What does being curious about data have to do with getting a job? Lots.

Cats are known to be naturally curious and Oliver and Dodger are no exception. I have no idea what they see, but you can tell from the intent posture that they are riveted to attention. Every interviewer and interviewee should take notice. When you are completely immersed in what you love, it shows.

Cats are known to be naturally curious and Oliver and Dodger are no exception. I love to watch them in that mood because they put their whole body into it. They are looking out the window (at a bug? bird?); you can tell from their firm stance and focused stare that they are riveted to attention. Every interviewer and interviewee should take notice. When you are completely immersed in deepening your knowledge of something you care about, it shows. Then it becomes a very attractive attribute to hiring managers.

“To be successful at anything — and most assuredly at healthcare data analysis — you must be curious.”

That was the opening line, but just one of the many gems, offered in the latest blog post written by Katherine Rowell, a healthcare data communications expert, and a very fun — and funny — lady.

So why did a post about hiring a data analyst get me so excited? Because all the ideas she shared about hiring and job-fit were so accurate, and also immensely helpful to people in all industries, as well as for job-seekers and job-interviewers. 

Kathy and I were introduced a few years back through a mutual contact that felt we should meet. He was right. I was immediately drawn under Kathy’s spell — she was doing her life’s work, there was no mistaking it. When she talks about healthcare data, she creates simple solutions out of complex problems. She exudes energy, humor, and knowledge, all wrapped up in an irresistible package that makes you care about what she’s talking about. (It reminds me of the woman who loved lichen in Alaska.) As you’ll read in Kathy’s post, she didn’t have a direct path to her current consulting career, but she has certainly found her life’s work and is now loving every minute of it.

There is no doubt that Kathy is a curious person. I believe that her curiosity comes from a place of profound interest in what she is doing. That feeling of connection between a person and their work will predict job-fit in any field. When a person is curious, they are deeply interested in the topic, in fact, they care about the topic so much, it pushes them to learn more. They WANT to be engaged in the exploration, understanding, and improvement of whatever the subject is. It is obvious to any observer when they come anywhere near a person that is connected to their work in that way. Yes, some folks are more ‘naturally’ curious than others, but everyone can be deeply curious if they care about something enough.

When Nancy Bishop and I held our career transition webinar last Thursday night, we entertained many questions from attendees about changing career direction at mid-life. They wanted to know how they could prove their skills in an unknown place and space. When a hiring manager witnesses a sincere level of curiosity — which brings out a strong work ethic and drive in my mind — the concern over the exact degree of expertise is mitigated. That’s good news for people who are moving in a new career direction. But you need to know you can’t fake it. You need to do the work to find out what subject interests you the point of having that degree of curiosity.

Not to worry, though. I’m here to tell you, curiosity will NOT kill the cat. It may, however, get him hired. When a hiring manager has to decide whether to hire a jazzed-up individual that loves what they do versus a highly skilled person who is burned out, bored, or disengaged in their work, a forward-looking manager will choose for the future.

Kathy’s post includes a marvelous suggestion for how to identify the curiosity trait. In addition to validated assessments that offer objective information about a candidate’s interests, I recommend you implement Kathy’s case-study-style interviewing for any trait or skill that is most important to you. Seeing is believing, so let the person illustrate how they will work. This method can be adjusted to fit a variety of traits and skills. If the candidate sees the activity as fun, you’re on the right track. If she sees it as something beneath her, you have a problem already. Look for signals in how the person accepts the assignment as much as you look for the results of the activity.

For job seekers, what are you curious about? For hiring managers, have you used this approach? What was your experience? Let us know so we can all learn together! I always love to hear from you.

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