Intellectual Humility

At Morrison, one of our service lines is recruitment. No big deal right? There are lots of recruiters out there. Yes, yes there are, but the Morrison approach is a little different and it basically boils down to this: when looking to find talent, first determine what level of skill is required. Once you get the basic necessary skillset met – everything else is “fit”. Everything.

Yes, the new hire needs a certain amount of skill, some positions require more than others, but once you’ve got that look for the right “fit”. I’ll be doing interviews with a client tomorrow. The position doesn’t require a Ph.D. or 40 years’ experience, so once we get past a few formalities I’ll be looking solely for fit.

And what is one of the things I love to see when looking for the right fit? Intellectual Humility. As this great definition from THRIVE: Center for Human Development here explains, intellectual humility is all about being inquisitive, humble, and respectful. It means that you understand that you don’t know everything, that there is more to learn, that you’re not going to use your knowledge or expertise to get advantage over others and that you will be respectful and listen closely to what the others have to say because you just might learn something.

My advice to interviewees:

Be smart. Be curious. Ask questions – it’s okay not to have all the answers. Next, be humble, this will be a good indication of how well you work with others. And finally, be respectful and listen. You would be surprised at how far being a good listener can take you.

I recognize that it is hard to make that come out in an interview. You may think there is an expectation that you should have all the answers and that you must be perfect.

Interviewers don’t want perfect. We want, well, intellectual humility. Our business is not perfect, your business is not perfect, you’re not the perfect candidate, let’s all get over ourselves. We do that and we’ll probably make a good fit together.

About the Author

+Geoff Chinnock is a principal with Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, and strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim executive CFO services,recruitment, competitive grant writing and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Geoff directly at or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 204.

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