What Qualities Do We Need To Hire For?

Sometime ago I was chatting with some B-school grads and they talked of a consulting/ analytics firm that hired exclusively for Excel skills. Their selection process comprised putting applicants through a test on Excel. This seemed to me just, so wrong. Let me explain this a bit.

As a consulting firm we do use Excel a lot. It does make life easy and no doubt it is a very useful tool. However, it is just that- a tool. Also, manipulating data with Excel is a skill that anyone can learn with practice. This skill has limited shelf life and any significant advantage a newbie may have is neutralised with others that reach the same level over time. Also, if someone is less proficient at Excel but has other compensating capabilities in communication, thinking, planning or handling people, they could be more valuable.

I believe the best thing our schools and colleges can do is to prepare students with the ability to engage in critical thinking. No matter how many courses in the sciences or humanities you take, it is simply not possible to learn how the world works or to know everything. What education can and should do is to enable young men and women to think through situations and make informed decisions.

At least the way we would look for recruits is to see if they have absorbed the discipline of thinking. We also look for persons that are ready to learn. They can also learn Excel skills on the job.