When you are in Talent Acquisition, there are few certainties in your world. Job descriptions will change at the 11th hour, and budgets will be slashed, and candidates will change their minds with the frequency of  strobe light. But one thing has remained the same through all the hiring (r)evolutions in the last decade or so – the resume.

It may have changed in its look and feel, or the method of delivery to you the recruiter, but it still contains the core basic information as it always has. From the resume, one is able to tell where the candidate went to school, what they have accomplished professionally, and a few other odds and ends needed to assess if there is a baseline fit for a role. Depending on the candidate, you may also have additional sections to glean information about the candidate. They usually fall under a banner of “volunteer experience”, “hobbies”, or something similar. And this section, for all its brevity, it’s where the gold can be buried.

When we look deeper at these sections, we’re able to uncover clues into what makes this candidate “tick” outside of work, where their other interests lie, and what else might be important to them in their personal lives. The opportunities afforded to us by having candidate-supplied data (anecdotal for sure; but valuable and unsolicited) at our fingertips is only as great as what you do with it. (I mention candidate-supplied data, because it might be a little creepy to go through their Facebook page and bring up similarities from the pictures you’ve been stalking for a few hours.)

For example, suppose you are a craft-beer aficionado. If you have a candidate list this on their resume, then you have an instant talking point for somewhere in your conversation. Psychologically speaking, this could prove to be a very disarming tactic in order to allow for mutual comfort in the discussion. and let’s face it – first phone calls are usually pretty darned awkward. Any opportunity that can be seized upon to make it feel less weird is welcome.

From The IRL File: Just last week, I talked to a candidate who had listed under his “Free Time” section, that he coaches youth soccer. As a veteran youth soccer coach, I saw this as an opportunity in my ice-breaker portion of the conversation. We’d just been through a month of weather in D.C. that can really only be equated to as over version of monsoon season. Naturally, we talked about the missed practices, the soggy fields, and kids learning soccer through osmosis. We were only half-joking with the latter. My point is, that we can find ways to connect with candidates on a level that isn’t just checking off boxes on a screening question.

Suppose I have a role that requires great team collaboration and a sense of leadership. These are both rather soft skills, and ones that can be harder to quantify than if someone can effectively write research papers and/or lead a team of analysts. In my process of reading from the bottom up on the resume, I’m looking for opportunities where they may have had a chance to demonstrate these skills. I’ve found great success in looking at candidates who had certain qualities in their background, such as Eagle Scouts and those who were captain of an athletic team in college. Of course these are only two of dozens of types of examples, but you get the idea. Once again, there is gold at the bottom of that resume.

Aside from being good conversation starters or ice-breaker fodder, this type of behavior engages the candidate on a different level. People tend to want to trust others, and mutual interests or shared experiences can help with building that baseline trust. In recruiting, that’s an important hurdle to overcome, as well as one of the most critical pieces in the relationship between recruiter and candidate.

Let me tie this together to today’s world. Recruiting, branding and culture are all ideas that are interdependent on one another in the Talent Acquisition process. We all want a culture fit, but often overlook the information in the nether-region of the resume, that can help use identify potential culture matches.

We in the industry constantly talk about personalization and engagement – and for good reason. But so often that discussion is based on upon upping the game with initial outreach and trying to gain the candidates attention, instead of what to do when you get them on the phone eventually. We’re consumers of information about candidates. We must be sure not to cast off the nuggets that you don’t find on a bullet-pointed job description.

And while it will be good for me to let a software engineer know I saw their Github contributions, I can’t read code. So for now, I’ll have to stick with building rapport with candidates based on information I’m fluent in: building Legos, coaching youth soccer, rooting for heartbreaking sports teams, and a few other odds and ends.

Fortunately, I know where to look for the information.

Pete Radloff (@PJRadloff) is a Lead Consultant with exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps organizations build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruiting strategy offerings.

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