Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Why You Want to Hire People Who Are Curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has built many a great company. Those who dare ask “why” have the potential to influence everything from day-to-day operations to product development and more.

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How do you find these individuals?

Defining Curiosity

In his new book, Why?: What Makes Us Curious, astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio provides examples of curiosity, based on interviews with individuals in different fields. He also examines the lives of two historical figures whose accomplishments defy categorization, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman, in the context of curiosity.

Livio was recently interviewed by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s radio show Knowledge@Wharton on SiriusXM, where he explained the difference between perceptual curiosity and epistemic curiosity.

Perceptual curiosity is “the curiosity we feel when something surprises us or when something doesn’t quite agree with what we know or think we know. That is felt as an unpleasant state, as an adversity state. It’s a bit like an itch that we need to scratch. That’s why we try to find out the information in order to relieve that type of curiosity,” said Livio.

Epistemic curiosity, by contrast “is a pleasurable state associated with an anticipation of reward. That’s our level of knowledge. That’s what drives all scientific research. It drives many artworks. It drives education and things like that,” he said.

What Employers Want

Companies want to hire people who exhibit the latter form of curiosity. These individuals are driven by the reward that comes from knowledge and the opportunity to apply it.

The tireless pursuit of knowledge is not only a trait of the young, even though the external enthusiasm that sometimes accompanies it is often associated with youth.

“Your love of knowledge remains and your willingness to learn new things appears to be constant across all ages. People at very old ages are still willing to learn things, to discover new things, to read,” said Livio.

How to Identify It

There are numerous ways to ascertain whether job candidates are curious.

Personality testing provides insight. So do games and puzzle solving challenges typically associated with tech hiring.

Resumes that show a propensity for lifelong learning suggest curiosity. Additionally, hobbies and interests that require exploration, synthesizing information, and/or finding solutions—whatever those hobbies and interests may be—speak to curiosity.

It’s important to recognize that curiosity isn’t a trait reserved for scholars. The auto mechanic who is fascinated by the way cars work and spends free time reading about new technology may be just as curious as the scientist in the laboratory, or even more so.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find qualified individuals who are curious, hire them, give them the freedom to ask “why,” and watch the magic happen.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.