Evaluating a resume

The resume is like a foot race – you have to get to the truth (the finish) quickly, or you can run into distractions and get tripped up by stories that cloud your vision and slow your ability to see the facts.

One obstacle is us; we want to believe everyone and everything on the resume. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is. How do you separate fact from fiction?

We get to the bottom of what the candidate wanted to be compared to what they really accomplished. This is achieved both through excellent resume reading as well as through the interview process.

What happens when the information listed on the resume does not match up to the answers you are receiving from the candidate? Someone is cooking the stats, and you need to rephrase and ask those questions again to get to the truth.

The average time people are out of work looking for a new position is 32 weeks! So, we need to keep a consistent approach and make sure we are in a position to filter the jargon and get to what really matters. Can this person be on your team? Can they contribute? Can they make this team better?

The resume can be the silent killer.

Missing and incomplete information that leads to misleading stats and information can cloud our judgment and ultimately lead us to the wrong decision. The result? It can kill our productivity, effectiveness, and the company.

What do you look for? Is the candidate a job hopper – always seeking the next shiny thing, leaving for more money, never really staying long enough to make any real contribution or have any real accountability? Have they moved from state to state always seeking something “better,” always chasing greener pastures?

Try not to hire anyone unless they have been at any employer at least three years. For people just out of school or the military that is not possible to do, but it is still a good guideline. We know that an employee can hide within a company for a year and take up space, be given the benefit of the doubt, and be in and out of training.

During year two, an employee has learned the culture and business and therefore their responsibility should increase. At three years, the employee should clearly be contributing, progressing and setting and attaining goals for the company. At three years the employee is now accountable, and it’s a solid number these days. On the flip side, if you see a trend that at around two years the candidate keeps leaving jobs, they are either unable to handle additional tasks, didn’t like the tasks that were handed out, or did not fit in with the culture of that company. Beware of the culture killer! And remember, people can’t give you what they don’t have.

Spelling and grammar.

It’s all about the first impression with you and ultimately with your customers. A misstep here could indicate carelessness or a lack of attention to detail. Remember, the candidate is putting their best foot forward with their resume. If they can’t get the spelling and grammar correct on their resume, can you really anticipate that they’ll get the details right when they come to work for you? Probably not.

Reasons for leaving each position.

If you see a lot of “Will explain” or “Didn’t get along with supervisor”… BEWARE!!

Increase or decrease in wage and / or responsibility. You would hope to see a nice steady increase in both the candidate’s income and responsibility as they progress through their career. If the opposite is true, again, beware!

Gaps in employment

A gap in employment isn’t a deal-breaker, but certainly a consideration and something you will want to probe further on in the interview. A gap could indicate that the candidate stayed home with a child or a sick relative. Or, a gap could indicate their inability to find another job quickly. So, are the gaps explainable and are those explanations legitimate?

One method is to highlight all the action verbs in the resume. Highlight words like managed, implemented, organized, developed, delivered, created, streamlined, etc. You want to ask questions centered around these words in the interview to see: 1) Did they actually do those things, or 2) Were they part of the team that did it, or 3) Were they following up for someone else to make sure those things were accomplished?

Using this method takes the guesswork out, gets to the truth, and allows you to make an educated decision. The devil is in the details, and once you drill down on these key points it will give you a clear perspective as to the applicant and the validity of the information on the resume. You just want the truth.

Based on the position a candidate is applying for, you will want to look for different things in the resume.


Look for entrepreneurial sales achievement – sales are often about ego and so many companies reward salespeople with awards, recognition, etc. What awards has your candidate won? If they are great, they will tell you – that’s how salespeople are. Did they ask you for the job? If they don’t ask for the job at the interview, how competitive are they? If they will not ask for themselves, do you really think they will ask for the business when they are working for you? Remember, the best can feed anywhere. If someone sold in a competitive environment where products, goods/services, ideas, and concepts were sold, they can sell anywhere. The key is this: Was it a need or want item? Were they selling or asking? Trained killer or diplomat? Order takers can disguise themselves, but we can handle those with some common sense and well-placed questions. Beware of the pretenders, but remember there are many players out there.

Management candidates.

Look for increasing responsibility with management candidates. How did they manage their team? What high-value activities did they achieve?

Production, service and office candidates.

Look for stability in employment. Were they able to bring new ideas to the table and see them through? Or, did they simply do what was told and only what was told? Look also for technical training experience, because it increases the value they bring to the company and to your customers. It also shows they can stick with something, and they are trainable.


Try to get to the bottom of their longevity at previous employers. It is common to see “Over 15 years of proven experience in sales positions (or customer service or whatever),” That could be 1 year of experience 15 times, and they are just being clever in covering that detail up on the resume!


Try using Google with their name, image, etc. Twitter, Facebook pictures and MySpace have proven very useful as well. When you see pictures posted of them you can get a real sense of who they are. This may determine whether you interview someone or not!

Email applicants and ask them to respond to a handful of questions. This will save you tons of time and give you the opportunity to make a better-informed decision.

Example email:

Thank you for sending your resume. Please fill in the following information about your work history.

  • Day and month of each start and stop date per company
  • Your motivation for leaving each job
  • Likes and dislikes of each job- History of compensation
  • What was the most important part of each position

Thank You! I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Here’s what to look for in the responses:

  1. Did they respond?
  2. How long did it take? Did they have a sense of urgency or did they take their time?
  3. What does it look like? Were the responses well thought out? How was the spelling and grammar?
  4. Did they follow directions? Did they complete everything as asked?

2dn email for successful candidates:

Dear [insert candidate name], Thank you for your expressed interest in our posting for a Salesperson. Based on your resume, we believe there may be a potential fit for you in our organization.

We have a lot of demand for this position and so we want to be very clear about what this job is and what it is not. We want to be upfront in our expectations, so we can respect both your and our time and energy. If you are comfortable with all of the statements listed below, we invite you to respond to this email by answering the questions at the bottom of this email.

From the answers you receive, select individuals to interview for the position.

This job is:

  1. With the best HVAC contractor in this region.
  2. 100% commission based (3 weeks paid training @ $ gross per week; thereafter, 100% commission; commissions become due when a job is completed and the customer has paid in full).
  3. A legitimate and documented $80,000 – $100,000+ job opportunity.
  4. Only for self-starters who can learn fast, take coaching humbly and put what you learned into practice, and grow with minimal supervision and daily structure.
  5. For people who can follow a specific sales process and do what is asked of them without excuses or push back.

This job IS NOT:

  1. For people who need a guaranteed income (this is a great income opportunity but weekly take-home pay fluctuates as with any commissioned job).
  2. For people who are negative or tend towards that perspective.
  3. For people who are not good with computers and can’t use email/ software programs.
  4. For people who are not good at customer service/meticulous follow-up with customers.

If you are interested in this position, please respond to the following


  1. Why do you want to work for [insert your company name]?
  2. What makes you a good salesperson?
  3. What is your definition of personal accountability?
  4. Give me a real-life example of how you are a self-starter.
  5. Describe your construction experience.

Optional Email #2

Thanks, [insert candidate name], and I look forward to hearing from you.

[insert your name]

Dear [insert candidate name],

We have received your resume in response to our posting for a [insert position name here]. Prior to determining who we will select for in-person interviews, we’d like to ask you a few questions. If you are interested, please respond via return email as soon as possible.

  1. Why are you interested in coming to work for our company?
  2. Why are you interested in this specific position?
  3. Define good customer service.
  4. What does the term “personal accountability” mean to you?
  5. If you are currently employed, why are you wanting to leave your current job?
  6. What qualities do you possess that would make you a good customer service representative? Give me an example of a situation you were in from your past work history that illustrates you demonstrating those qualities.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you. [insert your name]

Not only do these types of interactions save you a great deal of time and energy in the long run, but they also give you great insight into the candidate that may otherwise be difficult to obtain. You can gauge their interest level in the position, writing skills, level of thoroughness, and sense of urgency, not to mention the actual content of the response itself!

We want the best people. We want superstars or rising stars from other companies. Beware of the person who has been in the same position for 15 years and never progressed. We want to hire happy, gainfully employed people. The good news is that there are so many people who are willing to work and give their best that we don’t really have to worry about the other unengaged workers.

Don’t be a Savior.

Sometimes we want to “save someone” (or hire them) because we feel sorry for them. Has that happened to you? We think, “We can fix them. Let me just take them under my wing.” Or, “They seem nice. We have an open job and we can turn this person into.” Or, “I have a good feeling about this person. They just need a mentor to turn things around.” It is normal to think that way, but it is not in your company’s best interest. Remember, your job is to hire tough and not settle for less than the best. You are not in the business of “fixing” people (even though that is very noble and nice of you). “People don’t change that much; don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out Try to draw out what was left inside – that is hard enough.”- Les Brown