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How to Pick a Candidate for an Interview

background screening

If the job you post is exciting and has room for growth, you should be receiving a lot of applications. It is tough to take the hundreds and thousands of applicants and to narrow down the right choices for an interview. But the question is, what should you look for in an applicant? And how do you separate the promising candidates from the bad ones?

After conducting thorough research, we finalized a list of things you must consider when selecting the optimal pool of applicants.


Pay Close Attention to the Application Itself

When sifting through the stack of applications, it is easy to miss the small details. It is crucial not to analyze the submission as a blanket package quickly, but dissect each component. The proper application includes an organized resume, clear cover letter, and any supplemental information that will help you as the employer make a more educated decision on a candidate.


Resume Specifics

The applicant’s resume should be an organized presentation of facts and highlights. When looking at the bulleted lists under each experience, look for quantifiable achievements regarding time and money. How much money did this person make for their past company? How much time did they save their department through process improvement? It is good to show activities and skills, but highlighting accomplishment and results takes a resume to another level.

Another part to pay close attention to is how closely the collection of experiences relate to the open position. Does the candidate have success in activities and processes that are necessary for the job? Even more importantly, it takes a keen eye to recognize the value of diverse experiences. An applicant might be able to bring new insight to the table because they experienced a different type of role. He or she could point out things that a more specialized person did not get the opportunity to see.

Lastly, make sure to analyze the career progression and development of the candidate throughout time. Has the applicant dealt with increased responsibilities as they moved roles and companies? Increased empowerment is a sign that the person experienced success in the previous positions and gained the trust of the colleagues in the next challenge.


Cover Letter Specifics

The organization and outline of the letter are also crucial for you as the company because it allows you to read through it without difficulty. The first paragraph should explain how they found out about the position, or who referred them, as well as the specific role. The middle items should talk about pertinent skills from past experiences. It should also explain how these instances are relevant to the position. The final section should describe why the candidate wants to earn the job and work for your company.

The organization and outline of the letter are also crucial for you as the company because it allows you to read through it without difficulty. The first paragraph should explain how they found out about the position, or who referred them, as well as the specific role.

The second and third paragraphs should give a brief summary of his or her past experiences and how it will translate to the position being applied for. The final paragraph should be a quick section explaining why the candidate wants to earn the position and work for your company.

When reading through the cover letter, make sure to analyze how personalized the message is. Did the candidate copy and paste a standard couple of paragraphs? Or did he or she cater the letter to your specific job or company? By making the letter about your organization, it shows that the candidate took the time and placed importance in the message.


Supplemental Information Specifics

Most companies offer an option to attach additional documents within your application form. If you are not already doing this, it is an excellent way for the candidate to submit personalized achievements. The applicant might have a link to a website that contains a portfolio of work. He or she could also provide a document created for another job or client. The candidate could also attach an official recommendation from a past colleague. These are great ways for you to see proof of recent success outside of the resume.


Take note if the candidate follows up with you after the initial application submission

Jim Belosic from The Muse says that follow up skills are a huge differentiating factor. If the candidate wants to earn the position, he or she will circle back with you if they do not receive a response from you within a week or two. This correspondence gets done in the form of an email or phone call to your HR department or person who is associated with the job posting. The applicant will demonstrate valuable communication skills necessary for the job if they choose to seek out feedback on the initial application submission.


Ask for references in the application

The candidate will want the job they are applying for, so he or she will say a lot of positive things about themselves. What other people and references say will mean a lot more and provide you with social proof about the candidate’s capabilities. Make sure to utilize these contacts to get all of the information you would want about the candidate, including his or her working style and communication methods. Whether it is calling them directly, or having them fill out a questionnaire, gaining information from other people will ensure the proper selection of candidates for an interview.


Do a quick scan of the candidate on social media and online

What you find online about a candidate will not give you a full picture of who he or she is as a person, but it will tell you what they value. Social media will provide you with clues to lifestyle preferences, friends, activities, and personalities. You can also catch certain red flags if you find something negative here.


Give the candidate a problem to solve

According to Debbie Yarwood at RecruiterBox, assigning a challenge to the applicant before the interview will add a level of depth to the process. It also enables you as the company to screen candidates even further before scheduling time to meet. Make sure to layout a similar problem he or she would face on the job. Have the applicant write out an answer within a certain word count. The ending result is the discovery of relevant problem-solving skills and behaviors.


Assign a project for the candidate to complete

It is crucial to test how efficient he or she is at completing specific tasks that are reflective of the daily responsibilities of the position. Do not give a set deadline, but see how long it takes the applicant to finish the task and what the quality would be. This screening method perfectly simulates what it would be like to delegate items to this person in the capacity of the job.



These tasks and reminders are necessary for filtering out the best candidates for the interview phase. It starts with being detail-oriented with the initial application submission. Doing your homework and providing unique challenges to the candidates is also key.

If you, as a company, administer these tasks for employees and pay close attention to detail, it will optimize the process and save you money and time in the process. The candidates will undoubtedly earn time on the calendar if they can complete and satisfy this list effectively. Happy hiring!