Are you looking for love in all the wrong places? Recruiting Filters Don’t Understand Character, Intelligence and Drive


The use of recruiting filters is understandable given the number of candidates that may respond to a company’s online job announcements. Unfortunately, in the high-tech sector, many companies have abandoned the art of recruiting and are relying too heavily on automated systems and filters. As a result, there are lots of people are out there spoofing the system and getting interviews. At the same time, you have superstars floating around out there who, just because they didn’t major in business, don’t even get to talk to the employer. What companies need to be doing to capture these star candidates is to screen for character, intelligence and drive, and I don’t know of any online recruiting filters that can understand those traits.

First, let me say that there is a place for the filtering that takes place today. It makes sense to filter when you are looking for candidates for highly specialized lines of work. Careers such as aerospace engineering, civil or mechanical engineering, accounting, chemistry all require specialized training, so filtering for degrees is a given.

However, I feel that we have over-rotated as an industry, relying too heavily on automation and often leaving qualified, top talent behind. To complicate matters, there are websites and consultants that tell candidates the keywords to put in resumes for sales positions and operations positions, for example. Some even coach candidates to go to the job description and pick out the strongest action verbs from the job description and include them in their resume. It is easy for candidates to trick an automated system, but it also leaves gaps in your talent pool.

For sales and operation positions, particularly if a company is hiring young adults out of college, overusing filters could get in the way of finding a diamond in the rough who could end up being an incredible asset to your company. In our very own organization, we have some franchise players who would never have even made it to a phone call, let alone the interviewing process. We would have missed out on them.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have made it in today’s environment. I was a history major with an emphasis on Mexican History. In every job I’ve had, I have been the top salesperson or in the top two. Everywhere. Dating back to 1988. Today, I create financial impact models and executive relevance selling go-to-market strategies that have sold hundreds of millions of dollars. I have succeeded because I have the character, drive and intelligence to be a success.

I think my story is the rule, not the exception. There are tons of people out there who have the character, drive and intelligence, but they aren’t even getting an “at-bat,” because their resume doesn’t say, “I was an inside sales person for three years selling IP telephony and Cisco collaboration.”

Companies must learn to look for character, drive and intelligence to vet candidates who are adept at playing the keywords game and must be aware that they can teach the “x’s and o’s” they want employees to learn, but they cannot teach character, drive and intelligence.

If you know the right types of questions to ask, it is almost impossible to fake character, it’s really difficult to fake intelligence and it also is really difficult to fake drive, which is an energy that you can pick up in a face-to-face interview or conversation with someone. You must look for the “athlete” with exceptional character, who is very intelligent and has a burning desire and drive to win and succeed.

Then you worry about teaching him or her the game. It applies to sales, operations, marketing: You can teach people what is unique to your company, but there is no training on the planet that is going to instill that burning drive to be the best version of themselves they can be.

During a screening call or an interview, companies should be asking questions that reveal how candidates think, what type of attitude they have and how they process information. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

• Tell me about a time you were asked to do something at work you had never done before. What did you learn from doing it?
• What is the most interesting thing about you that isn’t on your resume?
• Describe a time you expanded your knowledge at work without being directed to so?
• Why are you looking at this opportunity?

The next time you are looking to bring in new talent to your team, don’t limit yourself by relying on recruiting filters. Consider staffing smart people with drive, who will learn your business and help it excel.


  • David McNicholas

    With more than 15 years of success leveraging a sales methodology that weighs technology solution against financial investment, business outcome, and corporate growth goals, David McNicholas has created an Executive Relevance Selling (ERS) approach that has proven successful for many sales teams. ERS is a formal, comprehensive approach to empowering resellers to sell profitable solutions into sophisticated, competitive markets, growing revenues and profits by 20%+ through investment-centric quantifiable business outcome assessments. David regularly shares best practices and advice on how to grow your business.

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