8 min read

5 Of The Best Ways To Screen Applicants For A Job

Natasha Harries
Natasha Harries June 30, 2021
Best Ways To Screen Applicants

You have spent hours, maybe even days considering the profile of the individual you need to hire into your role. There have been endless conversations surrounding timings, onboarding processes, training, team structure and of course, the recruitment process. The latter in itself comes with its own complexities.

There are job descriptions to write, CVs to collect, skills to review, interviews to organise, the list goes on and only becomes more complex the more senior the role you're filling becomes. So what is the best way to screen applicants?

What Is Applicant Screening?

Best Ways To Screen Applicants

Before we can answer how to screen applicants for employment, we first need to understand what we mean by 'applicant screening.' It can be interpreted in many different ways. In this article, we will be breaking down how to prescreen applicants, with advice for each available screening method.

After advertising a role, you usually experience an immediate influx of applications, often in the hundreds. Of course, you ought to be delighted to see so much interest. But you also need to consider how you are going to manage this volume in a time and cost-efficient way, whilst also ensuring you do not miss that perfect candidate.

It's easy to read a brief introduction to a resume or see a LinkedIn profile that perhaps hasn't been given the care and attention it needs, cast it aside as 'not relevant' and move on.

But even this is dangerous. Remember, is that candidate realistically only applying to your available position? Doubtful. Sometimes, the gems are very much hidden. So you need to be thorough in order to know an applicant is really the right fit.

Why Should You Screen Applicants?

Would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive? Would you vote for a political party without reading a manifesto? Would you purchase a book simply by judging the front cover? We know (hope!) the answers to all of these questions are 'no.'

Similarly, you would not bring someone into your business without conducting a thorough inspection of their skill sets, work experience and personal profile. Hiring into your team is a time-consuming, complex task that you don't want to get wrong. On average, recruiting a junior-mid level position takes 4 weeks, while more senior positions can take up to 7 weeks.

When you finally think you've found your dream hire, it can all go wrong. All that time, effort, resources and money lost. Furthermore, we're talking about more than just monetary loss here. There is also the cost of your existing staff's wellbeing with an increase in turnover.

Why should you screen applicants? To prevent costly hiring mistakes. Continue reading for the most common methods for screening candidates, along with some tips on how to get them right and why they work.

5 Of The Best Ways To Screen Applicants

Screen Applicants

1. Skills Testing

What is the most important thing you're trying to decipher during the applicant screening process? Can they, or can they not, do the job you're hiring for. Unfortunately, CVs, cover letters and yes, even interviews, cannot guarantee you entirely that a candidate can do a job well.

The solution? Pre-employment assessments. By introducing a form of testing into your recruitment process, you can better gauge if a candidate is going to excel in the role.

These tests can be behavioural, psychometric, aptitude and skills-based. They can be used in any stage of a recruitment process, but are most commonly used during the early stages to help employers decide the candidates to proceed with onto the more time-critical stages, such as interviews.

A psychometric testing platform frees up the time of those existing employees involved in the hiring process; it helps eliminate unconscious bias. Our candidate selection tool has saved our clients thousands, and has eliminated the laborious admin involved in the early stages of recruitment.

Even for less specific skills-based roles, incorporating behavioural pre-employment assessments such as personality tests or motivation assessments will help ensure you're hiring the best culture fit.

2. Resume Screening

Seems obvious, right? But even the most skilled and experienced recruitment and HR professionals can miss great big flashing red lights in candidates' CVs. Although resumes aren't the best indicator of a candidate's skills, they're one of the key elements of hiring and can be a useful tool in helping to identify your top tier candidates. Here are some features to look out for:

Language: It is always painful to see obvious grammatical and spelling errors in a CV. It demonstrates that the candidate has a low attention to detail, is not dedicated to the application process and can even be considered lazy.

However, do not be too quick to judge. Although everybody has access to spell check these days, if the position you're recruiting for doesn't necessarily need the next bestselling author at the helm, then consider speaking with them. They may simply dislike writing, but are an outstanding product designer.

Length: It is a tricky balance to strike for candidates. You want to present the best possible version of yourself on paper, with all of your skills, achievements and experience. But for you as the employer, if a CV is more than 2 pages, ask yourself why. Is the candidate waffling? Are they writing 'filler' sentences that actually don't demonstrate anything?

A poorly structured CV is also a warning sign.

Design: Style over substance is a huge turn-off for hiring managers. Difficult to read fonts, bizarre colours, and even graphs that don't make sense (we're looking at you, skill-set bars). If a job requires zero skills in Photoshop or Canva, why have your candidates wasted hours pouring over the size of their contact details?

Ensure their information is communicated to you easily, with no need for you to be squinting and asking yourself, 'what on earth does that say?'

Previous work experience: The candidate should have relevant work experience listed, along with months and years spent on each position. An applicant for a web designer shouldn't spend too much time telling you about their time as a yoga teacher.

Resume fit: One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is sending out the same resume to all job applications. Every job has different requirements and the resume might need smaller or bigger tweaks to make it relevant.

Needless to say, this takes time and many candidates don't bother, but if you do happen to spot a tailor-made CV, give it your full attention. This candidate means business.

3. Background And Reference Checks

Best Ways To Screen Applicants

You need to be diligent. If you are struggling to get in touch with their previous manager, is that because the said manager does not exist? Does the university have no record of their degree?

That isn't an admin error. That means somebody is telling lies. Verifying who a candidate is who they say they are and have done what they say they've done is critical.

Ask the right questions. Go in detail and ask about how the candidate performed, why they left the company, how they handled feedback, what their weakest points were and what they brought to the table. Finally, ask the former employer if they would hire the candidate again.

4. Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are by far the most popular method of initially screening a candidate. They're a popular way to learn more about someone without hassling the candidate to take time away from current commitments, or worry about commuting and missing out from their ongoing job if they have one.

It is important that you're consistent and asks all of your candidates the same questions. Be sure to write down answers. You may sound disengaged from the call as you're concentrating on recording, but it is impossible to listen and write thorough notes. The latter will be more important when comparing applicants.

Have a schedule. Even though their contact number will be on their CV, calling a candidate – or anyone for that matter – entirely out of the blue can come across as very rude. They may be working, they may be enjoying some rare and sought-after leisure time. Be sure to schedule and do not be late.

5. Video Interviews

Now that remote working is the norm, as is remote hiring. Next to a face to face interview, a video interview is the next best option to screen your candidates. Thanks to a boom in video tools over the last 18 months, organising interviews, syncing with calendars, adding team members and even achieving high quality sound and video is easy.

Similarly to phone interviews, it is important to come prepared. Be sure to ask all candidates the same questions and do not allow the conversation to go awry.

Pay attention to the candidates' physical reactions. Do they smile a lot? Are they fidgeting? Are they looking away or distracted? What is their overall body language?

Achieving rapport with someone via video is difficult for some. So this is particularly important if you're hiring for a sales, account manager or customer focussed role.

Where are you, and where is your candidate? You both need to be coming across as professional and well prepared. Ideally, the candidate should be somewhere quiet, and it should be a well lit, tidy, de-cluttered space to reflect their professionalism.

Likewise, you are representing your company and are giving your candidate their first glimpse into their prospective employer's environment. Be sure to make a good first impression.

Natasha Harries
Natasha Harries June 30, 2021

Enjoy what you’ve read? Let others know!