One Overlooked Character Trait You Should Interview For

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Woman-researching-at-a-deskIt is all too easy to miss important information about a candidate in the brief time that an interview usually requires. More and more, employers are asking questions that discern critical thinking – but there’s still one area that most employers or hiring managers are forgetting: intellectual curiosity. Data shows that a level of curiosity for the field that you are in can carry you very far and impact the company you work for significantly. Here’s why you intellectually curious individuals are valuable hires – and how to know when you’re interviewing a candidate with intellectual curiosity:

They consider a variety of perspectives

Intellectually curious individuals commonly pay attention to their surroundings more than most, even when something doesn’t seem outwardly linked to their own work or daily life. They are drawn to anything that strikes them as smart, efficient, or interesting. Their curiosity commonly leads them to consider the influences of other industries or the way that other professionals work, even if they are unrelated to their own job. This type of perspective enables intellectually curious individuals to think holistically and apply fresh outlooks, ideas, and creativity to given projects.

They ask “why not”? on a daily basis

Employees who are intellectually curious are more likely to apply optimism to their challenges and projects. When considering a solution that would strike others as outlandish or too difficult to apply, an intellectually curious individual is inclined to say, “why not?” rather than continuing to solve the problem in the same – and possibly dated – ways.

They take ownership

A good dose of intellectual curiosity motivates employees to dig into their work on a deeper level. They tend to find the interesting angle for most – if not all – given projects, and this mentality allows them to have a generally positive attitude and take greater ownership over their own projects, often exceeding expectations or goals. Employees who show a strong level of autonomy for their projects and on different teams often inspire others around them to be more engaged as well. Because of this, having intellectually curious team members can boost your overall company culture and morale.

How to interview for intellectual curiosity

When interviewing a candidate, be sure to include a few questions that shed light on their natural learning patterns. These questions might include, “what do you do for fun?,” “what books have you read lately?”, or “how do you learn new things?” If a candidate exhibits a strong energy level when explaining answers to any of these questions, it is generally a good sign of natural curiosity. If they actively seek out new information on a weekly or daily basis, it should easily reflect in the responses they give.

The key intellectual curiosity indicator

There is one golden rule when it comes to interviewing for intellectual curiosity: if the candidate is asking you a lot of questions, they are likely to be intellectually curious. Look for candidates who ask follow-up questions throughout the interview; nearly every candidate will ask questions at the end of the interview, but an intellectually curious individual will likely come up with new questions on the spot based on what you are discussing. Their natural interest in the conversation, the factors that go into their role, and the way the company works should all reflect a deeper curiosity than the typical candidate. If you find yourself answering questions about any of these areas throughout an interview, odds are you’ve found a candidate with intellectual curiosity.


Claire Topalian is a writer, non-profit Communications professional, and advocate for diversity in business. She currently leads Communications and the Startup Women initiative at UP Global, an international non-profit that builds startup communities through educational programs and events. You can follow her on Twitter @clairetopalian.

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