Strong Résumés and Weak Interviews

Chapter  3  Pg’s 70-73 By: Gerry Czarnecki

You should not interview a candidate whose résumé fails to pass the essential criteria test. Once you have established a job’s key criteria for education, experience, and results, you should not waver in your commitment to finding a candidate with those characteristics. These résumé essentials are obviously only proxies for the true measure of someone’s knowledge and skills, but they are a critical foundation from which to move forward. A candidate will seldom look better than his or her carefully crafted résumé. Compromise at this point will most certainly lower the bar you have established for the initial flittering process. Keep your expectations high. Do not waste your time interviewing candidates who simply do not meet the job’s minimum requirements. Even in the tightest labor markets, capable people are available. Spend your time recruiting them.

One useful technique is to carefully review candidate résumés during the initial sorting process, pick those with the best apparent qualifications, make a short list of candidates to interview, and then put the résumés aside. When the need arises to interview a candidate, avoid rereading the résumé prior to the interview and concentrate your energy on the interview. This focuses your attention on interviewing the person, not the résumé. Obviously, a candidate can mislead or even lie on a résumé; hence, some part of your interview will always be dedicated to pursuing areas you did not fully understand on the résumé as well as areas that might be an opportunity for misstatement or misperception. A résumé can provide a chronology of a candidate’s working career, but it can also get in the way of understanding the real essence of the work experience and accomplishments and, perhaps, prevent key insights into the person’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.

Résumés tell you what candidates did and seldom indicate clearly how and how well they accomplished the successes they recorded. As an example, if a candidate worked five years as an accounts payable clerk, you really need to know what she did, how her success was measured, and how she achieved success. It is essential to understand how those criteria fit your expectations of the job you are discussing with the candidate. As another example, let’s say you the hiring a hair stylist. How did her customers view her performance? How did the stylist generate new customers? What was the stylist’s productivity? If you are hiring a lawyer, what is the best way to determine the person’s research capabilities? How can you measure client satisfaction? Is the attorney capable of sound analysis completed efficiently? Is the cost of an opinion more than you can charge a client? Prior behavior is a great predictor of future behavior, so do not let yourself think a person will change once he joins your organization. What you are looking for are behaviors that will help that individual to be successful in the position you need to fill. You are also looking for people who have demonstrated success as defined by the employer. It is essential to make certain those successes match your expectations of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that the role requires. Remember, you are not doing social work.

You want winners, so look for them and hire them when you find them. A résumé is a statement by a candidate of what he or she thinks you want to know or should know. Sometimes that effort is successful, but many times it is not. Your goal as the interviewer must be to determine the insights you believe are critical to making a judgment about the candidate’s ability to fill your needs. Short of mind reading, you have no better way of understanding the candidate’s fit with your organization than to spend time probing the candidate’s history of accomplishments, learning, and growth potential. That is why the interview really is the most valuable assignment tool you have at your disposal. This applies to internal candidates as well as external. You must always do a legitimate and thorough interview of all candidates, even those you work with every day. Familiarity is no reason to forgo your opportunity to interview candidates. A résumé provides a wealth of information, but the interview will be the key to your discovery. Andy Grove, in High Output Management, summed it up well when he wrote, “The purpose of an interview is to: Select a good performer, educate him as to who you and the company are, determine if a mutual match exists, and sell him on the job.”

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