If Fits on Paper – What Happened in Person?

My computer died. It was a slow painful death, poor thing. The hard drive had only what I can equate as a computer heart attack. I was able to salvage the data, but it has been put on life support waiting to be transferred into a new model. Somehow I am now in the organ donation in the IT world.

Yesterday I went on the adventure of finding a new home for the data. This was not a comfortable thing for me because I knew there would be important factors to be considered which I knew nothing about: processors, RAM, memory all sorts of things that are not in my comfort level.

I know I am a computer moron. I’m okay with it, I depend upon the kindness of strangers to guide me through the process. But getting me there is a scary process. I went to a major electronics store and my son declined to go with me. This should tell you how bad I am. Mom was going to an electronics store where there would be lots of things he would want and at least one thing he could charm me into buying, but he declined because we would have to go through the computer world first. Yes, I am that bad.

But I had a wonderful guide yesterday. He was able to guide me though, explain what each element meant, how it functioned and why it was or was not important to me.

After I believe an hour I made a decision – one of the things that I was really excited about was the Quad processor – which I was told was the best speed and highest quality. So I should be zipping through all my tasks today at the speed of light.

Not so much.

They system I bought was supposed to be very fast, it wasn’t. It kept timing out on the introductory, rudimentary animated video and the system locked up in setting up my email account.

I am not a gamer or a high tech person. I was simply setting up email. That’s it. And it locked up.

What happened? On paper it was supposed to be awesome, in person it was a dud.


Back to square one.

What hit me was how often this happens in organizations when hiring. The candidate looks good on paper but when you get them in the organization it seems as though a whole new person showed up, and it wasn’t the one you hired.

So anyone who is in a position to hire and for those looking for a position this little bit is for you: look at the resume!

I write them, trust me, I know how to make someone sound good. Although I will not write something that is untrue or misleading. If a candidate doesn’t have it I don’t make it up.

Unfortunately, a lot of people do not follow these same principles. They create such a document that makes them sound like they really know their stuff. They say the right key words or phrases, they hint enough to give the illusion of experience.

Really read the resume. Are they just telling you what you want to hear or are they demonstrating expertise and value? If they are not demonstrating it should be a red flag.

The second test is the talk test. Talk to them. When you speak with them, dive in. I have heard horror stories about poor interviewing techniques. Nothing is mentioned about the skill set or experience. Instead questions are asked about how they would put an elephant in a freezer.

No kidding, I had a client that told me about that question.

Or the interview is more a friendly, conversation. Sure you may like the person, but you aren’t hiring people to be your friend. They need to be able to offer value that translates into organizational growth: more clients, better efficiencies, increased revenues. These are the bottom lines.

If you are writing your own resume three things to keep in mind: don’t leave them with a question. If a reviewer has a question about something you wrote on your resume more likely than not they are going to answer it themselves from a negative perspective. Give them the information!

Secondly, give them the parameters. I was talking to someone yesterday who had listed they do all the contract negotiations with a specific company. I told them to someone outside the industry or outside the state would look at that and say, “So what”. They would not understand the magnitude of that statement. You have to tell them why it is important by giving them enough of the context to understand.

Lastly, demonstrate how you do the things you do. If you tell someone you are a manager it is an ambiguous statement. I have met managers who are very hands on and mentoring. Then I’ve had those that are hands off, only focused on numbers and terrible leaders. Which one are you? How would I know that? Demonstrate what you do, how you do it, who you work with, how and the value you bring in doing these items more so than anyone else.

If the two elements are missing in a resume you are reviewing, you may want to take a second read to really identify the value offered. The last element should give you an indication of how the individual would fit within the organization. If they are an outgoing go-getter and your office is best suited for the quiet wall-flowers, it is not going to be a good fit.

Just because it sounds good on paper does not mean it will be the same in person.

The good news is I can return what I purchased because it was evident in one day that it was not right for me. We can’t really do that with human resources, now can we?


Lisa K. McDonald,

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Brand Strategist & Career Coach



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