When it comes to finance and accounting roles, employers are increasingly looking for problem solvers, not a number-crunchers. Over recent years, we have seen an increasing demand for people who can analyse and interpret data and think critically.

What is critical thinking?

A critical thinker is a problem solver. They are able to evaluate complex situations, weigh-up different options and reach logical (and often quite creative) conclusions.

Critical thinkers are highly-valued by employers as they innovate and make improvements, without taking unnecessary risks. Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand recently identified that it was in the top 10 attributes that will help you get noticed in the job market.

Why are critical thinking skills important?

Once you have learnt how to develop critical thinking skills you will be better able to add value to data, interpret trends within the business, understand how people and performance intersect and take-on broader commercial outlook that benefits the business.

How to develop critical thinking skills

Critical thinking comes naturally to some people, but it is also a skill than can be practiced. Here are some tips for how to develop your own critical thinking skills:

  1. Examine: Self-awareness is the foundation of critical thinking. It allows you to play to your strengths and address your weaknesses. Question how and why you do things the way you do.
  2. Analyse: Look for opportunities to grow and improve. Consider alternative solutions to the problems you encounter in your work.
  3. Explain: Clear communication is key. Get into the habit of talking through your reasoning and conclusions with colleagues.
  4. Innovate: Develop an independent mind-set. Find ways to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. Make sure your decisions are well-thought out. A critical thinker is logical as well as creative.
  5. Learn: Keep an open and well-oiled mind. Brush-up on your problem-solving skills by doing brain-teasers or trying to solve problems backwards. Keep up-to-date with professional learning opportunities. You may also need to unlearn past mindsets in order to grow and move forward.

How to apply critical thinking skills in your current role

Could you implement a new process or procedure that enhances performance or profitability? You might also consider volunteering for a new project or responsibility that gives you the opportunity to innovate and take on a new challenge. It’s a great way to broaden your skillset and gain exposure to other parts of the business.

Surround yourself with other critical thinkers in the organisation and work together towards achieving a problem-solving culture. Ask questions, and always look for opportunities for continual learning.

Changing roles to develop critical thinking skills 

At Moir Group, we are passionate about finding the right cultural fit between people and the organisations they work with. If you are a critical thinker, it’s worth looking for a stimulating work environment that encourages innovation and non-conformist thinking when considering your next role.

How to demonstrate critical thinking skills at an interview

During an interview, use examples from your past experiences to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities. Show that you can be analytical, weigh-up pros and cons, consider other view points and be creative in your solutions. Clearly articulating your thought process is key.

Sometimes an interviewer will ask you to simplify the complex as a way of determining your clarity of thought. For example: “How would you explain the state of the economy to a kindergarten child?” In instances like these, the focus will be on how you explain your reasoning, rather than achieving a ‘right’ answer. Learn more here.

If you’re looking to take that next step in your career, we can help. Get in touch with us here.

2 Responses to “How to develop critical thinking skills in finance & accounting”

  1. Richard Sargent

    Hi Stephen,

    The above is very useful and very valuable for employers. However my understanding of critical thinking is slightly different from above. I recently listened to a course in critical thinking by Professor Steven Novella of Yale School of Medicine. To keep it simple it is to do with assessing the veracity of views and statements made by oneself, others and media being constantly aware of the many biases, the flaws and fabrications of memory, half truths, unspoken truths, and even lies. So it becomes key to adopt an inquisitive mindset, to look for external evidence that supports argument and not just wishful or hopeful thinking.

    Just wanting to add to the debate as this is a really important area.

    1. Moir Group

      Hi Richard,

      We are pleased that found this article useful. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts about critical thinking.


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