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One Ingredient of a Great Hire - GRIT

There are a lot of ideas about finding the right mix of questions, assessments, interviews, and other measures to determine the quality of a potential candidate. When you are running or managing a small or medium size business you have limited time and resources to implement an over-kill recruiting process. Bad hires are bad whether a company is large or small; however, for small and mid-size organizations, bad hires impact growth and profitability in more obvious ways. It’s worth getting it right.

Without implementing a major applicant tracking system, or going through loads of courses, a meaningful difference in hiring better candidates can be made right now. It starts with looking for the right mix of attributes and getting proficient at checking, or testing, for these attributes during the interview. Three words capture the sum of what to look for, “grit, fit and wit!”

What’s obvious is that grit, fit and wit (intelligence) are really important. What’s not so obvious is how to ensure that these attributes are inherent in a candidate. For the purposes of this post, we start with grit.

GRIT “Grit” is first in the rhyme for good reason. If you aren’t into rhyming, then just call it plain old “work ethic”, but whatever you call it, grit can be summarized as working hard, working long, and never giving up. It may sound overly simple, but during an intervie,w basic questions and a little digging can ascertain whether or not someone has grit. If the candidate can’t describe a time where they had to work hard, work long, and not give up then they are either a poor communicator or they don’t have grit. A basic line of questioning for grit looks something like this:

  • Tell us about a project or assignment that required you to work long and hard?

  • Did you ever feel like giving up, if so how did you overcome?

  • Tell us about another time when you felt like giving up on something, what did you learn from the experience?

  • Tell us about something you’ve had to do that you weren’t good at, and how you overcame that situation?

  • Tell us about a time you failed, felt discouraged or got rejected, how did you handle it?

It may seem like overkill to stay on this track, but it is very, very important. If the candidate does indeed have grit then it should be totally apparent at this point. Indications look like this:

  • “So I had to work all night on more than one occasion to do X.”

  • “I didn’t get the concept so I just had to buckle down and spend my free time studying to keep up.”

  • “I wasn’t good at X but I wanted to meet the goal so I pushed through.”

  • “I knew I couldn’t let them down, so I locked myself away all weekend until I was done.”

  • “They rejected the proposal, instead of giving up I felt like I had to sharpen my approach and try again."

If their answers don’t speak to having grit then there probably isn’t much. If the candidate hasn’t experienced challenging work situations, a seemingly impossible assignment, a major setback in school or sports, or something along those lines then they may not have the seeds of grit. With young candidates, it can be tempting to think they just aren’t old enough to have experienced a major setback or failure and then rose again to overcome. The reality is that those who have grit are also naturally competitive and take risks starting at a young age. Someone with grit will have had these experiences long before they begin their career because they are naturally drawn toward taking chances for worthwhile challenges. As a leader, working with people who have grit means there is a lot less to worry about. When looking across the table at that well-groomed candidate who’s saying all the right things, don’t hesitate to really dig in and see what they’re made of. How do you test for grit? Can you get by without it? Let us know what you think.

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