In Search of Curious Learners – Your Key to Career Success

Curiosity is rumored to have turned out poorly for the cat. Yet things usually end quite well for curious, career-minded people and the employers who seek them out!

What role does curiosity play in the development of someone’s career?  I’ve often pondered this question during many years of hiring employees and advising clients on hiring best practices. 

Have you noticed that some people are naturally curious?  Curious people seem to be born with the need to ask deep questions about almost everything. They relentlessly investigate to find out the why behind the what. They get excited about the process of discovery itself, gaining energy as they learn little bits and pieces about something of interest. When I ask why he or she is so driven to discover, I often get the answer, “I’m just curious.”

Seven Reasons Why Curious People Have Better Careers

Lately I’ve been hearing my clients’ hiring managers discussing why they are looking for candidates who are highly curious.  Here are seven reasons why organizations are seeking to hire candidates who are curious:

  1. Curious people take on the responsibility to learn what they need to know in order to do good work in their assignments.
  2. Curious people onboard in a new job faster than people who are less curious.
  3. Curious people are more adaptable and tend to react favorable to change.
  4. Curious people keep organizations from making mistakes that hasty decisions produce as they are apt to identify the small flaws in a plan or product.
  5. Curious people tend to be more open-minded and willing to consider many different perspectives, which can lead to breakthrough thinking (like Albert Einstein).
  6. Curious people will make more of an effort to get to know others (EQ), leading to more effective relationships and respect.
  7. And curious people are committed to lifelong learning, especially helpful in an age when so many changes are going on in the workplace.

Consider some of the recent research about the effectiveness of curious people in the workplace:

  • A PwC global survey of 1,379 CEOs showed that the traits of curiosity and openmindedness were among the most desirable traits sought in the organizations’ new hires.
  • A study on Personality and Individual Differences published in ScienceDirect showed that the trait of curiosity positively affected the quality and originality of problem solving.
  • Curiosity plays a significant role in adapting and learning. Oregon State University research concluded that “as workplaces evolve and jobs become increasingly dynamic and complex, having employees who can adapt to changing environments and learn new skills is becoming more and more valuable to organizations’ success.”

As we emerge from the 2020/2021 global pandemic, the need for curious people in the workplace has never been greater!

How to Hire Curious People

In my article two weeks ago, Your Four Dimensional Job Interview, I identified a candidate’s curiosity quotient (CQ) as one of the four people dimensions employers will measure in the future (along with IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional intelligence), and TQ (talent quotient). 

Curious people are easy to identify – they are the ones asking lots of questions and willing to go deeper into an answer to understand the thinking behind an answer.  Interviewers should seek candidates who ask more than just the usual obligatory questions when being interviewed.  Do they probe for the why behind the what when you answer their questions? Are they genuinely interested in the answers?

Effective interview questions you might ask a candidate include:

  • “Please define the trait of {his/her answer} “Now that I understand what you mean by curiosity, please give me two examples during the last month of how you used curiosity in the workplace or your personal life. What were the specific circumstances surrounding your use of curiosity, and how did each situation turn out?  Please walk me through the details.”  
  • “Please take me through the exact process you used to prepare for today’s interview. How did you determine what you needed to learn, where did you look for it, and what were your key findings?”
  • “What {topic/technology/skill/area} are you currently studying, and why are you studying it? How are you applying what you are learning? Please give me an example.”

Candidates with strong levels of curiosity will give you detailed answers to these questions and seem energized by recounting the discovery process involved. 

Another valuable tool to help identify someone’s curiosity is using a well-researched behavioral, motivational, and/or emotional intelligence assessment.  Often these instruments will provide insight about candidates across a spectrum of traits or qualities, providing additional insight into the way they think and what drives them.  

Can Curiosity Be Developed?

While there is some evidence to show that curiosity may be an inborn tendency which some people possess in greater levels than other people, individuals willing to learn about curiosity can develop greater curiosity in themselves.  How can this happen?  Once someone understands what the state of being curious looks like, he or she can intentionally work on being in that state more often.  Intentionality and motivation play a big part in cultivating curiosity.

For example, Samantha, a sales professional for a medical device manufacturer, can learn to ask more (and more effective) questions in order to learn additional information about a particular customer or prospect. To do this, Samantha will need to allocate additional time to asking needs assessment questions, and perhaps plan out the questioning strategy she will use.  By conducting a deeper level needs assessment, Samantha discovers more information that will lead her to a completed sale. Consequently, Samantha’s curious behavior is reinforced by better sales outcomes, and she learns to habitually be more curious in the selling process.  As a general rule, curious salespeople consistently conduct more effective needs assessments, making curiosity a Top Three hiring trait for the sales profession.


Bottom Line

Curiosity is a rising career super-power.  Regardless of your choice of career paths, age, or career trajectory, curiosity could be just the shot in the arm you need to take your own career to the next level.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team’s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People™. This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team’s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials™ (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster™

I help leaders and aspiring leaders improve their performance and acumen, and sales and marketing professionals to become more productive and effective. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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