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What do you look for in new hires?

Ernst and Young made news a few years ago when they dropped the college degree requirement for those in the U.K. applying to join the company. The company was soon joined by the U.K. branch of publisher Penguin Random House.

But is this really a wise decision?

The truth is, there are so many smart, talented people out there who have never graduated college. Laszlo Bock, the former head of HR at Google and author of the bestseller Work Rules!,certainly thinks so. In a 2013 interview with The New York Times,he revealed that the proportion of Google employees without any college education had increased through the years.

“After two or three years, your ability to perform…is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” said Bock. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”

So, if you quit looking at college degrees and school performance, what should you look at instead?

1. Look for problems they’ve solved.

No matter how smoothly your company runs, every day brings its share of hurdles.

That’s why good problem solvers make great employees. In both your application and interview processes, ask potential hires to tell you about obstacles they’ve overcome and specific problems they’ve solved.

This information can provide two valuable insights into new hires. First, you see how they responded to real life complications. Second, you see what types of challenges are important to the candidates.

2. Look for the ability to think positively.

Anyone can have a bad work experience or two. But if a candidate can only find negative things to say about former employers, it’s only a matter of time before he or she feels the same way about your company–no matter how great it is.

In contrast, employees who focus on learning from every experience–especially the ones where they made mistakes–can bring a lot to your team.

3. Look for diverse backgrounds.

Maintaining diversity is about more than gender and skin color–it’s about looking for people who grew up differently, in different backgrounds and with different sets of experiences. Do this, and your hiring practices will naturally promote company-wide diversity.

And by acquiring different perspectives, you will discourage groupthink and encourage innovative thinking.

4. Look for experience.

Candidates with long-time experience in a certain field or industry bring along practical, real world knowledge, regardless of education level.

Additionally, those with experience in different, unrelated positions provide an extra benefit: They often prove to be flexible and can see a situation from multiple angles. These people will also be more willing to wear multiple hats or switch positions when necessary.

5. Look at their emotional intelligence.

Ask candidates for examples of how they’ve benefited from constructive criticism, as well as how they deliver negative feedback when necessary.

This will tell you a lot about how people interact with others, and whether their emotions prevent them from learning from mistakes.

6. Look to your own employees.

Don’t be afraid to ask your best employees for recommendations. In most cases, your people understand the day-to-day work of your company best, and they may have someone in mind who’s just the right fit.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on