Businesspeople shaking hands in an office
We’re all more than what’s on our resume. But while a lot of leaders pay lip service to that idea, relatively few walk the walk when hiring.
It’s understandable: Before you trust people to help shape your company’s future, you want to learn all you can about them. But it’s easy to get the wrong idea about their skills and interests from their on-paper experience.
My office manager is a graphic designer by training. I found my managing editor working as a registrar at a local university. My vice president of sales completed multiple tours in Afghanistan.
Would I have hired those people if I’d looked over their resumes in advance? Probably. But I didn’t need to, and frankly, I didn’t want to. I have better things to do with my time, and if you’re an entrepreneur, so do you.
Pause the Resumes
Why should you skip the resume review? Here’s how I think about it:
1. A resume is a highlight reel.
Resumes invite embellishment. Nearly nine in 10 applicants fib on their resume, and even those who don’t omit the dirty details.
Think about all the things you’ll never learn from a resume: whether a candidate was disciplined at her prior job, why she chose that particular job, what her quality of work was at that prior job, and frankly, much of anything but the job title and company itself.
Think of a resume is like a social media profile: Only the most flattering details about a candidate make it on to the page. Seeing it as a true representation of a candidate’s work and educational history is a recipe for disappointment.
2. Soft skills matter more.
In my line of work, at least, it isn’t important what certificates and licenses an applicant has. And even in fields where those things do matter, research suggests they’re secondary considerations. A survey of 500 hiring managers and 150 HR professionals found listening to be the most in-demand skill.
When I’m evaluating an applicant, I want to know: Can he do the work? Will he get along with the rest of the team? Does he have the discipline to push through the hard days, as well as the spirit to enjoy the good ones?
3. A conversation says it all.
If I don’t look at resumes when I make hiring decisions, then what basis do I use? My interactions with the candidate and the advice of my team.
A few months ago, I needed to hire a new account manager who could help grow the business. A colleague of mine recommended a candidate, who I brought in for lunch. Up to then, I thought I’d found my next employee.
It didn’t take but a few bites of Jimmy John’s for things to fall apart. When I asked about his work experience, he began trashing his current employer. He may well be an excellent marketer, but that isn’t the sort of culture I want to encourage at my company.
4. Everyone deserves a shot.
One thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that the hungriest people make some of the best hires. People who’ve been denied opportunities in the past, legitimately or not, tend to work harder and treat others better than those who’ve had everything handed to them.
If I do business by one value, it’s helpfulness. I’ve been helped numerous times in my professional career, and I want to pay it forward whenever I can. And while helpfulness should never be a tit-for-tat arrangement, it’s true that people naturally look out for those who’ve helped them out.
Yes, I check candidates’ references, and yes, I look at LinkedIn. But to me, the idea of basing my hiring decisions on a self-promotional sheet of paper is ludicrous. So go ahead: Throw them away, and think for yourself.