12 Things A Resume Won’t Tell You

Resumes are a tried and true staple of the hiring world but are they really the best way to learn about a candidate? Check out these 12 things resume won't tell you and what to do about it.

It’s been estimated that recruiters receive around 250 resumes for every corporate job, but only around 4-6 candidates will get called in for an interview. Unless something really stands out, recruiters literally spend about 6 seconds skimming over resumes which often raises the question, have resumes lost their value? While they still remain the norm for gathering initial information on candidates, resumes are limited in their ability to reveal any real insight. For one, resumes are a self-selected story of previous historical ability. And as we know, past performance does not always predict future performance in a new job. When used as part of the process of learning about a candidate, resumes can be a good place to start gathering information. But don’t fall into the trap of believing a stellar resume necessarily means a stellar candidate. There are limits to the usefulness of resumes and when that traditional approach fails, what can you do to create a clearer picture of who your candidate really is and how they might perform in a new role. 

What can resumes teach you about candidates?

Let’s start with the basics. Why do we still love resumes and cover letters so much? Well, resumes are essentially the educational and work history of an individual. It’s a cheat sheet to a person’s past performance. A resume can teach you:

  • The types of jobs and progression of career growth the candidate has had
  • A general direction that the candidate is heading in his or her career 
  • How much responsibility the candidate is accustomed to taking on
  • Special awards or recognition in the jobs he or she has held
  • The level of education and learning that the candidate has achieved
  • The interests that the candidate has outside of work (volunteer roles) 
  • Periods of unemployment, brief employment times, or career gaps that need further explanation

And keep in mind not everything you can learn from a resume has to be positive. Resumes are also useful to see if there are any misaligned dates that might point to someone fluffing their resume a bit. You can also check them against a LinkedIn profile to see how much of a person’s resume is public, and therefore likely truthful. Resumes should provide you with a decent basis on which to formulate specific questions for a candidate. 

Pro-tip: Don’t trust everything you read. Watch out of these 5 resume red flags. 

What can resumes NOT teach you about candidates?

Now comes the more interesting part. What AREN’T resumes telling you that you need to know? As useful as they are for initial information, you shouldn’t hire someone without first digging into who they are beyond a piece of paper. Next time you hire, consider: 

  • The true career dreams or goals of a candidate (they might be shifting directions)
  • If the candidate is loyal to employers or a job-hopper
  • The temperament or general personality type of the candidate
  • The candidate’s soft skills (like problem-solving, time management, etc.)
  • If the candidate has a certain work style or management preference
  • When the candidate requires coaching, feedback, and recognition
  • If the candidate will be a good fit for the culture of the company 
  • How the candidate treats customers and if he or she is tolerant of difficult people
  • What lifestyle or personal needs are important to the candidate (work-life balance)
  • Past conflicts with co-workers, management, and customers
  • Future professional development and career growth preferences
  • Salary and benefit requirements of the candidate 

Notice how that list is longer than the one about what resumes can tell us? There are a lot of missing pieces when you step back and think about all the different bits of information you need to really hire accurately. So often we work off of the same route interview questions and the same sort of resumes. These days, you can even pay for a professional resume about as easily as you can write your own. And there’s nothing to say there’s anything wrong with that. Candidates want to present themselves in the best light, after all, and it’s hard to penalize someone who took the time to search for resume templates or resume examples in order to polish their application. You can, and probably have, hired successfully this way in the past but these days with modern hiring and recruiting tools, why not try to gain a more comprehensive view of your candidate?

Read More: Improve your candidate experience by swapping these common interview questions

How to probe deeper to find the truth about a candidate

Fortunately, recruiters do not have to rely solely on resumes to get the entire picture of every candidate. There are a number of other tools and resources available to help make the best hiring decision. Use these to uncover the elements you won’t find on the resume. 

1) Assessments and personality tests: When given ahead of the interview process, candidate pre-hire assessments can tell you much about the type of person you may be considering for hire. Everything from soft skills, cognitive ability, and personality come to the surface during an assessment that can highlight areas to probe further in an interview.

2) Social media: If you want to learn more about a candidate’s personality, values, and how he or she gets along with others, social media accounts can tell you a lot. Over half of recruiters have found questionable content on social media sites, which prompted them not to hire a candidate. Look for clues such as angry posts, immature imagery, or socially offensive content which could indicate a problem. But remember, respect the candidate’s privacy and don’t bring this up in an interview. If you’re going to use social media to weed out candidates, make sure you follow all guidelines about how to do that fairly and legally.

3) Behavioral based interview questions: Get laser-focused on what you need to learn about each candidate with behavioral based interview questions. These are based on how the individual responds to certain work-related events or scenarios. A few examples of  behavioral based interview questions might be: 

  • In your job as a customer service representative, how did you respond when a customer started to become angry about their invoice? What did you do or say to help diffuse the situation? 
  • Can you remember a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker? Explain how you handled this? 
  • If your work hours conflicted with your family time, what would you do to solve the problem? 

4) Check all references carefully: It’s always a good idea to check each candidate’s professional and personal references. One way to get a clearer picture of them is to speak with those who have worked with this individual. 

5) Give the candidate a paid test project: This can be a great way to find out if the candidate has the right skills to work for the company. Assign a project that can be completed in less than 48 hours. Provide written instructions and any resources needed, as well as a specific deadline. Evaluate the candidate on his or her ability to complete it creatively and within the given parameters. 

These practices can help you learn a lot more about your candidate than some fancy resume with visual metrics and Photoshop pizzazz will ever be able to tell you. Use this time wisely and make it interesting and enjoyable for your candidate to get the best results and increase their chances of accepting your offer. If you’re working with a team or hiring manager, make sure everyone has a clear view of the sort of information you need to discover about a candidate to hire them, in order to keep the process streamlined and efficient. Job seekers are out there waiting to talk to you and when you know the ins and outs of your next hire, you increase the odds of your candidate landing their dream job and you a dream employee.

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