How to test job candidates for “learning agility”

Edited excerpt from Study: The Most Important Characteristic In A CEO Is… by Paul Petrone:

In a study, Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, found that the one characteristic that correlated most directly to an executive’s success is “learning agility”. Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison defines learning agility as “people’s willingness to grow, to learn, to have insatiable curiosity”.

Burnison say you can test for learning agility by asking the right questions during the job interview. “I like to ask questions that explore somebody’s thinking style. Practically speaking, it would be, ‘hey, we are struggling with this kind of problem, how do you think about it?’ Rather than, a candidate saying, ‘this is what I did for this company or that company.’ It is more to engage in a dialogue and a probing about how we think and how the candidate thinks. That’s what we are trying to get to.”

People with strong learning agility will be able to answer spur-of-the-moment questions with logical, thought-out answers. People who lack it will regurgitate past experiences, instead of adapting to what the situation calls for.

Notes:
(1) “People with strong learning agility will be able to answer spur-of-the-moment questions with logical, thought-out answers.” Really? Some people may need time to think. There must be a way to architect an interview to allow for that.
(2) This is valuable not only for job interviews, but also for assessing your team. If learning agility = insatiable curiosity, then an effective litmus test might be: “How good are the questions this person asks?” (This is one of the reasons this blog has a category devoted to asking questions.)
(3) Thank you Guy Cohen for the tip.
(4) Cf. (i) How to run a job interview, (ii) Treat job candidates as consultants, (iii) Explain something to me, and (iv) Hire them for a task.

5 thoughts on “How to test job candidates for “learning agility”

  1. Pingback: Don’t hire based on past experience | A Founder's Notebook

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