Other Dimensions: Great Literary Works

October 1, 2006
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When it comes to hiring, resumes reveal the good, the bad and the ugly.

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the most gifted people or greatest liars in the world write resumes many pages in length. I am confident these folks should be in the advertising business, which, in a way, they are. But they could make a lot more money promoting products compared to people.

I understand that the fast pace of technology can leave the uninitiated behind, particularly when the techno-babble is unleashed on someone like me who is limited to simple English. But when it is used to describe tasks that a couple of simple English words could handle, it becomes a puzzle. What do they really mean?

One of the best examples of late was the person who described a job where she "operated a laser product scanner with an integrated computerized inventory system." I was impressed, but then I looked at the company where she commanded this high-tech system and realized that she had been a grocery store cashier.

A close second-place to this job function came from someone who noted that he "affixed unique product identifiers in a fast-paced environment." Let me save you some time. It meant that this person put labels on products in a store-oops, I mean a retail marketing center.

The only way to wade through all this and get down to a short list of potential employees is to drag out that list I suggested you compile in last month's column. Pick three key things your new hire must be able to do and race through the resumes for evidence that they have done them. Even with this technique you have to be careful because "weasel words" can leave you believing one thing when the truth is something else entirely.

Here are some examples of what I mean. "Function well with micrometers" means they can get along with someone who uses them on the next bench. "Comfortable with micrometers" doesn't mean they can use them; it probably means they won't get upset if there's a micrometer lying around. "Cognizant of micrometers" means they're aware of things called micrometers. "Experienced with micrometers" may mean they actually used them, but it could also mean they didn't use them very well. "Micrometers were a significant part of the quality program I was a part of" may be a true statement, but it doesn't mean he used one.

The person you want in for an interview is the one who says, "I measured pin diameters using a micrometer."

It is wise to review the applicant's job history. Do the type of companies they claimed to have worked with have standards up to yours? Was the applicant's "considerable experience with measuring tools" obtained through five jobs in three years?

Hobbies and volunteer activities often are listed on resumes and can reveal potential problems down the road. We once hired a man who did a lot of volunteer work for his church. When they have entities of a higher order that they're serving voluntarily they've got to be pretty good, we thought. The only problem was that he liked to serve that entity on company time and tried to convert everyone in the place to his religious choice.

People into sports such as skydiving, mountain climbing and hang gliding don't impress me with their death-defying skills. When they have an accident it's not usually a day or two off to recuperate. Their accidents off the job can play havoc with health insurance rates, not to mention everyone at work having to do extra duty until they return.

After you have a list of candidates to be interviewed, give them a call during which you can indicate there will be a test as part of the process. Those who have been winging it with their resume will bail out at this point, leaving you with one or more people who may actually be able to do what you want them to do.

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