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December 15, 2017

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What's Your I.Q. (Inquisitiveness Quotient)?

As I was playing with my three-year-old niece recently, it struck me that I hadn’t really been around very many toddlers lately, and I had forgotten that every other thing out of their mouths is a question - often something like, “But why, Auntie?”

Even more striking was how often she wouldn’t accept my first answer. “What comes next?” or another “why?” were more typical than not. Hillary wanted to know the beginning, middle, end, follow-up, and context for everything.

What were you like as a child? What’s your natural I.Q.– Inquisitiveness Quotient? Were you the one always raising your hand to ask the teacher about his lesson? Did you drive your big sister crazy with “what’s that” and “why” every four minutes? Ever get nailed with the nicknames “Question Machine” or “Chatterbox”? Most salespeople and recruiters tend to be talkative – we’re in a people business by its nature. And talkative people – if they’re to keep that conversation moving – will necessarily use questions throughout that process. In fact, it’s a major strength and skill asset that we can use to our advantage in nearly every situation.

Child development experts will tell you that this constant questioning and unyielding curiosity is a very natural, normal part of the learning and discovery process for little ones. Exploration and wonderment are very much a part of how people learn to interact with the world around them and to get to know others who are part of that world.

This natural curiosity is very evident throughout early childhood and into the first few years of elementary school. Depending on the practices of local school systems, that curiosity may be encouraged with “discovery learning” methods where children are exposed to information, puzzles, and challenges and are taught the tools to uncover more information or find solutions.

What might those tools be?

Questions – good old-fashioned questions.

And it turns out that when children get older and have been taught to ask good questions in early education, they retain more natural curiosity than children whose education tended towards “teaching to the test.” Regardless of the specifics of how we’ve been educated, some of us are more naturally disposed to being curious and inquisitive, and it’s a valuable trait in our business.

The benefits of this innate inquisitiveness are myriad. Imagine the success of a salesperson whose natural curiosity leads her to want to understand her clients’ challenges and problems. How about the recruiter who really wants to know about his candidate’s goals and priorities, not just how many years she spent in Job X? The Senior VP for a large New York-based firm with whom I work consistently asks her VPs and Directors to evaluate the “intellectual curiosity” of both internal candidates for promotion and potential new hires. She is equally insistent on this characteristic in her own team. Why is this so important?

Ms. Senior VP firmly believes that curious people are better problem solvers, more people-oriented, more likely to seek out new ideas and approaches, and more interested in learning than their less curious counterparts. When businesses become commodities, what sets them apart from the competition is this:

  1. The inherent skills and characteristics of their own staff, and...

  2. How far outside the box the team is willing to think and act.

So if you are a curious person...hooray for you!! Keep asking questions and exploring everything around you. It will gain you information, insight, and ideas that will enhance your life and your career. If you tend to be less curious, here are three strategies you can use to increase your I.Q. (Inquisitiveness Quotient!):

  1. Be more aware of the times when you simply accept what you see without wondering more about it. (i.e., taking a resume or job description at face value or that “why I left” explanation that just doesn’t add up.)

  2. Learn how to craft and ask thought-provoking questions (we call them Launching Questions here at StaffingU).

  3. Ask just one more question than you might normally ask in any given situation. Make it something that allows you to dig a little deeper to probe thinking or motivation along with just the usual facts.

Curiosity isn’t about being nosey or imposing. It’s a necessary characteristic that, when consistently honed and developed, gives you the critical tools to best uncover your clients’ needs and fully evaluate the candidates you present. It’s a way to learn more about the people and circumstances around you – one that demonstrates your interest in them and that builds relationships along with business opportunities.

- Paula Roy

Paula Roy is a recognized expert in behavioral interviewing and in developing comprehensive selection strategies. Using a comprehensive project management system, Paula has developed the productivity and effectiveness of sales teams, project teams, and executives. She earned her degree in communication and management and has completed extensive study and research in adult learning theory and methodology.