How to Prescreen for the Best Candidate for the Job

How to Prescreen for the Best Candidate for the Job

When hiring, it is important to pre-screen candidates before the first interview. By doing so, you are able to find the right fit for your company without spending too much time in the interview space. Interviews can be extremely time-consuming, therefore, the pre-screening process is crucial; not only to find the right candidate for the job but to save valuable time during the hiring process. 


If the hiring process and candidate pool are overwhelming, consider involving a recruiter; in particular, an industry-specific recruiter. Industry-specific recruiters have access to tools that some employers and companies may not, and are able to sift through a large group of applicants in order to find the best possible fit(s). By involving a recruiter, you will be introduced to candidates that match your company's morals, talent requirements, and salary expectations. 


During this process, there are two tools in particular that can be an immense help throughout the hiring process. Through this process, especially the beginning, employment application, and the resume are two crucial tools that should be used. 


If you require a resume from an applicant, the resume will be your first glimpse into the candidate’s background, education, experience, and talents. You'll then have qualified candidates fill out an application when they come in for an interview. If you don’t ask for a resume, you'll probably want to have prospective employees come in to fill out applications, then review the applications and call qualified candidates to set up an interview.


The Application


It is important for your company to have multiple application forms available and customized for each open position before the interview process starts. These application forms are most often available in templated forms online,  or you can develop your own, customized application form to meet the specific needs of each opening. Additionally, any application form used should conform to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines regarding questions that can and cannot be asked of the applicant. 


When looking for or creating a custom application, the application should include specific information such as name, address, and phone number; educational background; work experience, including salary levels; awards or honors; whether the applicant can work full or part-time, as well as available hours; and any special skills relevant to the job (foreign languages, familiarity with software programs, etc.). 


Additionally, it can be extremely helpful to the candidate for names and phone numbers of former supervisors to check as references; if the candidate is currently employed, ask whether it's permissible to contact his or her current place of employment. 


Along with professionals, your company may choose to request personal references. Since many employers may hesitate to give out information about one of their employees, you may want to have the applicant sign a waiver that states the employee authorizes former and/or current employers to disclose information about them.


The Resume


Screening a resume is much different than screening an application. When looking at candidates’ resumes, it can help to have the job description and specifications of the job you are hiring for in front of you so you can keep the qualities and skills you are looking for clearly in mind. 


There really is no standard form for resumes, and because of this, evaluating them can be very subjective. However, there are certain components that are mostly standard in a resume. Generally, a resume should contain the prospect’s name, address, and telephone number at the top and a brief summary of employment and educational experience, including time spent at each position.


Many resumes include a “career objective” that describes what kind of job the prospect is pursuing, however, other applicants may state their objectives in their cover letters. Additional information that is often found on a resume, or in a cover letter, may include references, achievements, and career-related affiliations.


Oftentimes, employers will look for neatness and professionalism on the applicant’s resume and cover letter. For instance, a resume riddled with typos raises some serious red flags. If a person can’t be bothered to put his or her best foot forward during this crucial stage of the game, how can you expect him or her to do a good job if hired?


When analyzing resumes, there are generally two main types that candidates provide; the “chronological” resume and the “functional” resume. The chronological resume, which is also the more common, lists employment history in reverse chronological order, from the most recent position to the earliest. The functional resume does not list dates of employment. Instead, it lists different skills or “functions” that the employee has performed, with the most relevant to the position they are applying for at the top. 


During the screening process, resumes can be a difficult portion as applicants tend to embellish upon their talents and achievements. Because of this, it can be a good idea to have candidates fill out a job application, by mail or in person, and then compare it to the resume. 


When reading a candidates’ resume, try to determine their career patterns. Look for steady progress and promotions in past jobs along with stability in terms of length of employment. A person who changes jobs every year is probably not someone you want on your team. Look for people with three- to four-year job stints.


Although it can be easy to look at a resume that doesn’t reflect major promotions as a negative, it is important to take into account how economic conditions can affect a person’s resume. During a climate of frequent corporate downsizing, for example, a series of lateral career moves may signal that a person is a survivor. This also shows that the person is loyal and interested in growing and willing to take on new responsibilities, even if there was no corresponding increase in pay or status.


If you or your hiring department is feeling overwhelmed with the hiring process, consider reaching out to a recruiting company that specializes in your field. More often than not, they will be able to access resources that your company never knew were available and can greatly simplify the hiring process.


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