Hiring Beyond the Resume: The Relationship Between Wisdom, Experience and Risk

When hiring executive talent, it’s common to place emphasis on only the positive results the candidate has measurably accomplished in the past in order to predict future results. This method has good attributes by being results focused, but often misses key experiences that shape executive leaders and avoids discussing failure.

Another way to analyze a person for potential future performance is by determining their general level of wisdom and experience. Wisdom doesn’t come without experience - a wise person generally has done more things in their life than many of their peers. He/she should have gained wisdom from experiences whether successful or not, through critical thinking. A person that is a "doer", likely has the ability to accumulate wisdom and experience, and can therefore adapt to different situations better because they’ve both failed and succeeded.


Determine whether the person or candidate has a history of placing themselves in risk taking positions (sought out challenges) and look beyond the past that is not stated on their resume. Challenge seeking, but balanced risk takers, are more likely to accumulate experiences that lead to wisdom. Education helps build a knowledge base but doesn’t guarantee wisdom and high performance in the work place. Learning from failures and capitalizing on successes while dealing with challenge and uncertainty leads to wisdom.

Companies set goals that require "results", or perhaps more appropriately, "positive outcomes" to meet or exceed the goals. Along the path to meeting or exceeding goals is a series of problem solving events and innovations that must take place. The wise and experienced person will most likely prevail as a successful problem solver because they are self-conditioned at using wisdom and experience creatively to produce positive outcomes.

When hiring in competitive business situations, look at a candidates’ early career and even go back further. Did he/she seek out competitive or challenging activities through sports, hobbies, teaching others, coaching, and even performing in music which implies practice to perform better? Ask questions where canned answers aren’t possible, as canned answers simply identify a good memory. It takes a wise person to hire one!


Determine what the candidate has done for self-improvement in life at his/her own initiative or expense. Do they read meaningful material and keep up with current events as well as history? Do they volunteer either on the job or away from the job? Are they improvers or satisfied with status quo? Are they well traveled? Have they traveled a lot in their work? It takes a wise person to deal with a significant travel schedule in today’s environment!

Ask what they have learned from the people they’ve reported to in the past. Ask what they’ve learned from other people’s mistakes….surely one of the best and least costly ways to become wise!

What did they do during their early career or bachelor education that helped positively mold their lives? This is usually overlooked when hiring at any level and minimized in identifying what molded the person. My own summer jobs had a very significant influence on my ability to deal with uncertainty, risk, and how to get along with very difficult people in a very challenging environment. I placed myself in this environment at my own initiative and got wise about hard summers quickly!


It's a tough business world to thrive in and it's getting harder. If we think more about hiring people with wisdom and experience gained through initiative and challenging problem solving, we’ll find people who produce the right kind of results needed. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily correlate with age either. The challenge is identifying those wise people who placed themselves in situations to gain meaningful experience and the subsequent wisdom. Hire for wisdom and the results we seek will happen. By the way, are you getting wiser by the day or do you already have enough wisdom?


BlueSteps Member Guest Writer
Jim MorrisJim Morris - A highly successful leader with international P&L and high growth experience at the Presidential level. Excellent strategic and tactical planning skills that are executed with measureable success. Very well trained and experienced with Lean manufacturing with outstanding people and team building skills. Contact Jim via LinkedIn or using jbrm@me.com.

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