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How Employers Should Review Candidates For Employment

Picking one candidate from a pool of 100 can be daunting. How do you know you’re making the right decision? How do you filter through all the applications to find the right one? You use a screening process. There are different methods you can use to narrow down your list of potential candidates.

You can go the old-fashioned way and review each resume that comes in. Or you could go high tech and use keywords plugged into a piece of software that will organize the resumes into categories for easy viewing. How do you screen applicants for employment?


Start With the Resume

The most obvious starting position would be the resume. How a person’s resume looks will tell you quite a bit about their character. If they used spell check and an extensive vocabulary, you could assume they might be intelligent. If it has a good organization and a consistent layout and format, you will think they have the right eye for details.

If they have structured the resume to fit the job they are applying for, it’s a sign that they are serious about their interest in the position. You could find this reassuring if you have a rigorous hiring process that requires the candidates to go through multiple steps before they are selected.

If the applicant hasn’t put any thought or personalization to the resume, it could mean they are applying to your company because they saw an open position. Not because they value the company and have an interest in working there. Here are some other things a good resume will have:

  • Appropriate length (1-2 pages is ideal)
  • Most important information about the candidate
  • Design and organization
  • Language
  • Previous work

Make Use of Cover Letters

Cover letters can provide a wealth of information. Unlike resumes, candidates can be creative in their cover letters. A cover letter can tell you quite a few things about the writer. For example, you can get learn about their personality from their vocabulary choices.

It can also show you their imagination, intelligence, and technical abilities. In some cases, these factors may not matter. But if you’re in an industry where writing plays a significant role, you’ll want someone with strong writing skills.

When you’re posting a job description, don’t request a resume and cover letter. Ask the applicants to draft a unique cover letter that answers a provided scenario. You can ask them to describe their ideal job environment. Or why they think you should hire them. Have them tell you what’s different about them than other candidates. How did their previous work experiences prepare them for this new position?


What to Include

Be specific. Cover letters are a way to give applicants a test before you consider interviewing them. Asking for a cover letter allows you to determine if the candidate can follow directions. You want an employee who can produce a final product that is complete and correct.

Cover letters shouldn’t be more than two pages. If you receive a cover page that seems like it’s a template, it might be a reflection of the applicant’s work ethic. They may prefer to cut corners and take the easy way out. You may want to put this resume to the back of the pile for a bit to see what else there is.


Use Software to Make Screening Easier and Quicker

The way we review resumes has changed with time. Instead of having to read through each one and separate the good from the bad, we can let computers do some of the work for us. Application tracking systems compare your keywords to all the incoming resumes. Then the selections are filtered based on how similar they are to what the computer thinks you want.

If an applicant knows what you expect to hear, they can construct their resume to match all the keywords, thus bringing them to the top of the list. The problem with this is that just because they matched through keywords doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best pick. It could just be that they know how to work the system. Don’t overly rely on technology. You still need to research to make sure you’re making the right choice.

It’s common in large companies to have a panel or team of people who are in charge of hiring new employees. It’s is a great way to make sure you’re choosing good candidates. Having three pairs of eyes looking over a file can be better than one pair. Someone might spot a discrepancy you happened to overlook. Just because something looks good on the resume doesn’t mean it’s true.


Do Your Research

When a candidate fills out an application, they are asked to list references. Why request this information if you’re not going to use it? Checking references is an important step that you shouldn’t skip when you’re trying to hire a new employee. You want to have all the essential data collected so you can make an informed and correct decision.

It’s common for people to exaggerate in their resumes because they assume you won’t check the information. One study revealed that 78% of people provide misleading information on their resumes. 46% of all resumes contain at least one lie.

Things that candidates lie about are previous titles or positions they’ve had, how long they worked at their last jobs, and their reasons for leaving the company. Don’t take the candidate’s word. You must make sure they are trustworthy before you give them the benefit of the doubt.


Check References

Start with checking references. When you call the candidate’s references, here are some tips.

Introduce yourself. Explain why you’re calling. Mention the name of your company. And then explain that you’re inquiring about a former employee.

Don’t be impatient. The reference doesn’t have to talk to you. And if you make yourself a nuisance, you probably won’t get any assistance. Reach out once and then wait. If too much time has passed, try again. But don’t do it too frequently. Once a week is enough. If you still can’t get a response, try reaching out to the candidate and explain the dilemma. See if they can get into contact with the person and arrange a phone conversation.

Let the reference lead. Once you do get into contact with the reference, ask open-ended questions and give them plenty of time to explain their answer: the more detail, the better.

Explain what the job is. Provide the reference with an overview of the position the former employee is interested in. This information gives them the chance to give their opinion on the suitability.

Ask specific questions. Ask questions about the applicant’s work performance, the reason for leaving, and their ability to handle criticism or feedback. Also, ask the employer if they would hire the candidate again.


Let Google Help

Go to Google, or your favorite search engine, and type in the applicant’s name. Browse through the sites that pop up. You may want to try different variations, like the name and previous companies. There might be something in the company newsletters or publications that links to the candidate. You can also try the name and current state. Which might return different results.

You’ll probably see the applicant’s social media profiles listed in the search results. You can take a peek at these if you want, although many employers feel like this might be an invasion of privacy since social media is meant to be for personal use. If the candidate has strict privacy settings, you might not be able to see much other than basic information and a profile picture.


Do They Keep It Professional?

However, you should try to find them on LinkedIn. This option is a great social media site geared towards networking. You can see if they belong to any professional organizations or see how well they market themselves. You can also understand how they interact with other professionals. Do they keep it business-related? Or are they sharing things that would be more suited to Facebook or Instagram?

The values and posts your employees make might impact you if the wrong person sees it. There’s always a new story about how someone became offended by something someone did; or said. If you’re in an industry that requires discretion and subtleness, you might not want to take on an employee who likes to voice their opinions, regardless of the popularity of the subject.

Don’t feel too bad about doing a web search for each candidate. They are doing the same for you. Most people, especially the younger crowd, rely on the information they find online to make their decisions. If your company doesn’t have a robust online presence, or if you’ve been given a lot of bad reviews from previous employers, you might miss out on some top-notch applicants.


Ask Candidates to Take Assessment Tests

A resume is a way for you to get to know the applicant. But it can’t tell you how efficient they would be at their job. Using assessment tests is an excellent way to see them in action before you decide. You don’t want to offer a candidate a job and then dismiss everyone else, to realize three weeks later that the new hire isn’t going to work out.

By this time, your backup candidates might have already accepted other offers, leaving you to start the process all over. There are multiple types of skill tests you could use. Some are job-specific, while others test things like reasoning, memory, and logic. A few of the different assessment types are:

  • Personality tests
  • Psychometric tests
  • Mental ability tests
  • Integrity assessments
  • Job knowledge tests
  • Situational judgment assessments
  • Skills tests

You can also use job simulation exercises, which is when the candidate will have to address an issue that they might actually face in real life. You can have them do this as a writing test, act it out, or present a presentation. Any of these options will let you see how they would handle a crisis. If you and the candidate agree, you can have them do three or four different scenarios, granted they are short exercises.


Conduct Interviews

Before you hire an applicant, you’ll want to have at least one interview with them. Have specific questions ready before you begin the interview process. This tactic saves you time and makes the meeting more efficient. When thinking on the fly, you often forget important things. By having a checklist, you’re reducing the chances of having unanswered questions once the interview is over.


Phone Interview

Typically, you use a telephone interview as your first form of contact. At this point, you’ll talk with the applicant about the job. Why they want to fill the position. Their previous work experience and education. Keep the questions specific to work. Don’t ask irrelevant questions that do not have to do with their ability to provide excellent work.

During the phone interview, which should last about 30 minutes, go over the details of the job. Make sure the candidate understands what you expect of them. Encourage them to ask you questions as well. Keep the same list of questions for each candidate. A few questions you could ask that will help screen prospects are:

  • Is the salary acceptable?
  • Top three duties in your previous job?
  • What’s your highest degree?
  • Why are you changing jobs?
  • Would you be willing to relocate? (Not always applicable)


In-Person/Video Interview

If the phone interview goes well, you can set up an in-person interview. If the candidate is unable to appear in person, use a video service like FaceTime or Skype. You should be able to see each other for the second meeting, in some way. You want to be able to read the applicant’s body language and watch their faces as they talk. There can be subtle clues that tell you whether they are honest and forthcoming, or if they are deceptive.

Allowing other team members to conduct their interviews, or sit in on yours, is a great idea. This technique will enable you to have fresh eyes and a second (or more) opinion. You might be so focused on one area of the conversation that you miss a red flag in the resume or the applicant’s responses.

Give the other members time to talk as well. Let them ask their questions. Once the meeting is over, get together to see how everyone feels about the candidate’s performance.


Offer a Trial Period

Some companies have begun to hire applicants temporarily. This method will allow them to earn a paycheck while demonstrating whether or not they’ll be able to meet the job requirements. By offering a temporary position, you are preventing any backlash should the arrangement not work out. You are under no obligation to retain the employee if they are not meeting your expectations.

You can do this for just one employee, or the top three or five who scored the highest on their interviews and assessments tests. Just because someone does well during the recruiting process does not mean they will do well once it becomes a real situation. They might not fit in with your company. Or they may not get along with your other employees.

It’s better to know these things early on so you don’t waste time and resources training an employee who won’t be around long. You may think it seems counterproductive to pay a few different candidates to work the same job, but you are saving your company money.

If the situation isn’t going to work out, you want to know as soon as possible. And by having a few different candidates doing the same job, you can compare them to determine which one is doing the best.


Reviewing Candidates Can be Time Consuming

Hiring a new person can take up a lot of time. You want to find the most efficient way to organize your hiring process so you can get a new employee to work as soon as possible. But regardless of how bad you need help, don’t rush into a decision without researching to ensure you’re making the right decision.

Spending an extra two weeks following these tips can save you time, resources, and money in the end. Once you’ve learned how to set up an efficient screening process, it won’t take as long to hire new talent in the future.