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Look Past The Resume. How To Choose The Best Candidates.

Hiring an employee is no small matter. This is your business we’re talking about. And your business is a big part of your life. By extension, the right employee can make your life run better. When you think about it like that, it seems a bit strange that we put so much stock into a few pages of pre-prepared marketing copy about a complex human being. Resumes are handy for educational and work experience. But there’s much more to an employee than that. Don’t rely on the resume too much. A wise employer gathers relevant information through various means to weigh up candidates. Here are our tips to make wiser hiring decisions.


  1. Grab a coffee or lunch after the interview

Even better, interview them over coffee. If it goes well, suggest getting a bite to eat. Maybe propose this when arranging the interview so it’s not a surprise. Here’s the deal. You’re going to get a better sense of a candidate’s personality in this setting. They’ll probably feel more relaxed and might open up more. You’ll get a feel for how they interact with waitstaff. No, you don’t need to be best friends with your employees, but life will be easier if there’s a relatively good vibe between the two of you. You could be about to spend a LOT of time with this person. It seems reasonable to spend time with them on a more personal basis?


  1. Make the most of referees

Many employers make the mistake of liking a candidate so much that checking references is a bit of an afterthought. Not wise. Lots of people (especially charismatic people) know how to impress and sell themselves at an interview. But the gift of the gab doesn’t always translate to long-term, reliable employee potential. You want to get old employers talking authentically about the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate. Ask open-ended questions designed to tease out this information. Questions like:

  • What skills would take Lisa’s performance to the next level?
  • Do you have any suggestions for training focuses for Lisa?
  • What type of management style do you think she’d warm to?
  • How could a manager inspire Lisa to produce her best work?

You can also ask about a candidate’s sense of humour, how he or she interacted with the rest of the staff, and if they participated in any external activities, such as lunchtime soccer or volunteering. Think of what matters to you and your company culture, and use that as a guide for questions.

Try to build rapport with the referee from the start so you can have a natural and authentic conversation. Perhaps set a time in advance so the chat is not too rushed. Don’t waste this great opportunity to get a fleshed out picture of your potential new employee.


  1. Glance at social media accounts

Look, so many employers do it, and if your candidate has public social media profiles then you’re not being unethical in viewing them. Profiles can give you a snapshot of a person and a sense of whether that person is a good fit for your business. They’re not a complete picture by any means, but all of these steps are adding up to a well-rounded conception of a candidate. Job seekers should know to set profiles to private or delete compromising posts because they know that potential employers might check. If they have a ton of inappropriate images and privacy settings set to public perhaps they haven’t sufficiently prepared for their job search. Start with LinkedIn for an overview of their professional persona. Twitter is often used for professional purposes, too.


  1. Have them in for a trial

Depending on the nature of the business, try to get them in for a trial. You’ll get a sense of how they interact with others and their ability to learn new processes. Stress to them the trial goes both ways, and it does! If your candidate doesn’t feel comfortable and have a good experience in your business then it’s best to know now! Don’t make it too stressful for them — give them basic tasks and keep it light and casual. Maybe grab a coffee or a bite to eat or even a drink afterwards if things go well. It’s an opportunity to speak openly about how you both thought the day went and if this could work. If you’re tossing up between two candidates a trial can make all the difference.

It’s important to pay for trials so that the person is compensated for their time, but also from a legal standpoint. The candidate could have a great idea that you want to move forward with, but if the trial was unpaid and you don’t give them the job, you could run into legal issues if you end up using the idea.

You could even give potential employees a few (paid) freelance projects to start with and see if they have the skills we’re looking for. Think of it as an investment: If the salary is $50,000 and you invest $500 in a freelance project and discover that the person isn’t right for you, you’re not out $500 — you just saved yourself $49,500 from going to the wrong person.


  1. Get a feel for personal interests and goals

Get them talking about their interests in the interview. This can tell you a lot about a potential candidate. Find out what motivates them. Knowing what they’re inspired by will help you manage them if you end up hiring them. Try open-ended questions like:

  • If money wasn’t an issue, how would you spend your time?
  • What would an ideal work week look like for you?
  • What interests you about this field?
  • Do you have any teamwork or volunteer experience outside of work?

So the next time you’re weighing up candidates, think outside the square. Resumes are great for providing a list of (potentially exaggerated) skills and achievements, but building a successful team requires well-rounded employees, more than a list of traits on paper.

Want more interviewing tips? Check out our article on Must Ask Interview Questions When Hiring for Your Small Business

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Want more tips? Check out our 2019 Recruitment Handbook