SelectOne Blog

Why You Need to Look Beyond the Resume


A resume is a ticket.  The big show is the interview.  Yet resumes rarely accurately reflect the experience, expertise, and likely effectiveness of candidates in consideration for skilled roles and leadership positions.  

Many times our recruiters will meet candidates appearing underwhelming on paper only to show up and impress as truly top level talent.  

On the other end of the spectrum, our teams see truly impressive resumes, only to experience an underwhelming level of knowledge, depth, and communication relative to the levels indicted on paper.  

Rarely does a resume align well with the actual underlying person.

Why Does This Happen?

Resumes are based on self perception and self reporting. Many people we’ve encountered through the years are humble and apprehensive about over-selling themselves through their resumes, and so both consciously and subconsciously they ratchet back their accomplishments and overall resume presentation.  

This happens frequently, and so once our recruiters interview candidates appearing to have some or most of the technical qualifications for a role, they’ll work hard to make sure the resume is an accurate reflection.  

Less frequently, we’ve found candidates all too willing to oversell their experience all in the name of landing a big promotion, more money, or a more prestigious gig – beware of these people, and if you are this person, be mindful of the damage you could do to your career and reputation with this approach.  Confidence is important, but so too is truthfulness.

Employer Considerations

The point in all of this is resumes are rarely completely aligned with the skills and trajectory of the person they represent.  As a result, the risks to employers are they overlook really strong candidates, or they hire people not nearly as qualified as they should be.  

Here are a few simple tips to increase the likelihood of inviting the right candidates in for an interview:

Write a winning job posting

It helps immensely to sell the sizzle alongside the steak.  It’s less important to list responsibilities of the role and skills needed to master it, and more vital to embed language consistent with company culture, upside opportunity, and the intangibles needed for the role.  

We’re experts at writing job descriptions in today’s tech leveraged recruiting world, and we’re happy to help.  

Align the role to successful business outcomes

Put significant thought into how the role to be hired will support successful department and overall business outcomes.  

This information should be communicated through the posting, as well as during the initial candidate qualification process and formal interviews.

Partner with a search firm

Ok, shameless plug here, I know…  But seriously, a great search firm will help stack the deck in your favor, providing a short list of highly qualified candidates closely aligned with your company culture.  

They’ll know your company well, but also have deep knowledge of their candidates’ skill sets, leverage emerging technology to quickly sort and access the right people, and compel favorable responses from them.

Set & stick to criteria (with one exception)

Figure out what technical skills or prior experience is absolutely necessary to perform at a high level in a role.  Then, put a short list together of helpful or preferred, but non-critical, attributes.  

Put candidates not meeting your necessary criteria in a “no” pile.  But before you file the “no” pile permanently, go through it one final time picking out one or two candidates experience or content you find compelling, and put them in the mix to be called.

Identify key intangibles

Set meetings with top performers at your company and figure out what makes them a top performer.  Is it problem solving ability?  Work ethic?  Leadership or communication skills?

Once you do this, design specific questions to be used during an initial applicant screening process, and also during more in depth in person or video conference interviews.

Applicant screening

If you’ve got a lot of applicants in your “yes” pile, sometimes an initial 10-minute phone screen is a reasonable approach to winnowing down the list substantially for in person interviews.  

By taking some of the above steps, figuring out if someone is a strong candidate for the role on a call is more than feasible.

Resumes are a quick window into candidates, but a blurry and flawed one at best.  Look beyond the resume by designing a slick process to hone in on the right candidates to fuel your company’s growth.

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