Monday, July 27, 2015

Padding accomplishments: half truth or half lie ?

Consider the following statements recently taken from a few senior professional resumes:

·        Leading a team of professionals providing technology solutions across Asia Pacific enabling digital business transformation
·        Managing change with a high performance team in all business domains
·        Consistently rated “High Performer” for 12 appraisals
·        Deep understanding of technology solutions and their application to business in a cost efficient manner
·        An entrepreneurial result oriented business executive with focus on performance

The statements impress you well enough to decide to call the candidate for a meeting; you start the discussion with the accomplishments mentioned and realize that it was a case of good linguistic skills combined with jargon and superlatives that tugged you to shortlist the person. Quickly you realize that the person is a waste of time but you still have to spend some time being polite and attempting to stretch the conversation to a respectable time of at least 15 minutes. You end the meeting with a sigh and move to the next candidate.

This cycle repeats itself everyday many times across different organizations wanting to hire good talent at senior levels. This is despite the fact that executive placement companies and head hunters make loads of money filtering and fitting candidatures to roles. It is not just language that skews perceptions and makes people look better than what they are; many resumes have accomplishments with little or distant association to success as described, or suppressed facts that somehow makes a bad job start looking good.

Take the case of this CXO who was highly recommended by another; the picture painted made the person appear to be a guru, someone who will bring about transformation, the best resource anyone can find, high performance individual ! The accolades created an urgency to hire and get on board at whatever cost. Interviews were surreptitiously organized with management team members who had no way of judging capability but were influential enough to endorse the hire. Any stray thought or query on the credentials was frowned away.

The person came on board with a lot of fanfare, given a red carpet welcome and assigned the most coveted and visible projects to manage. The questioning brash and opinionated, the team began to provide information tentatively unwilling to stick out their neck. The shallowness and superficial was evident to them; fearing retribution the news did not travel upwards with the shield provided by the CXO who brought the person onboard; he continued to build an aura that was beginning to be larger than life ! (see Living with Bad Hires)

In another instance a person posing as an expert high performer was hired by a mid-sized company based on claims made in the resume and the fact that the interviewer could not see through the fa├žade. He always changed within the same industry and alignment with specific vendors ensured survival for a reasonable time. Everywhere he went, the same solutions were implemented and after a few years he moved on to greener pastures in an industry where technology adoption was based on need to survive and used only by a few as a competitive advantage.

So how to separate the truth from the written and the real ? What steps can be taken to take a better decision which leads to no regrets later ? The fine art of interviewing has to do not only with assessing the person based on the written word, but being able to extract the finer details behind the language. The starting point is to let the person speak as you thread the story around the keywords on paper. Inconsistencies in behavior and/or disjointed patterns should trigger additional probing or leading questions to understand reality. (See Selecting the Right Candidate)

Interpretations from the list we started with:

·        Leading a team of professionals providing technology solutions across Asia Pacific enabling digital business transformation
My Boss quit and left me holding the baby which I did for a short while until a replacement came onboard and rescued me.
·        Managing change with a high performance team in all business domains
I write follow-up emails to the project team to provide weekly status updates
·        Consistently rated “High Performer” for 12 appraisals
I spent 23 years in the company, we had quarterly appraisals; was indeed rated “High” in 12 times
·        Deep understanding of technology solutions and their application to business in a cost efficient manner
For the last 20 years I have been working with one technology, and after that much time I know a fair bit of it
·        An entrepreneurial result oriented business executive with focus on performance
My brother runs a company to who I outsource which has worked well for me

PS: in both cases the candidates were fired from their previous companies a fact that emerged much later.

1 comment:

  1. But the big problem is that the HR fraternity in progressive and learning organizations does not want to look beyond IVY League backgrounds and accept the fact that better business talent does exist out of that realm. How can this perception be changed?

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