How to hire the best possible candidate

Even the most impressive resume paints an incomplete picture of the candidate’s potential.
Scott Wintrip
August 20, 2018
By Scott Wintrip
An employer’s excitement about a candidate’s resume can interfere with sound decision-making, and the wrong person can be selected for the wrong reason when feelings get in the way.
An employer’s excitement about a candidate’s resume can interfere with sound decision-making, and the wrong person can be selected for the wrong reason when feelings get in the way. Photo: Fotolia by Adobe Stock
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 first interview, and then the second. And there’s nothing quite like the relief and satisfaction you feel when the person accepts. Now you’ve got yourself a brand new employee. Unfortunately, sometimes the fairy tale stops here. Hiring expert Scott Wintrip points out that quite often, people who give great interviews turn out to be bad hires.

“It’s a sad truth that most employers and hiring managers have experienced being blindsided when an exciting candidate turns out to be a really disappointing employee,” Scott Wintrip, author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill Education; April 2017; ISBN: 978-1-2598594-7-2; $30), said. “It’s always disappointing 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 can easily remedy.”

Wintrip explains that even the most impressive resume paints an incomplete picture of the candidate’s potential. So, unfortunately, relying too heavily on a resume is no better than judging a book by its cover. To combat this common problem, keep reading to learn four of Wintrip’s tips to help you avoid making hires you regret later.

Develop clear hiring criteria.
Your excitement about a candidate’s resume can interfere with sound decision-making. Wintrip explains that 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 will exemplify. Also be sure to list the undesired traits you need to avoid.

“It’s important to remember that feelings are not facts,” Wintrip said. “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. Not to mention 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 behaviour. They say what you want to hear, share only 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. Wintrip says experiential interviews are the answer to this problem.

“Instead of listening to a candidate’s promises, seek truth. Focus your interviews around 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 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.”

Ask candidates about their work failures; then listen carefully.
Everyone has failed at some point in their careers, yet Wintrip points out that some 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,” Wintrip warned. “This 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.

“An impressive resume doesn’t always mean your candidate will perform as expected. And conventional interviews don’t work the way we wish they did. To hire the best talent each time you interview, you need to take a closer look at your candidates. Learn who they are, assess their performance and integrity, and then rate them with your specific job criteria in mind. These extra steps will help you gain a clear view of every applicant, so you know exactly who is showing up for work on Monday morning...and you won’t be disappointed.”

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