklet (aimed at new students) which provides all you need to know.

Demonstrate your employability skills

You will be asked to provide evidence of your skills through the job application and interview process – you can talk about where, when, why and how successfully you have used your employability skills.

We would recommend keeping a record of evidence of the skills you have developed so that you can refer to them when submitting applications or preparing for interviews. Our Employability Skills Checklist and Activity can be a starting point.

  • What skills you are using during your study?
  • Can you record experiences as you go along?
  • Are there skills and qualities that you are struggling to evidence?
  • How will you maintain your skills audit?
  • Do you need to take action to bridge a skills gap?


Developing belief in yourself and your skills


How to best demonstrate your skills to employers

Be positive and relevant

  • Give examples of the most relevant skills first from your job, internship or work experience
  • Use confident language to describe your skills, for example, praise employers have given you.
  • Better to focus on transferable skills than routine tasks on your CV, gained through part-time jobs.

Sell your skills in different ways

These are just a few examples:

  • Social Media including a Linked-In Profile
  • Networking opportunities
  • CV, Covering Letters, Application Forms
  • Interview and Assessment Centres
  • Presentations

Think beyond common skills

Our Employability Skills are probably ones you are familiar with. But there are some you might not be familiar with, such as meta-skills. A meta-skill like a master skill – it's something that can help you in lots of different environments.

Think also about:

  • Subject skills e.g. Software, use of Lab equipment or research methodology
  • Talents and abilities e.g. Languages, drawing skills, athletic
  • Personal qualities e.g. Calmness, tenacious, creative, supportive

Match skills to your employer

Research the employer – what is their company culture? Look on their website and see what their company beliefs are.

Look at the job description you have. You should be able to find some of the employability skills they are looking for.

Use the STAR technique to help you relate the employability skills into your answers and examples. Read our blog post written by our careers adviser, Adam Taylor, on the STAR technique.

Speak to a careers adviser

Our Careers Advisers are on hand to help. Book an appointment on Advantage or by calling 0161 295 0023 (option 5).

Appointments are available for current students and graduates of the University of Salford only.