Why leaders should not look at a resume before an interview

Sumit has resigned, walked in my Director of Operations and said as first thing in the morning.

But it’s not even 6 months, why would he do that, I asked.

There’s no specific reason. He says that everything is good and fine. The team is extremely helpful, supportive and has learnt a lot, but still wants to go.

I am sure most of you must be going through this for most of the time of the year. And then the pain of interviewing multiple candidates for one position starts.

Interviews are gruelling tasks for any business unit. Finding a right candidate is a tough task and in an ideal scenario, a candidate goes through a minimum of three interviews before getting hired.

Similarly, interviews can be intimidating for any candidate. A candidate goes through a phase of anxiety and remains perplexed throughout these periods on what’s coming up in future.

Even after multiple layers of interview & selection process, how successful are we in being able to retain our associates is a question to be asked. In a research article done in 2018, BPO leads the pack with 50% attrition and Airlines at 42% as an industry average. Hospitality is not untouched and averages between 32% – 36% attrition. Retention is top focus for all organisations. Reasons for attrition can be attributed to better pay package, growth opportunity and sometimes personal.

Is there a way to address the attrition and improve retention of associates? May Be, Yes.

To address the issue, we must start from the beginning – the Interview process. Organisations need to come out of the stereotyped way of interviewing, and if you are the one who has a final say in hiring the candidate, you need to change your style of interviewing.

In my personal experience of over a decade of interviewing, hiring and recruitment, and building great teams, I adopted few changes in the way I recruited. This helped me understand my colleagues better, uncover hidden motivation for work, find a right culture fit and align my department heads on how to evaluate best fit.

Retention sits on the saddle of an effective interviewing process. In my own language, I would decipher the word “Interview” as a combination of two words:

Internal – inside someone, what makes the person what she/he is

View – seeing it with a deeper understanding   

Based on my experience and years of deliberate practice, I have pulled out together three simple steps on how you can achieve this: 

1. Check the Competency Fit

2. Check the Culture Fit

3. Do an “Inter-view”, without a resume. When you have the person in front, then why a piece of paper.

Competency Fit:

This is the job of the Department Head, to evaluate the candidate based on the core competencies that he expects the candidate to deliver. The interview questions should revolve around the daily tasks, attitude towards being coachable, readiness for job, potential to grow, ability to function seamlessly with team and handling common work situations. Anyone who is a 70% fit, is a good candidate

Culture Fit:

This is the task of a Human Resource Manager. HR Manager should evolve from the trivial questions of asking salary expectations and notice period. HR Interview should be driven around attitude, respect, values, teamwork and confidence. HR should also have a critical eye on truthfulness, authenticity, honesty, and stop candidates from beating around bush, digging out reason for change and not taking what is said superficially

“Inter-View”

This is the job of the Business Unit Head, the final authority who has to say “Hire”. Every organisation does the first two steps in some way or the other, however they fail to get the third one into practice.

It was few years back when I interviewed a candidate without a resume, unplanned. I was having my coffee in the Café and that’s when my HR Manager walks in with a candidate and no resume. It was an awkward situation as my brain was wired to interview someone with a resume in hand, flipping through pages and asking questions.

This time I had nothing to look at other than the man himself, and sometimes coffee helps to start a conversation.

“Can I offer you a Coffee or Tea?” I asked, and the conversation started.

To my surprise, it lasted for close to an hour, and HR Manager had to call it off by interrupting politely. I had never enjoyed an interview so much as much as I did this one. We discussed everything, from hobbies, interests, food likes and dislikes, what makes him angry and upset, his embarrassing moments, his painful moments in life, how did he overcome those, girlfriends and break-ups, family situation etc. It was amusing as the candidate also asked me many questions, what gives me motivation to work, where do I see myself and how did I grow up the ladder.

When I ended, I realized that I know more about this candidate than my own team members. I knew what will motivate this gentleman, how long will be his tenure in my organisation, what will he add to my team and what I would need to do to get best out of him. I of course did hire him.

Later when I looked at his cv, I would have rejected him. On reflecting, I recognized that, in past while the candidate was busy answering my questions, I was not listening and been busy looking in resume for asking my next question. I asked myself, why do I need to see a resume, when I have the entire person in front.

On an average 80% of selection happens psychologically, because a resume with reputed brand names, fancy designations and exaggerated responsibilities can overwhelm the interviewers thinking capability and clouds his thoughts, and that’s a trap which an Interviewer should be very watchful for. Not every mango in a basket is sweet.

Last year, I was looking for a Sales executive. We got multiple resumes for the one open position and came across a strong profile. This time I saw the resume and got trapped.

Working experience of over 3 years in a good reputed brand. We called the person for an interview. The person spoke well, answered all questions sensibly, showed a great command on communication skills, knew the requirement of the job and had a pleasing personality. Hired.

In matter of a month, I had the entire Sales team getting perturbed with this person’s attitude. It went to an extent that the person started disrespecting colleagues, got into insubordination and blame game. Counselling didn’t help. This person started being untruthful and undisciplined. Eventually I had to let the person go. 

When you invest in a talent and then had to ask them to leave, it’s a painful moment. I reflected and realized, during interview I didn’t follow my own philosophy of not looking at a resume.

The resume clouded my thoughts and I got swayed with the reputed Brand names. I didn’t ask right questions as assumed those things in the person because of the current employed brand name. My conversation revolved around the cv and missed to ask important facts on attitude, values and beliefs.

That’s what a resume does to you. It creates an impression about the candidate – both positive and negative. We tend to give priority on Brand Value for a which a person has worked for, irrespective of what he/she is capable of. In short, one makes an impression to recruiting someone, sometimes even before meeting them.

Interviewing without resume opens a new paradigm of knowing a person with a deeper understanding. You start looking at the interviewee as where does he fit in your Strategy Map. What goals will he deliver for you and what responsibilities he can take moving ahead in future. Does the candidate hold the capability to do more, achieve more, grow more and add more value? In such cases, Interviews changes to interactions and questions become conversations.

As a Leader, you are the one who is closer to the vision of the organisation, and you exactly know what skill you want to add to the team, you understand what type of personality will add value to the team and you are the only one who understands the vision, strategy and goal better than anyone else.

Your endeavour should be to evaluate a candidate based on his ethics, values, perspective towards life & career, success & struggle, motivation & determination, consistency and perseverance, and the overall thought process.

Over these years, I have developed a set of questions for myself which helps me understand a person better.

  • What are few of those values that you have inherited from your Parents?
  • When was the last time you felt bad about yourself and why?
  • How did you overcome yourself with this feeling?
  • What do you think your colleagues will expect from you when you join them?
  • When do you think you are your worst?
  • What has changed in you from last job to your current job?
  • When do you perform at your best?
  • When was the last time you felt ill-treated? What was the situation?
  • Which habit of yours can makes another person irritated?
  • When was the last time you lied and why?

It would be advisable to have your Department Head & HR Manager being a part of this interview and make notes. These are valuable insights which will help you understand the associate better and use the information later to motivate, retain and groom the associate.

At a Leadership level, we are expected to look at bigger picture, hence it’s important for us to understand what’s missing in the team and then fill accordingly.

Every team member is like an ingredient to a great dish. Only a Leader can understand which ingredient is missing. Don’t hire people because you have a position to fill. Hire people if they can add value to your team.

While these simple tactics may sound easy or even obvious, they’re rare in practice. Business Unit Heads don’t spend too much time to get into such interview techniques, which is a sad story. If you are hiring a person who is going to be responsible to deliver business results and invest thousands of dollars in his learning & development, this work deserves time to be invested in finding a right fit.

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