In most career fields, analytical skills are important to help organisations solve problems from multiple angles. These skills can be analysing and organising data or studying patterns and making decisions. Having these abilities can increase your chances of getting selected and advancing in your career. In this article, we explore analytical thinking skills with examples and tips on how you can improve them.
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills are those that help you visualise a problem's complexity, process and organise it, solve it, make projections and generate new ideas. Analytical thinking involves using existing information to accurately assess situations and provide insight about how different factors interact. As a result, analytical skills are highly focused on cause and effect and predicting the impact of possible solutions. Employers and hiring managers are interested in your analytical skills because they are critical for developing and strategising the company's operations.
Here are some of the most important analytical skills that you can use in the workplace:
- Attention to detail: Being able to notice all of the specific aspects and features of a project, pick up on social cues and notice subtle patterns helps you gather the data you need to think analytically.
- Research: Determining what information is relevant and recognising quality sources for data through research is the basis for performing an accurate analysis.
- Data mining: Looking at large sets of data and finding patterns through data mining, also known as knowledge discovery, can enable you to make analytical projections about future situations.
- Data analysis: Data analysis involves using the information you discovered data mining and transforming it into models, tables and other visual representations that help others understand and interpret complex trends.
- Theorising: Creating a hypothesis and developing theories about what causes an issue can guide your research and provide a point of reference for your analytical thinking.
- Diagnostics: Diagnosing the cause of a problem and clearly defining it brings shape and meaning to analytical discussions, making it a key step in developing an analysis.
- Organising: Dividing information into categories allows you to easily access the most relevant information and create convenient processes for analysing information based on a logical organisation structure.
- Evaluating: Determining the quality, success and other attributes of a project or situation helps you draw accurate conclusions to guide decision-making and increase self-awareness.
- Problem-solving: Solving problems quickly and confidently is a practical analytical skill that applies all of the information you gathered to real-world situations that could be improved.
- Forecasting: Making predictions about future success and possible challenges allows you to extend your analysis and develop guidelines for managing risks.
- Decision making: Deciding on a course of action takes confidence in your analysis and the ability to move from theoretical discussions to strategic actions.
Why is it important to have good analytical skills?
Analytical skills are considered to be transferrable to multiple positions because they indicate a mindset and a way of thinking that prioritises the unique factors of different situations. Highly developed analytical skills are a requirement in different professions and industries, so you can use them in multiple sectors. These can be marketing research analysts, management executives, budget planners, financial managers, economists, insurance underwriters, stocks market analysts and any other career path that involves working with data.
Analytical skills are also beneficial when navigating the interpersonal aspect of a career. Employers want people with strong analytical skills to develop their company culture and learn how to navigate negotiations, evaluations, trainings and team-building exercises based on their experience. If you have expertise in analytical reasoning, you often have better chances of career growth than your peers because you have the ability to identify opportunities for professional growth and develop a plan for utilising your potential.
Three types of analytical skills with examples
Although analytical skills can be applied to any industry, some professions use certain types of analytical skills more than others. For example, skills for marketing, sales or advertising will be different from those for insurance, budget planning, medicine or administration. Here are three analytical skills with examples to illustrate their importance:
Critical thinking helps you make informed decisions on a situation based on information from a data set. It also balances risks and priorities to propose a reasonable solution, making constant assessments to adjust priorities. To have an analytical approach, you need to apply critical thinking.
Example: Suggesting a solution for a website's underperforming landing page requires critical thinking in various aspects. These include assessing the page's historical data, layout, keywords and backlinks. With critical analysis, you will be able to organise the data, breakages or distortions appearing in the patterns found. Your critical thinking skills allow you to verify that your assessment is accurate and unbiased to produce the best possible result. After this, you can create an action plan that improves the page's visibility and accessibility to bring sales and traffic.
Information and research analysis
Research is essential for any analysis. It allows you to collect relevant information from credible sources or in-field data collection studies. If the data is well-researched, you will have more accurate results or projections for an analysis. You can make interpretations based on the volume of data available, where you source your information and other factors.
Example: A good stock analyst can analyse a company's stock by reviewing their annual reports. For this, you will need to compare and examine their 10-15 years of performance and financial data. After assessing the information, you should be able to make accurate future projections about financial performance based on past records.
Here are some fields for which information and research analysis skills are necessary.
- Policy analysis
- Business analysis
- Credit and cost analysis
- Financial analysis
- Return on Investment (ROI)
If you are skilled with mathematics, you would likely make a good data scientist or data analyst. Your ability to visualise numbers and convert them to ideas and mathematical relations should make you competitive in the job market.
Example: A data scientist working with an e-commerce company scans large data sets before they draw some evidence. This evidence can be about the number of users of a particular product, a service, travel destination or other items marketed by the company.
If paying attention to details, the data specialist can break up the user data to country, state, region and city locations. This also includes age groups and gender. Such large data studies can present the data scientist with a backdrop to make future projections. They can even use it to target online advertising for a selected audience.
Tips to improve your analytical skills
Apart from having innate analytical capabilities, you can also acquire them with training and practice. You can do this by challenging your analytical reasoning abilities.
You could try out some of the following strategies to improve your analytical skills:
- Read frequently to learn new knowledge.
- Train your brain with different exercises.
- Develop patience to listen and observe.
- Make notes of important events.
- Take note of your mistakes and plan not to repeat them.
- Never feel shy to ask questions.
- Regularly test yourself to do a self-evaluation.
Presenting your analytical skills in the hiring process
Presenting analytical skills in a resume helps hiring managers and employers test your competencies according to their requirements. Another way they can find out your area of expertise is from how you use your analytical skills at work. This is visible to them when you highlight your analytical skills in the resume along with examples. Here are the steps for demonstrating your analytical skills to employers:
Highlighting your analytical skills in the cover letter
A cover letter is your chance to present yourself to the hiring manager with more detail than you can put in a resume. Although this letter is brief, it can highlight your analytical skills and make your application noticeable. When conveying your skills in a cover letter, mention specific instances when you applied the skill at previous jobs and how you plan to use it with your new employer.
Highlighting analytical skills in your resume
A resume summarises your education and work experience and presents your abilities for consideration for a job. With clear analytical skills, your resume can get noticed quickly, especially if formatted properly. You can present your analytical skills along with others under a skills sub-heading in the document. In a work experience sub-heading, demonstrate your analytical skills with an example. For instance, tell the employer about how your analytical skills saved your former company costs or improved revenue.
Highlighting analytical skills at the job interview
Since employers will often test analytical skills in the hiring process, try practicing them or rehearsing how to talk about them before an interview. For instance, you could devise examples for discussing how you applied analytical skills in previous positions. Some hiring managers may also hand you a sheet of raw data and ask you to analyse it on the spot. Having the ability to perform analytical skills on short notice will show your abilities and possibly earn you a job offer.