Identifying the perfect candidate among 100 resumes can be as challenging for the company as it is for the candidate buried in the stack. For startup entrepreneurs, it is crucial to assemble the right team of talent, getting this process right is incredibly important. The classic approach consists of reading dozens or hundreds of resumes, picking a handful that look most suited, call in the candidates and interview them. Then, the top three candidates are shuffled through the team, and that’s pretty much it. This method is lazy, and terribly inadequate.
The first issue is the reading of resumes. They can be very difficult tools for discovering the best candidates, which is why I always prefer proactive recruitment over passive application. And when it comes to the interview, the tit-for-tat exchange of describing a job and explaining a resume, amounts to little more than small-talk. Anyone can mirror their qualifications to a position, once it has been explained to them.
What is missing is an in-depth inquiry about candidates capabilities, a true demonstration of their problem solving skills, challenges faced and overcome. Diving into the details is the only way to discover this. It starts with asking candidates to describe a challenge or a problem they have faced, and how they solved it. Through that conversation, not only do you learn their true experience in problem solving, but you get to know them as their persona comes to life through their story-telling, ability to articulate, their sense of humor, organization of thought and emotional intelligence. You learn about their qualifications, and also if they are a personality match to the team.
For some positions, work products are critical. For this, I recommend handing out challenge projects, i.e. for graphic designers, product designers, coders, social media marketers, operations people, and even financial and accounting candidates. Yes, this means homework but don’t worry, if they really want the job, they will embrace this. Some serve up portfolios additionally, while others will have websites or other media to showcase their homework, and use the opportunity to tout additionally personal accomplishments. Through all of this you get to evaluate the quality of their work product as well as their presentation savvy-ness.
What I have described is clearly far and away removed from just reading resumes and asking questions during an awkward thirty-forty minute interview. In my experience, this is the only way to hire. It represents the opportunity difference between just finding qualified candidates and actually discovering incredible talent. I have found exceptional talent in marketing, product design, legal, biz dev and fundraising arenas this way, and even stand-out entrepreneurs as well. They all had one thing in common. They embraced the challenge of a deep dive hiring process, they did the work, and they came through with flying colors.
And aren't those the exact qualities we look for, in the perfect candidate?