You’ve got an opening for a new field service technician and you’re ready to start recruiting. But is the same process that you’ve been using for years really helping you succeed at hiring the talent you really need? Let’s break it down.

Most companies today still rely on resumes or job applications followed by an interview to screen and select employees. Both processes are flawed. Resumes and applications include as much noise as facts. Worse, both have been deemed by studies to be only marginally reliable and not highly indicative of job performance.

But given that resumes and interviews still drive most hiring decisions, let’s take a deep dive into both to identify ways to analyze them more effectively and efficiently. 

Rethinking the Status Quo

Consider your applicants’ resumes as 6-second auditions. I’m not kidding. Six seconds is how long one study concluded that recruiters take to evaluate a resume. Other studies suggest they might invest from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. And 75 percent of resumes may never even be seen by human eyes.  

But that’s only part of the story. The resume is just a candidate’s attempt to make a good impression. It is often filled with more fiction than fact. At best, it’s a self-reported narrative of past work. Besides, a growing number of resumes aren’t even written by job seekers but instead put together by professional resume writers and career coaches. Candidates are getting noticed by optimizing keywords to get past HR software filters, even though the right keywords don’t necessarily prove their worth.

Plus, studies show only weak support for the validity of pre-hire experience and education. Based on the studies of Hunter and Schmidt, experience and education are only slightly better indicators of future job performance than flipping a coin. (Meanwhile, a field service trial run or a “job-related” performance test are much better indicators.) 

If resumes and conventional job applications don’t seem to help identify top talent, the interview must work, right?

Wrong! Liar’s Poker—that’s how Dr. John Sullivan, one of the most respected thought leaders in HR, describes the modern-day job interview. In a simpler world, interviews were acceptable predictors. But over the years, technology, unconscious bias, and well-coached candidates have squeezed out what little predictive qualities existed in the job interview. Candidates now prepare and practice for interviews while hiring managers often wing it, juggling multiple tasks and scheduling interviews between meetings, putting out fires and grabbing a bite to eat. 

At best, the interview is the personal assessment of a candidate’s hard and soft skills and cultural fit. It is a process with unavoidable but inherent bias. As jobs get more complex, skills evolve and change accelerates, the relationship between the interview and future job performance is disappearing because an interview simply does not provide enough time to assess a person’s ability. This loss of authenticity has contributed to a sobering failure rate among new hires—50 percent of new hires fail within 18 months. 

What, then, can you do to ensure you hire the right field service technician?

Finding the Right Applicants

Until AI-driven hiring gives managers more insight into which candidates will actually thrive at a job, resumes and interviews will likely remain integral parts of recruiting for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean you must accept poor results. Here are a few steps you can take to be sure each hiring decision has a desirable outcome.

Plead guilty as charged: Despite 50 years of research and thousands of articles on how to hire right, our knowledge of hiring remains incomplete. Wharton’s Peter Cappelli suggests that the employer’s process for hiring is not very sophisticated or careful. Most employers don’t ask if what they are doing is working. Some can’t ask because they don’t collect the data. Admit that the way you hired yesterday can’t be the way you’re going to hire your next employee and start collecting data on the effectiveness of your hiring. It’s a crucial step toward recognizing that what you’re doing isn’t working. Track how long your new hires stay and when they quit, for example. 

Know what you need: “Experienced, energetic, motivated.” They sure sound good. But let me ask you: Did every field service tech you ever hired with experience, energy and motivation work out? Surely, a few of them did, but unless eight out of 10 hired on these criteria met your expectations, then maybe experience, energy and motivation aren’t the keys to success. Make a list of essential skills, attitudes and traits that a field service technician must have to thrive at your company—and be specific. Every company wants to hire someone experienced, but is there a trait specific to field service that you’re seeking? And keep your list as concise as possible to prioritize the key traits.

Focus on what you need: Given that most resumes and interviews are filled with lots of fluff and distractions, it’s important to focus on the factors that predict success. Review the keywords and filters used in your ATS. Make sure they aren’t filtering out potential candidates. Develop a behavioral interview guide specific for field service technicians.

Think outside the job: Just like an athlete that’s fired from one team but then excels on another, top-performing field service technicians are not islands. They thrive in some cultures and do well on some teams while floundering elsewhere.  Consider the environmental factors that might determine success or failure. Be honest. Will your culture nurture or antagonize a specific candidate? Ask the candidate about the environments she thrives in and consider whether that’s the environment your organization offers. 

Prove it: Typically, a hiring manager defines top talent in his own image or what he imagines drives himself or top performers. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely based on fact. Stop guessing. If you’re not collecting hiring data on field service workers and analyzing it, start. If you are, look for ways to do it better. Cognitive skills, service attitude, and curiosity can be accurately and objectively measured using pre-employment tests, injecting objectivity and data into what is currently a very subjective, gut-driven process. Just ask “where’s the proof?” anytime someone suggests they have the right hiring formula or perfect job interview question.

ABOUT Ira Wolfe

Avatar photoIra S Wolfe is the “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body” and the Chief Googlization Officer at Success Performance Solutions. Fueled by his fierce passion for technology its impact on people, Ira has emerged as one of HR’s most visionary thinkers and influencers on the future of work, jobs and talent acquisition. Ira is an accomplished speaker, author, writer and podcaster. His latest best-selling book is "Recruiting in the Age of Googlization." He also hosts the "Geeks, Geezers and Googlization" podcast.