What are analytical skills?
Analytical skills refer to a person’s ability to collect and analyse information, solve problems, and employ effective decision making. For example, when analysing financial data, employees with exceptional analytical skills will do their best to correctly interpret the information provided, make correct inferences from their initial datasets, and provide effective and actionable recommendations on the basis of that data. Analytical skills are essential to performance in moderate-highly complex work, especially in roles where meaningful decisions are made based on the analyses conducted by those employees.
Those lacking in analytical skills will have difficulty correctly interpreting data, and thus make ill-informed decisions using that data as a basis. For example, employees lacking in analytical skills may misinterpret the information provided to them, offer flawed interpretations of data, or misrepresent key findings of previous work. Naturally, data is only ever as useful as the person(s) analysing it and handing key data to employees without analytical skills represents a massive opportunity cost to the employer. Moreover, following the recommendations of these employees can be potentially hazardous for the organisation, and in high stakes industries (engineering, energy, healthcare etc), could potentially put people’s lives at risk.
Why analytical skills matter
Organisations are increasingly relying on data, analytics, and complex modelling to make informed decisions, predictions, and forecasts. Analytical skills strongly underpin a person’s ability to work with these data, enabling employees to make reasoned, informed recommendations based on complex quantitative, qualitative, or abstract information. The more effective staff are at interpreting these data, the greater the ROI these organisations will see from their staff. In more senior roles, analytical skills will strongly underpin an executive’s ability to make informed decisions and truly understand the situation on the ground. When key staff lack analytical skills, the decisions they make are disproportionately likely to be flawed, potentially leading the organisation astray.
As a competency, analytical skills are a common performance criterion for roles that require the analysis of complex quantitative, qualitative, or abstract information. These include, but are not limited to: finance professionals, accountancy and actuarial professionals, data scientists, management consultants, IT professionals, managers and executives. As a general rule, the more the role involves providing actionable information to decision makers based on collected data, the more important analytical skills will be, and the greater the opportunity cost associated with hiring staff that lack analytical skills.
How to assess candidates on their analytical skills
Analytical skills as psychological constructs are strongly underpinned by specific reasoning abilities. For example, the ability to work with quantitative information is underpinned by a person’s level of numerical reasoning. A person’s ability to work with qualitative information is underpinned by their verbal reasoning ability. And a person’s ability to work with abstract information is underpinned by their level of abstract / inductive reasoning ability. When multiple aptitude tests are combined into an overall battery of assessments, the aggregate score on these assessments provides an excellent proxy for a candidate’s overall level of analytical skills.
At assessment centres, certain exercises such as a case study exercise can also provide a useful indication of a candidate’s analytical skills. However, assessment centres are typically reserved for the later stages of the recruitment process, and are very time consuming for both candidates and assessors. Considering the importance of analytical skills, it is always recommended to gauge each candidates’ analytical skills as early as possible, ensuring that only those with exceptional analytical skills are invited to the assessment centre in the first place.
Our recommended Test Partnership assessments for measuring analytical skills
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