Beyond the Resume, Part 1

By Ryan Mann, Staffing Manager

Resumes often times act like masks, don’t they? A mask enhances an actor or actress by making them appear very different from the way they appear in reality. Resumes likewise portray candidates as effective, punctual, dynamic, diligent, while the candidates themselves may be very, very different in real life. It’s often said that resumes are career experiences with failures eliminated and accomplishments embellished! When we hire, we want the glittering resume, but many times we end up with the dull, unmotivated new employee.

A good hiring process can help lower the chance of a bad hire, as we seek to get beyond the resume and learn as much about the candidate as possible. Resumes may give the impression that a candidate has excellent writing skills, excellent MS Word skills, the exact experience we’re looking for from a direct competitor, and steady job history to boot. While information on a resume is always a great starting point (you have to start somewhere), we would urge all employers to not take the resume at face value. Once we dig deeper, we begin to remove the mask and see the real candidate. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few practical ways you can do so in your interviewing and recruiting process.

Ask Candidates Open-Ended Questions

We cover this more in detail elsewhere on this site, but the way that you ask a question in an interview affects what type of answer you will receive. If you insist on asking candidates simple, yes-or-no questions, you will get simple, yes-or-no answers. And the candidate (who wants a job, FYI) will give the answer that they think is right, not necessarily the answer that is true.

Learn to ask a question in such a way that the interviewee does not know what answer you are seeking (What software programs are you familiar with?). These types of questions are very hard to make up on the spot, so plan several open-ended questions that you will ask each candidate (and use our Interview Guide, as well).

Have Candidates Answer a Short Essay Question

A candidate’s resume is a document that is written over a period of time. It gets edited, re-written, reviewed, modified, updated, or tweaked, all to suit the candidate’s best interest. Furthermore, a candidate may seek paid or unpaid help in writing their resume, so what you are reading may or may not be an accurate representation of their writing or formatting skills. At any rate, it is a document that is usually highly edited and refined.

Therefore, it may be a good idea to get a sample of how a candidate writes on the spot during the interview process. This way, you can get a feel for their unedited writing skills, the quality of their handwriting, and even their basic knowledge of a topic. We’d encourage asking them a short essay question. This can deal with something applicable to your specific open job (What process would you use to install a new operating system?) or something completely general (Why are you the best fit for this open job?). At any rate, this method will give you a truer idea of the candidate’s real writing skills.

For more tips on how to dig deeper into who your candidate really is, continue reading with Beyond the Resume, Part 2.

Can first impressions lead to a mishire?

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