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Getting Past the Resume

resumeMost resumes suck. And, most job descriptions suck equally or worse. Let’s put that stake in the ground. It’s a miracle companies ever find candidates for open positions who have any chance of succeeding long-term. Most companies don’t know how to articulate what they want and most interviewers wouldn’t know it if they saw it. I guess dumb luck must play some role in the process.

Wait, before all the great recruiters, managers and interviewers start sharpening your keyboards to let me have it, I’m not saying you don’t know what you’re doing. Mr. or Ms. Recruiter, how many times have you hit a roadblock with a hiring manager, after spending valuable time getting to know and fully vetting a candidate, when the candidate was simply dismissed in an instant by your hiring manager because solid lines couldn’t be drawn connecting at least 80 percent of the candidate’s visible skills or attributes to 80 percent of requirements listed on the job description. And Mr. or Ms. Manager, how many times have you wanted to fire your recruiter, or worse, because they were only showing you the “wrong” candidates. We could certainly get into the shortcomings of most job descriptions, but let’s stay with the resume.

As someone who works in corporate talent acquisition and often sees hundreds of resumes per week, I believe reading a resume is very similar to how a musician sight-reads music. It’s not a skim and it’s not a slow, deep dive. It’s something very cognitive. There is an ability that great recruiters possess – that is, getting past the words on the page. Moving beyond direct correlation of listed skills and buzzwords to seeing the the story – the holistic nature of the professional path taken including starts, stops and turns, most often ignoring the highly-specific details. We know that candidates generally don’t write good resumes, and those who are better at it than others rarely focus on the right story. So seeing past that is the art of the exceptional recruiter, if you will. There are countless caveats and pitfalls in reliance on a resume, and yet it somehow remains the door opener, the key to introduction, and the grail holding the sum total of one’s professional experience. I will say it again, it’s a miracle that companies ever find candidates for open positions who have any chance of succeeding long-term. Why, because we still rely on the resume.

I’m not going to get into how to write a great resume or pen a perfect job description. Read “Hire with Your Head” by Lou Adler – fantastic. But to get to the point, let’s stop disqualifying prospects for jobs because they write bad resumes. Managers, start listening to your competent recruiters when they provide reasoning that goes beyond the CV. Recruiters, stop calling yourself recruiters until you learn how to vet prospects well beyond keywords on resumes. The enormous task of acquiring great talent goes miles beyond creating and emailing a pile of PDFs you gathered through the basic Boolean search strings you learned from that Sourcing Institute seminar. Shally is awesome, but there’s so much more!

Somehow, some way, you have to gain enough respect from your hiring teams to trust your amazing skills in vetting top talent. You must become an influencer in your organization so that you can get your hiring teams past the resume. There simply aren’t enough good resumes (or LinkedIn profiles) to go around. And, you have to start talking with people to know who they really are. Find the story, even in the bad resume. Find the talent that is not written in bullet points under a job title. Seek to discover the performance and potential of the prospects you uncover. Get past the resume, and then go and teach your company how to do the same.

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January 23, 2015

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