The best predictor of job success can’t be taught. Find out why intellectual curiosity is key to a candidate’s future performance.

Imagine you’re deciding between two different candidates. Candidate A has nearly a decade of industry experience and looks great on paper, but didn’t bring any new ideas to the table during the interview process. Candidate B has no prior industry experience, but has a track record for outside-the-box thinking and innovation. Would you go with Candidate A or B?

Hiring outside your industry is not the easiest road to take. It works against the grain of many HR departments, and it puts the hiring manager and the new hire under the microscope. At Lucas Group, however, we believe that prior exposure to the markets we serve is helpful–but it’s certainly not everything.

A few years ago I hired a recruiter with a sales background and no recruiting experience. He always dug deep and asked plenty of probing questions to ensure success for his company and his client. So it came as no surprise that he excelled at his position and was named a senior partner within two years.

Professionals who are hesitant to hire candidates from outside their industry are ignoring a fundamental truth: people learn. Job-specific tasks and industry knowledge are both highly trainable. However, there’s a major predictor of job success that is neither trainable nor teachable. Keep reading to learn why you should hire for intellectual curiosity over industry experience.

Intellectual Curiosity: What it is and How to Tell if a Candidate Has It

Intellectual curiosity refers to an individuals genuine interest in learning – not just about a particular subject, but about a wide variety of topics and ideas. An intellectually curious individual is the type of person one would describe as having a love of learning.

Intellectual Curiosity Examples

Fast Learners
With the sales and marketing industry evolving at a rapid pace thanks to technological advancements, companies rely on employees at all levels and adapt as quickly as possible. When managers hire candidates who have significant industry experience, they sometimes find that those professionals are too ingrained in their familiar way of doing things.

The right candidates, by contrast, are leaders with a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to quickly master new information – regardless of their familiarity with a certain industry.

Continued Engagement
Leaders – particularly in the sales and marketing fields – dedicate a good amount of time and resources to keeping their employees motivated and ensuring that they’re continuing to grow and develop. Intellectually curious people, however, take care of a lot of this on their own. Curious employees are more likely to improve themselves by pursuing formal learning opportunities, sparking conversations with other professionals and seeking out new challenges

Forward-Thinking Employees
When candidates have an insatiable drive for learning about people, their situation, problems, and successes, they’re more likely to bring innovative new strategies and ideas to their new companies. These are the candidates who – instead of sitting back and waiting for the next assignment – are more likely to approach their managers with thoughts on cutting-edge approaches to familiar problems and ways to stay ahead of competitors.

There are a number of other important qualities to prioritize when you’re hiring outside of your industry, including decision-making confidence, professional presence and inclusive leadership. What qualities do you look for when you’re considering a nontraditional candidate?