Do Your Personality Assessments Screen for Curiosity?

BY Kathy Crosett
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We’ve long known curiosity is associated with creativity. Researchers now say that a company’s product and service feature set can benefit from the attention of employees with a strong sense of curiosity. To hire these types of employees, businesses should use personality assessment to screen for 'diversive' curiosity traits, according to a study published by researchers at the Oregon State University’s College of Business.

In today’s business climate, marketers who can develop products or services with unique feature sets, or who can solve tough technical challenges by using a fresh perspective, become leaders. One way to meet this challenge is to hire team members who can think creatively about product development.

Specific versus Diversive Curiosity

Jay Hardy's work at OSU, done in partnership with Alisha Ness of University of Oklahoma and Jensen Mecca of Shaker Consulting Group, distinguishes between specific and diversive curiosity. An individual with specific curiosity may focus on trying to understand one problem and will not give up until the problem is solved or the solution is found. On the other hand, an individual with diversive curiosity will consider a range wide of information and resources in the early stage of problem-​solving. The individual is often seeking knowledge about a variety of topics she finds interesting. This approach may appear disorganized on the surface, but often results in more creative suggestions and solutions.

Candidate Assessments

The typical business develops a job description that lists the attributes of successful candidates. Creativity is usually at the top of the list. The problem for many companies is they lack the ability to objectively screen candidates for curiosity traits. A traditional interview is not likely to objectively yield information about a candidate's curiosity. However, a well-​designed personality test can reveal whether a candidate is generally curious and open-minded.


If you've already hired team members who don't possess diversive curiosity, don't worry.  Hardy points out that employees can be trained to develop these skills. Training sessions, employed over a length of time, can help team members learn how to ask the right questions at the right stages during problem-​solving sessions.

If you're looking for exciting new ideas from your product development team, start using assessment tests to help you decide which candidate to hire. For your existing team members, consider hiring an outside service to train key participants to employ curiosity in their daily thinking.