Do you really know what is meant by ‘critical thinking’?

Sixty-nine percent of college students say they’re very well prepared to take on problem solving tasks in the workplace, according to a recent survey.

But that’s not what employers think, reports inc. The same Harris Interactive survey found that less than 50 percent of employers agree that new college grads will come to the job with the problem solving skills they need.

Despite this gap, employers are requiring the skill set now more than ever.

Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009,” reports The Wall Street Journal, citing an analysis by career site

But the article’s author Melissa Korn suggests that if employers aren’t getting what they want, perhaps it’s because they’re being unclear. Especially by using the phrase “critical thinking.”

It’s one of those words–like diversity was, like big data is–where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it,” Korn quotes director of recruiting at Ernst & Young Dan Black as saying.

For example, Black defines critical thinking as: “The ability to work with data, to accumulate it, analyze it [and] synthesize it, in order to make balanced assessments and smart decisions.”

Meanwhile, Foundation for Critical Thinking president Linda Elder says it’s, “thinking about your thinking, while you’re thinking, in order to improve your thinking.”

And to make matters more confusing, Elder argues that employers don’t actually want critical thinkers–at least in their lower ranks. Critical thinkers tend to challenge the status quo, which businesses don’t typically look to recent grads to do, she told Korn.

Yet, young candidates are used to seeing the requirement in the job description.

That leaves job seekers wondering what employers really want and, once on the job, unsure of whether they’re supposed to follow the rules or break them,” Korn writes.

What do you think? Has “critical thinking” become a buzzword, or is it a skill you really need in your young hires? Let us know in the comments down below.

Image: Concept of critical thinking via Shutterstock