One of the words we’ve grown weary of hearing over the course of this pandemic is one we’re still highly seeking: Resiliency.
There’s no doubt that as a leader, the best and biggest priority on your hiring list should be this one quality. After two years of nothing-but-normal, we must continue to look for resilience in whomever joins your company and find other ways to instill resilience among teams.
But first, we need to be clear on what this even means in order to recognize resilience in potential candidates. Here are a few strategies to use when recruiting, as well as how to create a conducive environment within your organization. These are a few attributes to keep your eye on.
Assess their ability to withstand pressure
Contrary to what we think, resilience isn’t just about bouncing back from hardship; it’s also about how you deal with pressure during times of uncertainty.
Interviews are one of the best ways to glean how a person will react to challenges. As an example, at my company, we make it a point to ask candidates about their most recent failures and frustrations. We ask questions about how they responded to these past difficulties and pay close attention to their answers. Do they take responsibility for the part they played? Place blame on others?
Doing so is one of the best ways we can assess their experience and character. A candidate who fails to recognize their own mistakes is less likely to have an adaptive mindset.
Watch out for signs of workaholism
In Harvard Business Review, cowriters Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan argue that resilience isn’t about how we endure, but how we recharge: “The misconception of resilience is often bred from an early age. Parents trying to teach their children resilience might celebrate a high school student staying up until 3 a.m. to finish a science fair project. What a distortion of resilience! A resilient child is a well-rested one.”
One of the core values of my company is a priority on work-life balance above all else, and candidates with workaholic tendencies wouldn’t be fit for the culture we aim to build. Scientists describe this workaholism as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”
During your interview, you can gain insight into a person’s work motivations by asking key questions regarding their personal interests outside of the office. What’s their favorite way to enjoy downtime? How do they unwind? Is it important for them to take breaks throughout the day, or to keep going until they get the job done?
If their answers reveal an “always-on-the-go” mentality, then you can rest assured they’ll be less resilient during challenging times. As Achor and Gielan wisely states: “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.”
The co-authors base this on a fundamental biological concept called “Homeostasis”—which refers to how someone under conflicting stresses and motivations can maintain a stable psychological condition. “When the body is out of alignment from overworking,” Achor and Gielan write. “[We] waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward.”
Do they downplay reality?
Our capacity to confront our anxieties and not try to minimize challenges is a key part of resiliency. Why does this matter when recruiting? Someone who downplays their struggles won’t be honest the moment you need to make adjustments for a “new normal.”
For example, when seeking a new hire, it’s important for me that I can trust the person’s judgment. If we’re having communication problems down the road, will they turn a blind eye instead of acknowledging the issue at hand? I’d much prefer someone who can tell me the truth so that changes can be made for improvement.
To gauge how a candidate would respond, try introducing a role-play situation. Choose a fictitious workplace situation and then assess how they’d fare in a real-life scenario.
Remember to foster resilience within your teams
“Resilience, conventional thinking assumes, is something we find within ourselves only when we are tested—a kind of solitary internal ‘grit’ that allows those of us who are strong to bounce back,” write Harvard Business Review authors and researchers Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg. “[However,] that’s not necessarily true.”
According to their research, resiliency isn’t purely an individual characteristic, but also heavily enabled by strong relationships and networks—which is where our organizational environment comes into play.
Here’s an important question to ask ourselves as leaders: Are we nurturing a work culture that enhances relationships? Do we prioritize team-building activities or merely focus on our bottom line?
Because it’s these deep connections that will give employees the support they need when they hit a setback. For some, moving past ambiguity and anxiety will involve more laughter; for others, more empathy.
“In short, our resilience needs are personal and are shaped by our unique history, personality, and professional/personal context,” write Cross, Dillon, and Greenberg. “But collectively, the relationships we develop are a toolbox that we can turn to in our most difficult times, which we can rely upon to help us navigate day-to-day life challenges.”
Aytekin Tank is the founder of Jotform, an online form builder.