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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? — Contributed by Robert Walters Singapore

When hiring new talent for the modern workplace, resilience is increasingly sought after. How can you ensure candidates have the resilience needed to succeed within your business? To help you find that all-important talent, we asked two experts for their unique insights.

Understand what you’re looking for 

It’s crucial that hiring managers understand what resilience is before being able to recognise it in candidates. “Resilience is a mental quality,” surmises Sharon Chen, senior manager 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 aspect of resilience is an employees’ ability to deal with uncertainty. As Ms Chen adds: “Resilient individuals are also often able to prioritise strategically and 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

When it comes to assessing a candidate’s resilience, a resume isn’t always that enlightening. As Hua Choon Gan, senior commerce finance manager at Robert Walters Malaysia, notes: “It’s often hard to judge a candidate’s resilience through their CV alone, so don’t place too much emphasis on experience or employment history.”

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

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 resilience. “All roles at all levels will have their own unique challenges that require resilience qualities in candidates,” notes Mr Gan. “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, he continues. “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

Interviews are the best chance for hiring managers to assess how candidates would react to 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 Ms Chen. “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 Ms Chen. “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 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 Ms Chen.

“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.”

Get them to 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 Mr Gan. “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.”

Such an 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 Mr Gan. “This can be invaluable in getting a good insight into just how resilient each candidate is.”

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