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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

Problem-solving skills – and how to include them on your CV

9 min read
Problem-solving skills – and how to include them on your CV
Artwork by:Vika Shibaeva
Problem-solving skills lie at the heart of many a successful career, but how can you include them on a CV? It is a complex issue that is worth careful thought.

Problem-solving skills are critical for any career, but they are often so intricate and unique to each situation that they are difficult to describe with adequate detail in the compressed format of a CV.

It is not enough to state that you are great at problem-solving and leave the rest up to the hiring manager’s imagination. In this blog, we consider the ingredients of problem-solving and how to start the conversations in your CV that you can then explore in more detail during an interview. We look at:

  • How to include details of a 7-step problems solving process
  • Four advanced problem-solving techniques
  • How to share your problem-solving skills on a CV.

Problem-solving should be described in the context of what you have achieved and how that might be relevant to solving the future issues of your potential employer. The hiring manager should read about your problem-solving skills and immediately get excited about how you can deploy them to make their life easier.

Firstly, let’s consider a typical problem-solving process and how you can detail every aspect in various parts of your CV.

Man thinking about problem-solving skills
Man thinking about problem-solving skills

Showcase your 7-step problem-solving process

You will not have enough space on your CV to illustrate the range of skills that you may have deployed to solve each individual issue, but you can make sure that you sprinkle each of these steps across the range of your work experience. Problem-solving can be a complex process, so demonstrate that you have deep experience in all the following:

Identity: Spotting an issue isn’t tricky, but to solve it, you need to be able to identify the nature of the problem with all its moving parts. Focus is critical at this stage as there will likely be lots of side issues to consider.

Analyse: When it comes to analysing the aspect of the issues that you are seeking to solve, you need to look at everything, at the causes and effects of what is going on, involving others, and seeking different perspectives. Problem-solving doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Generate solutions: Effective brainstorming does not shut doors on ideas. When you have a wide range of options at your disposal, it will feel like you have several potential routes for your solution. You also have plenty of backup plans up your sleeve.

Evaluate: The evaluation stage of the problem-solving process takes a very special mixture of judgement and courage. Sure, use your practical experience to estimate the optimal solution, but allow your imagination to play its part in guessing what might happen.

Choose solution: Based on your evaluation, then select the best solution. This may depend on your organisational constraints and the resources available. If you can offer a potential employer a brief insight into your decision-making process in a CV, that is ideal.

Implementation: Implementing your ideas is a critical part of the problem-solving process. The best ideas in the world are useless unless you can make them work for the long term. No one wants to work with people who have ideas and then leave it to other people to make them happen. Own your problems and see through the solutions to the end.

Review: Once you have implemented the solution, it is essential to review which parts of the process may be tweaked to improve it next time. If the situation has not been suitably resolved, it may be worth revisiting some of the previous steps.

As previously mentioned, all of the above can be mentioned throughout the work experience section of a resume. Which of your achievements required particular effort in which parts of the problem-solving process? What were the critical moments that managed to unlock various solutions? Tell your stories of problem-solving proficiency.

Four advanced problem-solving skills

While the steps above would work for any problem, the varied nature of workplace issues can require more nuanced sets of skills to tease out the right solutions. 

While analytical and critical thinking may get you to a certain level of solution, the following four skills may be required to unlock the most stubborn of issues.

Creativity changes perspectives

Coming up with innovative and effective solutions often requires creative thinking, particularly for complex or novel problems. Looking at a problem from a different perspective can open up all sorts of creative approaches. Practical problem-solving does not have to be unimaginative.

Research informs decisions

Effective problem-solving often requires researching or gathering information about the problem. This can involve searching databases, consulting experts, or collecting new data. When your decisions are backed up by significant amounts of research, you can often carry the day with the force of your convictions. 

Resilience keeps chipping away

Problems can be frustrating, and solutions may not be immediately apparent. Resilience is the ability to persist in the face of obstacles and continue working towards a solution. Many problem-solving processes involve a changing playing field with unexpected obstacles – resilience is what will keep you changing tack until you find the right way forward.

Adaptability allows for innovation

Sometimes, solutions that initially seemed promising may not work out, requiring a change of approach. Adaptability involves being open to changing course and trying new strategies when necessary. This can be somewhat embarrassing when you have sold the initial solution so hard, but swallow your pride. Be adaptable enough to change your mind.

How to address problem-solving skills on your CV

While every CV should rightly focus on achievements and skills, every employer will want to understand the decision-making processes behind them. Hinting at the problem-solving skills behind the achievements is not a simple task in a truncated format, but it is possible.

If you take care with how you describe your bullet-pointed accomplishments, you can hint at the aspects of problem-solving that played the biggest part in the achievement. Selecting the right action verbs will tell the employer just what led to the desired result.

Many CVs might include a 2-3 summary of your time at an employer before any bullet points. It is here that you can outline your unique difference – it is often your problem-solving skills that will set you apart from the competition.

Key takeaways

  1. While you definitely won’t have the space to do justice to your problem-solving skills in your CV, including some of them that have come at pivotal moments in your career will help to shape the conversations that you would like to pursue during an interview.
  2. When the hiring manager is reading your CV again after the interview, they will be reminded of those moments again.
  3. A CV is not just a selection of facts and achievements – you have the opportunity to shed a little light into how you got there.
  4. Weave your problem-solving competency into the fabric of your CV. Wherever possible, use real-world examples to back up your ability.
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