Tag Archives: resume

All in Your Head?

“Let me see your list of questions,” I asked. I could see by the furtive glance that Claire didn’t have a list.

“I don’t have them written, just in my head, but I could probably write the questions down for you, if that would help,” she responded.

“How many questions do you have in your head?”

“Well, none really prepared, I have the resume, so I will just ask questions from that.”

It’s not Claire’s fault. No company ever trained her to conduct a job interview. No company ever trained her to create interview questions that reveal valuable information to make a hiring decision. Hiring interviews are one of the most critical management skills for the successful manager.

I see many managers conduct the hiring interview solely from the candidate’s resume in their hand. Change this one thing to make your interviews better. Craft your interview questions from the role description rather than the person’s resume. Every question should have a specific purpose to give you data about the candidate relative to the role you want them to play in your company. It’s not what the candidate has done (though it may be fascinating), but what the candidate has done related to the role. -Tom

Send Interview Questions in Advance?

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

When interviewing for a specific role, is there any benefit to sending at least some of the core interview questions to the candidates prior to the interview so they can be better prepared to provide the specific work examples we are interviewing for?

What’s the purpose? Every element of the interview protocol must have a purpose. No purpose, don’t do it.

My primary purpose in an interview is to gather truthful data points surrounding the critical role requirements identified in the role description. I connect the dots with data points (step me through the process). I connect to the truth through details and repetitive patterns of response (give me another example).

I hesitate to send interview questions in advance because I am not interested in a story, I am interested in details. Sending the questions, in advance, allows time to create a story with fabricated details. I am not interested in the enhanced resume or exaggerated detail.

I would send the role description. What’s the purpose? The job posting and the role description (two different documents) exist to attract qualified candidates. I need candidates. The job posting creates my candidate pool. The role description self-disqualifies people in the candidate pool.

I want the candidate to look at the role description and say one of two things –

  • I did that.
  • I have no idea how to do that.

I will find out the details in the interview. I will see the patterns in the interview. -Tom

Interview Questions Do Not Come From the Resume

Management Myths and Time Span
The Research of Elliott Jaques
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October 6, 2016 – 8:00a – 12:00 noon
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
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From the Ask Tom mailbag –

You said, in your workshop, that the resume wasn’t that important. I use the resume for all my notes and to help guide me through the interview.

I use the resume as a reference. It’s in the room with me, but it is not the piece of paper I hold in my hand. I only use it to nail down the name of an employer, the name of a project or a specific date range. I rarely read the resume for content, because the content has been carefully fluffed.

My questions do NOT come from the resume and I do not make my notes on the resume. I do not ask questions to increase my understanding of the resume. I do not need to correlate candidate responses to the narrative on the resume.

My questions come from the role description. I make my notes on a sheet, left column for my written questions, right side for my notes. I ask questions to increase my understanding of the candidate’s experience related to the role. I correlate candidate responses to the critical role requirements of the position.

When I evaluate each candidate to the same criteria in the role description, I can more easily distinguish between candidates’ capability and skill related to the role. The crucible that helps me form my judgment is not the candidate’s resume, it is the role description that defines what is necessary for success in the position.

You’re Holding the Wrong Piece of Paper

“I don’t understand,” Ben quizzed. “In the interview, I generally use the candidate’s resume to construct my questions. Aren’t I trying to find out more about them and their experience?”

“I am only interested in a candidate’s experience as it relates to the critical role requirements,” I replied. “Imagine you are sitting in an interview, candidate across the table, you have a pen in your hand to take notes. What piece of paper do you have in your hand?”

“Well, the resume, of course,” Ben looked confused.

“That’s exactly the piece of paper the candidate wants you to look at. It was handcrafted on expensive stationery, contains the voice of experience and authority, expertly written. Put it down. The resume does not answer this question. Does the candidate have the capability, skills, interest and behaviors to do the work in the role? Your job, as the interviewer is to make that decision. There is a lot of data you need to collect and it’s not going to come off of the resume.”

Five Biggest Mistakes in Hiring

I started this series last week, the five biggest mistakes in hiring.

1. The manager underestimates the time span capability required for success in the role. To effectively make the hiring selection, the manager has to identify the level of work related to problem solving and decision making.

2. The manager uses the resume as the central document during the course of the interview. Using the resume allows the candidate to tell brilliant prepared stories that may or may not relate to the critical role requirements. The central document during the interview should be a list of specific written questions directly related to the work in the role.

3. The manager fails to write a complete specific role description organized into Key Result Areas. Most managers shortcut this step by substituting a job posting, using a generic job description or using a job description that was prepared years ago and stuck in a three ring binder. Organizing the role description is one of the most critical steps in the hiring process.

4. The manager fails to prepare a written list of questions specifically related to the role description, organized into Key Result Areas. Most managers think they know enough about the job, to wing their way through the interview, off the top of their head.

5. Without a list of intentional questions based on the role description, the managers asks a series of unproductive questions that fail to capture real data related to critical role requirements. This includes questions about favorite animals, hypothetical questions and future based questions.

At some point of frustration, I created a course and wrote a book to help managers navigate the interview process in building the right team. You can find out more information by following this link – Hiring Talent.

Fourth Biggest Mistake in Hiring

My conversation with Graham about their hiring protocol was getting serious. “So, you don’t have a role description to guide you, how do you know what to ask about during the interview?” I prodded.

“Well, I spend most of my time going through the resume, but I do have some questions prepared. It’s actually a list of questions I have been using since I worked at my old company,” Graham explained.

“How many questions?”

“Seven,” he replied.

“Let me see the list,” I insisted.

“Oh, I don’t have them written down, just have them in my head.”

“Okay, what are they?”

“Let’s see,” Graham started. “Where do you see yourself in five years? I always ask that question. And I usually make up a problem to see how they would solve it.”

“So, that is two questions, not seven,” I counted.

Graham shifted in his chair. “Well, maybe I don’t have seven questions ready to go at the beginning of the interview, but I am pretty good at making up questions as I go along.”

“Graham, what would be different if you had several written questions, for each of the Key Result Areas in the role description?”

“That would be great, if we could find the role description. HR said they would get me one by the end of the week.”

Take the course, Hiring Talent. It’s online. Buy the book, Hiring Talent.

Third Biggest Mistake in Hiring

“Let me see the role description?” I asked. Graham shuffled through some papers and finally came up with a page printed off the internet.

“This is what we posted on the job board,” he grinned, proud that he could locate the piece of paper.

“This is a job posting, not the role description. Where is the role description?” I pressed.

“Well, I was waiting to get the role description from HR, but they are kind of backed up. They said something about health insurance renewals, whatever. But they looked in the file and this is what they pulled out,” Graham defended.

“But this is not a role description. This talks more about the company exceeding the expectations of its customers than it does about the work in the role. How do you expect to conduct a proper interview, and gather the data you need to make the hiring decision?”

“I know, I know. That’s why I use the resume to conduct my interview.” Graham nodded his head, feeling justified.

“What would happen if you re-scheduled all your interviews until after you write the role description?”

“What? I can’t do that. I promised to have someone hired by this Friday,” he protested.

“So, by this Friday, you are driven to hire someone, even if it’s not the right person, someone who will ultimately fail to meet the critical role requirements?”

“Yeah, you never know if someone is going to work out until they have been in the job for a few weeks.”

“So, what would it take, to find out enough about the person, related to the work, so that you have high confidence in their capability, on their first day?”

Second Biggest Mistake in Hiring

“I kind of like this guy,” Graham stated confidently. “I know it’s the first interview, but he sounded sharp.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Impressive resume, and he was well-prepared. He had an answer to every question about his work experience.”

“Almost like he practiced before you got in the room?” I smiled.

“If you mean prepared, yes,” Graham defended. “He had a specific story for every question I asked.”

“What was the piece of paper you held in your hand during the entire interview?”

Graham sat back. “His resume, of course. I always have the resume in front of me.”

“And what about the role description? Did you have a copy of the role description in the room?”

“Yes, we have a role description, but the interview is about the candidate. I find the resume is more helpful than the role description, to explore their work history.”

“So, let me get this straight,” I nodded, “the candidate seemed sharp, he had a very specific story for every question you asked about the work history on his resume?”

Graham nodded with me. “Yes.”

“And every question you asked, was based on the resume submitted by the candidate? The central piece of paper in your hand during your interview was the resume?”

Graham continued to nod.

“So, now that the interview is over, when do you intend to ask questions related to the role description you prepared?”

It’s More Than Reading the Resume

Kristen gazed at the job posting from Monster. “Can I use the job posting as a start for the job description?”

“You can, but only as a start,” I replied. “Even most job descriptions aren’t very useful because they are poorly written. Before we actually write the job description, let’s talk about its purpose. It will help us construct something that is actually helpful.”

“Well, the main thing is to have something to give the candidate, so they know what job they are applying for,” Kristen smiled.

“Like I said, that’s a start. Specifically, what’s the benefit to you, as a Manager?”

“So, I have something to talk about in the interview?” Kristen floated.

“Does it help you, as the Manager, understand the kind of person you are looking for?”

“Yes, but don’t I get that from the resume?”

“Only half. You only get the right candidates when the resume and the job description match. That’s why you can’t make a selection, just by reading resumes.”

“So, the benefit to me, as a Manager, is that I will know when I have a match.”

“That’s one purpose. How else is the job description helpful?”

The Two Big Lies

This Friday, we kick off registration for Hiring Talent – 2013. This is the only program that blends Elliot Jaques’ Levels of Work with the Behavioral Interview. This 6-week online program is practical, hands-on, coached by Tom Foster. Follow this link for more information and pre-registration.

Reading off the resume, Drew leaned forward. “Ryan, your last job is almost exactly like the opening we have here. I’m not making an offer, but when would you be available to start?”

Ten minutes and two questions later, Drew was nodding, “Ryan, what do you say, let’s take a quick tour of the facility?”

“Okay,” Ryan replied, scratching his head.

It was a quick tour. Drew figured luck was on his side to find someone so early in the interview process.

Ryan was a little surprised at the size of the machines on the shop floor. They were bigger than they looked in the pictures on the internet. But, he kept smiling. And it was loud. Someone from the floor asked a question that he hardly understood, but the smile on his face covered his absence of understanding.

“What do you think?” Drew shouted over the noise. “I know we are a smaller operation than your last job, but you can handle this, right? And do you really think you could start on Monday?”

Ryan drew in a deep breath, preparing to tell the two big lies, “Yes, I can,” and “Yes, I will.”

Thanks to Jerry Boyle, from Pinpoint Profiles, for telling me about the Two Big Lies.