In the complex world of business, hiring the right candidate is a crucial task that can significantly impact a company’s success. A key piece of this process is applicant screening, a systematic method to evaluate potential employees. The applicant screening process includes initial job application and resume reviews, pre-interviews, assessments, and reference and background checks.
Step 1: Review Resumes & Applications
You’ll need to start off by reviewing each resume or application manually. There are many things to learn about a candidate from their resume. Take into consideration the following:
- Resume depth/length. How much work experience does your applicant have, and how skilled are they at conveying large concepts succinctly?
- Grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. How detailed is the applicant, and are they willing to go the extra step to conduct a spelling or grammar scan of their resume and cover letter?
- Personality. What does the resume tell you about the personality of the applicant? Especially in creative or design roles, the cover letter and resume could be an accurate reflection of the applicant’s work product.
When reviewing resumes, make sure your determinations are directly aligned with the responsibilities and expectations of the role and not a reflection of personal preference. You might also consider implementing a blind hiring process by having all names, gender, ethnicity, and any other identifying marks, removed from the application before the review.
An easy way to eliminate underqualified candidates even before seeing their application is to use an applicant tracking system to auto-reject applications based upon predetermined criteria. A good ATS, like Freshteam, can help you efficiently monitor the applicant screening process by automatically populating candidate profiles based on the information on their resumes. Learn more about this platform in our Freshteam review.
Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Screen Resumes
For some small businesses, a manual review of every resume can be very time-consuming. We recommend using software like ZipRecruiter, which uses AI functionality to scan resumes for specific keywords and job titles. This can save time and resources while still getting a sense of the applicant pool.
There are many different AI tools available to employers, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some common abilities of AI resume screening tools include:
- Reading and understanding natural language
- Identifying key skills and qualifications
- Comparing candidates side-by-side
While AI resume screening can be a helpful tool for employers, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not perfect. There may be some false positives or negatives, and it’s important to supplement AI screening with other methods, such as human review.
Compliance Note: Be aware that the EEOC has a new program called the Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness Initiative. Through this initiative, the EEOC will offer guidance to employers on how to use AI effectively and compliantly. Note that this initiative states that when an employer uses AI software to screen applicants, and that software discriminates against an applicant, then the employer will be held liable.
Step 2: Conduct Pre-interviews
Pre-interviews are a valuable addition to the applicant screening process and should be your second step. These allow you to further assess a candidate’s suitability before investing time and resources into a full interview. These can be conducted either by a one-way video interview or phone screen interview.
One-way Video Interviews
One-way video interviews, different from traditional video interviews, are sometimes called asynchronous interviews because only one person, the job candidate, is present and talking. These types of interviews are typically conducted after an initial application review to get a bit more familiar with the job seeker.
The predetermined interview questions are presented in a text or pre-recorded video form. The candidate will have an opportunity to answer the interview questions via video, which will be uploaded and sent to the hiring team. The hiring team can limit (or not) how many attempts a candidate will have at answering any particular question and can determine a deadline for when the final recorded video interview is due.
Phone Screen Interviews
Another common way to weed out unqualified candidates is to conduct phone screenings. A phone screen interview is used to narrow down the candidate pool by learning more about an applicant and assessing how suitable the candidate is for a role. This step in the process usually occurs after a hiring manager has manually looked at a resume and cover letter and before an in-person interview is scheduled. Although generally conducted over the phone, having a phone screen via video has become more common.
Phone screens usually last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, and within that time, common topics of conversation include:
- Employment history: What has been the applicant’s experience/career progression?
- Skills: Applicant’s possession of specific skills, certifications, degrees necessary for the position.
- Role description: General description of the role and the team that the role will closely work with.
- Salary expectations: You can provide a pay range or ask the candidate what salary they expect.
- Candidate’s job search: If the applicant is actively searching for a role and how far along the applicant is in that process.
- Any next steps: What happens after the screening? When and how will the candidate be notified that they made it to the next stage?
Phone screenings allow an applicant to learn more about the company, role, and team that they would possibly join. Check out our article on the top phone interview questions for more ideas on what to ask. Although typically shorter than an in-person or final interview, phone screenings should still be approached with the same professionalism as with other interviewing types.
Step 3: Implement Pre-employment Testing
After you’ve conducted initial candidate reviews, your next step is to conduct a pre-employment test. It is a tool used to assess a candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks related to a job role or to evaluate their personality and approach to work. These tests can provide additional insights into a candidate’s suitability for a position, beyond what a resume or interview can reveal.
The necessity of pre-employment testing depends largely on the nature of the job. For positions requiring specific technical skills, cognitive abilities, or certain personality traits, these tests can be invaluable in identifying the most qualified candidates and weeding out those who may have exaggerated too much on their resume.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, many organizations have made it standard practice to assess candidates through tools like pre-employment Excel skill tests and personality assessments before hiring. Skill tests can range from typing (typical for administrative positions) to copywriting (common for positions that require writing) and code writing (mostly for software developers). These can serve as an excellent way to see a candidate’s skills in real time.
Avoid unnecessary legal woes—be sure that every candidate for the role is given the test at the same point in the recruiting process. It’s also important to make sure you’re complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities. For example, providing extra time for a test or offering it in a different format would be a reasonable accommodation. All tests must be non-discriminatory, job-related, and consistent with business necessity.
Step 4: Perform Reference Checks
Now that you’ve narrowed down your candidates, ask them for references so you can conduct a reference check. An employment reference check is when an employer contacts a candidate’s previous employers, peers, and other sources to learn more about their on-the-job performance, employment history, and qualifications for a job. The contacted parties are generally provided by the prospective employee, and reference checks can be conducted via email or telephone through a series of relevant questions about the experience had with the candidate, though we recommend speaking on the phone with a reference whenever possible.
Reference checking can provide insight into a candidate’s work ethic, scope of past work, and ability to build and maintain relationships. They’re also a great way to verify information on the candidate’s resume or that they’ve shared with you in an interview. Because references are reflections of experiences had with the candidate by individuals in various roles, they should be considered. However, hiring decisions should not be made solely on a candidate’s reference check.
Step 5: Conduct a Background Check
When you’ve targeted a candidate to hire, consider running a background check. Having a background check policy can be a great tool for confirming that you made the right decision about a candidate. It can include details about a candidate’s criminal history, driving violations, credit review, and so forth. These checks can also include a verification of employment listed on a resume, and employers typically hire a third party to perform them.
However, background checks are not always necessary. The need for a background check depends on the nature of the job, the risks involved, and the level of trust required. For instance, jobs in finance, healthcare, education, and law enforcement often require comprehensive background checks due to the sensitive nature of these roles.
A background check is generally one of the last steps in your hiring process, often conducted after a conditional offer has been made. This is because some states have ban the box laws prohibiting employers from asking questions about a candidate’s criminal history or running a background check until an offer has been made.
Keep in mind that if you look into a candidate’s social media when doing a background check, there are laws in place that prohibit what you can and can’t use. If you need help conducting background checks, consider ShareAble for Hires. It helps verify resumes, performs credit checks, and screens for criminal history. You’ll only pay for background checks you request, and results will show in minutes. Read our ShareAble for Hires review for more.
Why Applicant Screening Is Important
Applicant screening is a crucial part of the hiring process. It helps your company be efficient by narrowing down a large pool of applicants to those who are most qualified, saving time and resources. By systematically evaluating candidates based on predetermined criteria, you increase the likelihood of selecting high-quality candidates who will perform well and fit into your company culture. Good applicant screening can also help identify potential red flags that might indicate a candidate is not suitable for the role, reducing the risk of making a bad hire.
It is important to make sure you are following guidelines and laws during this process. Give your full attention to applications and resumes, and do not dismiss a candidate based on a protected class of people (age, race, gender, etc.). Additionally, do not ask illegal interview questions during the application and pre-interview portions of the screening.
|Review each application or resume for hidden qualifications. Not all candidates word their experience in the same way.||Dismiss a candidate for a reason associated with a protected class (i.e., age, sex, race, and gender).|
|Use an ATS to weed out unqualified candidates efficiently, remembering to stay compliant with EEOC guidelines.||Rely solely on candidate resumes without performing reference and background checks to verify information.|
|Conduct brief pre-interviews to learn candidate credentials.||Ask illegal interview questions.|
|Document the reasons for your decisions at each stage of the screening process.||Consider a candidate’s social media heavily when conducting background checks.|
|Consider the whole picture—a single red flag doesn’t necessarily disqualify a candidate.||Disregard ban the box laws or other regulations related to background checks and applicant screening.|
Conducting efficient candidate screening is a critical step in the process of finding a great hire. Whether your organization decides to review each resume with a scrutinizing eye, utilize skill tests to make sure that only highly skilled candidates are considered, check references to verify your prospective new hire’s reputation, or use some combination of the above methods, thoroughly screening and eliminating unqualified applicants is the first step in curating a powerhouse team.