NACE Competency: Critical Thinking — Jessica’s Career Tip of the Week

Career readiness is such an important concept in the field of career development, and by applying the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) eight core competencies you will grow as a future professional and also increase your career readiness levels while you are a student here at ASU. The question you should be asking yourself is, “How prepared am I for my future career?”

To assist with preparation for your future career, I will define, highlight and provide examples of the NACE competency — Critical Thinking. According to NACE (2021), Critical Thinking is the ability to “identify and respond to needs based upon an understanding of situational context and logical analysis of relevant information.” The ability to make decisions and draw conclusions from the information that is presented is what would set apart a good critical thinker.

Here are some good examples of how to apply critical thinking skills:

Keene (Mechanical Engineering) – Auto-bottom Box

  • Tasked with making a corrugated cardboard design with an auto-bottom and flaps on the top
    • An auto-bottom is a design where the bottom simply snaps into place when opened from the flat configuration that boxes are shipped in
  • Entirely new design to me, so I used a CAD template and help from a mentor to make an initial design
  • After cutting and gluing together the design, I noticed some of the features were not optimized (flaps would catch when being opened, flaps would be too long and tear when forced into place)
  • Used critical thinking and iterative design to modify the flaps and eliminate issues with the auto-bottom
  • Edits were successful, mentor checked over the final design and approved it

Tyson (Industrial Engineering) – Department Task Automation

  • Brought to attention that a department was losing money due to delayed information and slow reaction time
  • Communicated with the stakeholder on their actions and the information needed in order to effectively complete the task
  • Analyzed the process breakdown of moving information, calculations, and effectiveness of communication as a current state
  • Brainstormed a solution to automate (RPA) the process to increase accuracy, quality, as well as decrease completion time
  • Implemented 100% automation relieving the worker of the process to begin working on more complex, value-added work
  • Improved a process that used to take roughly 24 working hours to complete each time, to a process that takes less than 5 minutes and monthly checking for updated revisions, eliminating lost revenue.

Atharva (Computer Science) – Web Development

  • Tasked with fixing bugs and enhancing the functionality of a food delivery website
  • Communicated with the stakeholder and understood his requirements
  • Designed two new web designs from scratch using Adobe XD and JavaScript
  • Used A/B testing and recorded user activity on both designs
  • Analyzed the data collected using Google Analytics and the better performing design was finalized
  • Successfully implemented the requirements to create a user-friendly website
  • Increased order placement and conversion rates by 15%

Finally, in an interview, an employer may ask, “How have you applied critical thinking skills to solve a problem?” You will want to highlight examples from your academic coursework and your previous work experiences to answer this question. The more elaborate examples that you provide of the Critical Thinking competency, the more well-rounded your answer will be.

Reference Cited: 

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2021). Retrieved from

The examples were provided by Keene Patarakun, Tyson Elias, and Atharva Dhoke, peer career coaches with the Fulton Schools Career Center.