Regardless of the industry, there are a few skills that employers always want to see on a CV: interpersonal skills, communication — and of course — analytical skills.
That’s hardly surprising. Analytical skills are highly transferable and don’t just apply to data-heavy or statistics roles. They’re highly transferable and among the most sought-after soft skills in 2022.
In this article, we’ll define analytical skills, explain how to improve them, and tell you the best ways to demonstrate them on your CV and cover letter.
What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills, also referred to as analytical thinking or problem solving skills, are a cluster of abilities used to identify and solve problems using the information available to you.
Some situations where you might need to use analytical skills include budgeting, data analysis, detecting patterns, brainstorming, interpreting new information, and developing solutions.
Analytical skills are valuable in every industry and account for some of the most common soft skills you’ll see in job descriptions. However, because analytical skills are so versatile, the term can mean different things to different employers.
Reading a job description closely helps you understand what kind of analytical skills the employer is looking for.
Why are analytical skills important?
Analytical skills are useful for addressing a wide range of organisational and business problems. Some tasks that call for analytical skills include:
- Identifying business opportunities
- Responding to supply chain problems
- Monitoring consumer trends
The UK is currently experiencing an acute shortage of analytical skills. According to a 2020 government survey, analytical skills accounted for just under half of all skill gaps (47%). Furthermore, there is growing demand for analytical skills in new and emerging jobs, particularly in the tech and energy industries.
Examples of analytical skills
There are five types of analytical skills:
- Critical thinking
- Data analysis
Communication is the ability to convey information clearly and concisely while sticking to your main point. While analytical skills like research and data analysis help you draw conclusions from raw information, communication is essential for ensuring your work is understood and can be used to make decisions.
Good communication is key to building and developing relationships with team members and clients in the workplace. Strong writing and speaking skills are crucial, as are interpersonal skills like active listening.
Depending on the work you do, communication skills may be useful to you in different ways:
- Providing customer support over the phone or email
- Networking and building relationships
- Communicating analytical findings
- Reporting to technical or nontechnical audiences
Creativity is the ability to think of original or unique ideas using the information available to you.
It’s best suited for problems with numerous possible solutions, requiring adaptability and the ability to think on your feet.
Creativity is often associated with marketing, communications, or design roles, but it can be applied to problem solving in any industry.
After introducing a line of fresh fruit smoothies, a restaurant owner notices their profits have slimmed. When they take a closer look at the menu, they notice the smoothie recipes are too diverse, and the ingredients are expiring before they can be used up. The owner responds by working with the bartender to design a more cost-effective smoothie menu that uses a smaller variety of ingredients, thereby reducing food waste.
3. Critical thinking
Critical thinking consists of evaluating available information and using these evaluations to make independent decisions.
The importance of objectivity, confidence, and data analysis to critical thinking makes this analytical skill particularly important for managerial and communications roles. However, it’s transferable across industries, which is one reason why The Society for Human Resource Management listed it as one of the most valued skills among employers.
Some workplace responsibilities that require strong critical thinking skills include:
- Employee evaluations
- Copy editing
- Quality control
- Writing market reports
4. Data analysis
Data analysis is the process of gathering, organising, and interpreting data to develop efficient solutions.
For example, a small business owner could monitor comments on their brand’s Instagram account for user interests, and then use their findings to develop a new ad campaign.
In the UK, the need for data analysis skills is growing rapidly, particularly in roles emphasising digital skills. The government has estimated that digital data analysis skills will grow by 33% between 2021 and 2026, and roughly half of UK businesses are recruiting for roles that require data skills.
Research involves finding new information to identify problems, solve problems, or make decisions. It’s valuable to all industries, but some jobs are especially reliant on research skills. These include:
- Research scientist
- Marketing researcher
- Business analyst
Because research skills are so broadly transferable, there are many ways you can demonstrate them on your CV.
Optimising your education section is one of them. Common university modules like research methods, data analysis, or decision sciences prove the ability to do independent research, as can any independent projects you completed while you were in school.
To demonstrate research skills in your work experience section, describe achievements that highlight your ability to familiarise yourself with new fields or uncover new information independently:
How to improve your analytical skills
Many analytical skills are soft skills, so you’ll develop them naturally through work experience. For example, a copywriting internship will improve your communication skills.
However, there are several ways you can actively improve your analytical skills.
1. Look for training opportunities at your current job
Managers know that training their employees benefits everyone, so your current job may offer professional training courses already.
Ask your manager what training opportunities are available to you. If a course you’d like to take isn’t offered already, you might be able to convince them to cover the cost — if you can explain to them how doing so will benefit your team.
2. Seek accredited courses in your own time
If you want to develop a specific analytical skill, such as public speaking or data analysis using Excel, consider getting a professional qualification from a recognised body, like the CDP Certification Service in the UK.
Having your analytical skills certified will significantly boost your application, especially if they’re essential to the job description.
3. Practise through freelance work
Entry-level freelance work can be a great practical training resource if you need to develop a skill you already have some experience in.
Use a freelance marketplace like Fiverr, 99Designs, or Freelancer.com to find opportunities that use the skills you’re trying to develop. Create a freelancer profile and market yourself to employers using keywords for the skills you want to develop.
How to show your analytical skills on your CV or cover letter
While they’re incredibly valuable, simply listing “analytical skills” in your skills section is vague and unhelpful to the employer.
Demonstrate your analytical skills by describing relevant experiences and achievements in your personal statement and work experience — or in your key skills section if you’re using a skills-based CV format.
Let’s say you’re applying for an entry-level engineering position that requires strong critical thinking skills. Your CV personal statement might look something like this:
The main aim of writing a cover letter is to convince the employer that you are the best person for their specific opening. So highlight your relevant analytical skills in the body paragraphs and explain how they can benefit the employer:
Your job description mentions the need for someone with strong research and communication skills. While employed at MediaTarget, I used social listening software and Google Analytics to measure the efficiency of client keywords and ad campaigns. As a senior social media specialist, I presented my findings to clients and recommended improvements to their social media strategies. For my clear and helpful guidance, I maintained a client satisfaction rate of over 90% throughout my four years in that position.
Interview questions on analytical skills
If analytical skills are important to the job you are applying for, you’re likely to be tested on them in the interview.
Some common interview questions for analytical skills include:
- Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem, but didn’t have all the information you needed to hand. What did you do?
- How would you describe [technical concept] to a nontechnical audience?
- How would you decide if you had to choose between two or three options? Explain your reasoning (eg. pricing, efficiency, ease).
- What techniques do you use to track the success of [industry method]?
- Describe your process for troubleshooting a problem.
- What should [our company] ’s main metrics be?
Often what is most important about your answer is not the solution you propose, but the reasoning behind it.
Prepare by answering mock technical questions with a friend or family member before the interview. Google past interview questions for similar positions, and practice using techniques like the STAR method to link your answers to previous experiences and achievements.