By: Alan Walsh, Owner, Huntington Consultancy
I’ve hired a lot of people in my career. My success rate has improved substantially over time. There’s much to be said for learning and seasoning from experience.
Of course one must evaluate the candidate’s specific skill & talent sets, and background checks will sometimes (not always) reveal useful information, but then we get down to the qualitative factors – those elements of a candidate’s makeup that signal a likely winner.
Much has been written about this, and employers look for many different things. Interviewers ask a variety of questions to draw people out. Tests abound for the same purpose. But over the years, when taking into account all available input, I’ve found that one factor rises to the top as a strong signal of a candidate’s suitability.
For me, a candidate’s CURIOSITY has been a very telling personal attribute which has served me well in separating the “wheat from the stalks”.
I always look for people who are naturally curious. A wonderful set of traits usually comes along as a package deal.
Many humans aren’t very curious. They move through their lives in a rather mechanical manner, doing the things required to survive and not spending a great deal of time observing or assessing the world around them. Their work tends to reflect this posture.
Then, there are the curious. It seems to be built into their DNA. They’re forever looking around and questioning the world they observe. It seems to be so ingrained in them that they’re not even aware of their differentiation from the rest of humanity. It’s not that they’re cynical and forever challenging the world. On the contrary, they tend to be very positive and eager to learn.
- The curious are alert, attentive, and observant.
- They think for themselves, and accept little at face value.
- They’re self-confident and independent; which is not to say that they’re poor social fits. That has nothing to do with it.
- Because of their eagerness to learn, they’re usually brighter and more knowledgeable than their less curious peers.
- Their work reflects a tendency to select the paths and methodologies that make the most sense and produce the best results.
- They tend to communicate along clear, rational lines.
- They find weaknesses and fix them.
- They identify opportunities others can’t see.
- They usually require less motivation or direction than their peers.
- They want to expand their minds and grow.
- They tend to be fun and interesting to be around.
There are exceptions to any situation, and certainly not all curious people possess this entire kit-bag of personal attributes; but the trend has been so strong in my hiring experience that it stands out as my most reliable single qualitative measure.
Of course, I’m not referring to those who are forever annoyingly asking “Why”, like a two-year old. Those people just have maturity issues and should be avoided.
When I think of the quintessential curious person, I think of Michelangelo. He was raised in the home of a minor bureaucrat of no particular note, and he spent most of his life living on the financial & political edge at the fickle mercies of the Church, and yet his curiosity led him in directions that culminated in his being recognized along with Leonardo Da Vinci as a consummate Renaissance man; with accomplishments that span the ages.
We can’t all rise to the level of Michelangelo, but I’ve observed that the curious tend to have the same “fire in their bellies” that drove him. They tend to surprise pleasantly.
The curious don’t fit in everywhere. Many entrenched bureaucrats want “drones”, and consider the curious to be annoying or threatening. I’m not one of those managers. Of course, the curious find such bureaucracies choking, and usually don’t stay for very long.
If you’re a hiring manager who shares my vision of what constitutes a valuable employee, I highly recommend that you include a “curiosity assessment” in your portfolio of interviewing tools. You won’t be sorry.
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