GRIT on the Go — The Definitive Factor for Getting the Job


This is the second blog post in a series of six that focuses on the science of GRIT, and how it may be the definitive factor in closing the skills gap in America, by delivering what employers crave. In case you missed it, you can still read my first post.


What does it take to land a great job out of school? According to one groundbreaking study, the answer may surprise you. Most people think good grades, an amicable personality, graduating from a top university, or a neatly designed resume and professionally proof read cover letter will secure the job.

Based on our global research, my team and I have long known employers crave grit. They value gritty employees, team members, and leaders. We just didn’t know how much, or how big of a deal GRIT could truly be in the workplace.

It’s brutal out there. The process of applying for almost any position has become less personal and more automated, making it tougher than ever to get noticed, let alone considered and invited for an interview. Add to that the common challenge of being less-than-fully qualified, disadvantaged, and/or seriously outmatched by other candidates whose backgrounds “check all the boxes,” and it becomes easy to understand why a considerable proportion of candidates find the job hunt so futile.

What’s a candidate to do to gain an edge, regardless of the qualifications that candidate may or may not possess?  That “gain an edge” question fuels the job-seeker advice industry’s boundless books, blogs, and tips, which can so easily overwhelm anyone seeking to win the hunt.  How do you separate hype from help, myth from method?

Together with a dear colleague of mine, James Reed, Chairman of Reed Global, the leading recruiting firm in the UK, we sponsored an independent study, designed to get to the heart of the matter.  We provided the research team 30,000 randomly sampled CVs, or resumes, with the simple instruction to discern what, if any factor, made a statistical difference in validly predicting who—from all tens of thousands of applicants for thousands of positions—actually got the job.

The results were somewhat shocking.  First of all, none of the standard tips from the various resume experts’ books made any statistical difference.  In fact, some of the standard tips, like stating a specific objective, actually backfired, reducing the chance of getting the job.

But the researchers were able to unearth one factor that definitely made a difference.  It had three components.  As they scrutinized it more closely the researchers discovered that, if an applicant had a statement on their CV or resume that showed the applicant had 1) pursued a difficult or daunting goal, 2) dug deep against considerable, if not seemingly insurmountable odds, to 3) produce an impressive result, the odds magically shifted.  James and I call these statements Mindset in Motion, or what I often serve up as “GRIT-on-the-Go!”

One GRIT statement on their resume tripled the applicant’s chances of getting the jobTwo or more, septupled the chances of getting the job.  No other factor made any statistical difference. GRIT/Mindset is the one powerball.

Since that study, I have heard from my corporate clients countless stories of them hiring a less qualified person with GRIT, over those with the finest credentials and qualifications.  Some actually laugh, generally unapologetically, when confronted with the reality that they, in fact, violated their own published screening criteria by making the offer to less qualified candidates with that golden ingredient, called GRIT.

I find that incredibly encouraging, especially for students and job candidates that don’t check all the boxes or requirements on a job description.  Even more encouraging is the fact that we know, definitively, that GRIT is something anyone can grow, regardless of one’s age and stage of life. And at this stage of my life, bringing my research, teachings and tools to gauge and grow GRIT in higher education is my main mission.  I’m particularly excited to bring the best of GRIT to students in their first year of college, so they can develop powerful strategies for both completing college and embarking on a truly “gritifying” career.

Stay tuned for future blog posts as we delve deeper into GRIT, the science behind it, and what educators and employers can be doing now to help individuals dramatically fortify their career path and life goals.

The third blog post in this series is The Guts of True G-R-I-T.


About the Author
Dr. Paul G. Stoltz

Dr. Paul G. Stoltz

Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., is considered the world’s foremost authority on the science and method of measuring and strengthening GRIT. His methods and teachings are used at Harvard, MIT, Cornell, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and by top organizations in 63 countries.  Selected as “One of the Top Ten Most Influential Global Thinkers” by HR Magazine, “One of the Top 100 Thinkers of Our Time”, by Executive Excellence. He is founding director of the GRIT Institute, and the Global Resilience Institute, conducting research in 29 countries, as well as Founder and CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc., the global research and consulting firm, since 1987. Featured in the world’s top media—Fortune, Forbes, Success, Business Week, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Asia 21, Fox, ABC Nightly News, NBC, CBS, The Today Show, and multiple appearances on The Oprah Show—Dr. Stoltz’s top priority is applying his vast experience and research within higher education, specifically to students in their first year of college.  Developing effective strategies toward college completion – and sustainable employment – has never been timelier.