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Richard Branson says he looks for these 2 things in employees

Sir Richard Branson speaking at the Innovation Summit in Brooklyn, New York on July 14, 2017.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sir Richard Branson speaking at the Innovation Summit in Brooklyn, New York on July 14, 2017.

Richard Branson knows what it takes to succeed in business, and he says it's not necessarily a diploma.

"It's a shame that people shut down ideas because they're worried about being crushed by people who are supposedly better educated than them," he writes in a recent blog post. "This is all about fear of failure. In my opinion, entrepreneurial drive beats a fancy degree anytime."

While some CEOs emphasize a candidate's educational background, Branson says he looks for two things in potential employees that have nothing to do with a degree.

"I never judge people by their education and qualifications," he writes. "The first thing we look for at Virgin when hiring new staff is personality, which always wins over book smarts or job-specific skills — the latter can be learned. We also give a lot of weight to experience."

The 67-year-old adds, "Time and time again I've seen people with a broad employment history and skill set who aren't an obvious fit for a particular role bring a new perspective to a position and become incredibly successful."

For employers looking for candidates who are not only qualified but also good cultural fits, Branson's approach of looking beyond someone's education can come in handy.

In fact, bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says many hiring managers kick off interviews with the question, "Tell me about yourself," in an effort to learn about an applicant beyond their degree and resume.

"Your interviewer is hoping to hear who you really are," says Welch.

She advises job seekers to respond with an answer that shows why they're a great fit for the job outside of the obvious credentials expected.

"Use this opportunity to actually say something like, 'The one thing that doesn't show up on my resume is my values,'" Welch suggests.

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