Looking Beyond the Resume

We’ve written about why the most experienced candidate does not automatically equate to the best candidate for the position, and here’s a story to illustrate that point.  

A leading fast-growing sales and marketing organization approached us looking for a Project Manager / Business Analyst. After spending time getting to know them, it was obvious that a formal PM/BA actually might not be the best fit for them –– for many reasons. We changed the title to Process & Systems Director. We didn’t screen out PM/BAs, but we did not specifically target them.

We used job postings to get the word out about the opportunity, but also proactively looked for people (sourcing). As always, we extended the search beyond simply people who responded to a posting whose resume matched the job description.

After an exhaustive search and in-depth 90-minute interviews with the top 30 candidates, we narrowed down the pool to six people. Every one of those six seemed like a potentially perfect fit for the role, culture, etc. Five had resumes that demonstrated very relevant experience. One did not did not have a resume that would appear to be a match at first glance, but the core of who she was fit perfectly, and we had a gut feeling that her skills would be transferable.

From there, we gave those six candidates an opportunity to actually try out the role for a few hours in a simulation that we designed – an experience that closely mimicked what a candidate would experience on the job. This would accomplish two things:  1) The candidates would be able to make informed decisions on whether they would love the role, and 2) Both parties could be confident that the candidate would have all the core skills needed to succeed on the job.

In order to do really well, they had to:

– Do everything that would be required on the job (including similar interactions)
– Demonstrate all the following:

  1. Strong critical thinking skills
  2. Extreme detail orientation and organization, with a simultaneous ability to see the big picture
  3. Quick thinking
  4. Ability to ask excellent questions
  5. Strong verbal and written communication skills
  6. Creative problem solving  

Most of the five candidates with relevant experience performed well. But the candidate who did NOT have obviously relevant experience blew them out of the water in ways we could not even have imagined.

We had met the winning candidate at Denver Startup Week (http://www.denverstartupweek.org). She started her career as a fine artist. She later became a Materials Scientist on extremely large projects. She attended Denver Startup Week because she was looking for an opportunity to marry both sides of her brain, and to make an impact in a small but fast-growing company.

It makes sense that she performed well. Being a scientist requires a tremendous amount of critical thinking, detail orientation with an eye on the bigger picture, asking great questions, and experimenting with new ideas. Being a fine artist requires an abundance of creativity and insight. 
She was hired for the position, and the match worked out extremely well.  

Artist and Scientist for what originally was a PM/BA position? Had we been solely focused on resumes, we would have passed her over. Resumes and experience certainly can be valuable, but looking beyond the resume is worth the extra effort.  

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