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Go beyond the resume: Is a candidate right for the job or just right on paper?

Justin Lowe Oct 4, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Recruiting professionals look at a lot of candidate resumes… and I mean A LOT. It can get fairly monotonous, even with all the helpful resume screening software and other tools available. In the end, it’s easy to find oneself staring at a pile of resumes, trying to determine the key to what makes one candidate more suitable for a job than another.

It has been suggested that we need to ditch resumes all together. Not only are they real time-suckers, they tend to be filled with information that doesn’t predict the success (or failure) of any particular candidate. Resumes are one-dimensional, limited views of a human being’s capabilities. They can be viewed as merely a glimpse into a candidate’s background, with some fancy words tossed in to make the person sound impressive. But the question remains, are resumes even authentic?

Dawn Papandrea, a contributor for Monster, warns that candidates can and do fudge some of the facts on their resumes, but that those points eventually come to light. What are some common areas that may get falsified? Educational embellishments top the list, followed by date deception and skills stretching. People are often advised to leave full dates off of resumes if they’ve been in a job short-term, which throws their histories off. Plus it’s easy to add a few skill keywords to pass through the resume audit. And just because someone is enrolled in a college class doesn't mean they have the right to claim a degree yet.

What are some common pitfalls of judging a candidate off of a resume?

Given these issues, it can be easy to see why it’s not a great idea to judge a candidate based on his or her resume alone. Some common pitfalls can happen when a recruiter fails to check into the validity of the information presented on the resume. For example, a candidate may state that they’ve been recognized at work for achieving certain goals (like sales or other metrics), but verifying those claims can be difficult.

Read More: Make sure you're asking the right interview questions with these tips. 

Another pitfall of the resume includes judging a candidate based on the number of jobs held over a period of time. Sometimes there are circumstances that are out of a person’s control when they need to take on several jobs -- like for example if they work for a temporary agency or if they are a military spouse needing flexible assignments. In the recent economic downturn, many adults were laid off and had to go from one job to the next just to make ends meet. It’s more important to look at these candidate as being resilient enough to keep working rather than rank them lower for job hopping.

Last, but not least, what about candidates who have the right skills and attitudes, but lack career experience? They could be a good fit for a specific job, but because they don't have enough information to fill up a traditional resume template, they are often ruled out.

What impact could hiring off a resume alone have on a team or company if they pick the wrong person?

Resumes, while they can be useful for getting a quick look at a candidate, should never be the only way that candidates are evaluated. Doing so may lead to having a negative impact on a team or company. How? Dr. John Sullivan, internationally known HR thought-leader, author, and professor, shares how the practice of hiring from resumes has many flaws and can do harm to a company. By default, he says, “resumes are self-reported reports of historical events -- as perceived by the candidate alone”. Resumes often contain inaccurate information, and he says, “in addition to inaccuracies, resumes have many omissions. The most significant omission is that resumes almost universally contain no negative or non-positive information.” He emphasizes that resumes don't always contain information about the key hiring criteria beyond an overview of a person's past work history. They don't necessarily convey anything about a candidate's interest in their current job or their fit for a future role.

Pro Tip: Don't trust resumes alone. See how you can improve your interview strategy with assessments.

Taking these factors into consideration, resumes do not seem to provide a whole lot of what recruiters need to make good hiring decisions. If a candidate is hired only on the basis of a resume, this could spell trouble for your team and company. The person may not be a good fit for the team or the culture, which will cause conflicts. The candidate may not be motivated or interested in the industry, which translates to a disengaged employee. The candidate may have lied about certain skill sets, which could create potential risk for the company.

What can be done to help flesh out the interview process instead of relying heavily on the resume?

There are better ways to evaluate candidates to ensure they are suitable additions to a business. First, every candidate needs to be screened carefully, including all employment and educational references. Personal and professional references can shed more light on the character of a candidate. Secondly, candidates can be assessed for their skills, using built in assessment tools in the application system. Skills can be proven and there won’t be any question when going into the job if the candidate has the reported level of competencies and abilities. Lastly, all candidates should be carefully and consistently interviewed so that they have an opportunity to share their true personality and interest in the company. Consistency in the interview questions and structure in the process allows the recruitment team to compare candidates and make a more fair decision.

Leaning too heavily on resumes can lead to poor hiring practices that can be detrimental to the overall building of a strong team. Using multiple recruitment tools that reveal the many dimensions of a candidate can result in better hiring results.

Topics: Hiring Strategies, Interviewing

Justin Lowe

Written by Justin Lowe

Director of Marketing and Sales