How to spot resilience in a candidate

Three business professionals in meeting

When hiring new talent, you may think technical prowess and interpersonal skills are all that matter. But in the stressful modern workplace, resilience is an increasingly sought-after skill.

So how can you ensure candidates have the resilience needed to succeed within your business? To help you find that all-important talent, we asked our experts for their unique insights.


Understand what you’re looking for 

It may be one of the most in-demand qualities in employees, but it’s essential hiring managers understand what resilience is before being able to recognize it in candidates. “Resilience is a mental quality,” surmises Martin Fox, managing director at Robert Walters Toronto. “It’s the ability to respond to, and recover quickly from, difficulties in the workplace to ensure you’re always persevering with a ‘never-give up’ attitude.”

An important resilience trait in employees is the ability to deal with uncertainty. As Martin adds: “Resilient individuals are also often able to prioritize strategically, and to keep striving towards the long-term vision even if there are short-term challenges that need to be weathered.”

Don’t focus too much on a resume

It’s often the first port of call in any recruitment process, but when it comes to assessing a candidate’s resilience, a resume isn’t always that enlightening. As Martin, notes: “It’s often hard to judge a candidate’s resilience through their resume alone, so don’t place too much emphasis on an applicant’s experience or employment history.”

Martin adds that there are certain aspects of a resume that could highlight a resilient individual, such as length of service. “If a candidate has spent a long time at a single organization and received multiple promotions, that demonstrates that their success at work has been rewarded and they are likely to have been resilient to any issues within that organization.”

Assess your expectations against the role

When recruiting new talent, hiring managers should tailor their expectations of the candidates for the role being filled – and that includes their resilience qualities. “All roles at all levels will have their own unique challenges that require resilience qualities in candidates,” notes Martin. “However, in certain decision-making and leadership roles like CEO, senior management and team leader, this resilience is even more important so you should tailor your expectations accordingly.”

If these qualities are shown by a team leader or manager, it’ll also help inspire others to follow suit, continues Martin. “If you see your boss being resilient and mentoring you to not give up, it’s more likely you’ll be inspired to do the same and put in the same level of effort and commitment.”

Ask the right questions

The modern workplace is what’s known as a VUCA world (standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), and interviews are the best chance for hiring managers to assess how candidates would react to these challenges. “When assessing resilience, what you really want to understand from an interview is how a candidate’s emotions are triggered in the workplace – and how they react,” says Martin. “So, make sure you ask the right questions to get these answers.”

Hiring managers should ask about recent frustrations or failures candidates have encountered and how they’ve responded. “Ask them to give you an example of when they were last angry, what they were angry about, and how they responded,” recommends Martin. “This should give you an authentic answer you can use to assess their resilience to challenges.”

Look out for authenticity

Despite being essential in understanding an applicant’s experience and character, one of the most difficult things for hiring managers to assess is authenticity. “What you really want to know when evaluating an applicant is what they’ve actually done in the roles they’ve held, and what they’ve actually taken responsibility for, whether working alone or as part of a team,” says Martin.

“What you don’t want is a candidate to simply reel off a list of pre-practiced examples that’ll make it difficult to assess what they actually did, so you really need to probe into the detail. If anything doesn’t add up, or a candidate fails to give any detail about their precise actions, it could be a sign that they’re over-exaggerating – and leave you unsure what they’d actually bring to a role.”

Give them a role play

Hiring managers looking to better assess the qualities of candidates may choose to introduce new methodologies into their recruitment process. “One way you can do this is to introduce a role-play situation into the interview procedure,” advises Martin. “Choose a challenging workplace situation – either fictitious or from your own experience – and work through the different aspects of it to assess how they would respond in a real-life work environment.”

A role-playing exercise will give you the best chance to assess how they’d fare in a real-life situation that requires a resilient outlook and nature. “Make a note of how they assess the situation, and how they react,” suggests Martin. “This can be invaluable in getting a good insight into just how resilient each candidate is.”

For more hiring advice, read our article on how to avoid bad hires.

 

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