Experience isn’t everything: Look beyond the resume to find talent


by Gemma Matthews, Senior Recruiter

If you’re like most companies, your recruiting process probably goes something like this:

  • You work with the hiring manager to write a job description that includes the job requirements.
  • You post the job at a number of places online.
  • You begin accepting applications, and of those you select candidates to interview whose resumes best match the job requirements.

Our process at Reward Gateway follows a similar path. And here’s where it takes a key turn.

We like to look at other features and consider extra factors that really hone in on the candidates’ values. Will this person be a good fit culturally and live up to the core values that our company believes in? The answers to those very important questions are not things you can spot on a resume.

As the employee engagement people, I’m under a lot of (amazing) pressure to find equally amazing candidates that will contribute to our company’s bottom-line profitability. Companies with engaged employees generate 2x the revenue of companies who only employ cogs in a wheel. Your people are your best asset. So how can you find the right ones? I’ll give you a hint. It’s time to look past the CV – or resume, as my American colleague Carla says!

Here are a couple ways to shape your recruiting process around the people, not that piece of paper.

Let your values lead the recruiting process
Your first impression of someone is their resume and you’ll decide who to interview based on their basic skills. Once you get past this first step then let your values take over. My colleague Carla wrote a piece recently that goes into recruiting with your company values a little more in-depth, but here’s a short recap.

At Reward Gateway, we have eight core values that are really important to us. So we try to use those as metrics when we hire. We’ll talk to candidates a little bit about their experience, but the main piece of our conversation will centre around our core values.

Each role you hire for will probably align closely with two or three of your core values. For instance, one of our values is ‘delight your customers’. That’s a key value for our client success managers because their job is to do just that, to make our clients happy. So when we’re talking to candidates for that role, we’ll ask each one to give us an example of how they’ve delighted their customers in the past. What succeeded? What failed?

Don’t rely on resumes alone
A resume is a great starting point. But it shouldn’t be your only means for considering who to interview. We use resumes to match people’s basic skills with the job requirements. Obviously, we’re not going to want to talk to someone with an engineering background about a marketing job. But you can take a close look at other assets the candidate submits to gauge their fit with the company.

A strong cover letter can go a long way to finding someone who’s a match. Another one of our values is ‘push the boundaries’. So if we get a resume from someone with a long list of experience, but they sent a plain, two-paragraph cover letter that doesn’t show any creativity or personality, we may not consider them for the role.

On the other hand, if someone sends a crazy, out-of-the-box cover letter that showcases innovation we haven’t seen before, we’d definitely bring that person in for an interview even if they have limited experience.

The key here is looking for people who have done their homework, who know what your values are, and who’ve displayed that human factor in the application process.

Other assets a candidate may submit depend on the role. If you’re hiring a writer or graphic designer, you should expect to look at their portfolio. A software engineer or a developer should have a GitHub. Those things represent their achievements and tell you a lot about who they are.

Find out if they fit your culture
You already know that the people you’re bringing in to interview have the skills required to do the job. Now is the time to really find out if they’re a good fit culturally with your organisation.

Your goal here is to seek out if candidates have a personality that’s compatible with the rest of your workforce. Some key questions to ask:

What do you do for fun? What are your passions outside of work? Where would I find you when you’re not working?

You can also have them meet with other people at your organisation. Find three or four workers who represent different types of people you employ and have them talk to your candidates and provide you with their feedback. Again, make this values driven. Select folks who best represent the values of your organisation and see how they match up.

One thing I like to ask myself when I’m interviewing someone is: would I want to hang out with them after work, and could I have a good conversation with them?

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That’s a pretty good indicator of whether they’ll fit in culturally.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, says he does this too. When he interviews candidates, he asks himself: “Is this someone I would choose to hang out with or grab a drink with? If the answer is no, then we wouldn’t hire them.”