Problem-solving skills are more in-demand than ever.
Employers love candidates with problem-solving skills because, in 99% of cases, they guarantee you're also logical, creative, clear-headed, and a great decision-maker.
But claiming you have organizational skills on your resume is not enough.
To impress recruiters, you've got to prove that you possess them.
This includes understanding which problem-solving skills you possess and adding them to your resume (the right way), among other things.
This is where this article comes in! We put together everything you need to know about problem-solving skills, including:
- 8 Essential Problem-Solving Skills for Your Resume
- How to Add Problem-Solving Skills to Your Resume
- Why Are Problem-Solving Skills Important
- 6 Problem-Solving Steps
Let's dive right in!
8 Problem-Solving Skills for Your Resume
Research shows that problem-solving skills consist of several facets:
- Identifying and analyzing a problem
- Taking effective actions
- Understanding the effect of the decisions
- Coming up with creative and novel solutions
- Transferring knowledge from one situation to another
- Thinking abstractly about problems
As such, there is no single problem-solving skill. Problem-solving includes a set of skills, all of which are equally important in helping your personal and professional life.
Below, we’ll cover the eight most important problem-solving skills that you can also list on your resume to impress recruiters:
#1. Research skills
To properly identify and understand a problem, you need excellent research skills.
Research skills involve being able to gather information from the right sources, reviewing that information in detail to extract the data you need, analyzing the data according to the context, and being able to apply the data to your situation.
#2. Analytical skills
Analytical skills are required throughout the entire process of solving a problem.
In a nutshell, analytical skills refer to being able to analyze a situation in depth and from different perspectives. Specifically, you need analytical skills to achieve all of the following while solving a problem:
- Detect patterns
- Interpret data
- Analyze new information
- Reach conclusions based on several factors
Being creative means being able to think outside of the box and look at situations and problems inventively.
For most people, creativity is mainly associated with creative industries such as arts and crafts, architecture, design, etc.
In reality, however, creativity is an essential success factor for every job and the data is here to support that. According to this Adobe study, problem-solving (51%) and creativity (47%) have gained the most value in driving salary increases in the last five years.
When it comes to the process of solving a problem, creativity can help you consider more perspectives, think abstractly about problems, and come up with novel solutions that others haven’t thought of before.
#4. Critical thinking skills
Being able to think critically means that you’re good at rationalizing, understanding the connections between ideas or situations, and logically analyzing any given situation.
As such, strong critical thinking skills can help you see beyond what’s at face value, make more informed decisions, and anticipate the outcomes of said decisions.
People who have critical thinking skills share traits such as open-mindedness, cognitive flexibility, skepticism, clarity, and precision.
#5. Decision-making skills
Before coming up with a single action plan to solve a problem, you’ll need to first brainstorm several possible solutions.
After that, you need good decision-making skills to choose the best possible solution. Without decision-making skills, you risk prolonging finding a proper solution or aggravating a problem even more.
#6. Communication skills
With strong communication skills, you’re able to successfully explain the problem to others and propose your solutions. In turn, you can be sure that everyone’s on the same page and that you’re carrying out the action plan accordingly.
Some communication skills required for problem-solving include:
- Active listening
- Written and verbal communication
- Giving and receiving feedback
Problem-solving is rarely a process you carry out alone. More often than not, you need to consult relevant stakeholders, give and receive feedback, and work with a team towards a common goal (i.e. solving the problem).
Well, collaboration entails exactly that - working well with others, cooperatively addressing problems, and putting a group’s goal ahead of personal goals.
Some important collaboration skills that help with problem-solving include:
- Conflict resolution
- Emotional intelligence
#8. Attention to Detail
Have you ever heard of the expression “the devil’s in the details?”
It means that something may seem simple on the surface, but in fact, the details make it complicated and are likely to cause problems.
Well, if you’re someone who shows great attention to detail, you’re not likely to let details keep you from solving a problem effectively.
Not to mention, being able to spot and understand even the smallest details that make up a problem means you’ll be able to grasp the issue in its entire complexity and come up with even more inventive and workable solutions.
How to Add Problem-Solving Skills to Your Resume
Now that we covered the most important problem-solving skills, we’ll show you how to add them to your resume so that you can stand out from other candidates.
Let us walk you through the process, step-by-step:
#1. Mention Your Problem-Solving Skills on Your Resume Summary
The resume summary is a three or four-sentence paragraph positioned at the top of your resume that includes:
- Your profession and years of experience
- Your top skills (i.e. hard skills or soft skills)
- One or two noteworthy achievements
The goal of the resume summary is to catch the hiring manager’s attention, show them you’re a relevant candidate and get them to go through the rest of your resume in detail.
As such, it’s your first chance to highlight your problem-solving skills effectively. You can either do that by mentioning them among your top skills or by mentioning an achievement that proves you possess a given skill.
In the best-case scenario, you can even do both.
Here is an example of how you can include problem-solving skills in your resume summary:
- Behavioral psychologist with 7+ years of experience in the field. Great research, analytical, and communication skills. Over the last eight years, I’ve worked closely with more than 100 patients with different behavioral disorders, helping them improve their personal and professional lives through different treatment methods.
#2. Add the RIGHT Problem-Solving Skills Under Your Soft Skills
Secondly, you should list your problem-solving skills under your resume’s soft skills section.
The listing part is pretty easy - simply create a section titled Skills and write down your problem-solving skills.
There is, however, one caveat:
You don’t want to overkill your skills section by listing every problem-solving skill we covered in this article.
Not only will the hiring manager have trouble believing you possess each and every skill, but there’s also a high chance you don’t even need all those skills to begin with.
To make your skills section as relevant as possile, do the following:
- Check the job description. The job description can show you exactly what skills you need for the job. If you’re applying for, say, a software engineering position, you’ll probably be required to have the following problem-solving skills: analytical skills, creativity, attention to detail, and cognitive flexibility.
- Identify the skills you possess. Think about which skills you can back up with actual experience from your previous jobs. Only list problem-solving skills that you actually possess and that you can prove you possess on your resume.
- Add those skills under your soft skills. Then, add the problem-solving skills that you have and that are required in the job under your resume’s “Soft Skills” section.
#3. Prove Your Problem-Solving Skills In Your Work Experience Section
Finally, you should use the work experience section to prove that you’ve got the problem-solving skills you’ve mentioned throughout your resume.
Anyone can just claim that they’ve got problem-solving skills on their resume - not everyone can back them up with experience.
Here’s what you can do to convey that you possess problem-solving skills and also make your work experience section as impactful as possible:
- Tailor your work experience to the job. Only add past jobs that are relevant to the position you are applying for now. If you’re applying for, say, a software engineering position, the hiring manager will be interested in your previous jobs in the field, but probably not too interested in the time you worked as a server at a restaurant.
- Focus on your achievements instead of your responsibilities. More often than not, hiring managers know exactly what your responsibilities consisted of in previous jobs. What they want to know is how you made a positive impact with your achievements.
- Make your achievements quantifiable. Speaking of achievements, you want to make them as quantifiable as possible. After all “treated ten patients in the course of a year using positive reinforcement” sounds much better than “treated ten patients.”
- Use the Laszlo Bock formula. If you’re having trouble phrasing your achievements, the following formula will probably be of help: “Accomplished X as measured by Y doing X.”
- Leverage action verbs and keywords. There are hundreds of words and verbs you can use instead of “did,” “accomplished,” etc. The more descriptive you are of your achievements, the more impressive they can sound.
And here’s an example of a project manager describing their problem-solving skills in their work experience section:
- Fixed company communication issues by implementing a new project management solution.
- Improved team productivity by implementing time-tracking software and doing daily stand-up calls.
- Managed to meet all client deliverable deadlines in 2022.
Why Are Problem-Solving Skills Important?
Are you wondering what exactly is it that makes problem-solving skills so important?
After all, there are hundreds of soft skills out there that you can master, improve, or learn how to add to your resume. So it’s normal to wonder “why should I focus on problem-solving?”
Here is why problem-solving skills matter:
- They can improve your employability. Problem-solving skills are among the most important skills to employers across a range of occupations. In short, employers are always looking for proactive thinkers who can address professional challenges.
- They can help you grow in your career more easily. You’ll be more likely to get promoted if you can come up with creative solutions to the different problems that you’ll face throughout your career.
- They can become an essential part of your personal brand. Your current employer, coworkers, and future employers alike will see you as someone creative, reliable, and helpful.
- They are related to a range of other valuable skills. When you prove you’re a problem solver, you’re effectively saying you’re attentive to detail, logical, creative, analytical, curious, and other things employers are looking for in their employees.
10 Jobs That Require Problem-Solving Skills
As we’ve already mentioned, problem-solving skills come in handy for practically every job.
Whether you’re a teacher who needs to solve a dispute between peers in your class or a customer representative who needs to help a client, knowing how to go about solving issues is definitely an asset.
That said, some jobs are all about solving problems. In such cases, problem-solving skills are not just a nice addition to have on your resume - they’re crucial to getting hired.
Here are the top 10 jobs requiring problem-solving skills in 2023:
- Software engineer
- Air-traffic controller
- Police officer
- Social worker
- UX designer
35 Action Verbs You Can Use to Highlight Your Problem-Solving Skills
The language you use to describe your problem-solving skills matters.
Sure, you can use “solved” to describe how you dealt with a problem throughout your entire resume and risk coming off as repetitive and unimaginative.
Or, you can use any of the following action verbs and keywords and make your problem-solving skills pop out in the eyes of recruiters:
- Critically think
- Draw conclusions
- Listen/Listen actively
The Problem-Solving Process in 6 Steps
Problem-solving is a methodical process. It consists of certain steps that you always need to take if you want to find a good solution.
The more you understand and practice this process, the better you can get at solving problems.
Below, we cover the six main steps of problem-solving in detail:
#1. Identify the problem
The first step to solving a problem is identifying exactly what’s causing it.
After all, if you’re not focusing on the real underlying issue, you might come up with solutions that don’t fit the problem itself.
Say, for example, that you’re a teacher that’s facing poor class performance. Identifying whether the problem comes from the students’ not studying enough or from your own teaching methods can make a big difference in the solutions you come up with.
It typically happens that the faster you find the root cause of the problem, the easier it is to find a proper solution.
#2. Understand the problem
Once you identify the problem, you’ve got to understand it completely. Here are some questions you can ask to make sure you properly understand a problem:
- What is the scale of the problem?
- What are its short and long-term effects?
- Have you faced something like this before?
- Can the problem be solved by dividing it into smaller parts?
The better you understand the problem in its complexity, the more likely you are to come up with effective solutions.
#3. Research the systems that make up the problem
In many cases, solving a problem will be a complex undertaking. See, complex problems are often the result of several different underlying systems that you need to understand to find a dynamic solution.
Let’s take the teacher example from above.
If a certain student is not doing too well and keeps getting poor grades, you might be tempted to go the easy route and simply chastise them and tell them to study more.
This, in a lot of cases, might simply not work because you’re not addressing the root cause of the problem.
The student might, for example, be burned out, unmotivated by the curriculum, or simply struggling with specific topics.
A problem-solving solution that’s more likely to work would be to talk to the student (or their parents), try to understand the reason for their poor grades, and address the root cause behind the problem itself.
#4. Visualize the problem
This may not apply to all situations, but it can definitely come in handy for most.
Drawing a diagram to visualize the situation or your solution to the problem can help you grasp its complexity better - especially if the problem is multi-faceted. Anything from PowerPoint to a piece of white paper can be a good tool to visualize your problem, highlight the problem area, and tackle it more effectively.
#5. Brainstorm solutions
After you’ve done all the above, it’s time to start thinking about solutions.
This is another step of the problem-solving process that’s based on collaboration and effective communication. In the brainstorming phase, you should sit with team members or relevant stakeholders and come up with as many creative ideas and solutions as possible.
This is not where you come up with your most refined, well-thought-out ideas. Instead, it’s where you discuss freely and combine diverse knowledge and analysis of the problem to come up with diverse solutions.
Brainstorming is an essential part of problem-solving that can help you break out of boring or predictable ideas and thinking patterns.
#6. Choose the best answer(s)
This is where decision-making skills come in. With a list of different potential solutions, you can narrow down your options to finally choose the best one.
To reach a solution more easily, take the following into consideration:
- Your company’s/organization’s objectives
- The budget and the timeframe at your disposal
- The success outcomes
- Potential risks linked to the solution
Finally, discuss your solutions with relevant stakeholders and team members to gather all the possible feedback that can help you make the best possible decision.
And remember - once you’ve chosen the best possible solution to a problem, your work is far from over. Being a problem solver also includes the following:
- Develop and implement an action plan
- Monitor the progress of your plan
- Make necessary adjustments during the process
- Evaluate the outcomes of your solution
Problem-Solving Skills Resume Example
Want a resume that makes your problem-solving skills pop like the above example?
Use one of our tried-and-tested resume templates.
They’re free, modern, and created in collaboration with some of the best HR professionals from around the globe!
And that's a wrap on problem-solving skills. By now, you should know everything there is to know on the topic.
Before you go, here are the main points we covered in this article:
- Problem-solving skills are a set of soft skills that help you solve problems effectively. They involve critical thinking, analytical skills, creativity, communication skills, and attention to detail.
- Problem-solving skills can improve your employability, work performance, and personal brand.
- Add your problem-solving skills to your resume summary, under the soft skills section, and in your work history section.
- When you’re creating your work history section, make sure to tailor it to the job, focus on your achievements and make them quantifiable, and use action verbs and keywords from the job description.
- To get better at solving problems, follow these steps: identify and understand the problem, research the systems that make up the problem, visualize the problem, brainstorm, and choose the best possible solution.
- Once that’s done, create an action plan and make sure to monitor its progress as you’re implementing it.