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Looking Beyond the Resume


I’ve written about why I believe that the most experienced candidate does not automatically equate to the best candidate for a position. Here’s a story to illustrate my point.

A leading fast-growing sales and marketing organization approached me looking for a Project Manager / Business Analyst. After spending several hours getting to know them deeply, it was obvious that a formal PM/BA actually might not be the best fit for them –– for many reasons. We changed the title to Process & Systems Director. I definitely didn’t screen out PM/BAs, but I did not specifically target them.

I used job postings to get the word out about the opportunity, but I also proactively looked for people at events, networking, etc. in an attempt to extend the search beyond simply people who responded to a posting whose resume matched the job description.

After an exhaustive search and deep 90-minute interviews with the top 30 candidates, I narrowed down the pool to six people. Every one of those six seemed like a potentially perfect fit for the role, culture, etc. Five had resumes that demonstrated very relevant experience. One did not did not have a resume that would appear to be a match at first glance, but the core of who she was fit perfectly, and I had a gut feeling that her skills would be transferable.

From there, I gave those six candidates an opportunity to actually try out the role for four hours in a simplified mock scenario that I designed. This would accomplish two things:  1) The candidates would be able to make informed decisions on whether they would love the role, and 2) Both parties could be confident that the candidate would have all the core skills needed to succeed on the job.

In order to do really well, they had to:

- Do everything that would be required on the job (including similar interactions)
- Demonstrate all the following:

  1. Strong critical thinking skills
  2. Extreme detail orientation and organization, with a simultaneous ability to see the big picture
  3. Quick thinking
  4. Ability to ask excellent questions
  5. Strong verbal and written communication skills
  6. Creative problem solving  


Most of the five candidates with relevant experience performed well. But the candidate who did NOT have obviously relevant experience blew them out of the water in ways I could not even have imagined.

I met the winning candidate at Denver Startup Week (http://www.denverstartupweek.org). She started her career as a fine artist. She later became a Materials Scientist on extremely large projects. She attended Denver Startup Week because she was looking for an opportunity to marry both sides of her brain, and to make an impact in a small but fast-growing company.

It makes sense that she performed well. Being a scientist requires a tremendous amount of critical thinking, detail orientation with an eye on the bigger picture, asking great questions, and experimenting with new ideas. Being a fine artist requires an abundance of creativity and insight.  

She was hired for the position, and the match has worked out extremely well. The company loves her, she is really enjoying the opportunity, and has made very positive and valuable contributions.

Artist and Scientist for what originally was a PM/BA position? Had I been solely focused on resumes, I would have passed her over. Resumes and experience certainly can be valuable, but this story is a great example of how looking beyond the resume at who a candidate is at their core can be worth the extra effort.  


Leila Blauner

March 23, 2016


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