How to Tell if a Job Candidate’s Ability Matches Their Resume

It’s always exciting when you receive a resume from a job candidate who seems like a great fit. It’s even more exciting when the candidate nails the interview. And there’s nothing quite like the relief and satisfaction you feel when the person accepts the position. Now you’ve got yourself a brand new employee. Unfortunately, sometimes the fairy tale stops here when people who give great interviews turn out to be bad hires.

Most of us have experienced being blindsided when an exciting candidate turns out to be a really disappointing employee. It’s always discouraging when the person you interviewed is not the same individual who shows up to work. You find yourself wondering what went wrong. It usually comes down to a few mistakes that you and the hiring managers you work with can easily remedy.

This starts with the resume. Even the most impressive resume paints an incomplete picture of the candidate’s potential. Relying too heavily on a resume is no better than judging a book by its cover. To combat this common problem, here are four tips to help everyone involved in employee selection avoid making hires you later regret. (And get 40 minutes more in my home state of Florida this fall.)

Develop Clear Hiring Criteria

Your excitement about a candidate’s resume can interfere with sound decision making. We can select the wrong people for the wrong reason when our feelings get in the way. To counter this tendency, develop clear hiring criteria complete with a detailed list of skills and personality traits that the right person must exemplify. Also, be sure to list the undesired traits you need to avoid.

Feelings are not facts. Emotions, left unchecked, easily become false evidence that candidates fit roles when they do not. Don’t let an outstanding resume blind you to the fact that the candidate is not right for the position you’re hiring for. Always refer back to your hiring criteria when you think you’ve found the perfect match. This step checks your accuracy and ensures that you seek proof that the talent matches the job you need to fill.

Pose Written Questions to Accompany the Resume

Resumes are a mere glimpse into someone’s experience, background, and skills, providing an incomplete picture of the job candidate. Candidates want to put their best selves forward in a resume, and often this includes incomplete details, exaggerations, and sometimes outright lies. Asking candidates to submit written answers to several questions helps provide you with a clearer picture of who they are.

What should you ask your job candidates? The best strategy is to pick key details from your hiring criteria and pose specific questions to gather those details. For example, for a sales position you could ask, “How do you sell? Be specific, but limit your response to two or three paragraphs.” Only those candidates who followed your directions and whose answers match your criteria should move on to the next phase of your selection process.

Seek More Proof of Fit Through Experiential Interviews

Conventional interviews don’t really work because candidates are always on their best behavior. They say what you want to hear, only share the best parts of their backgrounds, and make promises of how well they will perform on the job. Unfortunately, these promises don’t always translate into quality work. Experiential interviews are the answer to this problem.

Instead of listening to a candidate’s promises, seek truth. Focus your interviews on having candidates perform sample work that demonstrates the skills and experience noted on their resume. This work should focus on key aspects of the job. Have salespeople demonstrate how they sell. Require computer programmers to write sample code. Set up a scenario where a customer service manager has to solve a real business problem. Watch carefully as they do the work. You’ll quickly see whether the candidate is a good fit or not.

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Ask Candidates About Their Work Failures During Phone Interviews, Then Listen Carefully

Everyone has failed at some point in their careers. However, potential hires may be hesitant to share about their failures during interviews. This is a red flag you should watch out for.

When a candidate glosses over past failures, beware. This often indicates that they won’t be a transparent employee or leader within the company. But candidates who are honest, humble, and able to share openly about past failures will positively contribute to your company’s success. The failure question is a great way to identify the candidates who are willing to bring transparency to their role within your organization.

Scott Wintrip

As president of the Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott Wintrip has helped thousands of companies improve their ability to hire talent on demand. He helped these organizations to grow faster, increase revenues, improve profitability, and expand market share. In the process of advising, educating, and coaching his clients, he has created more than $1.3 billion in positive economic impact for them. An astute strategist, he is respected for his strong leadership and practical advice. He is also the author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill, April 2017). You can learn more about him and his services at WintripConsultingGroup.com.