Recruitment Mistakes By Foccussing on Irrelevant Details

In this a bit long article, I give a precise example of irrelevant details.
I explain why it’s irrelevant in most cases.
I challenge assumptions.
I talk about what & why people hide something and what does it really mean.



Professional recruiters reading this article may feel uncomfortable and challenged.
Regular folks may feel understood.


What I read?

Not so long ago I read a French article highlighting some resume details that alarm recruiters.
The article was talking more precisely about the vague dates they kind find in a resume. A professional recruiter said “if I read an employment period from 2003-2004, how can I know if it was a 2 months (from December to January) or a 2 years job? Either I suspect the person has something to hide or it says a lot about her ability to focus on details.”

“After all, it IS part of YOUR life and it IS important!”

Even if the remark is pertinent, I’m wondering about the assumption behind the remark.

Let’s imagine regular people write “from 2003 to 2004” because they don’t remember exactly if it was February or March of the year 2003 and if it was end of October or mid November of 2004.
The recruiter may believe you should remember this kind of details because “after all, it’s about YOU, what you did, and your career history!”

So I’m wondering if you remember the first time you were drunk or kiss another person with the tongue.
Let’s say you remember the event.
But do you remember the year – not your age? Yes/No
Do you remember the month? Yes/No
Do you remember the precise date? Yes/No
Do you remember the number of the day and which day of the week it was? Yes/No

But, maybe we can consider you should remember because “after all, in many cultures these are important social and personal events!”

Let’s assume you remember all these.
Do you remember the 2nd ones, the 3rd ones, 5th ones…?

See my point?

What is the most important: the nature of the experience and maybe the learning outcomes or the associated details, such as the precise dates?

Insight 1: if people don’t value much an experience, their memory will probably not been filled with secondary details.
Insight 2: even if people value an experience, their memory may not be filled with secondary details.
Insight 3: No absolute rules!



What is the assumption behind the remark?

I suspect – I make the assumption 😉 – the assumption behind the remark is probably:

“the length of an experience is a critical factor for success”

Guess what? IT’S NOT!

Do you seriously think that 10 days or 3 months (even 5 months) will ever make a difference?
For a non-experienced candidate: maybe.

If you believe that the length of an experience is a critical factor for success, you don’t understand what makes the success.

Predicting success is not a hard science but here are a few clues.

To expect being successful you need:

- the “right” working environment,
- the “right” mindsets (yourself and others),
- the “right” economic environment,
- the “right” skills,
- the “right” knowledge,
- the “right” talents,
- the “right” motivation,
- and probably a few other “right” things…

Of course, if you don’t have any idea or means to identify and measure these, you can still rely on various assumptions and biases. 😉

I’m sure deep inside you; you already know that
length of experience does not equal factor for success or mastery

Let me tell you a true story.

In my life, I’ve met different martial art practitioners.
I remember an Aikido practitioner telling me “I practice Aikido for 25 years; you’re not going to tell me what to do!”
Even if it was plainly obvious to any experienced person from a different martial background that there was a serious problem, he was convinced that his 25 years of experienced were a rampart to mistakes. Ego thing or not is not my point here.

The reality was probably more something like that:
You had an exponential learning curve the first 2 to 5 years (this is typical), then you reached a plateau, then you may had a few learning peaks, then you repeated again and again what you know. And in what you know there are mistakes, misconceptions, misunderstandings that you repeated again and again. And that’s precisely because you are not a beginner and surrounded by people at a lower level or at the same level or unable to make you upgrade that you are very good in your mistakes… that you may even teach!

If you are not challenged by anybody or anything,
there is almost no room for improvement.

If you practice –not at a beginner level- any art or sport, you know what I’m talking about!
Don’t you? 😉

Back to the professional world, “30 years of management experience” doesn’t make an exceptional manager. It just makes a person with a certain kind of “30 years of management experience”.

And if people really have something to hide?

It is very possible people have something to hide.
But maybe, instead of wondering WHAT people want to hide,
there is a way more interesting question to ask…
a question that says way more interesting things about
how we recruit people

And this question is:
WHY do people feel the need to hide something?

A question just for the sake of everybody. 😉

Let me develop.

Most of the time, when people intentionally hide something with the dates, they want to hide an unemployment period. There are plenty of reasons for not receiving a salary.

It’s important to make this distinction: receiving a pay for performing a certain set of tasks and producing or tempting to produce some kinds of outcomes without being paid for that (but maybe expecting receiving some financial returns).

Entrepreneurs of any kinds belong to the 2nd category.
And as far as I know, entrepreneurship is far from having no value for an organization.

There are plenty of reasons for not receiving a salary.
I’m going to give you a few possibilities:

- It is very possible to earn a lot of money at the lottery that free people from having to hunt a salary. I personally never read in a resume: “I win at the lottery and then decided to experiment enjoying life without having to hunt a salary.” The person, for some reasons, lost/spend everything.
Is there something wrong in needing again a decent job?
Unless maybe you are jealous for not winning the lottery. 😉

- A person can quit a job, even a good, rewarding position because they make the choice to accompany until death a beloved one. Have you ever read on a resume: “I decided to stay full time with my father/ mother/ husband/ wife/ son/ daughter/ brother/ sister for their last year/6months on Earth.”?
Is there anything morally reprehensible in this choice?
Does this choice and experience diminish professionally people in any way?

- A person can suffer depression, or burn out, unable to perform any kind of task for a certain period of time. They made the personal work. Now, they are out of these states. They get up, stand up.
Do you think people didn’t gain anything valuable from these experiences for an organization, like maybe “emotional resilience”, like “anger management”, like “setting boundaries”…?

- A person may lose a previous job because she/he was a sex/drug addict and forced by a court to follow a sex/drug therapy. Did you ever read on a resume: “active fellow at the XXX Clinic Center during the 6 months sex therapy program”?

- ...


WHY do people feel the need to hide something?

It’s very very simple.

They feel the need to hide something because they are SCARED (to death?)!

What do they fear?
They fear to be misvalued by the recruiter. By “misvalued” I mean “disvalued”.

They are scared (to death) to be DISVALUED
and by extension as a HUMAN BEING.

Why do they fear to be disvalued?
They fear to be disvalued because even if recruiters know they are living in a “Using Knowledge” Economy, plenty out there are still using a “1st Industrial Revolution” Recruitment Mindset from time to time!

Are they right to fear?
Hum… well, when you read what you read… all the “advices” … the more or less conscious sent message is:
Because, you don’t have the X number of years of Y experiences!
You’re not from our industry!
You don’t have the Z diplomas, degrees!
You don’t have a logical career progression!
And guess what?
We basically don’t care about WHO you are and WHAT you did with WHAT happened to you or WHAT you made happen! Unless, it’s in the scope of what we can appreciate!”

And finally people come up with the solution:
If I’m not good enough,
just fake it,
hide something,
and make up my life!

Who’s to blame?

The “1st Industrial Revolution” Recruitment Mindset

About resources:

“If a machine has not been used for a long time, maybe
- it won’t work easily again because of rust;
- if it has not been used for a long time, it’s because it’s no more useful, outdated, broken;
- why should we use something that others/predecessors prefer not to use: there must be a hidden defect.”

Now replace “machine” by “person/people” and you got the “1st Industrial Revolution” Recruitment Mindset.

The last thought


For having talked with different professional recruiters, some of them genuinely want to know, want to inquire what’s behind the vague statements in a resume. Some recruiters are more empathetic than others.

However, if you take a bit of distance...
there is something quite unhealthy in sending the message (from a professional practice) “you’re not good enough” and then (people from this professional practice) asking people to confess you exactly WHAT they feel will disvalue them in your mind.

I would be happy to read your comments and reactions.
Feel free to express yourself, wherever of the side you are.


About the author: because Xavier has more a human capital approach than a human resource approach, and a people development approach based on the intrinsic human success factors, he approaches personal and organizational people’s issues in a very different way.



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