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Recently, we received a lot of candidate submissions during a recruitment drive. One particular entry stood out. His CV had a long list of webinars and seminars he attended, literally more than 30.

Learning is a good thing, and continuing education is often a sign of a self-motivated individual. I applaud it.

I have been a conference attendee, and more often, a keynote and conference speaker since the 1980s. An attendee of a conference or a webinar usually cannot conclusively prove what he has learned, simply because there is no exam at the end of the conference or webinar.

I just read an article somewhere where a senior executive commented that experience is the most important in a candidate, no matter what certifications there may be, or may not be. I tend to agree.

And while we are talking about field experience, discerning what is actually written on a CV is important. For example, if a candidate came from a large department within a large organization, and stated that he is capable of managing or coordinating certain practices, projects or clients, it is inconclusive if indeed, such a candidate knows the entire workflow and process, or simply a portion of the entire process. In such a scenario, a candidate may merely be part of a large team that sees the process or project to successful completion, and actually handles only a small part of the process or project.

The best test of a candidate is not to listen or read the laundry list of achievements, certifications, or mere attendance. The best test is to have the candidate demonstrate his abilities during the interview.

For example, if a job requires copywriting, give the candidate a mock exam on the spot to demonstrate his ability, with a theme and a brief. If you are looking for a social media or web/mobile app developer, have the candidate demonstrate to you his abilities with his laptop in your office, with a simple campaign or app prototype based on a generic theme. If the job requires preparing compelling slide presentations, give the candidate a mock theme for a client pitch or business meeting, and have the candidate sit in your office to complete the task – no bringing home “assignments” as you never know if the candidate completed the task, or someone else did.

Recruiting the best possible talents for today’s environment is tough. There are many candidates out there, each with unique pitches. There are only a few openings, and increasingly less. The wisdom to discern how much practical, useful, and proven experience a candidate can bring to your table, is what counts.