WAR FOR TALENT: Book or Street Smarts

WAR FOR TALENT: Book or Street Smarts

We were thinking about the age-old question in HR recruiting, "Do you hire for book or street smarts?"  A CEO (who didn't graduate from college) told us he wasn't the smartest in school.  So while looking back that those with PHds use to look down at him with his lowly pedigree.  He has the last laugh as he sometimes hires those same PHds for his highly successful business. This same CEO stated that if he had to decide between an applicant with book smarts and an applicant with street smarts.  He would almost always pick the applicant with the street smarts.

This was brought up as we were thinking about the admissions bribing scandal involving elite schools such as UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown. How much would you pay to get your children into the right school? Does education really get you a headstart in life?  From our experience, the education doesn't matter if you never learn anything about life and business.  These two things are intertwined into our everyday society. The reality is seen on the Streets in this Darwinistic society of Capitalism. Those who survive graduated from the "School of Hard Knocks" not the Ivory Tower of Education.

Think about this. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs such Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerburg didn't finish college and still became immensely successful. They didn't need an Ivy League education to validate their worth and talent.  This is explored more in detail in an Inc. magazine story appropriately titled, "Why PhDs Don't Become Billionaires."

The irony about this is our belief that you need both people with street smarts and book smarts to build a great business.  So you need those PhDs along with those who graduated from the School of Hard Knocks in your business to build a culture which values both. When you are interviewing applicants, think about this question posed.  Do I value street or book smarts for this position?  Let us know your thoughts in our forum.


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