If you've ever hired (and had to fire) anyone, you probably realize it's painfully obvious that a person's resume has just about nothing to do with how good a candidate that person will be for any given job.
That's why I've found a better way, for which I, along with the co-author Dwight Dunton, have applied for a patent.
It all starts with CraigsList (www.CraigsList.org), an absolutely phenomenal site that has a bulletin board for job postings in just about every city nationwide. CraigsList is one of those sites that is life changing. CraigsList enables people to connect in ways that no other site does. Your life will truly become transformed once you know about CraigsList, whether you just have to get rid of an old sofa, sell or buy a house or car, or hire someone for a job (or find one yourself).
I call this hiring method "self selection". Instead of you spending time looking through resumes, instead you are having job hires self-select themselves. Think of it as Darwinism in the job market.
So the first thing you do is put a job posting on CraigsList. For example, let's say I was looking for a web designer. The job posting would look something like this:
SEEKING: The best web designer around.
We are looking for a talented web designer for a project. You must know Flash and some PHP. We are a growing firm (etc, etc).
Please send some samples of sites you've designed, along with a paragraph describing what makes you unique (especially as compared to everyone else who applies).
Note: Please do NOT just send your resume with a blank email. It will be discarded.
Now, from that CraigsList posting I may get 100 responses. And what you might usually do is sort through those 100 responses to find a good candidate - a process that's terribly inefficient. But instead of doing that, the moment a response comes in, I sent back a form letter email with a series of questions. In this case that email might look something like this:
Thanks for your interest in the job. Can you please tell me:
a) Have you ever worked with Flash? Please provide some of your sites that show examples of Flash.
b) Have you ever worked with PHP? Please provide some of your sites that show examples of PHP.
c) What are your salary requirements?
d) Please do a quick project for me. My current site is www.DROdio.com. Please tell me how you would redesign the site (or if you're especially motivated, do a quick Photoshop redesign). Take as much or as little time as you wish.
Point "D" is especially important here. This is where the self-selection begins. About 60% to 80% of the initial people won't be motivated enough to do this homework assignment. And that's fine by me! I don't want to hire those people anyway. So out of 100 initial responses, i might be left with 20 to 40 people, and now the 2nd main part of this process kicks in: I get to see what kind of work people will do BEFORE I hire them. It sounds so obvious, but if you've ever hired anyone, you've probably had that experience where they start their job and you realize they are lacking some key skill for the job!!! I.e., a receptionist who doesn't know how to type, etc. By having the candidate do the job before they're hired, you're eliminating this element.
Out of the responses, it'll become very obvious who the top 10 candidates are. And this is where the 3rd key element of the process comes in: the interview. Instead of a normal interview, I take the top 10 responses and give them an even bigger project. So for our web designer, that email might look like this:
I really liked your work from your last email, and I'd like to invite you in for an interview. But instead of a standard interview, ours is a bit different. I have a more involved project I'd like you to tackle. And I'll pay you a token amount for doing the work - $30. When you come in for your interview, I want you to showcase your work to me. So here's the project: Please design a simple one-page site for a new condo development. Again, you may spend as much or as little time on this assignment as you wish. If you have questions please let me know.
So now, I'm asking them to basically do their job before they're hired. And if I interview 10 people and pay them $30 each, i'm out $300. But that's far, far less than the cost of hiring the wrong person.
And there's our hiring process. If you're hiring a marketing person, you'd tweak the "jobs" the candidates do for that job, etc. It works phenomenally well and it's low-cost to you, the employer, while allowing the best candidates to rise to the top.
Side Note: There's an opportunity to turn this process into a piece of software or better yet a web service, where all the responses are filtered using a special email address that makes everyone filterable and trackable through the web service. I know I'd pay for that, so you'd have at least one customer if you wanted to take this project on!