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Why We Hire People, Not Their Resumes

March 02 |

As a recovering history major with a five-year college reunion on the immediate horizon, I’ve come a long way from what my 22-year-old self obsessed over during his inaugural job search. Back then, it seemed like a daily occurrence that I would come across a job description that seemed to be a perfect fit until I got down to the requirements section – “BA in Business, Finance, Accounting, or Economics required.” After running into this time and time again, I was beginning to get pretty discouraged (and dramatic) – would I rue the day that I registered for Art & Archaeology of Ancient Greece instead of Financial Accounting 201? Had I relegated my future to a life of dusty books, cat sweaters, and daytime TV? (I told you I could be dramatic). Obviously the answer was a resounding “NO,” but at the time I was convinced that I was only as valuable in the marketplace as my resume and how many traditional “hard” skills I could dot it with.

Fast-forward five years, and my thinking couldn’t be more different – fortunately, the talent market is also undergoing a similar awakening. From my experience, the skills that have gotten me the farthest in my own career would never be found at the bottom of a traditional resume – which are honestly becoming more and more commoditized by technology (i.e., Excel wizardry, financial modeling, statistical analysis, etc.). I’ve come to realize that in the business world, success now hinges much more on the intangibles than ever before – authenticity, confidence, empathy, charisma, emergent leadership, and a keen sense for how people are motivated and influenced. Of course this isn’t a blanket statement, but on the whole I’ve started to see the aforementioned attributes contribute much more to my performance and that of my peers rather than our respective laundry lists of “skills.” That said, subject-matter expertise is certainly a perfectly noble, and viable route – after alI I would still want my Doctor, Accountant, Financial Planner, or Lawyer to have certain letters after their names – but that route isn’t for everyone nor the only option in today’s job market.

So how does this fit into what I’ve found at AlphaSights and what we look for on the whole? First and foremost, the most valuable asset we have is our human capital – sounds pretty basic, but it’s actually a remarkably unique thing. We realize that at the end of the day, a company hires the person and not the resume, especially when the metrics for today’s success can’t be precisely quantified by yesterday’s CV screen. As a result, we’re much more focused on the “why” not the “what”, the innate traits and motivations not the codified hard skills, and how you’ll help us build a better ship not just a bigger one. As for my 22-year-old self who was petrified that his history major doomed him for life, he can rest assured that I didn’t end up with any cat sweaters or old copies of Is Your Mama a Llama – on the daytime TV, I can’t say I don’t love a good episode of Jerry Springer or SVU marathon, but who doesn’t?


Matt joined AlphaSights in March 2012 and serves as an Associate in our New York office.