Citi's global recruiting head reveals why you should 'go with your gut'


An impressive GPA is a favorite metric of head hunters scouting for young talent for Wall Street. It helps identify potential.

But focusing on good grades too much can also result in what some recruiters call “GPA tunnel vision”, when they end up passing up promising candidates who don’t meet that single criterion.

US investment bank Citi used to follow this old-school tactic, but the company realized it was missing out on millennial candidates who offered something beyond their grades: soft skills.

Because of this, Citi’s campus recruiting team recalibrated its candidate assessment process and introduced a 20-minute pre-screening survey from Koru, which measures personality traits – grit, rigor, impact, teamwork, curiosity, ownership, and polish – otherwise known as Koru7.

Work ethic and temperament
Candidates are asked about past experiences and work styles, and given scenarios to which they would react.

“It’s not a pass/fail score – it’s supplemental information that gives us a much more holistic picture of the candidate,” Courtney Storz, Citi’s global recruiting lead, told LinkedIn.

Koru is designed to give recruiters a reading of millennials’ work ethic and temperament in the workplace.

The process begins with what Kristen Hamilton, CEO and cofounder of Koru, calls “fingerprinting”. The team from Koru goes into an organization like Citi and examines the top drivers of performance.

Current employees are made to take a quiz, and the results are used as a benchmark when designing the questionnaire and assessing the soft skills of potential hires.

‘Go with your gut’
During the online screening, the applicant is asked questions like, “Which sounds more like you?” or “What would you do?” in certain situations, and are advised to “go with your gut”.

The applicant then selects from a set of responses whichever one most resembles their personality.

The interface is easy to navigate, and the Q&A simple enough to follow like other online personality quizzes. But the questionnaire is tailored to reflect the organization’s criteria.

Koru is powered by machine learning. After the quiz, applicants are informed of their top skills while hiring managers are given the full results and rankings.

“Soft skills assessments are here to stay,” said Storz.

Who is most likely to succeed?
Hard skills or technical skills, as sometimes indicated by one’s GPA, can paint a two-dimensional picture of a person; what they know and how well they use what they know.

But hard-to-measure soft skills, such as communication, negotiation, and interpersonal skills, are just as crucial. Research from training company Leadership IQ showed:

  • 26% of new recruits fail at their jobs because they cannot accept feedback
  • 23% are lacking in emotional intelligence
  • 17% are not motivated to excel and
  • 15% have the wrong temperament for the role.

“In today’s environment, there is such a demand for information. We all want information to make better hiring decisions, to better understand who is most likely to be successful at our firms, and who is most likely to stay,” Storz said. “These assessments are meant to do just that; hence, our interest in testing and learning.”