HR Mistake Of The Week: How Great Resumes Cause Companies To Hire The Wrong People

When you have influence over hiring in a company — whether you’re in management or in HR — it’s easy be seduced by a great resume. After all, if a candidate has a tailor-made history of experience in the right field and a track record of great results, what company would turn him away? But smarter HR pros know better. April Kunzelman, director of human resources for the coupon and discounting website FatWallet, spoke with me to explain why sometimes you have to pass up the perfect-on-paper applicant.

“Hiring for skill instead of ‘culture fit’ is a mistake,” Kunzelman explained to me. “You can have someone who’s extremely talented, but if they walk in the door and alienate people right off the bat, there will be problems. Those problems will be obvious right away, and they’ll also be long term.”

Her example: Let’s say FatWallet needs a director of marketing. (Note to FatWallet’s current director of marketing, whoever you are: Fear not, this is only an example!). They do a search and they find a guy with “the best resume in the world” — tons of accomplishments, improved metrics at their previous job, the works. But he also has “the personality of a turnip.” This guy has no sense of humor, and he focuses on business results at the expense of human relationships.

“People would rebel,” Kunzelman said. “If you bring in someone who doesn’t fit personality of the business, either the business chews them up ands spits them out, or we lose the people who have created the core to begin with. And either is unacceptable.” [tagbox tag="human resources"]

Why do companies end up making the mistake of hiring someone whose personality doesn’t mesh with the corporate culture? In part, because it’s very hard to walk away from a great resume. But part of it has to do with the way traditional interviews are structured. “Most interview questions are skewed toward skills, not culture,” Kunzelman said. “Companies need to identify their culture and craft questions that will help them find people who fit.” FatWallet has done that by including questions on their basic application about whether the candidate is concerned with saving money when they shop — if that’s something they never think about, they won’t be a fit at a company that’s all about thrift.

Personality may seem like a minor factor compared to a proven record of results. But employers ignore it at their peril. “This is the most important part of the hiring process,” Kunzelman said. “You can train for skill, but you cannot train for spirit.”

Photo: Andresr /

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    • ResuMAYDAY

      As a professional resume writer, I promise my clients they will receive the best resume that they’ve earned. A good resume opens doors – but they cannot be blamed for a hiring mistake. The author is correct to point out that interview questions should not only focus on skills and results, but also, culture fit and work style. The employment landscape has changed so much in the past 10-20 years, but interview questions have not. Interviewers must evolve their tactics to get the best hiring results.

    • joseph

      Very useful information.And very helpful for me.thanks for such a nice story

    • Pingback: HR Mistake Of The Week: Being Scared To Hire An Ambitious Person()

    • Andy Whorehall

      This exchange is funny to me for a few reasons, personally and professionally, with regards to FatWallet and the comments about hiring the wrong person based on a perfect resume vs. the company’s environment and what or what isn’t intriguing in the right candidate for a job.

      I’ve been through it before in advertising around this region, northern IL & southern WI (poor region, scumbags run businesses for the most part, and the government on both sides of the state line are corrupt) and can offer you mute points on spirit. I have plenty, those running companies do not.

      A previous creative director I foolishly worked under would criticize my tastes in music yet it was he who enjoyed Motley Crue, and couldn’t recognize Bob Dylan’s voice. So, you see, cultural, office environment relevance is important but most often than not, the idiots are in charge of creative infirmary departments at many companies–as many employees with a greater grasp on cultural relevance will advise you if you ask for it.

      More often than not as I have discovered in a very culturally challenged region, that the wrong person is doing the interviewing of the applicant when it comes to many so-called culturally-minded companies, as was my experience with Fat Wallet and the art of the interview.
      Having been interviewed for a specific position by a creative director there who had little interests in my portfolio, my work, my experience, I can offer you the polar opposite argument to the comments made in the article by that company’s H.R. rep, director, manager, president, boss– whatever they call these people now-a-days. My resume must have been good enough to H.R. to call me in for an interview but I realized 10 minutes into the interview that there was no way this C.D. man was going to hire me based on cultural environment references he kept throwing around at me, such as; “This is our break room, we have ping pong, pool, snack bar…” and then, “this is another break area to watch movies, dvds, I like Seinfeld reruns, do you like Seinfeld?” Of course I do, but it doesn’t matter when it comes down to getting the job done, right? Right.
      The hook, line, sinker question before we sat down was “What are your thoughts on David Carson?” It was a trick question and I knew however I was about to answer, that this man was not going to allow me to be hired due to one fact, he was threatened by my portfolio and work experience already before walking in the door after previewing the links from my application ahead of time. He was instructed to interview me and he blew his cover quite early with meaningless, culturally minded questions.
      I answered him knowing I’d never get the job: “Carson was great for the 90s and the grunge movement that occurred with fashion, music, etc… if that’s your thing, cool, It’s not mine however and It hasn’t aged well. His design style, use of typography was indecipherable in many circumstances like Ray Gun magazine, a publication he became known for branding with his style– but cluttered, messy and dark for no obvious reasons than to be dark haven’t aged well.” I insured my fate by adding, “When I think of Carson’s work, I think of terrible music like Pearl Jam and that silly Jeremy song.” The C.D. interviewing me said, “I like Carson… and Pearl Jam.” I already knew you did.
      I knew this man had enjoyed bad design having done my research on his career ahead of time, too; and there was no way I’d answer to another creative hack playing the role of Creative Director at a company that wanted to show me it’s break rooms before showing me what work they do, or what they were interviewing for. That’s how the cornbread crumbles in return, y’all.
      There’s two sides to the hiring process, all applicants should do their research on the company hiring, and the person performing the interview. It can prepare you and strengthen your interview process. Too much confidence in knowing too much isn’t always good to reveal up front, so play dumb until you know you’re a threat to the direct person interviewing for the job. Interviewing with H.R. first is always easier, they’re doing their work for the department in need of an employee, so relax. The moment you get that 2nd interview with the department head, they’ve already googled you. Google them everywhere, anyway, anyhow. Make calls if you’re unsure of your potential future boss. You might discover right away how to save time, and your own happiness with the job being offered.
      Fat Wallet eventually contacted me after a few proper nosey follow-ups to advise me they ended up hiring someone else for an entirely different position in a different department, and had passed on hiring anyone for the position I was interviewed for. It’s easy to assume why, however.
      Note to H.R. professionals, think about who’s qualified to do the interview with over-qualified applicants as well, because there’s a good chance you’re missing out on the best fit for your environment and for profits– the bottom line.
      Cheers, y’all just got whorehalled and again, that’s how the cornbread crumbles; or, I am number one and you are number two. EL OH EL.
      Andy Whorehall