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Legendary investor Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett on How To Stand Out

What does Warren Buffett look for in hires? Not high IQ, apparently.

Tom Popomaronis, of CNBC, recently covered which traits the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway thinks set MBAs apart from the pack.

“There’s nothing wrong with getting the highest grades in the class, but that isn’t going to be the quality that sets apart a big winner from the rest of the pack,” Buffett said in a talk to MBA students from the University of Florida in 1998. “You’d probably pick the person who has leadership qualities, who is able to get others to carry out their interests. That would be the person who is generous, honest and gave credit to other people for their own ideas.”


Buffett says he doesn’t seek out hires based on business metrics, test scores, or higher education degrees. Rather, he looks for personal qualities.

“There was a guy, Pete Kiewit in Omaha, who used to say he looked for three things in hiring people: integrity, intelligence and energy,” Buffett said. “If they didn’t have the first, the other two would kill them, because if they don’t have integrity, you want them dumb and lazy.”


Character is just part of a trend that’s being highlighted at b-schools across the country: a heavier emphasis on what experts call “EQ.”

“Research is showing that leadership is more than just management. It’s the ability to work with others and motivate others towards a shared set of goals,” Susan Cera, director of MBA admissions at admissions consultancy Stratus Admissions Counseling, tells P&Q. “And EQ is instrumental to being successful in working with and through others.”

At New York University’s Stern School of Business, b-school applicants are required to submit an EQ endorsement that asks third-party sources to provide recommendations on the applicant’s emotional maturity.

“We believe these changes will help applicants more effectively communicate to the committee who they are as a person, which programs best suit their goals and how they demonstrate EQ,” Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions and innovation, tells P&Q. “Additionally, these changes are much more in keeping with the ‘social media’ style of communication of today’s applicant. Applicants communicate with much more than words these days and visual elements now play a dominant role.”

Buffett has his own ways of gauging EQ in hires. In Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in 2007, the CEO offered some words of wisdom on determining whether one is trustworthy or not.

“People give themselves away fairly often,” Buffett said. “When someone comes to me with a business, the very things they talk about, what they regard as important — there are a lot of clues that come as to subsequent behavior.”

Sources: CNBC, Poets & Quants

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