What is inductive reasoning? (with examples)

Last updated: July 23, 2024
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Heath Alva
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What is inductive reasoning? (with examples)
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On average, it takes 1-3 months to find a job. If you’ve got bills to pay, that can seem like an eternity.

So, what can you do to make your resume stand out?

More importantly, how can you make sure you nail the interview?

For most people, it starts and ends with having the right soft skills. Sure, technical skills and relevant experience will get your foot in the door, but soft skills are what many hiring managers are actively seeking.

One of the most important soft skills hiring managers are seeking these days is inductive reasoning. In this article, we’ll not only define inductive reasoning, but we’ll show you how you can use it to your advantage in your job search:

What is inductive reasoning?

The inductive reasoning definition is technical and difficult to understand. Rather than boring you with technical jargon, we’re going to break it down to its simplest form.

Inductive reasoning is a method of thinking that takes what you observe in the world and helps you reach conclusions. You look at something, soak up what you’re seeing, and make a decision based on what you’ve seen. It’s truly that simple.

Employers all over the world are looking for candidates with the right mix of hard and soft skills, including strong inductive reasoning skills.

You already have inductive reasoning skills, but you may not think of it as a skill. Nor is it something you’re probably actively working on.

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Let’s examine a quick example of inductive reasoning in action.

Let’s say you make some specific observations about your surroundings when you’re out walking around a nearby lake. Each day you see a few white swans resting near the shore.

If you don’t know much about swans, you may come to the general conclusion based on those daily observations that all swans are white.

That inductive generalization is an educated guess of sorts and, more often than not, will be correct since black swans are much rarer than white swans.

Inductive reasoning examples in the workplace

Inductive reasoning examples can be as simple as the one we just covered, or they can be more complex.

A simple example might be trying to determine whether you should leave for work early. If you’ve noticed traffic is worse on days when it rains, then you might leave early whenever you see it’s raining to avoid being late and suffering some sort of penalty. That’s inductive reasoning in its simplest form.

Let’s take a closer look at some more complex examples for different types of jobs:

Sales example

You aren’t having much luck with cold calling clients to sell the latest gizmo, but you notice when you follow up each call with an email asking to schedule an appointment that you get triple the leads each month.

Naturally, you make that a part of your daily routine.

Healthcare example

While working a morning shift at a New York retirement home, you notice the residents who are usually a little down and lonesome are actually chipper and energized today. You check the schedule and realize today’s the day local school kids came to have breakfast with the residents.

Your scientific reasoning determines that the resident’s mood improves by seeing the kids, so you schedule more visits.

Recruiting example

You’re working at a staffing agency and are having trouble getting new hires to commit to their new assignments for longer than a few weeks. As you look back through all the applicants who quit prematurely, you notice they’re all fresh out of High School without any prior work experience.

You can then conclude that applicants with at least some prior work experience are better suited to the work you’re assigning.

Manufacturing example

While working your normal shift, you realize that if you move your raw materials bin over to your right-hand side, you can grab things more quickly and, as a result, produce double the widgets in the same amount of time.

Now you place that bin on your right side before the start of every shift.

Teaching assistant example

It’s your first semester working as a teacher’s assistant at a local community college, and you notice some students tend to struggle the most with fill-in-the-blank tests. In fact, most students score 20% higher on multiple-choice exams.

Using your problem-solving skills, you decide to only offer multiple choice exams from now on.

How to improve your inductive reasoning skills

Everyone has some level of inductive reasoning skills, but if yours are a little rusty, consider working on the following.

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Work on your memorization skills

Your ability to recall details and past events directly affects your inductive reasoning skills. One of the best ways to boost recall is by taking notes. If you’re in an interview or studying a job post, try taking notes about what stands out to you.

Pay close attention to details

Your inductive reasoning skills are only as good as your ability to observe your immediate surroundings. If your mind is distracted or you’re feeling drowsy, you can bet your decisions will suffer as well.

As a general principle, try removing distractions like your cell phone, radio, or any casual conversation while focusing on the task at hand.

Practice making projections

Observations make inductive arguments possible, but coming up with conclusions to test them is where the value truly lies. That’s the scientific method at work.

One of the easiest ways to find the truth behind a specific conclusion is by making a general statement or educated guess and testing it.

For example, try to predict whether calling before putting in an application yields better results during your job search. Then test it for a day or a week.

Lean on your emotional intelligence skills

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to understand what you or others around you are thinking and feeling. It’s internalizing people’s emotions and trying to understand what it’s like to be them at that moment.

Emotional intelligence improves your ability to observe human behavior and make decisions that take such behavior into account. When it comes to practicing the inductive method, you can figure out people’s next actions by imagining their point of view.

Showcasing inductive reasoning skills

Showcasing inductive logic on your resume might include listing inductive reasoning as a soft skill.

It’s especially relevant if the job posting lists critical thinking skills or decision-making as something they’re looking for. If possible, try including an example of your inductive reasoning skills in action on your cover letter as well.

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As you prepare for your interview, list a few examples of times where you flexed your inductive reasoning skills, and it worked out. The more specific, the better. Include situations that helped improve the customer experience or the company’s position.

Finally, an interviewer may ask you about your deductive reasoning skills. It’s good to have a deductive argument or example ready to go.

Deductive reasoning is when you can back up a statement with a general example. For instance, if all customers get an extended warranty with their purchase and you notice an order doesn’t have it listed, you deduce that there must be a mistake and should call the customer.

Making your own conclusions

Focus on the fact that inductive reasoning is an educated guess based on observation.

Our beginning example about swans perfectly shows this. If you live in the United States your whole life, you’d likely be correct by concluding that all swans are white. However, if you ever travel to Australia, you’ll see that black swans exist.

Logical reasoning and inductive reasoning work a lot of the time. It’s an especially useful skill as long you understand that there are limitations.

What other soft skills are you putting on your resume? Tell us in the comments below. For more information on how you can use inductive reasoning to improve your job search, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.



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