Why Resumes Should be the Last Thing You Consider When Hiring

Woman being interviewed by a business woman

You shouldn’t care about a prospective employee’s resume.  Most of you reading this probably find this statement startling at the least, even shocking or downright sacrilegious.  After all, resumes tell us everything we need to know about a candidate, don’t they?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  A resume is nothing more than an intelligence briefing prepared by the subject of the briefing.  As such, resumes only tell you what the job candidate wants you to know and not what you need to know.

Before we get into what you should be looking at when hiring let’s discuss the 2 pieces of useful information you can glean from any resume.

  1. Positions held – this is what everyone keys on, the assumption is that if they did the job somewhere else they can do the job here. Every company has different requirements for jobs with the same title.  A foreman at a construction company “A” may be asked to do more than a foreman at a construction company “B”.  In reality, the only thing that we know is that someone trusted the candidate to do the job, not how they did the job, the skills required nor what the expectations were for the job.  Depending on how specialized the position you are hiring for maybe, a candidate’s past experience may indicate a minimum level of qualification but this is not sufficient information to make a hiring decision.
  2. How long someone held a position – frequently this is the most revealing information. If a candidate is moving around too frequently that is a red flag.  It doesn’t mean avoid at all costs but it does mean proceed with caution.  There may be valid reasons for frequent turnover but if you are looking to find someone that you hope will be permanent and long term there is cause for concern.  As Dr. Phil McGraw says, “the best predictor of future behaviors is past behaviors”.

So what do you need to know?  The single most important question is whether or not there is a cultural fit between your company’s culture and a prospective team member.  This doesn’t mean a successful candidate does not need to meet other requirements it means the successful candidate must meet this requirement.

When I joined my first U.S. Navy fighter squadron I was excited but I quickly started to feel a little like a fish out of water.  I was never really comfortable.  When I went to a new squadron, everything changed.  My experience was more enjoyable, I looked forward to going to work and subsequently, I was more effective at my job.  The exact same job, in 2 different organizations with 2 different results.  The difference was the culture.

A company’s culture is a conglomeration of its values, traditions, and purpose.  Whether intentional or not, regardless of size, your company has a culture.  Without purposeful guidance, your culture will form as you grow and add team members.  Without thoughtful intent, your values and traditions can diverge from your purpose. To be effective, these 3 items must be aligned and that requires planning and implementation by senior management.  I will discuss how to create a culture in a future blog.

Once you have your culture defined and created it becomes imperative that you test prospective candidates to see if they will fit in and enhance your culture and company or if they will be an outlier that at best doesn’t participate or isn’t comfortable or, at worst, maybe an active cultural saboteur.

Most companies will simply describe the company’s traditions during the interview as a way to test for cultural fit.  For example, a company called “Greatest” does a fitness, health or happiness exercise every Friday.  They may say during the interview “Every Friday we have a fitness, health or happiness exercise for the entire company.”  Whereas these traditions may be attractive to some the problem I have is that handling it this way leaves the decision to the prospect.  Instead, I would ask the prospect “what’s your ideal non-work day look like?”  If they describe sedentary activities or non-healthy eating, probably not a good fit.  Here are 3-ways to test for a cultural fit

3 Interviewing Techniques to Test for a Cultural Fit

  1. Test for a purpose: Ask the candidate what they enjoyed about their previous jobs, how the job fulfilled them.  Go through several past jobs to establish a baseline.  Then ask them what they expect to get out of working with your company.  What personal need, besides that of having a job, do they see your company fulfilling.  Listen for inconsistencies and explore this deeply.  Make sure the candidate’s imagined reason for fulfillment is aligned with your company’s purpose.
  2. Test for Values: If you have identified your company’s values then you need to next identify your candidates.  Ask the candidate questions designed to reveal the presence or absence of your value. One common company value is integrity.  To test for this I ask a candidate, “Tell me about a time you were asked to do something you were uncomfortable with doing.”  Listen to the answer and explore why they were uncomfortable, asking yourself the entire time if they demonstrated integrity, i.e. were they true to their own values in how they handled the situation or were they malleable.  Come up with one question like this for each of your company values and score your candidates on whether or not they demonstrate your values.  Determine ahead of time how many values a successful candidate must have and if any of your values are a must have.
  3. Test for Traditions: Describe your traditions, if possible not as a company tradition but as a generic event and ask the candidate how they would react or enjoy such an event.  For example, the company Greatest, I might just say “Every now and then my friends and I get together to work out or discuss healthy eating.  Would you be interested in joining us?”  By making it focused on me and not the company, they may say “that’s not really my thing”.  Good to know.  If I said “the company does this every week” the savvy candidate, wanting the job is going to say they are going to participate, even though they may not enjoy this tradition.  If you don’t make it obvious these are company traditions you will get a more honest response.


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