shutterstock ollyy How does an employer measure critical-thinking skills? That’s a pressing question, considering that every company on the planet needs employees who can analyze information in a way that’s ultimately good for the bottom line. But how do you tell which employees have the right aptitude? According to The Wall Street Journal, employers have wildly different methods of evaluating their employees for critical-thinking skills. Goldman Sachs, for example, asks job candidates to “assess company valuations and stock pitches and then to explain how they arrived at their conclusions.” But that’s a numbers-intensive exercise for a numbers-intensive position; other employers seem satisfied with asking candidates how they solved a thorny conundrum in their past, and using the answer to evaluate problem-solving prowess. The bigger issue, as the Journal points out, is whether schools are teaching students the necessary critical-thinking skills to succeed in the workplace. And a major obstacle to that, of course, is actually defining “critical-thinking skills.” It’s not memorization of information, which many schools place a premium upon; nor is it the ability to follow a preset series of steps in order to arrive at a solution.

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Critical thinking, in its broadest definition, is the ability to analyze and evaluate the “right data” in order to solve a problem. Some aspects can be taught—a good professor can show what’s important to analyze, versus what’s necessary to discard, in any situation—but others, such as effective teamwork or attention to detail, must be learned through experience. Employers are worried that schools aren’t providing the right mix to produce students with the right mental tool sets.

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