Your Applicant Tracking System Can Scan Candidates Out
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Your Applicant Tracking System Can Scan Candidates Out

Updated: Feb 26



If you were to load the key words balanced, motivated/driven, adaptable, integrity and confidence very few resumes will come up in the Application Tracking System (ATS) search.  Those few documents that do come up typically use the words in their summary just to say they have that attribute, but don't describe how they can claim they have these attributes.


How do you look beyond the resume to identify top performers?


Recruiting is a science and it is not always as easy as looking for key words on a resume.  Not only does a new member of the team have to have the skills, they have to fit within the company culture, work well with the team, and be a productive contributor to the company. 

So how do you look beyond the resume to identify top performers?  It is important to ask questions that require the candidate to speak about how they do the job, not what they do.


Here are 5 attributes that typically are part of a top candidates profile and examples of questions that can be used in an interview to determine if these attributes are present.  They are:


  • Balanced- someone with balance shows professionalism in everything they do.  They can deal with the politics and not lose their temper or waiver in productivity.  They have patience and step back to evaluate situations that may not be going the right direction.  They bring team members together and they tend to get the team to see the end result.  They don’t need accolades and praise all the time, to know they did a good job.  They also know that business is cyclical and some days it is fun and some days it is not. The best questions to assess if a person is balanced are: “Tell me about a time when you were working toward a deadline/goal/outcome and things were not going the way you would have hoped. What did you do and what was the final outcome?”

  • Motivated/Driven- this person has the ability to set goals and complete them.  They want to know what is expected of them and their team.  They are not afraid to make decisions to keep the process moving.  They are constantly evaluating their performance and thinking how they can improve. They also want to know what they need to do to succeed to the next level or to be evaluated at the “top of the class.”  Questions that would be asked to evaluate this attribute should be formed around the skills needed in the job.  For example:  “While working on XYZ please provide an example of a success you have in this area.  What did you set out to do and why do you feel this is a success? “ As a follow up ask “what did you learn that you can use again?”  Another question could be- “tell me about a time that your work started to feel like the same old thing as yesterday, how did you make it more interesting?” Beyond work, motivated/driven people are usually involved in the community or volunteer work.  It would also be beneficial to ask a person if they have ever volunteered or worked in the community (typically they will have something on their resume).  This helps a hiring manager to hear how this individual is motivated/driven personally and what they are passionate about.  The attributes in volunteerism are transferable to work.

  • Adaptable-  someone who is adaptable can deal with change.  In work today there is so much change.  Things happen. Projects abruptly stop, companies are purchased, a new manager is brought to the team or the company decides to go from a centralized model to a de-centralized model.  There are many scenarios a person will embrace in their career.  Someone who is adaptable will perform well.  They will embrace change and will help others make it through change as well.  Change is not a favorite thing to deal with for most people, so chances are they will not have it on their resume.  The best questions to ask to understand these attributes are:  “Give me an example of a time when your job responsibilities changed and how you dealt with this.”  Another question to ask: “give an example when you had two important projects or tasks competing for your time.  How did you handle this? What was the outcome?”

  • Integrity-  this goes without saying that team members should have honesty and integrity.  It is hard to show examples of this on a resume.  It is equally hard for people to discuss this, since we have been told we should never “air dirty laundry.”  However it is critical to business.  Good questions to ask in an interview are: “describe a time when you saw an employee or co-worker do something that did not fit your definition of appropriate or right, what did you do?” “ Have you ever faced an ethical or value conflict in your job?  Explain the situation and how you handled it.”  Or the most straightforward question would be “tell me about a time you displayed honesty and integrity in a work situation.”

  • Confidence- this attribute contributes to how an individual will perform.  If a person is confident they will show that they are assertive and get the job done.  They may show confidence by being proactive and getting things done before having to be reactive.  Confidence helps a top performer to be motivational.  They are not scared to give assistance and are very accessible to others who may need their help (others feel comfortable asking them questions).  A person who is confident can usually deal with conflict not letting a confrontation or conflict derail them.  Good questions are as follows: “please provide an example of a project you initiated on your own.  Why did you initiate the project and what was the outcome?”  Also, have you ever noticed a co-worker needed to be motivated? How did you help that co-worker?” You would want to hear that they assisted the co-worker, if they did get someone else involved you want to hear that they realized the co-worker needed more than they could offer, so they asked someone for additional advice (this still shows confidence in not knowing the answer and finding it rather than avoiding it).  Confidence can also be assessed by the way a person answers questions.  Do they answer them directly with examples or are they quiet/vague or give very little.  Body language is also important.

A resume is a great tool to outline a person’s skills, chronology of work, and some of the highlights in their career.  However, attributes cannot be written in a resume easily and when a person writes these attributes there is a perception of ego.  Imagine reading a resume that   says “I am extremely confident in everything I do.  I have high integrity…..”  Top performers and low performers alike will have a list of skills on their resume; the best way to assess how an individual will perform is to ask questions around how they use those skills. The attributes will come up in the conversation and it will be apparent that their resume is very one dimensional; not creating a 3-D picture of who they are. 


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