What is Adaptability Quotient and Why is it Important in a Job Search?

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Recently, companies have begun evaluating job candidates’ adaptability quotient as part of the hiring process.

You may be wondering, “What is the adaptability quotient and why is it important in a job search?”

Read on to find out more.

IQ to EQ to AQ

In the past, employers preferred job candidates who ticked all the boxes. They wanted new employees to have all the expertise necessary to do the job and who were masters at their craft.

Today things are much different.

Now, employers are seeking out candidates who are adaptable, willing to learn, and curious in the sense that they want to grow within the position and the company.

During my 30 years in the workforce, I’ve seen a transition from IQ to EQ, and to what we now call AQ.

When I was finishing college and applying for jobs, I took several IQ tests as part of the job application process.

Employers wanted to know how smart I was. IQ tests were popular because they measure things like memory, analytical thinking, and mathematical ability.

In the late 90s, things changed.

Emotional intelligence, or the emotional quotient, EQ, came into vogue.

This shift focused on the ability of people to relate to one another and build teams

EQ emphasized interpersonal skills, empathy, communication skills, and employees’ ability to self-regulate in emotionally charged or challenging situations.

Many global companies still assess applicants’ emotional intelligence using EQ tests.

And a number of industries, particularly service sectors, rely on EQ.

Any position which is customer-facing, such as hospitality, health care, and teaching, depends on employees with high levels of emotional intelligence because it enables them to relate to other individuals well.

While IQ and EQ are still important for job candidates to have, particularly given everything that’s happened during the pandemic, employers are most concerned with candidates’ ability to adapt.

Hence the rise of AQ, the adaptability quotient.

2020: The Year of the Pivot

In 2020, we probably heard the word pivot more than any other word.

As a verb, pivot means to change, move, alternate, vary.

That is how businesses are operating at present.

And employees need to be able to do the same.

Employees must be able to react to change because change is inevitable.

What is Adaptability Quotient?

The adaptability quotient highlights the fact both individuals and companies need to adapt. Otherwise, they will be left behind.

Technology and automation are continually changing the way businesses operate.

In turn, workers will need to be reskilled regularly moving forward.

If employees are unable or unwilling to learn and to in some cases UNlearn, they will really struggle.

Employers want to know their employees can not only survive, but thrive, despite the challenges that are thrown at them when situations change abruptly.

Adaptability Quotient and Unlearning

Part of the adaptability quotient is the importance of being willing to unlearn what we know.

Companies are actively seeking new employees that are curious.

The reason for that is simple. People who are curious don’t just want to Google the answer. They want to experiment. And learn.

People who are curious and willing to learn are better at adapting.

Adaptability quotient, willingness to learn, and curiosity are being actively assessed in job applications and interviews.

In the past, job interviews often involved asking candidates to talk about the past. “Tell me about a time you failed.” “Tell me about a challenge and how you handled it.”

But increasingly, simulations are a big part of many companies’ application processes. These are used to indicate how people think and respond to challenges.

And hiring managers are asking hypothetical, future-focused questions.

Simulations and hypothetical questions test applicants’ adaptability quotient and allow hiring managers to see how they would react to something that hasn’t yet happened.

For instance, “How would you continue marketing if your budget was cut in half?”

Or “How would you build team cohesion if colleagues worked across a variety of time zones?”

It would be great to rewind 2 years and listen to someone answer, “How would you keep the company viable if a global pandemic halted international travel and you lost 90% of your revenue?”


To recap, the adaptability quotient is one of the biggest things companies are looking for in job seekers right now.

Hiring managers want to see that applicants are adaptable to change and able to flourish in fast-paced and erratic environments.

You can demonstrate you have a high adaptability quotient during a job search by highlighting your willingness to learn, the fact that you are curious, and that you are willing to unlearn and embrace alternative mindsets.

Mentioned in this episode:

Failed Blockbuster-Netflix Partnership

4 Facts High Achievers MUST Know to Take Control of Their Careers and Find Jobs They Love

Next episode: Does a Graduate Degree Result in Better Job Offers? Maybe. Maybe Not.