Wondering How to Test a Candidate’s Curiosity? Ask Them About ChatGPT

Procurement professionals don’t have to learn about ChatGPT, but failing to do so suggests a serious dearth of curiosity.

As technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, a consensus is emerging among employers that possessing curiosity and having a willingness to learn is more valuable than specific technical skillsets. It makes more sense to hire someone with the ability to pick up a new skill with ease than to hire a person for their proficiency in a technology that may soon be outdated.

But how do we assess candidates’ curiosity and willingness to learn?

Questions about a candidates’ learning agility have been incorporated into most job interviews, but the prompts are typically vague:

“Tell us about a time you had to learn a new skill.”

This gives the candidate an opportunity to reel off a pre-prepared answer about how quickly they picked up the new P2P system in their last role, or perhaps they might eschew a job-related example and tell you instead about a new hobby they embraced during the pandemic. Either way, every candidate will no doubt do their best to assure you that yes, they are bursting with curiosity, and yes, they are extremely eager to learn new skills.

The effectiveness of this question is limited by the fact that no-one is going to admit to a dislike of learning new things, although you may be able to glean some insight from the candidate’s enthusiasm for the topic. It can also be difficult to compare different candidates’ experiences – candidate A may have been supported in their learning journey with a sophisticated training program, while candidate B may have been self-taught. Asking candidates about their experience with the same technology/skill/task will go a long way towards levelling the playing field.

There must be a better way to test candidates’ curiosity. If only there were an emerging tech that everyone knows about and has access to…

Ask about ChatGPT to gauge curiosity

With over 100 million users, ChatGPT is a genuine example of a viral technology. I suggest that instead of asking candidates vague questions about their experience with learning a new task, ask them specifically about ChatGPT.

“Tell us how you are using ChatGPT.”

ChatGPT is extremely accessible and (currently) free. Everybody is talking about it; most of us have experimented with it, and a growing cohort of professionals is learning how to leverage its potential. And in most cases, engaging with ChatGPT is a voluntary task. Because the tool is so very accessible, it’s on the individual – not their organization’s IT team or CTO – to begin exploring its capabilities and trying to understand how it can help enhance their effectiveness. Procurement professionals don’t have to learn about ChatGPT, but failing to do so suggests a serious dearth of curiosity.

So, here are some red-flag answers to the ChatGPT question that suggest attitudes ranging from disinterest to an active resistance to change:

  • “I’ve heard about it, but haven’t tried it out yet.” (Follow-up question: “Why not?”)
  • “I played with it a bit, but it’s not really relevant to my role.”
  • “No-one in my organization/team uses it.”
  • “We were never asked/told to use it.”

Green-flag candidates will display a willingness to experiment, play around with the technology, and explore ways to apply it to their day-to-day roles. Look for examples of prompt engineering, or experimenting with different inputs to get the best-possible outputs from ChatGPT.

We were blown away recently by Kelly Barner’s interview with Joshua Palacios for Una’s Sourcing Hero podcast. Josh, a Senior Sourcing Manager at Ro, detailed a series of experiments he has conducted with ChatGPT including using it as a negotiation simulator, analyzing email communication with suppliers, and giving the tool a series of inputs needed for drafting a category strategy. If we were interviewing Josh, we would hire him without hesitation for this impressive display of curiosity and self-directed learning.

Test your candidates’ curiosity by asking them about the latest thing

As we write this, ChatGPT is still the biggest thing in tech circles, but no doubt something even more groundbreaking will come along soon as AI applications continue to boom. If so, don’t hesitate to ask how they’ve engaged with this specific tech to truly gauge your candidates’ curiosity.