I want to talk about when to hire for skills over resumes. First, let’s take a look at why resume-based hiring is suboptimal in the first place.
Resumes can be incomplete. Candidates might not list all of their relevant experiences or skills on their resumes, or they might not know how to effectively communicate their abilities. Additionally, resumes don't provide any insight into a person's potential or fit for your company culture. Someone might have all the right experiences listed on their resume, but if they don't align with your company's values or work well with your team, they won't be a good long-term hire.
Another issue with relying solely on resumes is that it's easy to fall into the trap of hiring based on someone's credentials rather than their skills. It's tempting to look for candidates with impressive degrees or prestigious past employers, but those factors don't necessarily translate to someone being a good fit for your team or the position you're hiring for. In fact, a candidate with a less traditional background might bring a unique perspective or skill set that could be invaluable to your company.
So, when is it important to hire for skills over resumes? Here are a few examples:
Hiring for a new or evolving role: If you're creating a new position within your company or are trying to fill a role that has evolved significantly over time, it can be difficult to find a candidate with the exact experiences listed on their resume. Instead, focus on finding someone with the necessary skills and potential to adapt to the role and grow with your company.
Hiring for a high-growth company: When your company is growing rapidly, you need to be able to hire people who can keep up with the pace of change. That means looking for candidates with a growth mindset, strong problem-solving skills, and the ability to learn quickly. Resumes alone won't give you a good sense of a candidate's ability to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing environment.
Hiring for a remote position: With more and more companies moving to remote work, it's becoming increasingly important to hire for skills over resumes. When you're not able to meet candidates in person or observe them in a traditional office environment, you need to rely on their skills and ability to communicate effectively in a virtual setting.
Hiring in a changing environment: This is just about every company at this point. We are all in a world that continues to change at a more and more rapid rate. To compete, we need the right talent, and the right skills.
As a startup founder, my business is always changing, and our team is on the lookout for those who have the right skills (usually related to their craft such as writing, but also more general skills such as learning, the ability to take feedback, and the ability to use data), as well as those who are a strong culture fit.
We use a lot of tools when hiring, including assessments and behavioral interviews.
My personal go-to is a project. We typically do a two-five hour project with a candidate over the course of a week to understand what it’s like to work with them, and give them a sense to work with us. It will always involve multiple of the critical skills that someone needs to succeed in the job.
Bottom line: historically, most recruiting functions have been ok with hiring criteria focused on GPA, degrees, what company you worked for previously, etc. These are important criteria, but they fail when used alone without rigorously evaluating a candidate’s skills, and their ability to evolve and gain new competencies. I hope sharing my own experience and tips is helpful as you build your team.
Phil Strazzulla is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website that helps companies find and buy the right HR tools through free online guides. Phil started his career working as a VC at Bessemer Venture Partners before attending Harvard Business School for his MBA. He’s a self taught programmer, general tech nerd, and spends most weekends chasing his son around Boston.