Ms. Barnes-Hogg

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Don't be Fooled by the Perfect Resume

Your Perfect Candidate May Not be so Perfect

By Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, Founder, YOLO Insights

You found your perfect candidate. Their resume is a dream come true-it matches your requirements exactly and you hire him or her. The anticipation of having this amazing person on your team builds as you eagerly look forward to their first day on the job. Once they are on board, however, your excitement quickly turns to dread as you realize your perfect candidate fails to live up to their perfect resume. Have you found the perfect candidate and on their first day of work, that candidate was not what you expected? This happens far more often than one might expect, and it can be avoided with some strategic thinking about your recruiting process.

Did you know that only 10% of companies feel they do a good job of recruiting? Those odds may feel stacked against you. So, how do you know whether your candidates are as perfect as their resume makes them appear?

It's difficult, especially when the Internet is a prolific source of how-tos for everything from writing a resume and cover letter to answering commonly asked interview questions. There are key strategies you can use in your recruiting process to more accurately assess whether your perfect candidate is behind that perfect resume.

Be Aware of Your Bias

On a recent flight, my seatmate rushed to get in a last phone call before takeoff. In the process of finishing his call and switching on airplane mode, he dropped his phone. The plane was pushing back from the gate and he had to stay in his seat. I could see he was stressed because he didn't have his phone (Can't most of us relate?) and when we reached cruising altitude, he looked around and was unable to find it. He was sure his phone had rolled to the back of our section and he'd be unable to get it until we landed.

After we landed, I noticed the phone next to his foot and told him he was about to step on it. Rather than looking down, he insisted the phone was at the back of the section. This man was so sure of his phone's location, that he failed to believe it was literally at his feet.

What does this story have to do with perfect resumes? More than you would think. While this story may seem amusing, it's not funny when we miss what's right in front of us when making a hiring decision. We tend to choose our own interpretation of what we see and ignore anything that contradicts it.

When you interview, look and listen for what you want and remember to also be aware of your biases. Making good people decisions is hard work and it takes time, self-awareness, and clarity to get it right.

Remember the guy on the plane? I retrieved his phone before he crushed it with his foot saving him the time and money he would have spent replacing it. Once I showed him that his perspective was incorrect, he was grateful that he avoided damaging or ruining his phone.

A Case Study

Here's how this played out in a case study where a hiring decision ended badly because the manager saw only the perfect resume. The manager needed to quickly fill a critical engineering position. We worked together to develop a solid job description and wrote a great job ad to attract qualified candidates. We found the perfect candidate. He had the right education, his work experience was perfectly matched to our needs, he was willing to relocate, and his salary requirements were within budget.

Then things went wrong. Red flags appeared during the interview process, and again in his references. The candidate had also applied for a job with our parent company. It seems innocuous, except that he failed to disclose this during his interview. For me, that spoke to his honesty and integrity. However, the hiring manager chose to ignore how this character trait might impact our team.

The candidate's references gave subtle clues that he was unable to work with people who were below his level of education and experience. This company's work environment was a highly collaborative, team environment with people at many different levels of education and experience.

When the candidate was offered the job, he immediately asked for more vacation time, a higher salary, and additional benefits. These things had been covered in the interview and the manager had been honest about what the company could offer. For me, this was a sign that the candidate had a "what's in it for me" as opposed to "what can I do to make a difference in this job" mentality.

Unfortunately, the manager was so focused on filling the position quickly, he refused to hear anything that would change his decision. The manager neglected to account for the impact of the candidate's personality, mindset, and behaviors on his ability to succeed. After all, this candidate's resume proved he was the perfect fit.

The candidate was hired and things started unraveling within a few months. The manager was in my office several times a week for advice on how to manage his "perfect" employee. There were constant issues with his inability to work with the team and with our clients. After about six months, the manager decided to end this perfect candidate's employment. This decision was painful and costly for the company. We did a disservice to the employee because we hired a smart, talented person who was a poor cultural fit and because of that, he was unable to be successful. The company had a negative return on its investment in this employee, as they had paid relocation costs to move the candidate and his family from another state, in addition to training costs, benefit costs, lost productivity due to personality clashes, and disruptions on the team.

The costs to the employee were also painful and expensive. Relocating your family is stressful on its own. The employee and his family were adjusting to a new location, and now had to deal with the emotional turmoil that comes from a job loss.

Cultural Fit is Key

A common hiring mistake is focusing only on your candidate's skills and ignoring the more important attribute-cultural fit. Consider the mindset, personality traits, and behaviors your most successful employees possess, because these are reflections of your company culture. If you were to be honest and examine the traits of the unsuccessful people you've hired in the past, you would probably find those same traits were missing. Maybe there were even clues of their absence that you missed in your interview or in the candidate's references.

Applying strategic thinking and planning to your recruiting process makes a difference. It starts with you thinking about what your ideal employee would look like. What attitudes, skills, and behaviors do they possess? What personality traits fit your hotel's culture? What kind of education and experience is required? Next, create a pie chart with the top three to five attitudes, skills and behaviors critical to success. Your chart is a snapshot of your critical success factors.

Also, understand the attitudes, behaviors, and mindsets of unsuccessful employees. If you are unable to differentiate your perfect employee from an average or subpar employee, how will you know when you find the right one? Include others who can validate your opinions. In the case of the engineer, if the manager had been open to feedback about the candidate, time, money, and the manager's sanity could have been saved.

Pay Attention to Red flags

If you find something that doesn't seem to fit, explore it further. Ask more strategic questions and carefully consider whether the red flag can be overcome through mentorship or training. If overcoming the red flags is impossible, hiring the candidate will cause problems for you and your team. Keep searching until you find the right fit.

Do What's Right Instead of What's Easy

Be honest with yourself and your candidates. This is hard. I've interviewed thousands of candidates during my career and I know it's hard to tell someone they are not qualified for the job, especially when the reason is something other than skill or experience. I make it a practice to tell candidates when they are not a good fit for the position. Being honest is hard; however, it's necessary if you want to hire people who will be successful.

Ask strategic questions. Discovering the truth requires strategic thinking about the information you need to make an informed decision. Strategically crafting interview questions is an art form that anyone can learn with a bit of time and effort.

If you interview regularly, you are most likely suffering from unanswered question fatigue-the fatigue you get when your questions disappear into the air, never to see the light of a truthful response. Have you noticed the way most politicians answer questions? Do any of them answer the questions or do they hide behind vague answers and attempt to make you feel good while avoiding any substance or facts that tell you what they would think, say, or do? Here's how most questions go:

Reporter: What is your plan for [insert any issue here: immigration, health care, social security, the economy, or jobs]?

Politician: America is in crisis and we must do what's best for the American people.

The question rarely matters because the answer is the same. Few politicians directly answer questions because they rely on scripts their handlers prepare. The politician's primary goal is to win the election by gaining support and avoiding alienating voters, not answering the important questions.

The same situation occurs when you interview candidates using standard questions. Here are a few tips to give your questions a makeover that keeps them fresh and relevant to your needs.

  • Make sure the question is one you can legally ask. According to a 2015 CareerBuilder survey, one in five employers asks an illegal interview question.
  • Understand what you want to learn from the candidate's answer. Asking a question because you found it on a list of great questions to ask candidates will fail to give you the information needed to determine whether the candidate is a good fit for your hotel. Your questions need to have a purpose, and that purpose is to discover how the candidate will perform on the job.
  • Define what a right answer looks like and what a wrong answer looks like. Interviewers often ask questions without knowing how to decide if the answer is a good one. Take some time to define the attitudes, behaviors, and mindsets of both a high performer and a low performer.
  • Watch facial expressions, tone of voice, word choice, and body language to make sure they match the words. An answer to a question is more than the words spoken. Communication has many aspects and you want to factor them into your assessment of your candidate.
  • Look beyond the words to determine meaning. Words mean different things to different people. Use follow-up questions to make sure you understand what your candidate means. Assuming the candidate shares your definition can be a mistake.

This sounds hard, and yet with a little advance thought and some practice, anyone can master the art of asking strategic interview questions. Here's an example to get you started:

Standard Interview Question: "Tell me about your greatest achievement at work."

Standard Response: "I had a big project due for an important client [insert problems] and I worked as long as it took to get the job done. It was hard work and long hours and in the end the client was happy."

Sound familiar? Did you learn anything from the answer? Probably not. Your goal with this question may be to find out what your candidate values, feels is important, and what motivates them. Unfortunately, their answer fails to provide any of that information.

Fixing this problem is easy with practice and strategic thinking. Here's an alternative question to get you started: Strategic Question: Could you describe a situation when you were faced with a problem that required innovative thinking? This is a more powerful question. It sends a signal to your candidate that you want depth and substance. It's hard for a candidate to bluff their way through a question like this. They have to dig deep and think. Because of that, make sure you give them a moment or two. Most candidates rarely get a question this good, and they need time to process the question before they answer.

Just because their resume fits, doesn't mean the candidate fits your culture. What a powerful statement! It's easy to get caught up in your pain and want a quick fix. Hiring the wrong employee can be expensive. It's better to be understaffed than to have a bad employee who will cost you time and money due to training expenses and turnover. The wrong employee can also create problems with productivity and have a negative effect on the retention of good performers.

Some of the worst hiring stories I've seen involve failing to see what's right in front of you. When you hire people who have a genuine interest in what they do, are aligned with your corporate culture, and possess the attitudes, mindsets, and personality traits required to be successful in your hotel, your team will perform at a higher level and your issues with employee relations will dramatically decrease.

The good news is that if you take the time to identify your perfect employee and apply some strategy to your recruiting process, you will get a complete picture of who your candidates truly are and take the guesswork and uncertainty out of hiring decisions. That's the secret to finding the perfect candidate.

Rebecca Barnes-Hogg is the Founder and Chief Insights Officer of YOLO Insights, a recruiting and hiring strategy firm dedicated to the art of hiring great employees. Ms. Barnes-Hogg founded YOLO Insights with the vision of making sure businesses will hire the right people. Her passion for connecting talented people with the businesses who need them flows from her early experience as an HR Executive. Ms. Barnes-Hogg is a sought-after speaker on topics related to recruiting, interviewing, communication, and teambuilding. Her recruiting insights have been featured in Business News Daily, U.S. News & World Report, CBS Small Business Pulse, MarketWatch, and HR Magazine. Ms. Barnes-Hogg can be contacted at 843-779-9656 or rebecca@yoloinsights.com Please visit http://www.yoloinsights.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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