Intellectual curiosity is key to a candidate’s future performance

Imagine you’re deciding between two different candidates. Candidate A has nearly a decade of industry experience and looks great on paper, but didn’t bring any new ideas to the table during the interview process. Candidate B has no prior industry experience, but has a track record for outside the box thinking and innovation. Would you go with Candidate A or B?

Hiring outside your industry is not the easiest road to take. It works against the grain of many HR departments, and it puts the hiring manager and the new hire under the microscope. At Korn Ferry, however, we believe that prior exposure to the markets we serve is helpful—but it’s certainly not everything.

Professionals who are hesitant to hire candidates from outside their industry are ignoring a fundamental truth: people learn. Job-specific tasks and industry knowledge are both highly trainable. However, there’s a major predictor of job success that is neither trainable nor teachable. Keep reading to learn why you should hire for intellectual curiosity over industry experience.

Defining intellectual curiosity

Intellectual curiosity refers to an individual's genuine interest in learning—not just about a particular subject, but about a wide variety of topics and ideas. An intellectually curious individual is the type of person one would describe as having a love of learning.

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Types of intellectual curiosity and how to tell if a candidate has it

Fast learners

With the sales and marketing industry evolving at a rapid pace thanks to technological advancements, companies rely on employees at all levels and adapt as quickly as possible. When managers hire candidates who have significant industry experience, they sometimes find that those professionals are too ingrained in their familiar way of doing things.

The right candidates, by contrast, are leaders with a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to quickly master new information—regardless of their familiarity with a certain industry.

Continued engagement

Leaders—particularly in the sales and marketing fields—dedicate a good amount of time and resources to keeping their employees motivated and ensuring that they’re continuing to grow and develop. Intellectually curious people, however, take care of a lot of this on their own. Curious employees are more likely to improve themselves by pursuing formal learning opportunities, sparking conversations with other professionals and seeking out new challenges.

Forward-thinking employees

When candidates have an insatiable drive for learning about people, their situation, problems, and successes, they’re more likely to bring innovative new strategies and ideas to their new companies. These are the candidates who, instead of sitting back and waiting for the next assignment, are more likely to approach their managers with thoughts on cutting-edge approaches to familiar problems and ways to stay ahead of competitors.

There are a number of other important qualities to prioritize when you’re hiring outside of your industry, including decision-making confidence, professional presence and inclusive leadership.

To learn more, contact us today.

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