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Are You Sure You Aren’t Weeding Out Top Talent?

Why are we so preoccupied with someone’s resume, where they’ve worked and what they’ve done for our competition… and yet we never take the time to consider what they believe and where they’re from. How can we trust them? How can they trust us?”-Simon Sinek

Why are we so preoccupied with an individual’s resume?

  • Does it tell us everything about a person’s background?

    • No. How do you sum up years of work on two pages?

  • Does it tell us about all the great work they have done at our competitors?

    • Not really. It shares the competitor’s name, the title, and some detail of the person’s work.

  • Does it tell us exactly the style of work this person has?

    • Heck no, it may tell us some attributes the person has in their summary, but do we know how those attributes applied to their work.

Then why do we use an ATS (applicant tracking system) or an algorithm to find candidates?

  • To save time and weed out candidates that don’t fit the role.

    • Okay, what if the candidate wasn’t a master at your keywords?

    • What if they are an amazing employee and a cruddy resume writer?

    • How can they share that they can make your company millions of dollars and be picked up by your algorithm?

    • Along those lines, what if the system weeds them out and they go to work for your competitor and make them millions of dollars?

When a new hire is human and a computer reads a resume of skills, you are weeding out good talent. In fact, 75% of potential talent is weeded out by an application tracking system.

In addition, some candidates may not apply because the applicant experience takes too long or does not allow them to share who they truly are. They feel like the applicant tracking system resume will just weed them out, so why try?

Think about it, if you were to look for the key words balanced, motivated, driven, adaptable, integrity, and confidence very few resumes will come up in an Application Tracking System search or in an internet search.

Why? People highlight their skills, not all their attributes. Also, we are taught not to be egotistical and talk about ourselves.

Remember when you were a kid who just won a game, strategically mind you, and your parents told you not to share your “I won” chant. And even when you tried to chant the next time you won, you got the same response. Hmm, what do you think you took away from this? Maybe the third or fourth time you kept it to yourself.

So, how do you look beyond the resume to identify top performers?

  1. It’s important to understand that recruiting is a science and it is not always as easy as looking for key words on a resume. Don’t weed out people based on keywords or lack of keywords.

  2. 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. This won’t be on their resume.

  3. It is important to ask questions that require the candidate to speak about how they do the job, not what they do.

  4. Ask them about the challenges they had and what was the result? Listen to how they actually accomplished the work.

What are you actually listening for?

You want to hear if they will get the job done, make your life easier, and maybe even accomplish more than you expected.

You want to hear what they believe, where they came from, and how they got to this place in their career.

At this point you are listening for their attributes.

As an example, here are 5 attributes that typically are part of a top candidate’s profile. We’ve thrown in some example questions that can be used in an interview to determine if these attributes are present.

1. Balanced

  • This is 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 question to assess if a person is balanced:

  • 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?

2. 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 motivation and drive 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?”

  • Tell me about a time that your work started to feel like the same old thing as yesterday, how did you make your job 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. Attributes used to volunteer are transferable to work.

3. Adaptable

  • Someone who is adaptable can deal with change. They deal well with projects abruptly stopping, companies being purchased, a new manager being brought to the team or the company decides to go from a centralized model to a de-centralized model.

  • They can pivot and embrace change, while helping others make it through change as well.

The best questions to ask to understand if they are adaptable:

  • Give me an example of a time when your job responsibilities changed and how you dealt with this.

  • Give an example when you had two important projects or tasks competing for your time. How did you handle this? What was the outcome?

4. 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.” Though this is a critical attribute to have to business.

Good questions to ask in about integrity 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.

  • Tell me about a time you displayed honesty and integrity in a work situation.

5. 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, while not letting a confrontation or conflict derail them.

Good questions regarding confidence 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?

  • Have you ever noticed a co-worker who was not motivated? How did you help that co-worker?”

Though a resume is a great bio, it is really important to make sure you are not screening out top talent, before you even take the time to know who they are as a person and if their beliefs align with your company’s beliefs.

This also helps you to determine if you feel you can trust them in the role and they can determine if they trust you will be the right employer for them.

TLR Search helps energy and chemical company hiring managers gain talent market share by bringing strong diverse talent to their door, while inspiring potential new team members to picture their future possibilities; especially with hard to fill positions. We are people experts with a specialization in energy and chemicals. We’re a woman-owned recruitment firm that partners with clients to assist them in placing decision-makers at executive levels, supervisors in functional management positions, and experienced professionals in technical roles.


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