Problem-solving is one of the top resume skills that employers believe will grow in importance over the next five years (and beyond), according to the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum.

“Research in the past few years points to problem-solving skills as being crucial to business success. Many employers now put these ahead of technical skills,” says John Kleeman, founder of the online assessment platform Questionmark.

What does this mean for you, the job seeker?

It means that it’s more important than ever to show employers that you can identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently, whether you’re applying to an entry-level job or a senior executive position.

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What are problem-solving skills?

Problem-solving is a complex skill. It involves critical thinking, decision-making, creativity, and information processing.

Effective problem-solvers use a systematic approach that allows them to break down difficult problems into smaller, more manageable parts. 

In its simplest form, problem-solving involves three basic steps:

Step 1 – Identify the problem. This may seem obvious, but it is important to take the time to really understand what the problem is before trying to solve it. 

This can involve talking to people who are affected by the problem, doing research, or consulting experts in the field.

Step 2 – Generate a list of possible solutions. Consider how effective each solution would be and whether or not it is feasible to implement. 

Once you have narrowed down the list of possible solutions, you can then start testing out the most promising ones.

Step 3 – Implement the solution. This step also includes determining what resources are needed to put the solution into action, such as money, personnel, or technology. 

Ultimately, the goal is to come up with the most effective, practical solution that will address both the immediate issue and any underlying causes. 

By following these three steps, you should be able to easily identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently!

The top 5 problem-solving skills to put on your resume

Employees who have good problem-solving skills are vital for the successful functioning of any business.

But what specific skills are employers looking for?

Here are five of the most important problem-solving skills that businesses want their employees to have.

1) Creativity

Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity.” –Gerhard Gschwandtner

Creativity allows us to examine a problem from multiple perspectives, use outside-the-box thinking, and come up with innovative solutions. 

By embracing creativity, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and make our problem-solving efforts more effective.

How to use creativity in the workplace

  • Create processes to improve workflow and reduce costs.
  • Brainstorm ideas to develop new products or services for a company.
  • Develop strategies to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Leverage technology to create more efficient processes and systems.
  • Analyze data to identify trends and opportunities for improvement.

2) Research

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”  – Zora Neale Hurston

Research skills are essential when resolving complex problems.

Only by gathering and analyzing data from multiple sources can we begin to assess the problem and determine the most appropriate solutions accurately. 

How to use research in the workplace

  • Identify new markets or customer segments to target.
  • Gather information about competitors and their products/services.
  • Stay up to date on industry news and developments.
  • Evaluate potential partners, vendors, or products before purchasing.
  • Analyze past performance in order to make projections for the future.
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3) Communication

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”    -Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Once you’ve identified a potential solution to a problem, you need to be able to explain it clearly to others. 

This involves both verbal and written communication, as well as the ability to listen carefully and understand the perspective of others.

How to communicate in the workplace

  • Clarify goals and make sure that everyone is on the same page. 
  • Resolve conflicts quickly and efficiently.
  • Promote collaboration among team members by fostering trust and respect.
  • Allow employees to exchange feedback regularly.
  • Provide recognition and appreciation to team members. 

4) Teamwork

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Being able to work on a team is an important skill that contributes to effective problem-solving.

When team members work together to tackle complex issues, the best solutions are often found because each individual has a unique perspective and skill set that can contribute to solving the problem.

How to be a team player in the workplace

  • Foster an environment of open communication, feedback, and growth.
  • Utilize the strengths of individual team members to achieve a common goal.
  • Develop trust, respect, and camaraderie among team members.
  • Promote a culture of accountability and ownership for projects.
  • Encourage creativity, risk-taking, and an atmosphere of experimentation.

5) Decision Making

You cannot make progress without making decisions.”    – Jim Rohn

It’s important to be able to identify problems and analyze possible solutions. Still, at some point, you need to make a decision

Good decision-makers focus on solving the problem rather than wasting time analyzing all of the available data or endlessly debating which option is best.

How to make decisions in the workplace

  • Use feedback constructively to make better decisions in the future.
  • Take risks when necessary while being aware of the potential consequences.
  • Learn from mistakes and use data to develop better solutions.
  • Demonstrate confidence and decisiveness when making difficult choices.
  • Analyze situations based on facts and data, not assumptions or emotions.

Why are problem-solving skills important?

Problem-solving is considered a soft skill, or “people” skill. 

Soft skills are personal attributes that can be transferred from one job to another and help employees interact more effectively with others in the workplace.

For example, in addition to problem-solving, soft skills include time management, empathy, teamwork, flexibility, and having a positive attitude. 

In today’s rapidly changing world, soft skills have become more valuable than ever to employers.

“When we look at today’s workforce,” says Eric Frazer, the author of The Psychology of Top Talent, “there’s definitely been a shift away from just having what I would call ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘tacit skills’…meaning, you’re just good at what you do.” Instead, “There is a deeper understanding that people have to come first, before performance.” 

Problem-solving skills are crucial to the success of any business. Employees face problems every day. How they deal with them can mean the difference between success and failure.

If you can learn to identify and solve problems quickly and effectively, you’ll be an invaluable asset to your team.

How to highlight problem-solving skills on a resume

It’s essential to highlight your problem-solving skills when writing your resume. Remember, employers are specifically looking for them!

Here are a few things you can do to make your problem-solving skills stand out more:

1. Use action verbs

When describing your skills on a resume, try to use catchy, memorable language that packs a punch. 

In particular, try to use action verbs. These are words that describe “doing” – like “riding” a bike or “walking” to school. 

The best action words to use on your resume are those that are descriptive and specific. These will paint a more vivid picture of your skills and experience. 

For example, instead of writing “helped solve problems,” you could write “identified and solved critical issues.”

Other phrases that use strong action verbs are:

  • Developed creative solutions to complex problems.
  • Researched and implemented best practices for problem prevention.
  • Streamlined processes to reduce errors and increase efficiency.

2. Quantify your accomplishments

It’s one thing to say you have strong problem-solving skills, but it’s even better to back it up with hard numbers

Whenever possible on your resume, include metrics that show just how effective you are at solving problems. For example, “reduced customer complaints by 30%.”

Here are some other ways to show off numbers: 

  • Managed a budget of $200,000 and reduced expenses by 10%.
  • Achieved a 95% success rate in meeting objectives.
  • Resolved an average of 100 customer complaints per month.

3. Describe your research skills

Research skills play a key role in solving problems. If you’re good at conducting research and finding relevant information, make sure to include that on your resume. 

For example, an office manager could say they “utilized extensive research skills to investigate new methods for streamlining inventory management.”

Here are some more examples:

  • Compiled statistical data for reports and analysis.
  • Analyzed research findings to develop creative solutions.
  • Routinely updated databases with new information.

4. Highlight your creativity

There are many problems that cannot be solved with conventional methods. 

If you’re the type of person who is good at thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions, make sure to mention that on your resume. 

For example, you might say, “suggested new approaches to customer service that increased customer satisfaction.”

More examples include:

  • Resolved a long-standing issue with our website’s design by implementing a new coding solution. 
  • Generated fresh ideas for product development and marketing campaigns.
  • Turned a failing project around by coming up with a solution that no one else had thought of.

5. Emphasize your collaboration skills

In many cases, problems can’t be solved by one person working alone. 

If you’re good at collaborating with others and working as part of a team, that’s something you should try to highlight on your resume. 

For example, a you could highlight your financial analyst skills by saying you “worked cross-functionally to launch an annual industry report.”

Other examples include:

  • Brought together stakeholders with different objectives and helped them find common ground.
  • Helped resolved misunderstandings between departments, resulting in a 30% increase in sales.
  • Facilitated weekly team meetings to ensure consistent communication and successful completion of tasks.
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How to highlight problem-solving skills in a job interview

When interviewers ask about your problem-solving skills, they are looking for specific examples of how you have identified and solved problems in the past. 

These problem-solving examples could be from work, from your studies, or even taken from your personal life!

Here are some tips on how to highlight your problem-solving skills in a job interview:

1. Describe your process

When describing how you solved a problem, be sure to include all the steps you took in your explanation. This will show the interviewer that you are systematic and thorough in your approach.

For example, you can highlight your account manager skills by saying something like: 

“I began by analyzing our current sales figures and identifying where we were losing customers. I then looked at our marketing strategy and identified areas where we could improve. Finally, I implemented a new marketing strategy and monitored the results closely. This led to a significant increase in sales within six months.”

2. Use problem-solving skills in the interview itself

Some interviewers will ask you to solve a problem on the spot as part of the interview process. This is usually done to assess your analytical and critical thinking skills. 

For example, someone applying for a job as a business analyst may be asked to review a company’s financial reports and identify areas of concern.

When solving problems in an interview, be sure to think out loud so the interviewer can understand your thought process. 

If you’re not sure of the answer, don’t be afraid to say so. This shows that you’re willing to admit when you don’t know something and are willing to learn.

3. Make connections to responsibilities included in the new job

Be sure to highlight how your problem-solving skills will be relevant to the responsibilities of the position you’re applying for. 

For example, if you’re applying for a job as a restaurant server, you might talk about a time when you had to diffuse a difficult customer situation.

If you make connections between your past experiences and the new job, it shows the interviewer that you’re qualified for the position and that you’re excited about the opportunity to use your skills in a new way.

4. Use specific examples and data

When describing how you used your problem-solving skills in the past, mention specific examples and support your claims with data.

This makes your story more convincing and shows that you’re not just making things up.

For example, if you’re claiming that you increased sales, be sure to back it up with sales reports, graphs, or even customer testimonials.

How to develop and improve your problem-solving skills

Improving your problem-solving skills can open up a variety of different career opportunities.

Here are some things you can do to strengthen your problem-solving abilities:

1. Be proactive

The first step to solving any problem is to recognize that it exists! 

This might seem obvious, but many people choose to ignore problems instead of facing them head-on.

Pay attention to the things that are going wrong in your life and work, and don’t sweep them under the rug.

2. Break down big problems into smaller ones

When you’re faced with a big problem, it can be overwhelming. But if you break the problem down into smaller pieces, it will be much easier to solve.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to lose weight. This is a big goal, but it can be broken down into smaller goals, like eating healthy meals and exercising regularly. 

Once you have a plan for each of these smaller goals, you’ll be one step closer to solving the bigger problem.

3. Be open-minded

Being open-minded means that you’re willing to consider all possible solutions, even if they’re not what you were originally thinking.

If you’re closed-minded, you might miss out on the best solution to the problem. So don’t be afraid to try something new.

4. Be persistent

Persistence is another important quality for problem-solvers. If you give up at the first sign of trouble, you’ll never find a solution.

When you’re facing a difficult problem, it’s important to keep trying different things until you find a solution that works. 

Don’t give up, and eventually, you’ll find the answer you’re looking for!

5. Ask for help

If you’re having trouble solving a problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s no shame in admitting that you need assistance.

There are many people who are happy to help others solve their problems. So reach out to your friends, family, or even a professional if you need some guidance.

Developing better problem-solving skills can take some time and effort, but it’s worth it!

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Robert Henderson, CPRW, Resume Expert

Robert Henderson, CPRW, is a career advice writer and a resume expert at Jobscan.

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