The Jagged Resume

resumeBy Jolene Risch, founder and principal, Risch Results

Recruitment firms have the challenge of matching talent with organizational need, which typically begins by searching for the diamond in a pile of candidates. The process can be long and arduous, and it always begins with reading resumes, which fall into one of three categories:

  1. Talent that Shouts: These are the resumes that scream “yes!” They look great in terms of stated career projection, longevity at the company, education, and skills.
  2. Thank you, but NO. Needs no explanation.
  3. Intriguing/Maybe: These are the resumes we put in the “maybe” pile because they are not a clear yes or no, but there is something intriguing. Professional recruiters see some things they like, but also notice clear flaws. Writer George Anders calls this the “jagged resume.”

In my career as a professional recruiter, I have learned that sometimes the person behind the resume has more applicable skill and talent than meets the eye. In other words, they MAY fall into the Intriguing/Maybe category. This is why I ask my clients questions about the candidates they’re seeking that go beyond previous company tenure. There are times when education and work history don’t seem like a fit, but they are.

In fact, I know this first hand.

When I was in graduate school at Columbia University, I’d been through a number of interviews. Most companies I met with wanted to fill east coast positions, but I wanted a Dallas-based job, preferably with a consulting company. I set my sights on Anderson Consulting, which was local. I interviewed, but they turned me down. That Friday I flew home from school to visit with the Dallas office of E&Y. On paper, most recruiters and hiring managers saw only my literal credentials and experience: Sociology and education major. Taught in inner city Washington DC. Served in the Peace Corps for almost three years. Graduate school at Columbia.

Anderson saw the flaws. Ernst & Young saw something else! I eventually had the great fortune to work for E&Y for six years in the People Effectiveness Group.

Anders discusses the jagged resume in his book, The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out.  When you have a jagged resume, you may have credentials and experience that are impressive, but the executive search firm or recruiter doesn’t always see the connection—they see a mismatch.

To find that diamond in the pile of maybes, organizations need to tighten up their must-have criteria. Anderson didn’t want someone who left the “track.”  E&Y saw leadership in the projects I did in the Peace Corps. They saw how that experience led me to study Organizational Behavior at Columbia.  They saw someone who would take risks. When a company indicates interest in such qualities with an executive search firm or professional recruiter, a whole new world of possible candidates can open up.

In his book, Anderson writes, “The process of getting to know the candidates is defined far more by questions involving ‘why’ and ‘how’ and less about ‘what’ or ‘when.’ The payoff: the mysteries of motivation, fit, and potential become much clearer.”

That was me, and as a professional recruiter, I’ve seen candidates of jagged resumes shine in their newly minted position. In the book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins says that great talent selection in the best companies doesn’t just follow a formula.

He’s talking about the jagged resume. Executive recruiters are wise to look beyond the standard qualifications to consider leadership skills and other characteristics that align with the hiring company’s culture and personnel needs. After all, when we think about talent and talent acquisition in terms of jaggedness, we may find candidates that move from maybe to yes.

Risch Results is one of Dallas’ top executive search firms for executive management, manufacturing, and financial services talent. Learn more about how Risch Results can help with your talent needs at RischResults.com or 972.839.9447.  

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