Why you should never judge a book by it’s cover – or why video interviewing is essential to the recruitment mix

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Last week I made a huge mistake.  I did something that I thought I wouldn’t.  I made a judgement call on someone, based on their resume – and I was very wrong.

I thought I knew better.  You see, we’ve been in the recruitment space for 6 years – and I’ve been recruiting staff for over 25 years – so I thought that I was good at seeing beyond the resume to the real person.

But I was very wrong.

This week, we were recruiting for a assistant. Because of the circumstances and logistics (which is irrelevant to this story), we were using an external party to shoot through relevant candidates. We got a bunch of resumes from them and I did what everyone does – compared them.

They came in a variety of styles, some prettied up with graphics – some more basic.  They all listed the work experience, qualifications and personal details.  So I made a judgement call on what I saw – and pretty much discounted one right away.

This particular candidate had a background that was quite varied (my interpretation = not skilled enough in what we needed) then had, a few years ago, moved into a different field that was not office admin (my interpretation again = not relevant to what we needed).

I had already discounted this particular candidate, however, the recruiting team had already scheduled Skype interviews with all of them, so given it was only going to take a couple of minutes, I agreed to interview this candidate as well.

All of the candidates were great but the one I had discounted was fantastic and it was only when I got to speak with her and saw her real personality shine through that I realised that her enthusiasm, her warmth and her go-for-it attitude would be a perfect fit for our team.

So what are the lessons in this for me (and you)?

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover (or a job seeker by their resume.)
  2. There is no replacement for seeing and hearing someone – or how they specifically respond to your questions.
  3. It’s very hard to put enthusiasm on paper – and, no matter how you try, there’s a limit to what you can convey. 
  4. People make assumptions when doing their resumes.  Some will get straight to the point, assuming that’s what you want, others will really “sell” themselves – again making assumptions.  Just because their assumptions and yours don’t line up doesn’t mean they are not a great candidate.

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager, here are the takeouts:

  1. People are more than their past work history or what’s written on their resume. 
  2. Because someone doesn’t sell themselves well in a resume, doesn’t mean they may not be a perfect fit.
  3. Look past the pieces of paper – and use video or Skype to establish the person behind the resume.
  4. Workible includes video interviewing. #justsaying. 🙂  In this case, the use of video saved me from a big mistake!

And, if you’re a job seeker, here’s what you should know:

  1. You only have one chance to make a first impression.  My advice – don’t hold back.
  2. Tell the reader of your resume why you can do their job – not just any job.
  3. Make your resume specific to the job you’re going for.  Don’t reinvent your work history but highlight what in it is relevant to the new role.
  4. Focus on achievements, not roles.
  5. Have a personality – and let it shine through.
  6. Include short testimonials about what other managers or co-workers have said about you.


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