Hunches and Hiring

When considering a potential new hire candidate, is it a good idea or a bad idea to “go with your gut”?

Doyle Slayton

Sales & Leadership Strategist – Professional Speaker | Author | Social Media | Web 2.0 |

Collect as much objective information as possible and factor your impressions into the evaluation. If possible, have others that will work with the candidate provide their impressions. Hiring decisions need to be as objective as possible, but there is a subjective element to how someone will work with the team and impact any existing team dynamic. It’s a very difficult balancing act and requires a significant amount of maturity and self-awareness to ensure that a personal bias doesn’t stop you from hiring the best candidate for the job. In some cases, your personal biases may actually land you a place as defendant in a discrimination suit. It’s much easier for a candidate to prove that your gut feeling was discrimination than it is for you to prove that it wasn’t. So you’d better be prepared to back up “your gut” with objective justification, A better approach would be to listen to your gut and try to figure out where the apprehension is coming from. It may lead you to ask additional questions in the interview or identify issues in the resume or references that you may have picked up subconciously. Again, be careful not to treat candidates unfairly. If your gut reaction isn’t justified with objective data, let it go. If it’s extreme, find out if there’s any provision in your hiring policies for a “trial period”. Good luck.

Fact vs. fiction in resumes

How do you determine facts vs. fiction in resumes?

With massive lay-offs in almost every industry sector, people are busy finding jobs! Resume writers and career coaches advice applicants to be specific (What was the problem and how you solve it?) and not to give job descriptions or list of positions. One thing they strongly recommend is to “quantify” your achievement.

I like to read patents and resumes. I read resumes posted on-line and find people to do exactly that – “quantify”. We all know that industrial achievements do not come from a single individual but from efforts of many (along the entire value chain). When a sales manager claims to have increased sales by 300% – what S/he exactly means? From $1000to $3000 (easy to do) or from $3 million to $ 9 million (difficult to do). When an egineer or mid level supervisor claims of designing a process/ product/ method which saved company $x millions or cretaed $ x million market, who provides those figures and how do you verify that? We know that changes in industry comes at costs and benefits. I also see, people giving almost a page long achievements for jobs lasting 6 to 9 months, and some are quite astonishing. Either the yard stick for success has shrunk or people have become really good at what they do ! I see people claiming to create market for 100s of millions but were let go!

I also question value of references applicant provides. Everyone will provide references of people they have good raport with. Employers are concerned about legal problems and always ask managers to be careful when they give their name out as reference.

So, my question is – what is the meaning of quantifying achivements for sake of quantifying? How do you screen resumes with such bold claims?

Amit Dharia, Ph.D.

Owner, Transmit Technology Group, LLC, TX

This comes back to a recurring issue that I have with the recruiting industry. It used to be that there was a rapport between a recruiter and a candidate. The recruiter would work as an agent for a group of people and as an agent for a group of companies. They’d come to know the strengths and weaknesses of candidates as well as the cultures and unwritten requirements of the companies. The two of you would work together to determine how best to present your qualifications to the hiring manager. Now it’s just “send me a resume and I’ll forward it”. There are a few of the “old school” recruiters out there. But they’re becoming fewer and farther between.

Recruiting is now such a commodity industry, that it’s created this “tooth-and-nail” approach to resumes. People state accomplishments in the hopes that their “60%” improvement will get them ahead of the people with only a “50%” improvement listed on their resumes. Completing a project 3 months ahead of schedule pushes those meager “completed on schedule” people into the circular file. It’s all about marketing. No product goes to market saying simply “it does exactly what you’re looking for”. Similarly, very few resumes get considered if they simply list skills and experience. They have to have that “Cleans 50% whiter than white!”, “Delivers 20% better than brand X” feel or they end up in the bin.

What makes this worse is that there are so many recruiters that expect you to have a “one-size-fits-all” resume. You have to somehow cram every possible contingency into a single document. For someone like me who has worked in multiple industries, across multiple disciplines and successfully built and run consulting practices (which requires a lot of cross-functional knowledge and skills), my resume ends up reading like a complete work of fiction. Is it too good to be true? No, not really. I consider myself slightly more skilled than the average bear in a wide number of disciplines, but I know that there are a lot of experts who could blow me away in any single area. I also know enough to know what I don’t know and how to surround myself with talented people to fill the gaps.

So, when I have to second-guess what a recruiter may be looking for without knowing anything about the possible job opportunity, company or even industry, the best way to get their attention usually ends up being to bandy around a lot of numbers and accomplishments without a lot of focus on specific skills or expertise. Honestly, I’m more proud of rescuing disasters by the skin of my teeth than I am of pulling off great numbers in a supportive, mature environment. But it’s the big flashy stuff that usually engages the recruiters in conversation. It’s that conversation that allows me to present myself in a more focused manner.

If a resume gets your attention, I’d be more inclined to call the individual on the claims. They should be able to back them up with specifics. How they respond and what skills and knowledge they have to back them up is really what’s important. Selective background checks should be the last step before presenting them to your client. At that point, you can ask specific questions about roles, responsibilities and accomplishments instead of “did they really generate 100M of business?”

Job Search Transparency

From my perspective, the best scenario with a future boss is to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect, which implies a certain amount of transparency as the process unfolds in the interview and job search process.

The question from a potential boss and liaison to a mentor: If a potential boss asks to know when/if any other potential employers are putting pressure on a candidate, then what do you think that they are expecting to know?

-More importantly and another and yet the same question also, to promote the best relationship of integrity with whomever the employer ends up being, what would they expect to know about your job search progress?

-A) You are being pressured to take a certain job

-B) You are considering a certain offer

-C) You are interviewing with X number of companies

-D) “Other”

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this.


Sherri Douville

Life Sciences Capital Market Insight

I would say that the only relevant information is whether you’re actively interviewing and if you have any impending offer. If the job that you’re interviewing for is the one that you really want, it wouldn’t hurt to say “This sounds like an amazing opportunity and it would certainly be my first choice if you decide that I’m the right candidate.” and then offer to call the hiring manager before accepting any other position.

Try to be open and honest without giving away too much information. On more than one occasion, I’ve passed over a candidate that was shotgunning interviews in favor of the one that wasn’t actively looking but really thought that it was an excellent opportunity to get into the company. On the other hand, I’ve also given preference to a candidate that really needed the job and would appreciate it rather than to the person who was likely to leave in 6 months for greener pastures. In many ways it’s as difficult for the hiring manager as it is for the candidate.

Never lie or exaggerate in an interview. That includes the “offers on the table” and interviewing questions. Don’t volunteer information that’s not relevant. But don’t lie about it. If you’re uncomfortable answering, just say so and decline to answer. Nobody expects total transparency on day one. But they do expect honesty.

The Recruiter Paradox

If they are looking for you and you are looking for them……

Then why are so many recruiters having a hard time fullfilling positions and people are still unemployed?

It amazes me that several hundreds of what seem like fantastic candidates have the words “seeking position” or similar in their profiles, and recruiters are breaking down my in-box with postings of job openings hoping that I can find a candidate. Why are the (2) not finding each other?

As a candidate, why would you not seek the recruiter by searching keywords and recruiters, why would you not seek candidates by the keyword “seeking”

Can’t we just all get along? Am I missing something? I have assisted with 25 job fullfillments this year alone? Should I be a recruiter?

Cher Lon Malik

Military wife: SHRM Member, Benefit consultant; B2B, Inside Sales: Job Angel

The days of personal recruiting are coming to an end. It’s all about broadcast spams and other shotgun mechanisms. Why search through resumes and make phone calls when you can use keywords to mailbomb 10000 candidates in a matter of seconds.

I get email, phonecalls and even paper mail from recruiters that have obviously never even bothered looking at my resume. Some of these are just ridiculous. (“I have a PERFECT match for you as an entry level fry cook at the local McDonalds. Why aren’t you responding to me?”).

I suspect that the answer comes down to laziness. If a recruiter can send you a single email and you then qualify candidates for them out of a pool of 1800+ contacts, why would they bother trying to search the candidates themselves? (hopefully you’re getting a commission on at least some of these referrals). The guys that are still using the personal touch are probably being pounded out of business by the spammers.

Just my two cents worth