What Employers Want: Analytical and Research Skills

When a job ad says that an employer is looking for someone with strong analytical or research skills, you may wonder exactly what that means or how to demonstrate that you have these skills. Before you go to the interview, think carefully about what it means to analyze or assess a situation. In basic terms, you’d typically need to make decisions about the key aspects of the situation, gather as much information as possible about those aspects, and seek advice from others so that you can bring different perspectives to your analysis.

When you break it down this way, you can start to see what it is that employers are talking about, and it really boils down to problem-solving skills. That’s good news for you! You’ve been solving problems all your life, such as:

  • How can I get mom and dad to increase my allowance (or let me stay out late, or permit me to go to an R rated movie, or buy me expensive sneakers)?
  • How can I find time to participate in sports (or drama or chorus or a fraternity or sorority) and still keep my grades up?
  • What should I do about a friend who is anorexic?

  • How can I possibly write 15 pages on the atmosphere Shakespeare has established in the first scene of Hamlet?
  • What should I choose for a major? Do I need a minor?
  • How can I get the classmates in my work group to do their share of the work?
  • How can I do a task more efficiently (or inexpensively)?

While not all of these situations involved significant research, in each case (or similar ones that you’ve faced in your own life), you have always had to analyze the situation—and a bit of research would help in most of them. For example, in trying to figure out how to manage your time so you could participate in extracurricular activities, you may have gone to online or in-person resources that help teach time management skills; you would also have most likely asked for more information on how much time would be needed to participate (such as daily practice, weekly meetings, service on committees, or other requirements).

If you think about the situations in your life that have required research and analysis, you may be able to find ways to add them to your resume. For example, you can create bullet points about specific courses, activities, or jobs where you have improved a situation or refined a process. You can also prepare a stockpile of anecdotes demonstrating these skills that you can relate in a job interview.