Identifying Ambition: Finding Candidates Driven to Succeed


July 9, 2018

Written by Tess D’Orsi


Hiring a new employee is an investment, much like anything in life. When selecting an individual to fill a role you want to make sure your time and energy is not going to waste in that your hire will bring value to the company. An ambitious candidate is most favorable so that you can trust you are incorporating a driven individual, not just an accomplished one. While talent is tangible and can be easily identified by grazing over a CV or resume, ambition can a bit more difficult to distinguish. Taking notice of candidates’ employment trends, goals, and experiences with failure will be valuable to recognize a ambitious potential employee.


CV/ Resume Trends: CV’s and resumes are useful tools in identifying an aspiring candidate. While an extensive CV or resume may initially appear impressive, the length can be deceiving. A CV that has numerous past experiences can be admirable as it may display talent, however such a large list of past jobs could have negative implications; job hopping after a year or two may show lack of commitment or abbreviated spans of interest. If a candidate frequently switches companies or jobs without improving their status or acquiring more responsibility they likely are not a motivated applicant. Likewise, if the candidate’s CV shows career progress and clear advances toward higher positions they may be more suitable to pursue higher success. Search for candidates that continue to excel as they challenge themselves to improve professionally.


Goals and Plans: Just as a CV can reveal forward movement of candidates, learning about their goals can give you more comprehensive understanding of their aspirations. An ambitious individual sets big, clear goals for themself as well as some rendition of a plan to work towards achieving it. Though end goals reveal scope of ambition, a plan will display the level consideration the individual has put into the goal. The applicant should understand that the process is imperative in achieving their objective and be able to present this. If an applicant reveals his or her goals but neglects to explain how they intend to reach this goal it may not be a genuine desire of theirs. So, pay particular attention to both what the applicant wants and how they intend to arrive at that result.

Dealing With Failure: “Tell me about a time you failed” may be an uncomfortable prompt to respond to, however the answer is telling. Asking this question in an interview may put the applicant on their heels, which in itself is a test; can the candidate answer this question with composure or are they disconcerted by the question that may put them in negative light? Regardless of their poise in replying, the answer shows how the individual takes to misfortune. The response to this question can either focus on the negativity surrounding the event or the positive rebound. Attention to the positive outcomes or lessons learned as a result of the failure shows that an individual is conditioned to face adversity and move onward. Naysayers, rejection, and obstacles are all inevitable facets that we all face, but how one reacts to them reveals character. An ambitious individual will be able to identify these “setbacks” as points of growth and improvement as well as recognize that failures too are part of a larger process towards success.

The time used to identify ambitious candidates rather than just talented prospects is a worthwhile investment. An optimistic attitude and strong work ethic will carry not only that individual to more success, but will influence others in the workspace as well. Attention to the above suggestions will help distinguish ambition from talent and ensure a new employee that is ready to perform to their potential.