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Talent or Trainability: How and Why You Need to Convey Your Learning Curve in Your Job Search

16 May 2011 Written by: Kenneth McCall 3 Comments

So you’re looking for a job and wondering how well you stack up. You ask yourself the obvious questions: Do I have the right experience? Am I showing a high enough level of education? Am Italented enough for the job?

But you may be focusing on the wrong questions.

Think about it. How many employers really expect the person they hire to show up on the first day of work and perform as seamlessly as a person who has been doing the job for years? Not many. Employers are realists. They know there will always be a learning curve that comes with any new job and they expect any new employee to have to undergo some form of training to get acclimated to the new job and new working environment. But what they really want is for that learning curve to be as short and as smooth as possible.

They also know that things change all the time. The business climate won’t always be the same so maybe the job won’t stay the same either. There will very likely be many new learning curves to confront in the future. This is why job offers don’t always go to the candidate with the most experience or the most impressive pedigree. Instead, employers often hire the candidate who appears to have the strongest ability to navigate the inevitable learning curves…in other words, the most trainable.

Maybe then, the right question to be asking yourself is: How do I show that I am trainable? As part of your job search, you may want to do a thorough self-check for the following traits. And when you recognize yourself in any of them, make sure to play up that characteristic as much as possible in your resume and in your interviews:

  1. Adaptability: If employers see that you are a quick learner, then they will have no doubts about your ability to adapt to any new job and any new situation. You should go out of your way to highlight any situations in your work or school experience where you needed to adapt to a new set of circumstances and were successful in doing so.
  2. Enthusiasm: Willingness to confront the learning curve is half the battle. And eagerness is a trait employers look for and value highly. An earnest and enthusiastic attitude will smooth out the rough edges of the learning cycle and give an employer confidence in a job candidate’s ability to tackle a new job. Employers know that it’s a pleasure to train someone who really wants to learn. So put that spark and enthusiasm on full display when you look for that job!
  3. Dedication: Every learning curve is filled with road bumps. Mastering new skills can be boring, frustrating or both. But a dedicated employee can overcome these hurdles. Show your potential employers that you are the type of person who is prompt, always follows through on your commitments, and always keeps your word. If they see you are a dependable person, then they know you have the inner fortitude to stay the course when times get tough.
  4. Deference: Those who think they already know everything can never learn. It’s OK to display self-confidence…just make sure you don’t cross that line and slide over to arrogance. A person who is truly trainable defers to others, seeks out their advice, and values their opinions. Show employers that you respect the knowledge of your peers and they will be more likely to want you working for them.

Getting hired, like anything else, involves a lot more than recognizing the obvious. A good job candidate will put himself or herself in the shoes of their potential employer and think about what that employer is really looking for. And the answer, to a surprising extent, is not so much the obvious things like experience, education, and talent. Trainability is often just as high on that list, if not higher. If you focus on becoming more trainable and show your future employers that you have the traits that reflect trainability, then you may already have all the talent you need to land that job.


Kenneth McCall is director of IT for storage.com In this role he builds the systems that help customers find the best self storage units for their needs. In his spare time, Kenneth likes to bike and participate in outdoor activities.

You can learn so much about this author by clicking here.


  • Kirk Baumann said:


    Great article. These are all points that job seekers should keep in mind, especially those lacking the “required experience” that some positions have listed. I like that you pointed out that it’s about trainability and the a hunger to learn more. We should all be constant learners. When we fail to learn, we fail. Period.

    Thanks again for sharing. I’m going to share this with my network as well!

    Keep up the great work.

    Kirk Baumann

  • Suzanne said:

    I wish this were true, but after having to change jobs several times in the past 4 years, I laughed when I read “How many employers really expect the person they hire to show up on the first day of work and perform as seamlessly as a person who has been doing the job for years?” The last 3 – 4 jobs I’ve had pretty much expected me to do just that, and I am not alone. I interviewed for one job in my field of expertise, and the only thing I lacked was extensive experience in one aspect of the position. I had some experience in that aspect, but only a year or so. I did not get the job and was told that they wanted someone who did not need any on the job training. I had another professional position replacing a long time employee who kept virtually no records of what she did and no one gave me any training. I WAS expected to show up on the first day and perform as seamlessly as the person I replaced.

    I fondly recall my first job in high school (1970’s) as a clerk in a store for which I had a week or two of training in how to use the cash register, how to talk to customers, how to handle situations, etc. At the last retail job I had several years ago, training consisted of watching a safety video and a 10-15 minute session on how to run the register. That was it. I was out waiting on customers within an hour of showing up the first day.

    In the current job market, you better be adaptable and able to figure things out on your own, because, trust me, no one will train you for much of anything.

  • Helping You Hire said:

    Very true! Working at a staffing solutions company where I have some clients where some employers are not as willing to train employees as they want adaptable employees who have most of the skills already in their skill set. Others train their employees as they feel that investing in them will benefit them in the long run.

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