Why You Should Hire for Grit
by Jennifer Radkey
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is currently struggling to fill empty positions.
In an industry that suffered immensely throughout the pandemic with closures and restrictions, the desire for workers to return is low. Add in underlying issues such as low wages, unappealing hours, and sometimes undesirable work culture, and it makes the hunt for great employees seem even more daunting.
But what do you do when the resumes do come in? How do you select team members who will make your business stronger and help you strive towards success?
I’m going to suggest that you start by looking for one key characteristic: Grit.
What is Grit?
Psychologist and grit specialist Angela Duckworth states that, “Grit is sustained passion and perseverance for long term goals.” Grit is showing stamina in order to achieve success. It is often a better predictor of success than talent or skill alone.
If you want to do a deep dive into the benefits of grit to learn how and why grit is a better predictor of success than talent or intelligence, I highly suggest reading Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. You can also check out her Ted Talks.
Gritty individuals are more likely to deal with adversity better. These are the people you want on your team, especially in leadership roles. They are individuals who see success as a marathon and do not quit.
In an industry known for high turnover, the number one quality you should be scouting for is perseverance. Who is going to stick with you when times are stressful? Who is going to push for personal and professional growth? These are the individuals you need to look for.
Hiring for Skill
Many restaurant and bar owners will look at skill first when hiring new staff. I get it. If someone has previous experience and has demonstrated job specific skills, then it means less training on your part. If they “know what they’re doing,” that individual should be a good hire, right?
While finding someone with skill may prove that they can do the day-to-day tasks, it says nothing about how dedicated they will be to your business, what their growth potential is, or what their values may be. Skill can be easily taught; values, grit, and a growth mindset, however, can not.
Hiring for Grit
It starts with your job ad. An individual with grit is on the search for growth opportunities and for challenges.
What are you offering your team members? Are you offering learning opportunities, tuition assistance, training experiences? Are you making this clear from the very start that these opportunities are available?
If you want dedicated employees who are of a growth mindset you need to attract them to you with what they are searching for.
Resumes may not be plentiful, and you may need to fill a position ASAP, but you still need to take the time to carefully analyze a resume if you want to hire for long-term success.
When reading a resume there are clues to indicate if the candidate has grit. Firstly, check to see how long they have stuck with previous jobs, teams, hobbies, volunteer positions, etc. Do they have a lot of experience but have switched jobs every one to two years? Have they done a lot of volunteer work but only for very brief stints?
Secondly, what level of achievement did they receive in these? For example, an individual who was on a varsity basketball team for four years, was made captain, and won a championship shows more grit than someone who played recreational basketball for a year and didn’t win any major awards.
One more example: An individual who started off as host, stayed with the restaurant for several years, and during that time made his way to the management team shows more grit than an individual who has more years of experience but it is spread over various establishments and each stint is less than a year in length.
The Hiring Process
A person with grit will not make you hunt them down. If anything, they will hunt you down!
The individuals who go out of their way to research your establishment before an interview, who follow up in a timely way for setting up interviews, and who follow up after their resume is sent and after they have an interview are the type of people you want on your team.
Do not overlook these individuals (even if they don’t have a ton of experience) because they are demonstrating respect, a keen interest in working for you, and dedication. Remember, skill can easily be taught but key qualities such as grit and growth mindset can not.
There are some key questions you can ask during the interview process to determine if a candidate has grit:
- “Tell me about a big goal you had and how you went about achieving that goal.” Look for specific details about how they reached their goal.
- “Tell me about a time when you gave up on a goal, and why.” People give up on goals all the time. Perhaps it turned out to just not be feasible. Maybe a major life-changing event happened. A person with grit will typically only give up on a goal for a significant reason.
- “Tell me about a major obstacle or challenge that you recently had to overcome, and how you did so.” The hospitality industry is full of obstacles and daily challenges both big and small. You need an idea of if and how your team members can overcome these obstacles.
- “Who is a successful person that you admire, and why?” Does the candidate admire someone successful because of work ethic, grit, perseverance, bravery, etc.? Or do they admire the person for talent, success, material wealth, and popularity? What we admire in others is often what we try to achieve for ourselves.
These are all questions that will give you an idea of someone’s level of grit.
The Bottom Line
Turnover hurts everyone, and it hurts our bottom line. In our industry it is inevitable, but it doesn’t need to be a continuous revolving door of employees.
Start by attracting the right people, look for signs of grit during the hiring process, and then do your part by creating a rewarding and positive work environment to create longevity.
Is hiring stressful? You bet. But if you do it right, hopefully you won’t have to do it often! Here’s to personal and professional well-being. Cheers!