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Why You Should Look Beyond the Resume

One of the important decisions you make as a business owner is whether or not to hire an applicant. After all, talent can make an instrumental impact on the success of a company. With the right individuals

on your team, your business is likely to grow and prosper; but they must be the right hires. In the past, a compelling resume was a deciding factor. While still important, the environment has changed due to labor shortages, generational differences, competitive hiring practices, and shifting priorities. This creates a challenge that an enticing resume can’t solve. I encourage you to rethink your approach to recruiting and hiring. With many in the workplace quitting jobs or jockeying to procure lifestyle benefits like working remotely and extra vacation time, it’s a new ballgame requiring a shift in employer mindset. And the labor market is a moving target. Impacts are felt from technological advances, supply chain troubles, worldwide instability, pandemics, and varying views of work-life balance. Baby boomers and millennials, for example, want different things so as an employer you need to be flexible to keep up with the workforce. Yet you must also meet your company’s needs. How do you satisfy everyone?

Pros and Cons of Resumes

The resume is a good starting point because it allows you to judge a person’s stability by seeing if he or she has worked in a job for just two months or two years. It’s a shorthand means of assessing education too. A resume is necessary but it’s not completely relevant. Basically, I don’t care about the resume, I care about people. I look at a resume but more importantly, I ask in-depth questions devised to gauge the whole person and see what will make them successful. My inquiry determines what company and position would be a good match by determining a culture fit and required skills. Finding the right talent for a company’s team is strategic.

Important Intangibles

I look to assess the intangibles—what activities a person does outside of work that brings him or her joy is one good way to discover their true passions. This tells me a lot; it tells me what makes them happy and will keep them engaged. If a man or woman loves editing and proofreading, for instance, you don’t necessarily find them a job as an editor. But the company may have a newsletter he or she can edit. If someone loves planning events, I’ll advise a prospective employer to put that individual on a social committee. This won’t be the person’s main job, but he or she will be excited to join in. And if someone loves to cook, arranging a potluck meal for the staff gives the person an opportunity to share a favorite dish. Engaging employees outside 9 to 5 makes them feel part of the company; it helps them become invested.

Other intangibles I consider include a candidate’s proclivity to taking initiative, an ability to negotiate, good follow-up, independence, collaborative teamwork, a tendency to be detail oriented, and a talent for problem solving.

Getting Assistance

It’s vital to find employees who figuratively skip to work in the morning with high energy and the excitement to be there. You don’t want them to just sit at their desks waiting to be told what to do, waiting to collect a paycheck. It’s the difference between someone who is engaged and someone merely doing the bare minimum.

I’ve had 20 years’ experience in the placement industry and I’ve developed a methodology for strategic hiring—thus the name of my firm. And I’m passionate about staffing—I’ve found the perfect niche for myself. One of my fortes is listening. I listen to applicants, to their words but also their body language and what they reveal without realizing it. This is not to pass judgment but to do the best for them. While listening, I assess a person. The advantages of using a firm like mine include saving dozens of hours interviewing and handling all the work of checking references, arranging drug screening, background checks, and technical skills assessment. We’ll regularly conduct 35 interviews to find the three best qualified candidates; and we provide an outside, objective point of view. My firm also has many recruiting methods beyond job boards like Monster and Career Builder. We use social media, flyers, referrals, our database, trade schools, universities, and networking at professional events. Whether you use a service like mine or hire internally, pay attention to the person you’re hiring and what they’re really saying to you. Don’t just hear what you want to hear. Everyone will be happier in the long run.


My personal passion is to help other people live their passions. When job seekers talk to me, they are truthful about what they want because we’re their advocate. Whereas when they’re talking to potential employers, they say what they need to say to get the job. We teach clients to be open to dialogue, to focusing on what applicants enjoy doing and what they love, even when it overrides their experience. Skills can be taught, enthusiasm not so much.


SONYA HOPSON is the owner of Hire Strategies, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based direct hire and temp placement firm. The company specializes in administrative jobs, finding qualified candidates for positions that include accountants, office managers, customer service reps, and executive assistants. She is a member of the Enterprising Women Advisory Board and can be reached at shopson@hire-strategies.com or through www.hire-strategies.com.