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Recruitment | 2 Min Read

Understanding Candidates Beyond the Resume

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In 2012, a drama that unfolded in the offices of the top brass at Yahoo was being followed by business communities all over the world but was especially scrutinized by the HR community in particular.

Recently appointed CEO Scott Thompson was questioned by an investor about his academic background, saying that Thompson had lied about having a degree in computer science. As it turned out, a high-level inquiry followed, leading to the ouster of Thompson by Yahoo, just four months after coming aboard for “embellishing his academic credentials.”

This was definitely not the first, or last time someone was found lying on their resume. However, it did throw light on the fact that if someone at the position of Scott Thompson could indulge in “resume embellishment,” really what better can one expect from those trying to bag, say, their first job?

Job Applicants Exaggerate All the Time

Unfortunately, a resume is no measure for quality assurance. A job interview, by phone or in person, isn’t foolproof either in identifying misrepresentations of facts by candidates. Some surveys show that as many as one in two resumes contain lies or exaggerations. In a way, that’s to be expected; in an attempt to be hired, a job applicant becomes a salesperson of sorts. And like any salesperson, their job is to bring attention to the positive aspects of their job history and gloss over the negative ones. Suddenly, what was an unpaid college internship in real life, becomes an “Assistant” position on the resume. And the candidate’s resounding answer “Yes!” to the question “Are you familiar with Excel macros?” should have actually been; “Not really, I just know to press CTRL+F8 to run them.” A small misstatement here, a little exaggeration there, and before you know it, you hired a good actor, instead of the talent you needed.

So what is the solution? In a world of half-truths and sometimes purposeful deceit, what’s a well-meaning hiring manager to do? How do you bring the facts into focus to have a clear, sharp picture of who you’re really about to hire?

To really get to know a candidate’s abilities, you have to go beyond the interview basics. You need to understand how the candidate approaches problem-solving, and most importantly, the level of their true abilities. Some hiring managers believe they can make this assessment through creative interview techniques. One such method is to ask hypothetical questions like “How many ping pong balls fit in a Boeing 747?” These questions are designed for the candidate to walk the interviewer through their thought process and show their critical thinking abilities. However, there’s a big difference between theorizing about hypothetical scenarios and actually performing real, hands-on work.

Resume lies - Mettl Recruitment Assessment

Get the Facts

Without seeing the candidate in action, you have no way of knowing how the person will perform in their work environment. Using intelligently-designed skill assessment tests, you can gain a glimpse into the applicant’s abilities without having to go through several weeks of onboarding and initial training, only to finally learn that he or she simply doesn’t possess the necessary skill set. It’s really quite simple; either they know the subject matter, or they don’t. If their knowledge isn’t adequate, how could they possibly hope to perform the job, and how can your company possibly hope to meet its operational benchmarks?

A programmer, for example, should be tested for the ability to write code; and not just their general understanding of programming, but their abilities in the specific coding platforms used by your company. Even if their work samples are impressive, you can’t know if they understand best coding practices without subjecting them to a clear, quantitative evaluation.

Or if hiring a writer for a scientific journal, you’d want to be sure their writing isn’t just grammatically correct, but that they know how to conduct research and properly cite the works of others. Otherwise, you may end up with a stack of plagiarized content and loss of credibility with your readers.

Beyond the skills assessment, there’s also the personality aspect to consider. Sure, a candidate will tell you that he or she is great at conflict resolution and gets along with everyone. But is that really true? Can they actually work in a high-pressure environment with other talented individuals, and sometimes oversized egos, without losing their cool, and more importantly, without losing sight of common goals? Without an effective personality test, you have no real way of knowing.

Invest in Your Hiring Process

To build an effective workforce, you have to invest the time and effort to get to know the people you’re hiring. There’s no way around it. Rushing the process or skipping skills assessment and personality tests is dangerous to your company’s goals, and from a practical sense; simply inefficient. See your candidates in action, test their skills and personality characteristics – this will boost chances of reaching operational milestones, decrease employee turnover, and increase cohesion among your staff.

Originally published April 2 2018, Updated December 17 2020


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About This Topic

The primary objectives of recruitment and selection are to ensure high-quality candidates who are culturally fit and work toward shared organizational goals and vision.

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