Following Post Thumb rule #1 for building your team
“I agree that ability to learn is really an important attribute. What would you consider a good indicator of this ability, i.e. how can you assess a candidate for that?”
There are two main methods to validate someone’s learning skill during 60 minutes of interview you have: one is by provoking a short learning experience on the spot and second by monitoring how a person describes his own experience with regards to projects he conducted. Here are few practical advice about utilizing those methods:
A short learning scenario:
During the interview every good interviewer will take time to describe the company and the working environment (I’m saying that out loud, as not everyone does it…) and this is an exact opportunity where you can volunteer some completely new information and monitor how the person reacts.
There are several things to monitor: does the candidate take new pieces of information for granted, does he wonder how it all incorporates into the whole picture, does he take time to think before answering, and the last in this chain, but probably my favorite – does he use this new information by taking it into consideration in the ongoing conversation. If a person knows to reflect, he knows how to learn.
What to look for in description of personal experience:
You can monitor how the candidate describes his own experience by asking questions about how he dealt with particular scenarios, with an emphasis on his ability to think under stress, etc. You want to pay attention on how he handled new information. For people who can really learn, information quickly converts from vague array of facts into holistic knowledge.
Every project has its whims, and I begin to doubt the candidate when he starts to recite only well-known clichés “from the book”. By looking into details about how the candidate has acquired his knowledge and learned the environment and who were his sources, you will see not only his general style of management, but also his ability to learn.
Another way is by asking about what he has learned on this or that specific project. You will be surprised by the variety of answers to this question, because this it’s not trivial at all. After all, whatever he chooses to answer, he admits to have learned something on the project, something he didn’t know before, and for that a person has to be strong enough. Exactly the kind you want on your team 🙂