Skip to main content
  1. Home
  2. Recruiting & Hiring Advice
  3. Interviewing Candidates
  4. Conduct the Interview without the Resume

Conduct the Interview without the Resume

Conduct the Interview without the Resume

By: Catherine Conlan

Resumes are a handy way to quickly learn about a candidate’s experience and skills. But once a candidate gets in the door, it’s time to set the resume aside and focus on the person in front of you.

Relying too much on a resume can turn an interview into an interrogation, says Matt Doucette, director of global talent acquisition at Monster. 

“That approach doesn’t work. It makes them uncomfortable and gives a bad candidate experience,” he says. Instead, a behavioral interview that’s resume-free is more likely to create a conversation and help you find the top talent you need to grow your business.

Interviewing without a resume can be an adjustment, but the result can be worth it. Here’s how to do it right.

Explain Your Decision
It can be a little disconcerting when job candidates realize you’re conducting an interview without a resume, says Seth Matheson, director of Talent Fusion delivery RPO at Monster.com. Job candidates are used to seeing hiring managers reviewing the resume during the interview and looking for ideas to talk about. “Going in without a resume looks like you’re not prepared,” Matheson says.

To put the candidate at ease, be open about why you’re not working off their resume, Matheson says. “The first thing I say is that I want to have a conversation,” he says. Above all else, says Matheson, “I need to be prepared about the questions I ask, because not prepping is a recipe for disaster, but I tell them I want them to be comfortable as we have a conversation during the interview.”

Look Forward, Not Back
Many hiring managers use the resume as a conversation-starter for candidates to talk about their work history. But this puts the focus on what the candidates have done at other companies, rather than how they will solve your problems. 

“When you think about hiring, you’re trying to fill a gap you have in your team,” Doucette says. “You’re not hiring for what they did at another company. You’re hiring them for their processes and the way they think throughout their career.”

To get a clearer idea of whether the candidate has what it takes, describe a problem, challenge or gap your company is facing and then let the candidate talk. 

“Interviewers tend not to tell people ‘this is the project you’d be working on, and these are the outcomes I want,’” Doucette says. When you outline the role you need to fill at your organization, the conversation naturally moves toward how the candidate would use their skills and experiences to meet those needs.

Focus on Behavioral Questions
Removing the resume from the interview process calls for behavioral questions that focus on the candidates’ judgement in certain situations. This approach gets at the details that resumes don’t often cover, including how candidates approach their work and a more values-based interview strategy.

Too often managers hire a candidate based on their resume or skills – and often fire the employee for attitude or culture, says Rick Maher, a member of The Alternative Board, an international peer advisory board, and CEO of Effective Human Resources, an HR consulting firm in Port Jefferson, New York. 

Behavioral questions  are more likely to spark a conversation that provides deeper insights into how they think and what’s important to them. This will help the manager hire for company culture more effectively, Maher says.

Matheson says one of his favorite questions focuses on problem-solving: “If I asked you to tell me how many marketing firms were in this metropolitan area, how would you go about finding that out?” “This is behavioral, but also illustrates their analytical thought,” he says. “It’s not ‘could you’ or ‘would you’ find out, but how.”

Another seeks to uncover a candidate’s ethics, Matheson says: “Say we work in a small office and a salesman comes in. I’ve been trying to avoid him and I tell you I don’t want to talk to him. What would you do?” If the answer is “I’ll tell him you’re not here,” the next question is “What do you do if I come out and the salesman sees me?” “I allow them to dig their hole or come clean,” Matheson says. “How they handle the situation tells a lot about them.”