Do you have the higher order thinking skills today's employers are looking for?

In a competitive labor market, it's important to leverage every advantage you have to achieve your career goals. To do that, it's vital to understand the skills and traits that employers prioritize when they're hiring new talent and make sure that your resume conveys those abilities and characteristics to hiring managers. For example, consider the important role that higher order thinking skills play in an economy that's increasingly knowledge-based. Do you have those skills?

In this post, we'll explore higher order learning and thinking and examine why these skills are so critical for many of today's knowledge-focused jobs. We'll also provide some examples of higher order thinking skills and offer some tips to help you to convey those abilities in your resume.

What is higher order thinking?

Higher order thought processes use thinking skills that go beyond simple memorization, repetition, observation, and other lower level thought processes. They include more advanced cognition like the ability to interpret data, draw inferences from available facts, recognize logical connections between concepts, and solve problems.

People who possess these higher order thinking skills are typically quick learners, effective decision makers, and adept at creating new ideas and solutions. Higher level thinking can enable you to understand the world around you, categorize and manipulate facts and information you encounter, and apply that data in meaningful ways as you solve challenges and make decisions. As a result, this type of thinking can be an important asset in school, work, and throughout your life.

Why do higher order thought processes matter to employers?

To appreciate just how important these skills can be in your career, it's helpful to consider why so many employers look for candidates with this type of thinking. Here are just a few of the many reasons why an employer would place a premium value on your ability to think at a higher level.

Higher order thinking is critical for the modern economy

The information age is here to stay and that means that new technologies and systems are continually being introduced in nearly every area of the economy. Employees need to be able to quickly adapt to new technologies and processes if they want to provide real value to their employers. As the economy continues to evolve, employers are likely to accelerate their search for workers who have the ability to analyze information, understand the connections between seemingly different concepts, and apply that knowledge to create valuable solutions in the workplace.

Higher level thought drives innovation

These thinking skills are absolutely essential for all forms of innovation – and employers will always need people who can create new ideas and solutions. Companies rely on creative employees to ensure that they remain innovative and competitive in the marketplace. Workers who can engage in higher level thinking will continue to be in high demand, due to their ability to generate and assess new ideas, test theories, and adapt their ideas to ensure that they meet the company's needs.

Higher order thought processes enable self-evaluation

It's also important for today's employees to have the self-awareness needed to properly assess their own productivity and results in the workplace. Many of these higher order thinking skills are vital tools for self-assessment. Employees with these talents are adept at examining their work input and output, identifying areas for improvement, and finding better ways to achieve their goals - thereby improving productivity and proficiency.

Types and examples of higher order thinking skills

There are different types of higher order thinking, of course. They all involve thought processes that go beyond acquiring information – a skill that is generally considered a lower order ability. In fact, acquiring knowledge through rote memorization or any other process is just the beginning of learning and application. Once you've acquired that information, you need to actually comprehend it before your higher order thought processes come into play.

There are several main categories of higher order thinking skills. They include application of the information you've acquired, analysis of data and facts, synthesis of ideas, and evaluation. Together, these types of higher level thinking provide the critical thinking skills you need to compete in the modern economy. Let's examine how each of these types of higher thinking skills can impact your thought processes.

Applying what you've learned

Application skills include all those abilities that enable you to apply knowledge to new situations, overcome challenges. and solve problems. The process can involve applying established rules and principles, advancing theories, and employing concepts and effective methodologies. Effective application relies on skills like:

  • Building on acquired knowledge to discover new ideas and information

  • Predicting outcomes based on acquired knowledge

  • Interpreting information and ideas so that you can better explain them to others

  • Employing knowledge in an operational environment, to effectively leverage technology, systems, or processes

  • Making informed decisions based on your comprehension of available information

Analyzing information

Analysis is an invaluable higher level thinking skill and crucial for critical thinking. This skill involves detailed examination of information, including breaking data down into its component parts to identify connections, root causes, and potential theories that can be explored as you search for solutions. As you analyze data, situations, and other sources of information, you need to ask the right kind of questions to fuel your analytical thinking.  Analytical skills can include:

  • Examination of data and its components to better understand the information

  • Subdividing information into smaller components

  • Identifying data, broad concepts, and specific ideas

  • Comparing information to identify unique features and similarities

  • Combining data and concepts to create new solutions

Synthesizing ideas and concepts

Synthesis is the ability to recognize patterns and create new combinations using smaller components of information. This skill set is a vital driver of innovation, since it often leads to the development of new products, business concepts, techniques, and processes. Your higher level thinking skills can help you to connect different ideas in ways that create new solutions or improve old products, services, and processes. Some examples of the skills used in synthesis include:

  • Developing existing ideas to create new efficiencies or advancements

  • Reconstructing ideas or things and reorganizing them in a way that enhances their functionality

  • Designing ideas, products, and processes

  • Unifying different ideas or products to construct something new

  • Revising old ideas, processes, products, or services to correct deficiencies and enhance performance

Evaluating and making judgments

Evaluation skills include all those abilities that help you to assess information, create theories, judge information, and validate ideas and concepts. When you use these skills, you make judgment calls about each piece of information you've analyzed, determining the value that you place on that data. That requires sound judgment and thought processes that rely on evidence and reason. The evaluation process can help you to not only assimilate data but also form your own opinion about its importance.

Some examples of this skill set include:

  • The ability to assign a value to a piece of information, data, or object

  • Supporting your evaluation with real-world evidence, facts, and analysis

  • Judging ideas and concepts based on available information, your interpretation of data, and sound reasoning

  • Reaching conclusions through analysis, inference, and critical thinking

  • Making informed decisions and being able to defend your conclusions

How to demonstrate higher level thinking in your resume

Of course, it's one thing to possess these higher order thinking skills. It's quite another to be able to convey them to employers without directly claiming that you're a high level thinker. That's often one of the trickiest things to achieve in a resume – showing your skills rather than just claiming that you have them. Fortunately, there are some effective techniques that you can use to ensure that your resume delivers a compelling narrative that highlights your high level thinking skills. These tips can help:

1.      Choose relevant higher order critical thinking keywords

Since you need to avoid referring to yourself as a “high order thinker,” you'll need to use keywords that describe those thinking skills in a way that hiring managers will recognize. To do this, you should include keywords that are relevant to your job role and industry, to ensure that employers can readily identify their potential value to the organization.

If you choose the right keywords and include them throughout your resume summary, work experience, and skill sections, you can effectively highlight those higher level thinking skills while also demonstrating expertise in your field. To help you in that process, we've compiled a list of higher order thinking skills that you can choose from as you select keywords for your resume:

  • Analysis

  • Strategic planning

  • Data-driven decision-making

  • Research

  • Risk assessment

  • Creative problem solving

  • Data interpretation

  • Troubleshooting

  • Predictive analysis

  • Technical solutions

  • Trend analysis

These are just a few of the many skills that you could include as keywords in your resume. To explore additional skills, check out our great posts, How Do You Describe Analytical Skills on a Resume and How to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills.

2.      Highlight your high level thinking skills in your resume summary

Since your resume summary will be the first part of your resume that a hiring manager sees, it's important to make the best possible first impression. Make sure that employers read that summary and immediately recognize your higher order thinking skills by including language that demonstrates these skills. The following example can be used as a guide to help you to craft your own personalized summary statement:

Data and evidence-driven problem solver with 8+ years of experience in data interpretation, trend analysis, and technical solutions. Dedicated leader of a 20-person technical department overseeing IT solutions for projects valued at more than $500million. Skilled decision-maker focused on effectively managing risk, cost, and cross-departmental communication to maximize organizational efficiencies, productivity, and profitability.

3.      Showcase higher level thinking in your work experience

Naturally, you'll also want to include these keywords in your work experience section as well. To do that, you simply need to cite specific examples of how you used those skills to achieve value for your employers. You can do this in the bullet point examples beneath each job listing. For example:

  • Led data analysis, strategic planning, and implementation of network upgrade that improved inter-office efficiency by 27%
  • Directed trend analysis team that identified key new strategies to boost customer retention by 18% year-on-year, while enhancing profitability by 7%
  • Managed project to reduce product loss risk, resulting in $1.3million in cost savings over six months

4.      Include higher order thinking skills in your skill section

Be sure to include some of those key higher order thinking skills in your skill section as well. You don't need to include all of them, of course. However, adding a handful of those abilities to your skill list will help to highlight your high level thought process. As you create that section, refer back to the job description to make sure that you add any required skills too. 

5.      Don't forget to demonstrate these skills in your cover letter too

Finally, make sure that you don't forget to include these thought processes in your cover letter as well. Just cite an instance where you had to use high level thinking to complete a task or overcome a challenge. If you can, try to quantify those results with real numbers that demonstrate value for the employer.

Separate yourself from the crowd by highlighting your higher order thinking

As the economy continues to be transformed by new technologies and other innovations, employers can be expected to increasingly demand higher level thinking skills from their employees. It's vital to understand these thinking skills and how they can positively impact your performance in any job role, if you want to ensure that your resume properly conveys your high level thought processes.

Are you effectively representing your higher order thinking skills to potential employers? Find out by getting your free resume review from our team of experts today!

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