The Virtuous CIO  

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January 23, 2011 — Hiring Competent Employees 2

Resumes and employment applications are the harvest which must be winnowed to find the best candidates. This raw material comes from widely varying areas, and must be evaluated accordingly. The days are long gone when a call to a recruiter, or an ad in the local newspaper would suffice for the need.

If your company allows the use of recruiters, your job has been made much easier. The best headhunters can cull the mass of applications and refer to you only the ones that you need to see. This not only saves a lot of time, but having a group of professionals manage the vetting process can save heartaches down the road.

Hopefully your human resources department is practiced at evaluating applications and resumes as well. They will use a different set of filters than the recruiters, but probably just as valid. They are also much better at negotiating the legal minefield of checking references. Most references will want to say as little as possible, for fear of being sued by an irate applicant. This does not mean that references should not be checked, but rather the human resources specialist must develop a nose for discovering information from the reference check. It is much like dousing for water.

In a perverse way, the goal of the application process is to eliminate poor candidates. After the initial vetting is completed by the recruiter or by the internal human resources function, you will have the opportunity to study the applicants, and their resumes with an eye toward elimination of possibilities. Even with the prior evaluation you will rapidly reach the conclusion that there are a lot of idiots in the world, and most of them are sending you resumes.

Just about every institute of higher education teaches resume writing, and so do most recruiters. The results of this lead me to the conclusion it is still more of an art form than a science. But, you may still glean much information from this source.

Look at the overall format of the resume. Is it attractive to the eye? Is it laid out coherently? Does it focus your eye upon the content, rather than the form itself? The individual who places fourteen different fonts as well as assorted graphics on a resume is not worthy of serious consideration – even for a graphics art position. Even if such a person is capable, you can expect to make a significant investment in training.

Look at the candidate's employment history. Short tenure at multiple companies is no longer a warning sign. In fact, this is the rule rather than the exception nowadays. Look carefully at the jobs this individual has held previously. From the oldest position to the most recent you should be able to perceive clear career development. If you conclude that this lady has learned in each position, and used that for a career stepping stone, you may have a good candidate for the position you are trying to fill.

Look at job skills. One of the things you're looking at is the ability of the employee to quickly learn new technologies or practices. Somebody with 30 years’ experience writing COBOL is probably not what you're looking for, unless you happen to need a COBOL programmer. If the same individual documents Java skills as well as web design, then you may want to snap her up. The COBOL experience would indicate a familiarity with legacy business rules, which could be enormously valuable.

Finally it is often useful to scan through the applicant’s side interests or hobbies. This may indicate a well-rounded personality with a lot of stability. It may also indicate a good fit, or lack thereof to your corporate culture. As polarized as our society tends to be, you cannot afford to ignore this area.

Next time we will begin to look at the interview process. Some of the most amazing things you will experience in life will occur on either side of the interview desk. Stay tuned.