With hundreds of applicants applying to your dream job, how do you stand out in today’s competitive job market?  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), there are seven core competencies employers find necessary for career readiness that are essential to remaining competitive in the job search. One particularly vital today is critical thinking/problem-solving.

NACE defines critical thinking as, “exercising sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.” It is important not only to be knowledgeable of this skill but to have substantial evidence and examples of your experiences to impress employers during an interview.

Exemplify critical thinking through real-life application

Abraham Lincoln popularized the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.”  When it comes to the job search, this quote couldn’t be more true. There are no magical words that can substitute for actual involvement or experience.

providing examples provides snapshots of one's skill development

When talking with employers, students should articulate how they’ve used critical thinking skills by providing examples to employers.

“All students are challenged in the classroom to consider issues and analyze their impact as a part of the educational experience,” Career Advisor Mark Fauble said. “If you want to stand out above the other applicants then you need to demonstrate that you’ve utilized that skill outside of the classroom in real-life situations. It can manifest while participating in student organizations, internships, part-time jobs, independent projects, and volunteer work.”

Fauble continues, “It’s not only important to be involved, but that you are able to effectively communicate these experiences to employers. Now we get to put our actions into words, and that can be a powerful tool in an interview. This involves preparation and practice, which are things you can do before an interview to put yourself in a position to ultimately be successful.”

Peter Behling, a sophomore marketing major at Illinois State University, is an extremely involved student on campus and has taken advantage of many opportunities to utilize his problem-solving skills.

“Serving as vice president of communications of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity, I am tasked with the role of ensuring all technical aspects of the organization are running and innovative,” Behling said. “This semester I have been tasked with teaching myself how to build an app. To problem solve, I reached out to fellow colleagues with insight on technology in application creation. With their help and other resources, I was able to teach myself how to run the app.”

Peter’s example is just one of many that will help him stand out and reach his goals in the professional world as a critical thinker.

Critical thinking essential to a changing world

Career Center Partner GROWMARK, Inc.’s Tim Callahan serves as university relations recruiter and agrees that critical thinking is vital to business success.

“In the world of agriculture, as with many industries, change is happening all the time,” Callahan said. “Whether it’s changes to our customers’ needs, changes in the technology we use, or changes to environmental, political and social landscapes, it is all around us. For that reason, we look for students to have more than the technical skills for today’s challenges. We want to hire students who have adaptive, problem solving, and critical thinking skills to tackle changes that haven’t arrived yet. Students who focus on developing themselves into adaptive, lifelong learners will always have a place at GROWMARK.”

So, you want one way to stand out to an employer? Prove that you can accurately and efficiently work through problems and solve them. To find those problems, get involved and try to make a difference or make a change. Have a growth mindset mentality and prove that you can be a critical thinker— you will be that much closer to your dream job.

Tori Hart is a Career Center career ambassador and a junior studying integrated marketing and communication. Connect with her on LinkedIn.