June 22, 2018

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Right Keywords, Wrong Candidate

Recruiters often ask me how a candidate can be rejected for consideration, even though the person’s resume has all the right keywords.

Simple answer? The job description got lost in translation.

Think about it: Every job exists because a company has a problem. Otherwise, they wouldn't be hiring. Unfortunately, most employers are unable or unwilling to talk directly about the problem; so they talk around it.

Instead of saying, "We’ve got a great team of developers. But they lack discipline, and we’re on the verge of losing a major contract because we’re chronically behind schedule," they hand you a job description that reads, "The candidate will be expected to broadly influence the technology and direction of the product. Must be proficient with J2EE, JCR, JSF and Ajax and possess a BS or MS in computer science or related field."

It's a classic disconnect: The hiring manager is worrying about a PROBLEM but translates the solution into a list of QUALIFICATIONS for the job.

Submission Deficit Disorder

From this point on, you and the employer pass like two ships in the night. You submit the resume with the right QUALIFICATIONS and what happens? The hiring manager stares at the resume, trying to imagine how that candidate’s going to solve the PROBLEM.

The keywords are there—you made sure of that—but the essential qualities needed to solve the problem are unknown, at least on paper. So the candidate’s resume is returned to you, stamped REJECTED.

But it doesn't have to be this way. By interviewing the hiring manager directly, you can understand the nature of the problem and begin to find a solution. Here are some simple questions to ask:

  1. What's the most pressing problem you'd like to solve by making this hire?

  2. To fix the problem, what would the new person need to do? Please be specific.

  3. What problem-solving accomplishments or experience in the candidate's past job would give you the confidence to predict success at your company?

  4. Can you think of any knockout factors that would immediately disqualify someone or render them incapable of succeeding at your company?

  5. After the initial problem is solved, what lies ahead, in terms of expected results?

Obviously, there are many more questions you should ask. But by digging deeper than the keywords and cliches—and getting to the heart of the matter—you'll add tremendous value and translate a greater number of submissions into face-to-face interviews.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter whose innovative books, tapes and training seminars have helped thousands of recruiting professionals and search consultants achieve peak performance and career satisfaction. Bill’s extensive experience makes him an ideal source of techniques, methods and ideas for rookies who want to master the fundamentals—or veterans ready to jump to a higher level of success. more immune to future recessions.