Can We Recruit For Resilience?

People are starting to understand the benefits of enhancing their personal resilience and creating resilient teams. This quite logically then leads to the question of whether we can recruit ready-to-go resilient team members. In fact, one of the questions we’re asked most often by clients is:

“Can we recruit for resilience?”

Can we recruit for resilience - The Resilience EdgeThe answer is yes…and no.

Resilience is a mindset and a way of consciously responding and reacting to challenges. So the problem with detecting whether someone is resilient or not is you need to observe how that person reacts in a particular situation to determine whether they have the resilience you’re looking for.

The rise of the interview laboratory?

This logically leads to the question of whether it would make sense to create an interview situation that would be adequately challenging in order to spark a resilience response. Well yes, logically it makes sense, but would you really want to set up a laboratory experiment as part of the recruitment process?

The interiview process is an opportunity to build trust and a relationship with those who are interviewing. Candidates may well already be customers, or they may end up being customers in the future (whether they’re successful in the interview process or not). So, it’s crucial they leave with a positive view of the organisation and interview experience. Particularly in the candidate-driven recruitment market we find ourselves in currently, protecting and enhancing your employer brand has never been more important.

There’s also the question of ethics. I’m sure you don’t need a psychologist to point out that misleading a candidate in an interview to enhance the chances of a potential stress or challenge response in order to observe whether someone is resilient or not isn’t entirely ethical.

So the interview lab is out, is there anything else we can do to detect resilience?

You can certainly ask questions designed to determine whether someone has been resilient in the past. This does buck the trend somewhat, as other than the typical “tell me about a time you dealt with a challenging situation/ client/ customer” question, generally both interviewers and candidates tend to focus on positive past examples of working situations.

If you’re really looking to find out whether someone is resilient or not, the focus should be placed less on whether there was a desirable outcome in a challenging situation, but rather on how the candidate dealt with the situation, by asking questions such as:

  • What coping techniques did you use in this situation?
  • What did you learn from the situation?
  • How did you move on after the challenge occurred?
  • How did you cope with what could be a potentially stressful situation?

Does that mean you shouldn’t focus on employing someone with competence, experience, and expertise to get a job done and find solutions? Of course not, those elements are as important to creating success in a role as demonstrating resilience. The key is to equally focus on evidence of competence, ability, experience…and resilience, and to ask questions that will provide the candidate opportunities to cover all of these areas in their response.

I’m sold – now what?!

So you’re ready to enhance the interview experience in order to detect resilience, but what areas of resilience should you be asking questions about? There are two ways to look at this. There are six core ‘pillars’ of resilience, and you can either look for evidence of any of these resilience responses in the candidate’s examples (you’ll find we use different parts of resilience in different situations), or you can focus on the core pillars that apply to the role or organisation you’re recruiting for.

Either way, including questions that apply directly to the Resilience Edge® framework will provide you with an insight into how resilient an individual is.

The Resilience Edge

How can we learn about candidate resilience levels during an interview?

Here’s what you can do during the recruitment phase, and during ongoing employment to ensure your employees are the most resilient they can be:

  1. During the interview phase, ask questions designed to uncover the candidate’s response to challenging situations – focus on the six resilience pillars
  2. Once the candidate becomes an employee, be sure to clarify the focus on a resilience culture in your team and organisation – focus on the response to situations as well as the outcome achieved
  3. Train employees on the six pillars of resilience and offer ongoing support as and when employees are dealing with challenging situations
  4. Recognise examples of resilience demonstrated by employees and create an open culture where challenges and difficult situations can be discussed (with a solution-focused approach)


But remember…

Demonstrating resilience isn’t necessarily a uniform procedure, there are many factors that can affect how resilient we are and feel at any given moment. You may find that you react to events depending on what else is going on in your life – if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious and a challenging event at work occurs, you may find you respond to that situation in a less positive and resilient way than you normally would. If you’re feeling physically or emotionally tired, your response to challenges may be different compared to when you’re feeling rested and energised.

One of the trickiest parts of teaching someone resilience skills is the (often overlooked) factor of resilience being a response to challenges. We can teach people resilience skills and techniques, but to truly gauge how this works for the individual, they need to work through a challenging situation. This is why we always include follow up coaching sessions when we teach people how to be resilient, and it’s normally in these coaching sessions that the true application of their new-found resilience skills can be analysed and adapted. Similarly, when asking people about times in the past when they’ve been resilient, you can’t guarantee the individual will take a resilient response to challenges in the future, even if they have demonstrated resilience in the past. The key is to create a structure where encouraging resilience is a core factor, where responses to tricky situations are discussed, reviewed and adapted where necessary.

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