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4 ways to show curiosity in job interviews (and why you need to)

Simple as it sounds, just being curious is a marketable job skill. Here’s how to show it off when you interview for a job.

4 ways to show curiosity in job interviews (and why you need to)
[Photo: agsandrew/iStock]

You can’t always know what employers are looking for in job candidates, but it’s a safe bet that you’re better off coming across as more, rather than less, curious. Not only do companies need to bet on people who can adapt and learn (since, according to one estimate, up to 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 don’t exist today), but organizations are already having trouble filling open positions right now.

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Curiosity alone can’t close these talent gaps, but it can certainly make you more employable in the current work environment. Indeed, being curious is the precursor to learning faster and better, and thereby adapting to change rather than succumbing to it. Here are a few ways you can turn your curiosity into a marketable job skill during an interview.


Related: Screw emotional intelligence–here’s the real key to the future of work


1. Ask a few thoughtful questions

Interviewers aren’t just interested in your answers. They also want to evaluate the questions you ask them. Asking too many questions may derail the interview and annoy them, but asking none will make you look uninterested or unprepared.

To be sure, the best questions depend on the context–like the type of organization and role you’re interviewing for–but there are also a few general rules to follow. For starters, opt for open-ended questions, such as “Why do you see X as important?” or “How do you see Y changing in the future?” You should also pay close attention to the interests and priorities that the interviewer seems to express, this way you can ask about things that will engage them more (yes, this means tapping into their curiosity). Finally, you should expand your line of questioning beyond the role itself and ask about the organization’s values, goals, and strategy.


Related: This recruiter shares the smartest questions job candidates asked


2. Talk about your own interests and hobbies

Some people are more curious than others, but everybody is curious about something. Psychological research suggests that our interests and hobbies are a strong indicator of our curiosity and, additionally, that we’re more likely to develop useful skills and abilities when we’re curious about something. This makes intuitive sense.

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But less obvious is how, when, and whether to bring up passions that may seem like unrelated side-activities. The best approach to doing that (and you really should) is the one that invites a hiring manager or recruiter to appreciate your curiosity in action. Whether it’s cooking, sports, music, science, or traveling, talking about the stuff you love can help you draw connections between those activities and aspects of the role that an interviewer might not have considered. Plus, it simply helps them get to know you better and helps them feel like they “relate” to you–an important bonus. (Just think twice before sharing any personal information that could needlessly expose you to hiring biases; brush up on the ground-rules and use your discretion.)

3. Bluntly explain how much you love learning

The average job interviewer isn’t a great judge of people, so you shouldn’t expect them to read between the lines or make accurate inferences about your personality based on subtle cues. This means there are reasons to be blunt and direct in your self-presentation, as long as you read basic social cues. What’s within bounds? Stating flat-out that you’re an avid learner who loves to broaden your skills and knowledge base. Or mentioning that you’re looking for a role that lets you develop your potential further than you’ve been able to do in your current role.

This may feel too overt, but it’s a surprisingly effective tactic to persuade an interviewer of your curiosity. And remember, too, that nobody gets punished for showcasing their curiosity, while telling people that you’re incredibly smart, likable, or humble will probably backfire.

4. Think before you answer

Psychologists know that curiosity is an observable trait. It’s detectable in a range of other cognitive capabilities like absorption, thoughtfulness, and critical thinking. So if you’re not sure how to demonstrate your curiosity, just demonstrate those other things by proxy. Take your time before you answer a question: Pause. Think. Reflect. Then answer. It’s not just performance, either. If you give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts, you’ll wind up giving more thoughtful answers overall. This will help you stand out–which is ultimately the most crucial requirement for getting any job.

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