5 great work skills to look for on a resume

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
Insights

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: It’s a tough job market out there. In every industry around the globe, we speak to hiring managers trying to recruit the best and brightest in the midst of the current talent crisis. And pretty often, the conversation turns to the tall tales they’ve discovered in even the most promising applicants’ resumes. From fibbing a job title to inventing experience with a made-up company, applicants regularly commit the most common resume lies—and HR staff often discovers them in a few Google searches. The applicant is immediately disqualified, and nobody wins. A promising applicant loses out on a great opportunity, and the hiring manager turns up empty—again.

So what can hiring managers do to become even better at spotting resume lies? Be on the lookout for these common exaggerations and flat out fibs that come up time and again: companies you’ve never heard of, wordy job titles that sound false, far-fetched exaggerating language, and mysteriously long resume gaps. After all, a lie by omission is still a lie. Train yourself and your staff to follow up when something looks suspicious, because resume lies happen more often than you might realize: More than one-third of job applicants confess to lying on their resumes. It’s a dismal reality—but here’s why you shouldn’t despair.

Like the industry leaders, experts, and CEOs we talk to, you’re probably looking for something more specific in applicant resumes than just honesty. You want to hire people who bring knowledge, enthusiasm, innovation and creativity to your workplace—and who are honest. You want new hires who are capable and willing to bring every ounce of talent, and create work that awes customers and boosts your bottom-line. At the end of the day, you’re not looking to hire an average Joe who isn’t lying on his resume: You’re really seeking the kind of employee who’s committed to making a difference.

The key to finding employees who can do difference-making work that your organization needs is discovering specific work skills on their resumes. But, what are you supposed to look for?

The O.C. Tanner Institute analyzed more than one million cases of award-winning work to discover five skills employees perform that create great, difference-making results. These skills include people who ask curious questions (88% of great work started with a thought-provoking question). These people also see how their work makes an impact and gain firsthand experience with the recipients of their work—which leads to a 17-fold increase in their passion about a project. Great workers also talk to people outside their outer circle for ideas, and tweak and improve their solutions as a result. In fact, the research found that work is three times more likely to be called important when it had benefited from an employee improving the mix. And, great workers also stay involved in their projects, chasing the change and seeing it through to help with implementation and challenges.

How do you discover these research-backed markers of greatness as you scan a resume?

• Look for indicators that an applicant has led the way on a new direction, product, or solution that has made an impact on a company process.

• Search for signs of hands-on involvement in projects and solutions.

• See whether the applicant shows continuous growth and improvement in long-term initiatives, or whether they have a “one and done” approach of leaving good enough alone.

• Does the resume read like the applicant has striven to find innovative, groundbreaking solutions for past employers? Or do they seem like they don’t question, ideate, and innovate, and instead are satisfied with the status quo?

Of course, you can learn a lot about a person’s inclination towards great work skills throughout their interview, as well. For example, asking questions such as: “Do you primarily consult your team for ideas and feedback on projects, or do you reach out to other contacts, as well?” can gauge whether an applicant does a good job of reaching out to their outer circle. But perhaps the most telling place you can look to see whether an applicant is a potential great worker isn’t their resume—it’s in their cover letter. That’s because the Great Work Study found that nearly 90% of great work starts with an employee asking the question: “What difference could I make that other people love?” If an applicant expresses their desire to truly deliver a difference for your team and organization, it’s a good bet that they intend to create great work. That’s the kind of applicant we, as well as the research would bet on.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

Categories: Great Work, Insights

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By david sturt and todd nordstrom