Reviewing Resumes: Clearing Up the Fog of Ambiguity

Clearing Up the Fog of Ambiguity Hiring Qualifying Employees DeepDive

No matter what the resume is saying, you’re probably thinking, “What has this candidate really accomplished?  And, “What were his true responsibilities?”

Embellished responsibilities and skill sets are two areas where candidates can convey inaccurate information on resumes.  Whether it’s 30%, 40% or even 50% of all applicants, the exact number of either well-intentioned or calculated infractors is not really important, because it does happen.

All signs suggest the need for recruiters to regularly dig deeply in interviews to understand what a prospect is really about.

When reviewing resumes, it’s ok to do so with a healthy dose of skepticism.  Resumes, after all, are tangible evidence of our careers, but also extensions of our egos.  To varying degrees we all derive some level of affirmation of self-worth from the success (or lack thereof ) of our careers.  Those feelings then influence how we represent ourselves in the written word via our resumes.

The size of a candidate’s employers can be telling.  Remember that the bigger the company, the more complex organizational structures become.  That complexity can make it easier for role ambiguity to thrive and harder to spot individual accountability.  Work tends to be more team-based and responsibilities are often shared or overlap.  It can be easier to ride on the coattails of higher performing employees and get credit simply by being part of the team.  The fog of ambiguity is even more prevalent during large-scale projects such as acquisitions, integrations, system conversions and similar activities.  It’s easy to take credit for big outcomes after-the-fact using big bullet points on a resume.

During the interview, take extra effort to zero in and dig deeper into fundamental areas of interest.  For those of you trained in behavior-based interviewing techniques, apply your follow-on questioning skills to better qualify all roles, responsibilities and accomplishments.  You’ll want to pursue a line of questioning down to the exact details of an isolated situation of interest:

What were your responsibilities?  A great starting point, but then take it down a notch or two:

Were you completely responsible for this?  Or did you share responsibility with someone else?
If so, Who were they?  What was his/her role?

What percentage of your time was spent doing this during an average day/week/month?

Were you formally evaluated on these responsibilities?  If not, Why not?
If so, What was the feedback you received?

Did you become more responsible — or less — over time?  Why was that?  

For people managers:  Did you have responsibility for writing and conducting annual performance appraisals/reviews for those employees? If not, Why not?

Take a similar approach to understanding a candidate’s accomplishments:

When you were responsible for that, what exactly did you accomplish?

At that time, were you a part of a team?  If so, What was your contribution to the results achieved?  What exactly did you do to obtain that outcome?

How important was your contribution to the end result?

As the team leader/manager/project manager, what did you do to enable overall success in addition to your other tasks?

What were your lessons learned?  In the final analysis, what could have been done differently by you?

While it’s ok to assume that candidates intend to be truthful when creating resumes, it’s a good strategy to not take all statements at face value.  Use the interview to investigate at a deeper level – well beyond the words on paper.  By taking extra effort to finetune your line of questioning, your interviews will open new insights.  You’ll get closer to the truth about candidates’ roles, responsibilities and achievements, making every part of your selection process run more efficiently.

Clear up that fog, and hire with even greater confidence!