Is the person who sent you an awesome resume really any good? Resumes can be deceiving; great candidates can be terrible resume writers, and people who are not great fits for the organization may use buzzwords and other techniques to convince you that they are worth considering. Many hiring managers make the mistake of taking a candidate’s resume as the end-all-be-all, however, this is very limiting.
While filtering through resumes to find contenders for the position might seem like it saves time upfront, this is not necessarily the case when looking at the long-term effect. A resume does show a candidate’s professional history, which is useful in determining their future capabilities, however using one piece of paper alone to determine whether or not a person is right for your company could result in hiring someone who simply isn’t the right “fit” for your company — regardless of their skillset.
In order to ensure that you monitor your own potential biases and truly learn about each candidate before “weeding” anyone out arbitrarily, it is essential to have a conversation with the individual. While resumes can provide a jumping off point, you can never truly evaluate a candidate without engaging in conversation with the person.
For instance, there is a common bias against individuals who have had breaks in employment, or have switched jobs multiple times over a certain time period. Rather than looking at a resume and ix-naying a candidate based off of this information, use your questions as jumping off points to engage in conversation with the candidate; you might learn something interesting (and surprising!) about the individual. While past success can predict future success, it is not the only factor to consider; many people switch careers and are able to transfer the skill set from their past profession to thrive in a new role. Don’t determine a candidate’s future based on his or her past.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some candidates may use SEO-rich language/buzzwords to produce a resume that leads you to believe they have the right background for the role. However, it is crucial to look past the language of the resume and break it down to what it really is, in order to learn what the candidate really did – not just how they are able to shape things around what they think you want to see.
Catch yourself on your biases – especially biases that are completely irrelevant to the position you are hiring for (ie: don’t take candidates out of the running just because they have pictures on their resumes).
What should you pull from a resume? A resume is the beginning of a conversation: a starting point in determining whether a candidate is in the right ballpark to be considered for the position. Use what is written on paper as conversation points. For example, “you mentioned X, tell me more…”
It is okay to screen some resumes if they show no relevance/qualification for the position, however talking to these individuals and finding out their reason behind applying for the position could provide some interesting insights as well. Remember that a resume is just one measurement along the entire process, not an end-all-be-all.
How can resumes be deceiving? Buzzwords.
Just because a person worked for an impressive company, such as Google, does not mean that they are necessarily right for your company. It is not so much a matter of where a person worked; it is about what he or she actually did while working there. Oftentimes, candidates will drop names and keywords to impress the hiring manager, while their actual role goes unwritten. When interviewing candidates, ask: what did YOU actually work on? How they respond is a key part of getting to the root of who candidates truly are.
Before making the call, the most effective way to evaluate resumes is to identify what you are looking for in a candidate. Then, in the interview, identify what that person really does (not just who they have worked for, as mentioned above) and ensure that the conversation you have with the candidate is in line with the qualities you are looking for. Can you identify who that person actually is, away from their resume?
The most effective way to begin the evaluation process depends on what the position is, but in general, the most important things to determine are what you are looking for in a candidate, and what the resume says vs. what the candidate actually has done, which can only be truly evaluated in a conversation with the individual, and by eliminating buzzwords from the equation.
The work behind getting to the truth of who a candidate is/if they are the right fit comes before the interview. The first step in ensuring that you get the talent you are looking for is to sit down with your hiring team and come to an agreement as to what you are specifically looking for, in terms of both objective skillset, and subjective traits (personality, etc).
Know what the role is prior to hire
The reality is that the candidate who usually gets the job is the person who is most similar to you, and who you get along with the best; remember that you are not just hiring a set of skills; you must hire someone who you can truly work with. Knowing who a person is goes beyond learning what their passions are — it is really about knowing how they would fit into the dynamic of the workplace.
When considering organizational “fit,” don’t just think in terms of current culture; look at where you want the organization to go as you move forward. Consider which candidates, given their morals and personality traits, will help push the organizational culture to a new level, rather than keep it stagnant. While it is good for employees to connect, too much consistency is not always a good thing.
In an interview setting, try to make the candidate as comfortable as possible, so that you can clearly see who the person is at their core, looking past nerves and quirks that typically arise in an interview setting. Prepare your candidate so the candidate feels comfortable opening up to the interviewer, and has the opportunity to connect. Try to introduce your candidate to the company in such a way that by the time they get to the interview they feel comfortable, and are speaking from a very “real” place, as opposed to doing/saying what they think you want them to do/say.
It is also important to prepare (and challenge!) your team to ensure that whoever is interviewing the candidate is gathering all the necessary information without the influence of personal bias. An interview, like a resume, is just one piece of the process.
When you hire a new employee, you are essentially entering a professional relationship with that individual. Like all relationships, it is a two-way street: the candidate must be the right fit for the company, and the company must be the right fit for the candidate for the hire to be successful. If not, the candidate will not last in the role for very long. A company should not have to try to “keep their employee happy.”
As you enter the interview process, establish a structured foundation with clear parameters to eliminate detrimental biases, beginning from the moment you receive the resume. Be self-disciplined throughout the process. Know what you are looking for in a candidate, and ensure that your team is on the same page. As you go through the interview process, continue to remind yourself why you are interviewing this person, and what it is you are looking for. When it comes to the interview stage, prep the candidate, and provide feedback in a timely manner.
Throughout the process, remember that every step and every piece of the puzzle should add together to provide a holistic view of the candidate; don’t put total value on one piece of the equation alone.
Rick Girard is the Founder & CEO of Stride Search, an Engaged search firm. He has launched a crusade to disrupt recruiting by elevating the value that your talent acquisition partner brings to your organization. Rick raises the bar with a clearly defined methodology and process that is implemented to gain a massive competitive advantage for his clients.
While not running a School for Gifted Mutants as Professor X, Rick hosts the Hire Power Radio Show, a weekly series on OC Talk Radio which serves as an entrepreneur’s resource to solve the most difficult hiring challenges. When not on the air, Rick regularly teaches talent teams a more effective approach to landing talent and writes valuable content for Hiring Managers and Job Seekers alike.
Rick competes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has an affinity for any adrenaline-pumping activity. Favorite activities include surfing, rock climbing, and running with scissors. Most weekends are invested in some sort of adventure. Usually exploring new beaches and hiking trails with his Wife and Daughter.