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How to spot resilience in a candidate

Increasingly complex working environments mean organisations want employees that are adaptable and resilient. But how can you spot these qualities in candidates?

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 Robert Walters 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 first understand what resilience is before being able to recognise it in candidates. “Resilience is a mental quality,” surmises Sharon Chen, associate director of Robert Walters’ sales and marketing division in Taiwan. “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 Sharon adds: “Resilient individuals are also often able to prioritise 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 CV

It’s often the first port of call in any recruitment process, but when it comes to assessing a candidate’s resilience, a CV isn’t always that enlightening. Rika Tantiana, senior manager at Robert Walters Indonesia, says, “To determine whether a candidate is truly resilient, it is always useful to have a further discussion with them and bring them through various situations. How the candidate responds to these situations can then reveal more about their resiliency than what one to two pages of a CV can.”

Rika adds however that hiring managers could first look at certain aspects of a CV to provide a gauge of an individual’s resiliency. One such factor is candidates’ length of service in a company. “When doing a thorough scanning of a candidate’s past working tenures and notable key achievements, review their current and previous companies, as well as any industry changes. If the candidate can demonstrate success in a relatively short amount of time after the transition, it’s a good sign of both their adaptability and resiliency,” Rika explains.

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. For senior management and leadership roles, candidates are expected to be even more resilient than the average joe.

“Being resilient is one of the most sought-after leadership traits in senior roles, since these position holders are often crucial to their organisations,” Rika says. “What companies are on the look out for then are strong leaders who can stand tall during the toughest times, and come out of challenges even stronger for their team and the business.”

Assessing the resiliency of a candidate differs for junior and senior roles. Rika advises, “For senior roles, I would assess candidates on how they handled the toughest and lowest moments of their business and career, and what were the results from their actions and decisions then. With more junior professionals, I would instead look for their creativeness in handling the challenge and how they capitalise on it to fast track their careers.”

Ask the right questions

The modern workplace is what’s known as a VUCA world (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 Sharon. “So, make sure you ask the right questions to get these answers.”

One line of inquiry that hiring managers can take is, as mentioned above, is to ask candidates about their recent frustrations or failures, and how they’ve responded to them. According to our consultant at Robert Walters Philippines, hiring managers should dive deeper into how candidates relieve stress from the workplace. She explains, “Many times, candidates would provide examples such as grabbing a coffee, taking a leave, stepping out of the workspace, taking a breather et cetera. From these answers, you would then know how they approach situations at work, which can help you further gauge the candidate’s resiliency or fragility.”

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 Sharon.

“What you don’t want is a candidate to simply reel off a list of pre-practised 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 possible way is through role-plays, where interviewers are able to better identify how candidates would approach certain scenarios,” she advises. “During a role-play where there are no right or wrong answers, candidates are put on the spot to answer often challenging scenarios, so you can expect more realistic answers that reflect how a candidate thinks, and whether they are sufficiently resilient – something that you can’t easily assess through a CV.”

“On the whole, what I would look for during role-plays is the ability of candidates to assess and control the situation,” she notes. “Resilient candidates know their own boundaries, know how and when to accept things as they are, and are aware that they are capable of getting through even a bad day.”

If you require further expert advice on your hiring needs, visit our hiring advice hub or contact us for a confidential discussion.

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