Friday, February 20, 2015

Do You Want Young Hires Well-Educated, Adaptable or Self-Sufficient?

Pick two out of three

Now is the time of year when many of you may have higher education on my mind. You might be starting to interview soon-to-be graduates of elite colleges or professional schools for your firm. You may have a young person in your life who’s anxiously waiting to hear from the college or grad school of their choice (and you, the financial aid office).

As Frank Bruni
opined last week, “students shouldn’t be blind to the employment landscape. But it’s impossible to put a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect.” He also said this mindset “isn’t the fruit of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy and a job market that change unpredictably.”
In fact, you want folks at all levels of your organization capable of changing on a dime and reinventing themselves as your organization “pivots” to adjust to new threats, opportunities and disruptions. That’s probably more important than where they got their diploma, what they majored in and what certifications or licenses they have. Adaptability isn’t something that can be taught, but it’s one of those special intangibles—like selling, leadership, customer support, empathy and insatiable curiosity—that can give you a 10x return on whatever compensation you pay them.
Chandra Chandrasekaran, CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, told Adam Bryant the other day in a NY Times interview, “Learning is the most important thing in your career and without it, you’ll go nowhere. Early in life, people tend to think that learning is the responsibility of their parents and teachers. But then you have to want to learn for yourself.”

Our take? Lifelong learning isn’t the employer’s or government’s responsibility, either. We’ve come across math, chemistry and engineering grads who are incredibly creative, non-linear thinkers. We’ve come across plenty of philosophy and English lit majors who are surprisingly good at the numbers, but also pretty set in their ways with a fairly narrow world view.


Don’t waste time and money on HR hiring best practices, personality tests, self-assessment tests or screening services. You’ll know adaptability when you see it. Instead of
asking candidates what they know….ask them how they figure out what they DON’T know.

You’ll be glad you did.

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


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