The Top 5 Interview Questions to Ask to Determine Resilience!

Resilience sign with wooden cubes on background

Why Is Having a Resilient Workforce Important?

As we move into the future, things are evolving and changing like no other time. We have automation, AI and other advancements that have made even the most stable and mature companies experience change. Just look at what happened to Kodak, Nokia and Yahoo

This pace of change increases when you add pandemics and global environments. Hiring someone who can adapt and change with the environment is important to a company’s success.

What is resilience?

Resilience is a person’s ability to handle stress, failure, rejection, criticism, and life in general. When you have a resilient workforce, you will have people on your team ready to tackle the challenges as they arise, no matter how frustrating or challenging the situation is.

Do traditional interviews uncover resilience?

Sometimes in interviews, we only focus on the hard skills a candidate brings to the company. Can they handle the revenue recognition? Are they able to prepare financials and do intercompany eliminations? How knowledgeable are they with the software that we are using? 

These are direct questions we ask, and the answers are straightforward: “Yes”, they have this experience and here are the specifics or “No”, they don’t have this experience.

We tend to forget about a candidate’s soft skills. But it is these soft skills that will give someone the ability to handle everything that comes their way. Yes, the person’s expertise is essential, but if it can’t be backed up with soft skills, you won’t be able to create a good team that will lead the company to success.

But how do you hire someone resilient?

We’ve been researching ways to interview for resilience when you hire your Accounting & Finance team and have determined that these are the 5 questions you need to ask everyone!

  1. What has been your greatest failure?

  • Everyone has different challenges in life, and some failures are not as extreme as others. Asking this question is important as it lets you see what the candidate thinks failure is (and the biggest one at that).
  • How does the failure they mention compare to the environment they will walk into? How did they cope with failure?
  • From the response, you will be able to identify a candidate’s resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. The right candidate should be able to show you how they were able to get up and overcome this.
  • Follow up with what did they learn and how did they grow? When a resilient candidate fails, they grow. Ask how this experience helped them grow as a person.
  • No one likes to talk about failures. You may need to ask leading questions and follow up with “how” or “why” to really get the candidate talking about the experience.

2. Can you describe a time you got really stressed out at work?

  • Asking this will help you determine how a candidate can handle stress. It will also help you identify what kind of situations stress them out and determine if you think they will be able to handle the kind of environment you have.
  • How do they cope with stress? Is it something that they keep inside, or can people tell they are stressed? What have they done to adjust?
  • The resilient candidates are the ones that know stress happens at work. The ones that know that when the CFO is going into a board meeting, there may be a little more stress in the air. Ask if they have learned how to expect and manage it.

  1. Could you tell me about a time you were given a task that you had limited knowledge about?

  • This is a great question that will also tell you how much time you need to devote to training this candidate.
  • Are they willing to put in effort to learn, or do they want everything to be easily handed to them? Will they research what has been done before or do they just want you to show them how to handle it?
  • Having someone who can solve problems and develop solutions gives you the freedom to do what you need to do. Things are changing fast. A resilient candidate is one that can work outside of their comfort zone!

  1. Was there a time someone put you under pressure?

  • How does this candidate deal with someone who puts them under stress or pressure? Ask them how they felt about the situation, if everything worked out, and if they think they were able to handle the pressure well.
  • Dive into the detail of what the “pressure” was. To some, going to lunch late because they needed to revise a report is pressure, while to others this is just part of the job.  Knowing the source of the pressure will help you determine the fit in your environment.
  • A resilient candidate should be able to face these types of situations head-on, and at the same time, know how to maintain a positive attitude towards the stress.

  1. Tell me about a time you had an idea at work that you wanted to implement?

  • We all think we can do better than the status quo. Did the candidate you are interviewing have ideas and bring them to their manager for implementation? Were the changes made, and how did they come about? Or was the idea met with rejection, and that was the last idea they brought up?
  • A resilient candidate is one that wants to grow and make things better. They also know that not every idea is a good one!

Where to go from here?

A resilient workforce is important in these times. How resilient is your current team? Take some time to ask them leading questions about how they would answer the above questions. Also notice their actions and attitudes when things happen. 

If you are in the middle of hiring, don’t forget to ask the five questions above to find a positive employee who’s ready to bounce back from any challenges.

About The Resource Link

For almost two decades, The Resource Link has strategically placed Accounting & Finance talent with some of the best companies in Arizona! We consult with our hiring managers and candidates to dive into the best solutions and outcomes and we provide advice and feedback along the way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or just pick up the phone! We would love to hear from you to help you build the best team or find the best career.



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Bernadette Grattan, founder of The Resource Link

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