How to Hire for Curiosity and Agility

BY C. Lee Smith
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If you’re a sales manager tasked with hiring, you need to know how to hire for curiosity and agility. Those are the characteristics that allow your organization to excel in our current business environment of uncertainty and chaos.

Did you know that 60% of Americans believe we’ll be dealing with unemployment and economic contraction for the next five years? Politicians, pundits and economists all have strong opinions on what to do and on what’s coming next. Nobody has a crystal ball for real. The next best thing, in terms of predicting outcomes for your team, may be to use a sales skills assessment when making your next hire.


A new SurveyMonkey survey on how organizations are dealing with our new business normal reveals that leaders who emphasize curiosity and agility will be in the best position to find new and maintain existing revenue streams. One way organizations show curiosity is by changing the way they do business. In the past few months, 35% of businesses have reached out to employees and customers. By doing so, they collected information that helped them pivot their operations. The survey results show that only 34% of these agile businesses have suffered revenue declines this year. Using valuable feedback and curiosity helped business leaders find a new direction.


As savvy business leaders know, it’s not enough to be curious, you must do something with the information you gather. Embracing agility means having to step out of your comfort zone. When you take the lead on agility, your employees notice. At least 70% of employees in agile organizations believe they’re meeting customer needs. And 48% of employees in these organizations say it hasn’t been difficult to maintain customers during the pandemic. Only 32% of employees in non-​agile organizations say the same.

Hire for Curiosity, Hire for Agility

One way to be sure curiosity  and agility infiltrate your team is to hire individuals who naturally possess these characteristics. A sales skills assessment that measures factors such as work and behavioral tendencies will show you which candidates to take to the next level in your hiring process.

Curious individuals will engage in relevant discovery sessions with client and prospects. During the course of these sessions, they’ll ask unplanned follow-​up questions. The answers to these questions lead them to think about innovative ways to apply your solution to a problem several clients or prospects may be experiencing, especially as a result of the economic downturn. Our research on this topic, done before the pandemic, shows that sales managers ranked curiosity at the bottom of a list of traits they desired in a sales rep. Only 25% of managers said their reps needed curiosity to succeed on their team.

Fortunately, in that same survey, possessing good judgment or critical thinking skills scored high for 57% of sales managers. Having critical thinking skills can spur a rep to come up with alternate solutions to a problem a prospect is facing. When you require a candidate to take a sales skills assessment, check out their work tendency score for initiative. An individual who scores above average on this tendency is likely to go the extra mile when thinking through problems. They will be proactive instead of reactive.

As you review the credentials and skills of candidates for your sales positions, think about who will do best in terms of selling your solutions and impressing prospects with their ability to discover and address business needs in rapidly changing economic conditions. When your mantra becomes, "hiring for curiosity, hiring for agility" you'll increase your chances of success.