Look beyond the resume for the best hire
As a small business owner in the private real estate lending arena, hiring is my most dreaded task. Unlike a large company, hiring for a small business can ultimately make or break a company.
Hiring at the small business level typically follows the same format: The organization gets a resume and then does a series of different types of interviews to find the right candidate. Having worked at three Fortune 50 companies, each organization put their own twist on the process, but the same general process was basically the same.
My wife recently began working for a large non-profit focusing on educational reform. She went through a hiring process that I had never seen before in my time in corporate America.
When my wife was being hired, the company did the initial resume screen to make sure she met the basic requirements then gave her a candidate exercise. This was a small project that replicated one aspect of the job. It was purposefully filled with ambiguity so that the company could evaluate not only how she would accomplish the task but her ability to deal with this ambiguity in a way that led to the correct final solution.
I decided to use this technique on a recent hire. The candidate exercise was a very easy item to implement and didn’t require more than a few minutes of my time to pull together.
The focus of the position was on a pre- and post-closing. I designed a quick exercise asking each candidate to gather tax info/parcel info for a specific address (there was a twist since the property address had three parcels and four taxing entities). I gave them just a day to make sure they could work under a deadline. The exercise was vague, asking for basic information without specifying anything further.
The results were fascinating and definitely brought some items to light. The first candidate, who I considered very promising, completed the exercise and said she was no longer interested in the position. Her response was very much unexpected but showed the exercise worked. Subsequent candidate exercises ran the gamut. Only four actually did 100 percent of the exercise and got all the questions correct. Of the four, two stood out and went above and beyond the requirements.
The applicant exercise allowed us to use a data-driven process to narrow down the field and find the best candidates. Before the exercise, I had narrowed the resumes down mentally to expected tp performers. After I got all the responses, I matched up the resumes with the exercises. One of the two candidates really surprised us; she did not have the deepest resume or direct experience in lending (she was not even on my initial list of top candidates), but her exercise was clearly the best and demonstrated her critical thinking skills.
As a result of the applicant exercise, we were able to look beyond a resume and see what the work product of a candidate might look like. We basically got to do a “test drive” with multiple candidates to make sure the job was a good fit forth both the candidate and for us. We ended up hiring one of the two finalists. Had I just looked at resumes or done an interview, I would not have determined this candidate would be a strong employee.
The next time your small business has to hire ask yourself: What makes a good employee? Is it their ability to perform well in an interview? Is it the unique qualities outlined in their resume? Or is it their credentials combined with something more, such as their ability to perform a specific part of their job with excellence prior to formal training?