At least three things are required to come up with a plan and accomplish it. There has to be some element of creativity and self-analysis, which is really important. There has to be some element of operational capacity. And there has to be persistence, because anything worth doing in life requires persistence. You can weed out a lot of people by listening carefully to the stories they tell around this theme, and then looking at the résumé.
The other theme I ask about is, “What did you do on your previous jobs?” If they say, “I did research,” I’ll ask: “Where? What time did you get to the lab? What did you do at the lab bench?” If there’s a red flag, it will almost always come when someone can’t explain what they did.
I think some people can actually go through a lot of jobs, doing a lot of tasks, without thinking about them and really not having any insight into what they’re doing. But creative people and innovative people will tell you every detail about what they did, because they found a way to do them better.
If you can’t glean the sense of accomplishment, pride and operational excellence from them describing previous jobs, it’s not going to start when they show up at a new place.
Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, quoted in Adam Bryant, “Putting It Together (After Taking It Apart)”, The New York Times (6 July 2014), BU2.