In today’s increasingly challenging and competitive job market, strong problem-solving skills can be a valuable asset in any candidate’s toolbox. Individuals who can tackle challenges with creativity and innovation and find practical solutions to complex problems are sought-after in technical and non-technical fields alike.
In this article, we’ll examine what problem-solving skills are and what makes them so valuable in the workplace. We'll also talk about the best ways to present these abilities on a resume and get the attention of recruiters and employers, as well as how to improve them to make yourself more competent and employable.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Problem-solving skills involve your ability to identify and examine problems to find effective solutions.
By highlighting these skills on your resume, you portray yourself as a creative and innovative critical thinker who can handle difficult situations.
To fully demonstrate your problem-solving abilities, you should mention them throughout your resume, in the sections such as your resume objective, resume summary, and work experience.
Problem-solving skills consist of various abilities, including analysis, decision-making, research, collaboration, and communication.
There are many ways to improve your problem-solving skills, such as asking for feedback, breaking down complex problems, and learning from your mistakes.
What Are Problem-Solving Skills?
Problem-solving skills refer to an individual’s ability to identify and analyze problems before effectively solving them. It’s a process of finding practical solutions to complex issues that might occur in various situations, both in personal and professional lives.
To be an effective problem solver, you need a combination of many other abilities, including critical thinking, creativity, and decision-making.
Effective problem-solving involves breaking down a problem into smaller parts for easier analysis, identifying potential solutions and comparing them against each other, and finally selecting the most appropriate one for the given circumstances.
Such a systematic approach requires an open-minded person who can assess both the bigger picture and its basic components. For all these reasons, effective problem-solving skills are desired by recruiters and employers in various industries, from technology and science to management and business.
Why Are Problem-Solving Skills Important For Your Resume?
Employers value individuals who possess strong problem-solving skills, as they can make critical decisions and find innovative solutions that positively impact their organization. For example, a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that more than 60% of employers look for problem-solving skills in students.
These skills can be essential for any job, regardless of the industry or role. By highlighting them on your resume, you also convey that you’re an imaginative, innovative, and thoughtful individual who can quickly come up with practical solutions that improve outcomes.
Demonstrating problem-solving skills on your resume is important, as it helps recruiters and employers understand that you can contribute to the success of their organization. It also shows that you possess the necessary skills and experience to handle difficult situations in the workplace.
How to Add Problem-Solving Skills to Your Resume
Like with any other abilities that you plan on including in your resume, problem-solving skills belong to the separate skills section. There’s a lot that you can do to make these concrete in the eyes of recruiters, and it generally starts with you doing proper research.
Since problem-solving encompasses an entire assortment of soft skills and personality traits, you want to figure out which ones recruiters and employers want to see in your job application. You can find that out by researching the company, the job ad, and the specific position that you’re going for.
Once you’ve created a collection of the desired skills, compare it to the ones that you have, and you’ll end up with a list of problem-solving skills to add to your resume.
To demonstrate your problem-solving skills, mention them several times throughout your resume. The best places to do so are the resume summary or objective and the work experience sections. Include relevant abilities next to particular professional achievements or results obtained, and you will make your skills much more substantial.
Using relevant action verbs and power words can make your problem-solving skills stand out. Adding numbers and percentages to your achievements gives your skills even more weight.
7 Problem-Solving Skills To Include in Your Resume
Let’s check out some of the most prominent problem-solving skills and some examples of how you could demonstrate them on your resume.
Analysis is an important part of the problem-solving process and one of its initial steps. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller parts to gather and interpret relevant information. That allows you to identify potential trends or patterns and arrive at a solution more effectively.
In this process, you also need to utilize critical thinking skills to examine the information and data at hand and identify potential solutions.
Here’s an example of how you could demonstrate your analytical skills on your resume:
Developed and implemented strategies to improve customer satisfaction based on detailed analysis of customer feedback, resulting in a 15% increase in positive feedback.
#2. Critical Thinking
We previously mentioned critical thinking, which is another important skill in the problem-solving group of abilities. It helps you carefully revise the information gained through analysis, consider different options and perspectives, and use logic and reasoning to evaluate potential solutions.
Critical thinking skills help you think deeply about the problem, ask important questions, and weigh the pros and cons of different choices before picking the best one.
Critical Thinking Example
While it’s difficult to demonstrate critical thinking skills directly, you can do so by showcasing the results where your strategies and analysis led to identifying optimal solutions. Here’s an example:
Analyzed market trends, identified potential challenges, and proposed alternative solutions to improve market position and increase revenue.
Decision-making is a critical part of the problem-solving process that involves selecting the best course of action to tackle an issue. This ability comes into play after you’ve examined all available information and weighed different options, which makes it pretty much inseparable from analysis and critical thinking.
Here’s how you could showcase your decision-making skills on your resume:
Made critical decisions under pressure, leading to a successful project completion ahead of schedule and 15% under budget.
Similarly to analysis, research is one of the initial steps in the process of solving a problem. While analysis means looking at a collection of data to come up with conclusions, research involves gathering relevant information that can be analyzed for such purposes.
It’s worth noting that these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably in many industries and within many job titles. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between these two cases and be specific when demonstrating each.
Here’s an example of how you could show your research skills on your resume:
Conducted extensive research, including market research and competitive analysis, to present findings to senior management for decision-making.
Creativity is more of a trait than a skill, but modern research indicates that it can be taught and improved over time. In the context of problem-solving, creativity allows you to come up with innovative solutions that are not immediately obvious.
Creativity allows people to think outside the box and from new, unique perspectives. That’s particularly useful when the problems are rather complex or novel, thus requiring unconventional solutions.
Here’s how you could demonstrate your creativity on your resume:
Conceptualized and executed a creative marketing campaign that increased brand awareness by 55% and resulted in a 29% sales increase.
Collaboration is an important aspect of problem-solving skills in the workplace, as it involves cooperating with others to find solutions to problems. Among many other competencies and characteristics, this ability includes effective communication, active listening, and teamwork.
The ability to collaborate while solving problems is particularly important when dealing with complex issues that require multiple perspectives and expertise.
Let’s see an example of how to demonstrate collaboration skills on your resume:
Collaborated with senior management to identify spending issues and find opportunities for cost savings, resulting in a 17% reduction in expenses.
Communication is a foundational skill in a team-oriented environment. In essence, it involves conveying ideas and information clearly and effectively. Moreover, communication skills include active listening, which is crucial for gathering information and brainstorming potential solutions.
When you have strong communication skills, you can optimally implement the best solutions, come up with plans of action, share them with others, and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Here’s how to demonstrate this skill:
Facilitated effective communication among team members to ensure that issues were resolved in a timely and efficient manner.
Action Verbs That Demonstrate Problem-Solving Skills
Action verbs are one of the best ways to make your problem-solving skills pop. These represent catchy and memorable alternatives to overused words that most candidates use in their resumes. Here are some that can be used to emphasize these abilities:
How to Solve a Problem
Another way to figure out which skills belong to the problem-solving group is by knowing how to solve problems in general. Let’s take this process apart and look at each of the individual steps.
#1. Identify the Problem
The first step in solving a problem is to identify it. Take the time to clearly define the problem and all of its underlying causes. This is the time to put your research skills to work, ask questions, and gather the information that will help you better understand the issue.
It’s important to be clear and specific during this phase. A vague understanding of the problem could lead to suboptimal or ineffective solutions. That’s why you should state the problem as clearly as possible and look at the situation, timing, and circumstances objectively.
#2. Analyze the Problem
Once you’ve successfully identified the problem, you should analyze it to gain a deeper understanding of its root causes. That will help you come up with potential solutions later on. This step is essential, as it allows you to address the main issue instead of focusing on symptoms and wasting time and resources.
There are tools and principles that you can use that can help you identify key factors that contribute to the problem. Some of these tools include:
Root cause analysis (RCA)
SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
#3. Brainstorm Ideas/Solutions
Once you have a clear understanding of the problem and its causes, it’s time to brainstorm potential solutions. One of the best ways to approach this step is to encourage creativity and diversity of ideas. To achieve that, you should include other people in the process whenever possible.
Techniques like mind mapping can help you quickly come up with a lot of potential solutions in a short amount of time. Don’t focus as much on the quality of every idea at this stage, as the goal is to have brainstorming sessions that can generate large quantities of them.
#4. Evaluate & Compare Solutions
The next step is to evaluate and compare all the solutions that you came up with during brainstorming sessions. Depending on the industry or line of work that you’re in, you should consider factors such as feasibility, effectiveness, and cost.
You can use tools like decision matrices or weighted scoring models to help you with this step. It’s important to be objective and data-driven and to remove any personal preferences or biases.
You should start by eliminating unreasonable solutions. Continue by ordering the rest based on relevant criteria. Lastly, evaluate the remaining ones based on their advantages and disadvantages to find the best solution.
#5. Choose & Implement a Solution
The final step involves choosing the best solution based on your analysis and evaluation. Implementation might require the development of an action plan. Furthermore, you could be in charge of assigning responsibilities, setting timelines, monitoring progress, and making necessary adjustments to ensure that the solution is successful.
How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
You can improve problem-solving skills through practice, continuous learning, and self-reflection. The benefits of becoming better at solving problems range from increased workplace competence to a boost in employability. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of expert tips to teach you how to best improve these skills:
Like any skill, getting better at problem-solving requires practice, which is why you should do it regularly. Look for opportunities to solve problems in your personal and professional lives and take on demanding challenges that could help you improve.
Whenever you face a complex problem, try to break it down into smaller and more manageable parts. This way, you’ll not only practice your research and analytical skills, but you’ll also identify the root cause of the problem quicker, which gives you the opportunity to come up with targeted solutions.
You should communicate with colleagues, mentors, or coaches and ask for feedback. Someone more knowledgeable in the field—or even someone with a different, unbiased perspective—could identify areas for improvement and help you develop a plan to address them.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. View them as an opportunity to learn and grow. Take the time to figure out what you could’ve done differently or better that would lead to a better solution.
Lastly, you should always work on expanding your knowledge. There are many books on the topic of problem-solving, and you can also attend workshops, seminars, or courses, watch videos, familiarize yourself with relevant tools and software, and more.
Regardless of the line of work that you’re in, your resume could likely benefit from properly showcased problem-solving skills, meaning you should put in an effort to highlight them. Most employers look for candidates with these abilities, so including them on your resume can greatly enhance your chances of landing the job you want.
Keep in mind that this is a vast skill set, which is why you should do your research before showcasing adequate problem-solving skills in your document. By using our explanations and examples as guidelines, you will demonstrate your value as a problem solver and an asset to any organization!