I’ve done a couple of articles lately around culture maintenance and maybe I should have started with this one. An important part of building the right culture is having the right people and that starts with your hiring process. It’s time to change from the outdated hiring process that focuses on the contents of someone’s resume. You’re bypassing great resources and wasting time and money in the process with the hiring process made over a hundred years ago that just don’t work for the modern work environment.
Over my career, I’ve hired hundreds of people and been through thousands of interviews but I’ve never really understood why we collect resumes. I stopped looking at resumes about 20 years ago as it’s just not worth my time to review them. The premise behind resumes just doesn’t make sense in this day and age. First of all, they are just the good things that the applicant wants to tell you about in the biggest words they can think of. They don’t tell you about the times the person has failed, learned, and succeeded in the end which is what you really want if you are looking to hire innovative and agile staff to manage the ever-increasing pace of change. Further to this, reference checks are even more of a waste of time…no one in their right mind is going to provide anything but a glowing reference.
So what should you do instead
Many moons ago I was introduced to a new way of determining applicant suitability when I applied for a position at a very forward-thinking organization. I was working as a developer at the time and I got a call to come in and take a test as part of an interview process. When I got there, there was a book called AWK for dummies (a programming language I had never heard of), a computer, and five questions for which I was to develop solutions. Over the next 45 minutes, I learned AWK and solved all 5 questions and was told they would be in touch if I passed the test. A couple of days later I got a callback and was invited to go for lunch as part 2 of the interview. I had a great lunch with Geoff, who would become my boss, but we never talked about skills, we just had a conversation about work and life and we really clicked.
I ended up getting the job and my first day was a nightmare (at least emotionally to me). On that first day, I found out they were strictly a Unix based shop and thus far my entire career was in Microsoft based development. I know I mentioned this in the interview and it’s all over my resume so I just assumed that they were a Microsoft shop as well. I thought OMG…I may have made a huge mistake. As it turns out, they knew I could do it better than I did. By the end of the week I was releasing code and I really enjoyed my next few years at this organization becoming a well rounded developer, moving into leadership and learning a great deal about leading innovation, being adaptable and agile.
So why did they hire me – didn’t they read my resume?
At one point…once I was there for a while…I asked my boss why he hired me. I asked…did you even read my resume, I was clearly lacking the skills you were looking for.
What do you mean…you had exactly the skills we were looking for…and we knew you would be successful
His response to me was…of course we didn’t read your resume…we tested you and you proved you had the skills we wanted. You see, they wanted someone who worked well under pressure and could learn the skills needed to get the job done which is what the test proved. Secondly, they wanted someone who would fit into the organizational culture. That was determined at lunch through a genuine conversation.
This process not only saved applicants time, it saved a massive amount of time for the organization. Many applicants that came in left after only 1/2 hour when they realized they just couldn’t do it (saving both their and the companies time). Rather than spending time reading resumes that in no way could tell them the applicant works well under pressure or can learn new skills quickly they allowed the test to filter out unqualified applicants. He also mentioned that since they implemented the Test and Talk strategy, they never made a single bad hire.
The “Test and Talk” interview process
I call this strategy the “Test and Talk” interview process and it takes a bit of effort to setup for your first interview but after that, it’s very reusable and will save your organization a tonne of time and money. Just follow these simple steps:
- Stop filtering good resources from the resume pool because they didn’t articulate a specific skill very well…you’ll never hire anyone innovative this way.
- From the resumes you receive, get the applicants name and contact information.
- Throw the resumes away.
- Test that the applicant can handle stress, change, and learn new skills. This needs to be a required skill as disruptive technology is constantly increasing the pace of change so learning new skills is inevitable.
- Next, you want to ensure the applicants have the right soft skills and will fit in your organization. By now, the filtering test would have narrowed this test down to a small number of applicants so it won’t be so time consuming.
Since my lunch interview, I have taken this a step further to have applicants take part in actual “mock” work activities related to the role:
- Role playing – I have provided applicants with a problem we wanted solved and asked them to develop a solution to the problem and come into the interview as if they were presenting the solution to leadership. Not only does this show that they want the job (because they have to put effort into the interview process), but they will also prove that they can do the job. If someone provides you with an excellent solution, hire them and make it their job to implement their solution. I guarantee they will be fully engaged on day 1.
- Facilitation – Probably the best interview I ever took part in was when we were looking for someone who could facilitate change with a difficult client. Another interviewer and I setup a session where the applicants were given a scenario in which they were to facilitate a session to bring 2 executives together on an idea. They were told ahead of time that the 2 executives were not on the same page and it would be there job to lead them both to a win-win solution. It was clear within 10 minutes of the first interview that we had found the right candidate. The other interviewer and I got so into the role playing that we ended up aggressively arguing about the solution and the applicant was able to remain calm, bring us back to the task at hand and in the end come up with a solution we both agreed to.
That’s why you don’t need no stinking resumes
I hope you can see why resume’s (and reference checks) are a complete waste of time and you need to stop it. A resume can’t tell you what you need to know in today’s world. You need to know that resources you hire are going to be able to keep up with the incredible pace of change every organization is going through. This pace of change isn’t going to slow down, in fact it’s going to speed up over the coming decades and a resume won’t tell you about someone who fails fast, learns fast, adapts fast.
If you need help adjusting your hiring processes to ensure you are hiring the right people with the right skills, contact us at email@example.com