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How To Optimize Your Candidate Screening Process

Published November 26, 2012


The candidate screening process is an area where art meets science. It’s also an operational effort that can make or break your business. Far too often, companies overspend on recruiting candidates.

“It is estimated that the U.S. economy is presently running at 30 percent efficiency with only one third of employees being fully engaged in their current positions,” according to a whitepaper by iCIMS. “This low level of employee engagement has a strong correlation with high turnover rates, as engaged employees have 51 percent lower turnover rates.”

Employers and recruiters are well aware of how expensive high turnover can be for businesses of all sizes. Your organization needs to optimize the candidate screening process at every step of the way – here’s how to do it right:

1.  Identify Productivity Before Looking at Resumes

Recruiters and hiring managers alike typically jump to resumes to gauge candidates’ past accomplishments and experiences. One key gray zone persists however – how productive are candidates? Resumes aren’t effective tools for answering this extremely important question.

Resumes help to show work histories, skill sets, career paths, and interests, but they fall short in defining your candidates’ work ethic, personalities, and potential. When you look at hundreds of resumes that look exactly the same, you’re more likely to pick prospective candidates based on your subjective perspectives – whether or not you realize it. You need an objective, scientific process to screen your candidates.

Everyone could look the same on paper, so how do you differentiate between personalities to find the perfect fit? What you need is a cutting edge psychometric assessment to help you gauge productivity before even looking a resume. In plain english, you need a well designed screening test.

2.  Know Your Candidates Before You Meet Them

The interview process should focus on getting to know how candidates think, act, and strategize. Instead, hiring managers and recruiters often spend way too much time reading between the lines to identify personality traits. By using tests for cognitive ability, openness, stress tolerance, extroversion, conscientiousness, entrepreneurialism, and agreeableness, you can better focus the questions you ask to connect your candidates to the role that you’re hoping to fill. Leverage these tests to measure the traits that are most essential to your team and business.

3.  Choose Personality over Paper

More often than not, education and past work experience are byproducts of circumstances and luck. There are lots of smart people out there, and if you rely on paper only, you may overlook the personality traits that are most important to your organization. A test can help you identify these abilities up-front – and you’ll be able to quickly identify the traits that align with your next superstar. Don’t rely on resumes and paper alone to find the perfect hires, when testing can help you maximize the efficiency of a more holistic approach.

4.  Don’t Judge a Candidate Solely by an Interview

People with certain characteristics will interview well regardless of whether they’re a fit for the role. Strong interviewing skills are not always the best predictors of strong job performance. Candidates who interview well are those who are high in extraversion and agreeableness – they’re outgoing people pleasers. They can anticipate what you want, deliver answers that you want to hear, and they can do it in a happy, effervescent manner.

Some serial interviewers are good at the process because they’ve been perpetually jobless – watch out. Even the smartest hiring managers can lose perspective with these types of candidates, and at the end of the day, you may have more long-term luck with the candidate who is a little more awkward.

The great thing about testing ahead of time is that you can identify strengths and weaknesses and use them to gain important insights during an interview. Instead of asking the same questions to everyone, you can ask more poignant and directed questions.

If you encounter a candidate with a low stress tolerance score, for instance, you may want to ask him about his typical reaction to ambiguous situations and looming deadlines.

“Tell me a time that you handled those pressure filled situations well.”

When screening candidates who are introverted, provided that they don’t need levels of extroversion in their job, they won’t be penalized for not being talkative during the interview process. You might find your next perfect software developer. Now, don’t avoid red flags. If your candidates show up wearing dirty shirts, they’ve just barely gotten out of bed, or can’t communicate business concepts effectively, they probably aren’t the right fit..

5.  Assign a Pre-Hire Task

Give applicants an opportunity to showcase their best work through a sample project! This process will help you gain insight into potential hires and their working styles. These types of exercises are also helpful for giving candidates a perspective on your company – after all, recruiting is a two-way process. Use the test to evaluate certain skills, and leverage it as a screening tool.

The selected candidate will also have a project that she can take ownership over – right away. She’ll feel awesome, important and will want to be productive immediately. You’ll also collect a range of insight about how different people handle different projects – which could benefit your company’s overall productivity.

Most Importantly

Personalize the experience and trust your instincts. It’s the combination of the art and the science of candidate screening that will help you find your future all stars.

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