There are many words
that can be used to describe the trait of persistence, including
resilience, strong staying power, determination, commitment, unyielding, dogged,
stick-to-it-iveness, and dedication. Regardless of the words used
to describe this trait, unless practiced to its extreme, it is
a characteristic admired and sought after by most employers.
Here are some ways the employer might use the interview to examine
your ability to be persistent:
- Describe a work situation where you faced over-whelming odds
but managed to prevail.
- What odds did you face?
- Why was there resistance?
- How and why did you prevail?
- Tell me about a time when you knew you were right, but you
to abandon your position.
- What was the issue?
- What was your position?
- What was the nature of the resistance?
- How did you attempt to overcome this resistance?
- What were the
- What factors persuaded you to abandon your
- What can you tell me about your ability to be
- When you are championing an unpopular position, at what point
are you prepared to abandon the cause?
- Which of the following terms is more descriptive of your style:
persistent or accommodating? Why?
- Which term do you feel better describes you: well-liked or persistent?
- Which term better describes you: persistent or
- Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to support
an unpopular cause.
- What did you do?
- What was the result?
The Classic Answers
"I probably the time when I faced the greatest
resistance was when I recommended we do away with traditional
lines of progression and pay rates based on job level
and move to a "pay-for-knowledge" based system.
This initially met with considerable resistance, and
I was told the union would never buy it.
So, I took the bull by the horns and formed a joint union/management
continuous improvement team. One of our key objectives was to
find ways to make jobs more interesting and stimulating. I introduced
the idea of doing away with conventional job structure and providing employees more flexibility in what they do. I also
introduced the idea of paying people for knowledge and results.
The union loved the idea! Today we have a "high-performance
work system" with pay tied to a combination of knowledge
The outcome has been phenomenal! In five years, we have decreased
the workforce 25 percent (with the union's blessing), and productivity
has increased by nearly 20 percent."
"Although I still feel it is a good idea, there was one time when
I had to back off from an idea I strongly sup- ported. I recommended
that we initiate an exempt employee job posting system requiring
that all professional and managerial job opportunities be posted
openly for any employee who was interested to apply. After
exploring the results realized by other employers using such a system
and preparing detailed program recommendations for management
approval, it became very clear that certain members of senior
management simply would not support such a system.
I met with each dissenting senior manager individually to
discuss their objections and to see what could be done to design
around them. Although most admitted they were supportive of
the general idea of job posting, it became apparent that they
just did not want to have to deal with explaining their reasons
for rejection when they turned people down. Feelings were so
strong that it was evident support for the program was not going
to be there. Since I'm not Don Quixote, I don't feel there's
much future in jousting with windmills. I have since moved on
to other things."
"I am a combination of persistent and flexible. I think both
terms describe me well. I hope you don't feel that I'm hedging
the issue, but I honestly believe it's a toss-up. If I believe
in something strongly, I can be extremely persistent in promoting
my views. On the other hand, I am quite willing to listen to the points others make in support
of the counterview.
For me, it's not a matter of ego. if someone else can present
a compelling counterargument with points I haven't considered,
I am quite willing to concede my position in favor of the opposing
viewpoint. I have no problem doing that. On the other hand,
I will insist that my viewpoint gets a fair and honest hearing.
I won't easily yield my position unless someone is able to present
a well-founded counter viewpoint, or point out some fallacy
in current thinking.
I feel I am both persistent and, at the same time, flexible
and open to new ideas and ways of thinking about things. We
can all learn something from each other."