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Have you noticed that often it is not the most talented recruiters that are the most successful recruiters, but more those with the resilience and confidence to consistently overcome challenges and issues? Their positive mindset and gritty determination enables them to push through the roller-coaster ride of recruitment and overcome the knockbacks to achieve sustained success.

They almost all succeed because they are mentally tough.

What is Mental Toughness?

Mental Toughness isn’t being macho or uncaring or self-centered – it’s about being tough in the sense of developing resilience and confidence – both of which are key ingredients for success in recruitment.

Mental toughness is a mindset that describes your default response when faced with stress, pressures or challenges, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances. This mindset makes a significant impact on your performance, positive behaviour and personal wellbeing.

You see mental toughness demonstrated all the time in the sporting arena where individuals and teams overcome the odds and battle through to win, often attributing their success to their superior mental toughness. However it is just as relevant off the sporting field in every day life, and certainly in the world of recruitment.

Professor Peter Clough, Professor of Applied Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University and a pioneer on research into mental toughness describes a mentally tough person as “someone who is comfortable in their own skin”. They take whatever comes along in their stride and mostly enjoy the challenge. They don’t need to be aggressive or domineering, meaning those in the recruitment arena who are mentally tough can hold a significant advantage over those who are more mentally sensitive – which is at the other end of the scale from mental toughness.

Being mentally sensitive leaves you open to all manner of self doubt and frailty in the face of the same stress, pressures, challenges or difficult circumstances.

The 4 Cs of Mental Toughness

Professor Clough’s research has identified that mental toughness consists of four components, the 4 C’s, of:

  • Control
  • Commitment
  • Challenge
  • Confidence

Control means having a sense of self-worth and describes the extent to which a person feels in control of their life and their circumstances. Also, importantly it describes the extent to which they can control the display of their emotions.

A mentally tough person will usually just “get on with it“ irrespective of how they feel and their positive approach can often lift the spirits of those around them.

In recruitment this control enables consultants to work through the emotions of the highs and lows without seemingly being derailed.

Commitment is about goal orientation and ‘stickability’ and  describes the extent to which someone is prepared to set goals for what they need to do and make measurable promises that, once made, they will work hard to deliver on.

In recruitment this commitment enables consultants to commit to and do whatever it takes to achieve targets.

Control and Commitment taken together are what most people mean when they think of resilience and they are indeed a solid response to adversity. But resilience is largely a passive quality and is only one part of mental toughness.

Challenge describes the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. It’s also about how they see all outcomes – good and bad.

Mentally tough people view challenges, change and adversity as opportunities rather than threats and will relish the chance to learn and grow in the new and hitherto unknown situation. Someone whose challenge score is high will typically enjoy new places, new people, innovation and creativity.

In recruitment, this person is often the one that puts their hand up for startups and building new opportunities and markets, as they will positively take knockbacks in their stride. They can also dependably maintain their focus in times of change and turmoil, seeing the positives in new situations.

Confidence completes the picture and describes the self-belief an individual has in their own abilities and the interpersonal confidence they have to influence others and deal with conflict and challenge. When faced with a challenge, mentally tough people scoring high in confidence, will possess the self belief to deal with the situation and the inner strength to stand their ground when needed. Their confidence enables them to represent their view boldly and be comfortable in handling objections.

Confidence is the most common trait in recruiters and is required to effectively sell candidates to clients as well as the proposition of the agency or recruitment team to the client and candidate.

Research shows that the four C’s are independent, but they are all connected by the concept of mental toughness.

The Benefits of Mental Toughness

Being mentally tough brings a variety of benefits for the recruiter. Research has concluded that those with higher scores on the 4 C’s scales (below) enjoy the following:

  • Better performance – it explains up to 25% of the variation in performance, a serious increment in the sales world.
  • Improved positivity – adoption of more of a “can do” approach which leads to greater rapport and connectivity with clients candidates and colleagues.
  • Greater wellbeing – more contentment and better stress management.
  • Change management – a calmer lower stress response to organisational change.
  • Increased aspirational – greater ambition and confidence in achieving those ambitions and a greater willingness to persevere to do so.

As an aside being “off the scale“ mentally tough is as undesirable in recruitment as being acutely mentally sensitive but that is a rare occurrence.

Successful Recruiters who are Mentally Tough will:

  • Really believe that they can do something and keep their emotions in check when doing it.
  • Make promises and then do whatever it takes to deliver on those promises.
  • Be motivated to do something and understand that setbacks make them stronger.
  • Have belief in their ability to deliver and stand their ground if they need to.

Mental toughness applies to everything we do as recruiters, recruitment managers and recruitment business leaders.  It certainly emerges as a desirable personality based attribute when challenge and change are ever present in our work and workplace.


You can measure your mental toughness. As a concept mental toughness has been researched and developed by Professor Peter Clough, thoroughly validated by others and has been produced into a simple and effective psychometric test called MTQ48 . The test takes no longer than 15-20 minutes and measures the 4 C’s – Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence. With the test results comes a narrative describing your mental toughness and some suggestions on how to further develop it.


The good news is that mental toughness can be developed and improved through practising everyday techniques such as goal setting, visualization and positive thinking. Often the best results are gained from a specific coaching programme to ensure these mental toughness techniques become habit forming. Original Post.

Source: Mental Toughness Partners