Does My Candidate Have Grit? (5 Questions to Ask)

Uncovering the Grit Factor: How to Assess Your Candidate's Determination
Does my candidate have grit?

Do you want to hire employees who won’t quit when the going gets tough? We put together a set of interview questions to help uncover which candidates are gritty and which ones are not. These are the top five questions to uncover grit in a candidate. Let’s dig in.

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Does My Candidate Have Grit?

When talking about grit, I recommend reading Angela Duckworth’s fantastic book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She argues that grit is more important than talent when it comes to success. I define talent as someone who has natural skill and ability and also the intrinsic motivation to pursue those skills to their highest level. Angela defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.

So you can see there’s a little bit of overlap in the way we think about talent and grit. But when we think of a gritty person, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a natural talent in a field, but that they set a goal for themselves, and they keep pushing at it. 

They get up when they fall down, and they keep pushing forward. They don’t give up easily; for example, think about top executives, entrepreneurs, and athletes. And wouldn’t we all love to have a team of people around us who had the grit and perseverance to push through when things got hard?

Questions to Measure Grit

Here are some great questions to ask your candidates to help figure out if they have enough grit to hold their own in your organization. 

  1. Have you turned any of your dreams into reality? So, first of all, do they have any dreams and goals? And if so, what are they, and what specific steps have they taken to achieve them? This opens up a really amazing can of worms when you’re talking to a gritty and talented person.

  2. How have you dealt with failure, and have you been able to bounce back from it? This could be personal or professional. We want to know that this person has had some hard knocks in life, and they overcome them.

    Some people have not a lot that has happened to them, or they haven’t really had to push through difficult things and get past them. Well, at some point, things are going to get tough. And how are they going to handle that? You want to know before you hire them.

  3. Tell me about an idea you had at work, and how you implemented it? How it worked out, and how your coworkers responded. Now we’re going from more of the macro level, who is this person and their professional and/or personal life, and getting into the specifics of how gritty they are at work.

    Have they identified a need or process system project that needed to be worked on? Did they follow it all the way through, even when things were tough? And were they able to get buy-in from the rest of their team? Which, of course, is a pretty essential part of finishing up a project at work


  4. Describe a project that you had to work on for an extended period of time and how did you stay engaged? It’s easy to set a goal to finish a project in a week. What about those six-month or one-year projects? Did they maybe go back to graduate school and take night classes while working full-time and raising a family? If they don’t have a work example, that’s also a really relevant example. We’re looking for clues that this person sticks with things even when things get tough.


  5. What are you most proud of professionally? People who are talented and gritty seek out challenges. They overcome challenges, they look out for opportunities, and they grab hold of them. So listen in for those clues as you pay attention to their answer.

Your Turn

Apply these questions the next time you conduct an interview to determine how gritty a candidate really is. Also, take some time to ask yourself these questions as well. It may be eye-opening to see how much grit you have and how you apply that grit in your daily life. 



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