In the discovery process we take firm owners through to help them gain clarity on the type of person they are seeking to hire, one of the most sought-after characteristics our clients ask for is “natural curiosity”, or sometimes referred to as intellectual curiosity. In this month’s article, we will examine what natural curiosity is, how to identify these traits in candidates you might be recruiting, and the pros (and some cons!) of hiring an intellectually curious candidate.
Simply put, intellectual curiosity is a desire to think deeply about things, versus accepting them at face value and going along with the status quo. More practically someone who asks, “why do we need a printer in the first place?” when asked to move a printer from one office to another. This approach can be a valuable addition to your firm. But also can be frustrating, at times, too (when you just wanted to have the printer moved, and not engage in a philosophical discussion about the relevance of paper versus digital!).
Here are some other characteristics that naturally curious people exhibit, and some example questions for you to consider utilizing in your interviews:
Love to learn – everybody says this, but you can get a good sense of the depth of knowledge someone has on a certain subject, as well as their breadth of subjects, by asking about their favorite movies, books, podcasts, etc. Intellectually curious people find lots of things interesting, and aren’t easily bored.
Enjoy solving problems – tend to view challenges and problems as an opportunity to learn new things, versus a roadblock and a hassle that is always a frustrating distraction.
Will listen and talk about anything – sometimes job seekers will list their hobbies, interests, current projects on their resumes, but if not - be sure to ask them what they are doing now, and how they are learning more about it.
Ask lots of questions – when conducting interviews with potential team members, pay attention to the questions they ask you. They should have at least a handful of questions for you, and questions that require more digging versus what is already on your website (that they could have simply read in advance if they were curious!).
Self-motivated – they haven’t waited around for their boss to tell them to go learn about something. During the interview process, ask them the last time they took initiative to learn something new. Once hired, they will be the type that recognize you have a large percentage of divorced clients, so they go get their CDFA certification without anyone telling them to.
Optimistic - stay positive and view virtually everything as a learning experience versus a success or failure, and understand that failures are a good thing and build character.
High achieving – you should be able to get a sense of this from a resume, LinkedIn profile, and references, but there are also tools such as Gallup’s Strengths finder where one of the themes can be – Learner - if you are seeking another data point for validation.
Creative – seek to approach things from an innovative outside of the box manner. In your interviews, you might ask how they recently solved something using an unorthodox approach.
Job seekers can be scattered along the curiosity spectrum, but generally they fall into three types: 1. Those who accept everything as is and don’t question anything; 2. Those who accept most things as they are, but want to better understand the ‘why’ of certain things they are most passionate about and or most interested in; 3. Those who want to question and probe deeper on pretty much everything.
What we see in our day-to-day work recruiting for firms is that most owners want to hire someone closer to #2, even though they think they want to hire someone from group #3, because of the challenges that the latter group sometimes presents.
Here are some potential advantages and challenges of hiring an intellectually curious candidate:
- Forces you to always be thinking through your processes, procedures, value proposition, etc.
- Helps prepare you for challenges and pushback that you may receive from potential prospects/clients
- Builds out a team with diverse approaches to problem-solving
- Find yourself exhausted or too distracted from spending too much time away from your most critical tasks in needing to answer their curious questions
- Can disrupt culture if sensitive people on the team take the constant questioning as a personal attack
Since the financial planning profession requires constant learning, it is hard to go wrong with hiring an intellectually curious candidate that can help expand your firm’s capabilities and move the organization forward. However, understand that it is okay if you do not necessarily want the status quo being challenged all of the time.
Let us know if we can help in solving any bottlenecks in your business that you might be facing right now, and hope you had a great summer!
Caleb & The Planner Recruiting Team