In Leadership, Perspective, Teamwork, Wednesday Wisdom

During the interview process, ask a question or two that will provide some insight into the candidate’s level of grit.

Any leader who’s had responsibility in the recruiting process understands it’s not always smooth and efficient. Regardless of the position, it’s a challenge to find the right questions to determine how the experience listed on a resume will translate to performance within your organization.

The human resources professional will likely help you come up with a series of job-related questions. Follow those suggestions. Be consistent in your approach. But take it one step further.

Let me tell you about the approach one leader took. Unconventional but effective.

“I want to interview anyone that has any ‘farm’ experience on their resume. In fact, you don’t even have to set up the interview for me; just offer the candidate a job.”

Okay… slow down. I can’t do that, but tell me more about why you think that experience is so important. I’ve been instructed to screen applicants on some crazy things, but ‘farm experience’ for a non-agriculture position was new to me.

When he explained his logic, I had a much better idea of what he was actually trying to determine. His experience was that if you grew up on a farm or worked on a farm, you automatically had an above-average work ethic, great problem-solving skills and were highly dependable. Why did he think this?

Working hours

You don’t really get to say: I only work 8:00-5:00, Monday through Friday; you work for the amount of time it takes to get the work done. If you’re a dairy farmer, you milk the cows twice a day, 365 days a year. During harvest season, you work beyond sun up to sun down.


Your work on the farm might be anything from project manager to mechanic to carpenter to accountant on any given day.


You understand that sometimes things go well and there is abundance; you also understand that’s not always the case. You work hard when conditions are good, and when conditions are less than ideal, you use the time to repair equipment and prepare for the next season.

All of these characteristics (a strong work ethic, problem-solving skills, dependability, and the acceptance of a variety of roles) are valuable to any position in your organization.

My suggestion: follow the rules. And then find one more question. It probably shouldn’t be ‘did you grow up on a farm?’ But consider the following:

Tell me about a time that you had to ‘fail’ a couple of times to figure out what worked.

Tell me about a time you worked in less than ideal conditions.

Tell me about a time you did something beyond the scope of your role at the time.

I’m convinced this leader was screening for grit long before it was a popular concept. And it worked. The candidates that succeeded in these roles worked well independently, adapted to a variety of working conditions and were amazing problem-solvers. He creatively found a way to engage candidates in conversations that allowed the potential employee to reveal his/her level of grit.

What’s your one extra question for all candidates, regardless of their potential role in your organization?





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