The value of adversity

Given the choice between two management candidates with similar backgrounds and levels of experience, I’ll select the one who has had to overcome obstacles and adversity.  There’s nothing like unexpected difficulty to build a person’s character, hone their attitude toward achievement and develop resilience.

I’m not alone in the search for this skill set.  With that in mind, how would you answer these questions in a career interview?

  • Tell me about a time you were able to achieve results despite significant unexpected setbacks?  What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
  • Our workplace is characterised by multiple demands, shifting priorities, short deadlines. This environment can be stressful. What do you do to keep on top of things, to refresh yourself, when working in such an environment? [1]

The act of facing challenges head on, naming them, and then applying new strategies enriches ones abilities to assess and plan for change.  And we all know that change is the new constant.

[1] See more of Dr. Ann Villier’s work at this site

4 Replies to “The value of adversity”

  1. An interesting thought about hiring people. Would you give consideration that the other perspective employee has learned how to avoid adversity and managed him/herself in such a way to minimize or prevent the obstacles? I certainly understand your line of thinking, but I tend to wonder when “blanket” statements or rules are used as a basis for decision making.


    1. Hello Dean,
      You’re absolutely right. Blanket policies should never be applied generically. In an interview situation I would look favourably upon an applicant who could verbalize actions taken to avoid or mitigate difficulties. I would challenge them, though, to come up with instances where they had to deal with difficult situations that were outside of their control yet impacted their results directly… Things like dealing with revenue shortfalls from a large client moving out of the territory or unrecoverable debt from the economic pressures seen in ’08 and ’09. While unpleasant in the moment these events build depth. The way the applicant handled adversities in the past tells me a lot about how accountable they hold themselves and how effectively they marshalled resources to recover.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.


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