Being successful in business today doesn’t always boil down to who you know, which can help get you started or open a door. But that alone won’t lead you to greatness. Character is what counts. Your character as a leader, the character of your employees and the culture of your organization will put you on the path to greatness. You want people with guts, initiative, perseverance and doggedness on your team.
The good news is that everyone has some of these character traits, and unlike natural athleticism or having a high IQ, grit can be built. “Most of us have more grit than we realize,” says Robin Koval, coauthor of the book, Grit to Great. For example, on the Grit to Great website, there is a quiz entitled “How Gritty Are You?” It’s a 16-question quiz that was developed with the help of a clinical psychologist and evaluation expert to validate the results, says Koval. It focuses on measuring four characteristics of grit—guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity. She explains that more than 16,000 people have taken this quiz and the results show that the majority of people fall into the two highest categories—Grit Master and Grit Super Star. Only about 15% of people fall into the bottom two categories.
“One of the things that we don’t rely enough on is our own capacity to harness our grit ,” Koval says. More mature adults generally have a lot of resilience and tenacity because you learn that through life experience, but they may not have as much guts or initiative because of fear or the feeling that they are too old, she notes. On the flipside, millennials are often more willing to take risks and have a lot of initiative because they are bursting with ideas, but tend to lack tenacity and resilience. “There are things we can learn through every stage of life,” says Koval, who is a frequent speaker at universities and businesses on how to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Gritty people have the character to succeed because they will think outside the box, solve problems and get the job done. While grit can be learned, it’s nice to have some of those “grit super stars” on your team who may not require as much training. The key is identifying those individuals in the interview process. A lot of interview questions focus on resumes and skill sets, which is necessary. But part of the interview process should include questions centered on character, advises Koval, who explains that it’s easier to teach someone a new skill than to shift character traits. Here are four types of interview questions that can help you identify people with the drive and determination to be great.
1. How have you turned a dream into a reality? This question can help you identify if someone has the guts to take on the challenges and risks required to be successful. If you want to be a leader in business, sometimes that means taking calculated risks. You want members on your team who have ideas, won’t back down from a challenge, seek out new growth opportunities and develop plans to make it a reality. Will the plans always be successful? No. But sometimes it’s what you learn from a failure that will ultimately lead to greatness.
2. How have you dealt with failure and bounced back from it? It’s crucial to determine the resilience of your employees. There is a reason everyone is familiar with the old business adage “sink or swim.” The business world is tough. Mistakes will be made. Projects will fail. Problems will arise. You need staff members who can bounce back from adversity stronger, not staff members who give up and go home.
3. Tell me about a time you had an idea to improve a process at work and what was the result? This question will help you find out if a potential hire has initiative. You want staff members who are problem solvers and who are constantly looking for ways that processes can be improved. But more than that, you want to identify people who will act on those ideas. People who will pitch a process improvement to a manager or develop a plan that makes something easier for coworkers. Having innovative ideas is not enough. It’s taking the initiative to make those ideas a reality that will lead to success.
4. Describe a project that you had to work on for an extended period of time and how you stayed engaged? Phrasing the question this way instead of asking potential hires to tell you about projects they have worked on, will allow you to judge their tenacity and how they see a project through to completion. There are so many distractions in the world today, including a constant string of email, 24/7 news channels, social media and whatever the latest craze is—Pokémon Go, anyone? Staying on task can be difficult and is one of the biggest challenges that some people face. You need employees who can focus on projects for long periods of time and stay engaged throughout the entire process until it’s completed.
These interview questions are just a starting point to help you find people with the doggedness to take your organization to the highest level. You also want to establish an organizational culture that develops and encourages perseverance, initiative and tenacity. By hiring people with grit and building an organization that values grit, you will be ready to overcome any challenge and your business will be positioned for success.