Close

Sign up to get the latest news and stories on the future of work.

Subscribe Search

Search form

Employers must take it on faith that the skills described on candidates' resumes accurately demonstrate that they have the “right stuff" to meet the requirements of the job opening. Resumes focus more on specific accomplishments than on merely listing function and responsibilities—this helps, as granular detail implies honesty versus hyperbole. But as a former HR executive, I confess that simply relying on resumes means that many candidates I've offered jobs to may not have been up to par.

The truth is, we can't always rely on resumes, because they are marketing tools intended to showcase candidates in the best possible light. We also can't rely on references. After all, what HR manager is willing to risk going on record for information other than employment verification? And what candidate will list someone as a reference who doesn't have glowing things to say about her?

That's why there's a new paradigm afoot in recruiting—one that I strongly advocate for despite its potential reduction of my own work as a resume writer. Candidates should actually demonstrate the competencies showcased in their resumes—in part through project-based hiring practices and behavioral interviewing. A great example can be found at HireArt, a recruitment firm that believes allowing candidates to demonstrate their skills leads to better outcomes than hiring processes that rely heavily on credentialism.

I recently sat down with Chris Brower, COO of HireArt, to drill down into their recruitment strategy and discuss how other companies can adopt similar recruiting practices. Read on to learn how you can alleviate the stress inherent in recruiting by relying less on what candidates tell you, and more on what candidates show you through behavioral interview techniques.

Chris, you and I agree that the best way for candidates to prove they can do the job is to actually do real work. How did HireArt develop this approach?

Research supports our belief that work samples are the best predictor of how a candidate will perform on the job, followed closely by structured interviews. Both are much more effective at predicting performance than either job experience or education. The insight we derive provides structured data that correlates with actual on-the-job success.

"Work samples are the best predictor of how a candidate will perform on the job."

In my experience working with hiring managers, my biggest challenge was convincing them that often the best candidates don't necessarily have skills that match their list of requirements. How does HireArt address this mindset?

While some clients are convinced that only a narrow set of experiences qualify someone for a role, the data we derive from our work samples allows hiring managers to assess candidates with a broader mind. Even those clients who are convinced that a candidate must have X experience working in X industry seem to quickly realize that our work sample assessments deliver relevant insights about a candidate's skills.

What type of samples do you have candidates provide?

Take customer service as an example. Employers want to know: Is the person empathetic and professional? Can he or she write clearly? Take ownership over customer issues or just check the boxes? Exhibit resourcefulness in problem-solving?

So, we give customer service candidates a typical customer service scenario where an angry customer has a thorny issue, and show them an email exchange. The task is to write the next response in the email chain. Our graders examine the response and fill out a rubric indicating whether the candidate demonstrated the soft and hard skills, knowledge and personality that is relevant to the role. We also [film] customer service scenarios.

What character traits make for the best hires? Can these traits be found equally among baby boomers and millennials?

There are four traits that we see as consistent among the best hires we've sourced: intellectual humility, emotional intelligence, conscientiousness and strong communication skills—traits that are found equally across generations. Bias is a huge problem in hiring, and the best way to combat that is to use structured, work-sample based assessments that are graded against a standard rubric. Doing so ensures that all candidates are judged on the same criteria, which levels the playing field and allows hiring decisions based on merit rather than bias.

"There are four traits that we see as consistent among the best hires we've sourced: intellectual humility, emotional intelligence, conscientiousness and strong communication skills."

And incidentally, we regularly see community college graduates hired over Ivy Leaguers, and retirees hired over younger applicants with more traditional resumes. We consider it a point of pride at HireArt when our clients make offers to candidates with non-traditional backgrounds. It validates our belief that credentialism has had its day—there are better tools to measure skills and knowledge.

Photo: Creative Commons