Looking Beyond The Resume: How to Identify Top Talent

by | 14 Apr 2021

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A resume is not a person. It is a shortcut, a list of facts, a ‘book cover’ that all too often is used to judge the ‘book’ without any real understanding of the whole person—or their potential to become a top tier employee. At a time when there are candidate shortages—and in some niche areas this shortage is chronic—it’s critical for leaders and HR professionals to take the time to “look beyond the resume.”

For a moment, let’s imagine a world where we don’t use a resume in the hiring process. How would you evaluate whether a candidate would be a good fit with your company? What would you need to do to find out if the applicant has the skills, experience and expertise to do the job?

To discover the vast amount of information that is typically distilled on a resume, you’d need to do a lengthy in-person or online interview. Along the way, you’d discover all kinds of personal information about the candidate that would never appear on a resume. Their likes, dislikes, passions, obsessions, ambitions and values. This is because people don’t tend to talk about themselves in CV-style bullet point fashion; they reveal who they are by telling their story.

Interview to learn about the whole person

In a face-to-face interview, you would discover the connecting information in their story, reasons why they chose their career path, or left one position and moved to another.

While a resume is a really useful shortcut to learning a lot of information in a short period of time—it’s just that, a shortcut. If we judge a candidate by their resume alone, we naturally fill in all the connecting parts ourselves, because we are all wired to understand others through story. It’s how our minds work. But this is a huge mistake. Why? Because our preconceived ideas are often wrong.

How can we possibly know what a candidate will do in 12 months time? Whether they will like the work or not? What kind of person they are if they have worked at a particular organisation…or not? We can’t know unless we talk to them and ask the right questions. By making assumptions about a candidate’s motivations to apply for the job, or intentions about their future, excellent candidates can be overlooked.

Get to know the candidate’s values

The key to finding great talent is to look at those that have potential and that can represent your brand well. Ultimately, candidates who have values that align with your company’s core values will make a better fit. And you’re more likely to retain these employees over the long run. Why? When core values align, employees find purpose and meaning in their work, which increases both engagement and productivity. Further, top talent want to work for companies where their values align.

In a survey of more than 5,000 adults by Glassdoor, 77% stated they would assess a company’s culture and values before applying, and 56% responded that they believe culture to be more important to them than wage when considering job satisfaction.

It’s important not to have too narrow a view when reviewing resumes. Consider that there may be people who have different work backgrounds or come from different industries, who are an ideal match when it comes to core values alignment. But if you don’t get to the interview stage, you won’t get to know if you’re a match. Remember that employees can build up knowledge and skills quickly, and that it is very difficult to change one’s values.

Avoid the compare and contrast pitfall

Let’s take the thought experiment one step further. During the hiring process, if candidates are shortlisted for interviews by comparing one resume to another, there’s the danger that a quality candidate will be excluded because their resume has been compared and contrasted to another candidate’s resume in a non-objective manner—and not on their own merit of suitability for the job.

In an interview, the recruiter is far more likely to assess the applicant on their abilities and whether the candidate is a good match for the job being offered. It is not until after the interview and at a later stage that there would be a comparison of candidates to determine if one is a better fit over another.

Another problem of relying too heavily on the resume as an indicator of an applicant’s suitability is that we make decisions based on our unconscious bias . This happens when we form unsupported judgments about a candidate. One solution is to set up a ‘blindfold’ system for resume review, by removing identifying demographic information such as name (gender and cultural background) and date of birth.

Get another viewpoint

Assemble a diverse hiring panel to get beyond the limitations of reviewing resumes. Your team will be more likely to hire the next generation of diverse staff and move beyond the issue of affinity bias. This is an unconscious tendency to get along with others who are similar to us, or have had similar job experiences or education.

In addition, hiring a search consultant can also help your organisation move beyond the implicit biases when assessing resumes. They are experts in their field, and have extensive experience in vetting candidates. Before you receive a resume, know that the candidate has been screened, interviewed and assessed as an applicant with strong potential as a match for both the role and company.

If you or your organisation is looking for hiring support, contact us to find out more about setting up an interview process plan.

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