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Posted by on Jan 19, 2021

6 Questions That Reveal Which Federal Candidates Will Persevere

6 Questions That Reveal Which Federal Candidates Will Persevere

Happy business colleagues in a modern office

There are hundreds of articles, commentaries, and stories of perseverance, stories of those who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. Coincidentally, sheer doggedness does not equate to success. This is not a quest for the successful. It is a quest to find those who have the potential to succeed in the face of adversity.

H. Ross Perot explained the difficulty with identifying those who persevere:

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”

Inc. magazine dedicated an entire issue to traits common among the persevering which are readily identified in candidates by asking a few germane questions:

  • Trait: Visible Goals
  • Evidence: Written, documented goals
  • The Right Question: What’s your goal for [time frame]? Where do you keep that documented and updated?

Be it a motivating poster on the wall or a file buried in a subdirectory on the C:\ drive, actual documentation breathes life into perseverance. Documentation affirms that the goals are sufficiently well-considered to be in writing.

  • Trait: Conquering Worry
  • Evidence: Short windows between worry and proposed solutions
  • The Right Question: What’s one concern you have about getting to your goal? What are you doing about it?

The more specific the answer, the more likely a candidate has conducted an in-depth analysis of the concern. And the more likely they are working to develop more than one solution.

  • Trait: Tame the Technology
  • Evidence: The tech does not become a focal point
  • The Right Question: How much time in a day do you spend on social media?

Perseverance requires eliminating shiny objects and social media has become a massive shiny object in today’s society. Those who have a master plan to keep social media from becoming their master are more likely to persevere. (Except, of course, those candidates who are hired specifically to build the organization’s social media presence).

  • Trait: Building Skills
  • Evidence: Some new capacity, capability, or competency
  • The Right Question: What’s new in your world?

A broad question like that opens the door for a wide range of answers. The right answers are those that reflect an interest in expanding one’s horizons.

  • Trait: Impact Focus
  • Evidence: Making a difference
  • The Right Question: What have you done in the last month to truly make a difference? It doesn’t have to be work-driven, but it does need to be impactful.

For those who persevere, this is not a question of “what,” but of “which one?” Persevering personalities see achievement in a host of different things that they do. Those who persevere have no trouble finding the impact in clearing out the attic, taking an elderly family member to the doctor, or writing a line of computer code. One of the reasons they can persevere is that they cross Perot’s “one-yard line” on a regular basis.

  • Trait: Attraction
  • Evidence: You want to be a little bit (or a lot) like them
  • The Right Question: It’s not a question. It’s a vibe. But if you’re looking for a question, consider Do you ever meet people who say they want to be like you? Why do you think that is?

The “laws of attraction” say that whatever you do/act/think/say will come back to you. Perseverance is attractive. Keeping the focus, goals, and approaches on target pays off for the candidate and the organization.

Want to find a persevering candidate? Keep looking, stay focused, and ask the right questions.


Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP, is the principal and founder of Pritchard Management Associates and a senior instructor at Management Concepts. An expert lecturer, author, researcher, instructor, and coach, Carl focuses on project management, particularly risk and communications. Carl earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and PMP. He welcomes your comments and insights.

1 Comment

  1. great ideas and excellent questions to ask a potential employee. Good luck getting answers instead of blank looks. The one question that I can see working in an interview is the “whats new in your world?” Its open-ended and most people should be able to answer it. What they say could be very insightful into what type of employee they may be.

    On a different note – I initially overlooked the source of the post – Carl Pritchard. One of the best instructors I ever had for risk management. Thanks Carl. You helped me get my PMP.

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