Don’t Let the Perfect Resume Fool You

Don't Get Fooled by the Perfect ResumeHappy April Fools’ Day!

This is no April Fools’ joke just a little something to help you avoid wasting valuable time and money on a candidate who fools you with a perfect resume.

On a recent flight from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach, my seat mate rushed to get in a last phone call before takeoff. In the process of ending his call and turning on airplane mode, he dropped his phone. The plane was pushing back from the gate and he couldn’t leave his seat to get it. I could see he was stressed by not having his phone (aren’t we all?) and when we reached cruising altitude, he looked around a bit, but couldn’t find it. By now, he was sure his phone had rolled to the back of our section and he wouldn’t get it until we landed.

When we landed, I noticed the phone next to his foot and told him he was about to step on it. Rather than looking down, he insisted the phone was at the back of the section. This man was so sure of his phone’s location, that he wouldn’t even consider that it was literally at his feet.

What does this story have to do with resumes? More than you’d think. While this story is amusing, it’s not funny when we miss what’s right in front of us when we make a hiring decision. We have a tendency to choose our own interpretation of what we see and ignore anything that contradicts it.

Here’s how this plays out in a case study where a hiring decision ended badly because the hiring manager did not want to see beyond the perfect resume. The hiring manager needed to fill an engineering position that was critical to the company’s growth and financial success. The hiring manager and I developed a solid job description, wrote a great job ad to attract qualified candidates, interviewed and asked good questions, and checked references. We found the perfect candidate. He had all the right education, his work experience was perfectly matched to our needs, and his salary requirements were within our budget.

Then things went wrong. Red flags appeared in his references. I learned the candidate had also applied for a job with our parent company. Not a big deal perhaps, except that he failed to disclose this during our interview process. For me, that spoke to his honesty and integrity. The hiring manager chose to discount the importance of the candidate’s oversight.

There were more red flags that caused me to question whether he was the perfect candidate. There were clues that he didn’t work well with people who were not at his same level of education and experience. We needed someone who could work well in a collaborative, team environment with people at many levels. The hiring manager wanted this candidate so badly he refused to hear anything that would change his decision. After all, this candidate’s resume proved he was the perfect fit.

Even more red flags surfaced when we made the job offer. The candidate immediately asked for more vacation, a higher salary, and additional benefits. We had covered all of these things in the interview and were honest about what our small company could offer. For me, this was a sign that the candidate had a “what’s in it for me” as opposed to “what can I do to make a difference in this job” mentality.

My red flag warnings were overruled and the candidate was hired.

Almost immediately, things started unraveling. Within a few months, the hiring manager was in my office several times a week for advice on how to manage his “perfect” employee. There were constant issues about his ability to work with the team and with our clients. After about six months, we decided to end his employment.

Not only was this decision painful for us, but also for the employee. We had done a disservice to the employee because we hired a smart, talented person who could not succeed in our company. The company had a negative return on its investment in this employee. The company paid relocation costs to move the candidate and his family from another state, there were training costs, benefit costs, lost productivity due to personality clashes, and disruptions on the team.

The costs to the employee were also painful and expensive. Relocating your family is stressful on its own. Now the employee was not only trying to adjust to a new location, but was also out of work and dealing with the emotional turmoil that comes from a job loss.

We can learn several lessons from this situation.

1. Be aware of your bias.

When you interview, look and listen not only for what you want and don’t want, but also for your own biases. We tend focus on what we want to see and fail to look for anything else. Making good people decisions is hard work and it takes time, self-awareness, and clarity to get it right.

2. Understand your company culture.

A common hiring mistake is focusing only on your candidate’s skills and ignoring the more important attribute — cultural fit. Consider the mindset, personality traits, and behaviors your most successful employees possess because these are reflections of your company culture. If you were to be honest and examine the traits of the unsuccessful people you’ve hired in the past, you would probably find those traits were missing. Maybe there were even clues you missed in your interview process.

3. Don’t ignore red flags.

If you find something that doesn’t seem to fit, explore it further. Ask more insightful questions and carefully consider whether the red flag can be overcome through mentorship or training. If it can’t be overcome, don’t hire that person.

4. Be honest with yourself and your candidates.

This is hard. I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates during my career and I know it’s hard to tell someone they are not qualified for the job, especially when the reason isn’t skill or experience. I’ve always made it a practice to tell candidates when I don’t think they’ll fit. Being honest isn’t easy; however, it’s necessary if you want to hire people who will be successful.


Just because they fit, doesn’t mean they belong. What a powerful statement!

Some of the worst hiring stories I’ve seen involve failing to see what’s right in front of you. Remember the guy on the plane? I retrieved his phone before he crushed it with his foot saving him the time and money he would have spent replacing it.

Reflect on some of the hiring mistakes you’ve made. Can you identify red flags you chose to ignore? Were there opportunities for honest discussions with your candidates that may have prevented a bad hiring decision?

Share your experiences (good and bad) in the comments or via email to Your story could provide the insights someone else needs. As an April Fool’s bonus, I have a special gift for the best and the worst hiring stories.

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