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Promising resumes often don't equal promising hires

With unemployment at record lows, it’s harder than ever to find and hire the right candidates, but there are ways to ensure success.

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What you read isn’t always what you get when it comes to hiring. According to new research by staffing firm Robert Half, 64% of managers said it’s common for a candidate with a promising resume not to live up to expectations when interviewed, which can lead to delays to the hiring process.

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows job openings increased to 6.3 million in January, a record high. While this is a great sign for job seekers, it can create challenges for employers. It may be harder to find skilled candidates, and if employers take too long to make an offer they risk losing the candidate as they’re likely fielding multiple job offers.

The latest jobs report from the BLS only reinforces these findings:

  • Employers added 103,000 jobs in March;
  • The national unemployment rate remains at 4.1% (a 17-year low) for the sixth month in a row; and
  • Professional and business services added 33,000 jobs.

“Just because a candidate seems to be good on paper doesn’t mean they will naturally excel in the role, or fit in with your organization’s corporate culture,” says Jim Jeffers, metro market manager of Robert Half in Madison. “According to our research, 64% of senior managers say it’s common for a candidate with a promising resume to not live up to expectations when interviewed. With Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at an all-time low of 2.9%, it’s becoming more challenging than ever for employers to identify and secure top talent.”

During the interview process, Jeffers says hiring managers need to assess cultural fit and find ways to evaluate whether a candidate has the technical ability to do the job. For example, adding behavioral interview questions can go a long way in providing the hiring manager with insight on how a candidate will react in certain situations. Another tactic to determine fitness for the job is to test a candidate’s technical skills with exercises that reflect the nature of the work.

Overall, hiring managers spend 13 hours — or roughly a third of the workweek — assessing each hire, notes Jeffers. On average, managers review 40 resumes per job opening and spend 12 minutes looking at each one. In the interview phase, managers interview an average of seven people per open position, and those meetings take an average of 41 minutes each.

“Managers conduct interviews for a variety of reasons,” explains Jeffers, “from verifying relevant experience (61%) and assessing soft skills and corporate culture (21%) to assessing technical skills (18%). But even after managers spend ample time on the hiring process, sometimes new hires don’t work out. Common reasons are a lack of soft skills or technical ability.”

Risky business: The current hiring environment

According to Jeffers, many companies take too long to start their search. “They extend hiring timelines and postpone decisions. They wait to see if a resume from the perfect candidate appears — one who may not exist. They get overwhelmed with time it takes to sift through resumes. They take big risks in losing candidates to other offers when they don’t quickly extend an offer to a promising candidate.”

Besides time, companies face a variety of other risks that are exacerbated by today’s hiring environment:

  • Counteroffers — The risk of losing your next great hire to a counteroffer is more prevalent than ever; it’s not a matter of if there’s a counter, but when. Firms that don’t manage the risk from the outset of the hiring process will lose time and prospects.
  • Compliance — The hiring process must follow specific steps to be in line with legal and compliance requirements. The biggest risk is what you don’t know. It can cost your firm in multiple ways.
  • Vacancy — The longer a role is vacant, the larger the risks. If a position is open a long time, then morale goes down. Work not getting done could mean less revenue, which impacts the bottom line twice —first from work not getting done, and again from turnover.
  • Wrong decision — Making the wrong hire costs time, training, lost productivity, lost business, morale, and additional turnover. Firms need to evaluate if the hire will stick.


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