Screening Candidates – Part 2
(…continued from part 1)
In our first article on screening we described how to make a long list into a short list. In this second article on screening we describe some techniques you can use when the recruitment process is not going well and we will take you from long list stage to shortlist stage.
In the ideal situation after your screening you have now reduced a long list of 10-20 CVs to a short-list of 3-5 CVs. You will have possibly carried out a screening interview or if you have the time you might have interviewed the applicants more thoroughly. If your process has worked properly you now have a short-list of qualified candidates to take to the next stage.
Of course, in the real world this doesn’t always happen so now we will look at some screening methods you can use when things do not go so well.
Problems with advertising
Firstly if you have relied entirely on advertising the job you can be in the situation where you have no applicants at all. You should re-consider your placement of the ad, the salary you are offering and the contents of the ad itself. Job-boards do not always have the traffic they claim, particularly those offering something free. Did you do enough research on current market rates? If you are focused on the day-to-day operation of your business it is easy to lose track of market salaries in an employee-driven market like Cambodia. Did you use a job-title that made sense or was it part of your internal jargon? Did your ad describe a person that doesn’t exist?
Too many applicants
The other, perhaps more common problem faced with ad-based recruitment strategy is that your inbox is now swamped with applicants and after opening a few you realise that it’s likely that few or none of them are qualified for the job. As your time is too valuable to be wasted on this and if you have a junior member of staff who can assist, train them on how to screen candidates out using one or two criteria.
If you have the resources you could consider less conventional methods like phone screening as mentioned above. Using a short script and a focused, simple scoring system a large number of applicants can be screened to a short-list.
A systematic way to assess each applicant against the required criteria is to create a scoring system like this:
0 Meets no criteria
1 Meets some criteria
2 Meets all criteria
3 Exceeds all criteria
This quickly divides the applicants into four groups which is much easier to handle and they have now been prioritised. Candidates in category 2 and 3 will be your short-list.
If you are still looking at unconventional screening methods, you could consider calling all the applicants to a group presentation. This should take only an hour of your time to present on the organisation and position, to answer questions and perhaps to ask attendees to complete an application form. In fact another member of your team will be tasked with another assessment, timekeeping, presentation, participation (asking questions). From this information you can screen candidates for their personality and attitudes and then you only have to consider the CVs of those who are screened in.
Walk-in interviews fulfil a similar function for mass screening though may take up to a whole day of your time.
More conventional but perhaps less criteria-focused are screening out applicants who use copy and paste standard cover letters or use one but don’t replace the name of the previous organisation with your organisation. You can screen out applicants who attach scans of certificates when the ad says do not send them – or who don’t attach them when the ad says they should. Be aware that these methods are not actually related to whether that applicant should be considered as a qualified candidate for the position, they are related to reading/writing skills or other skills which actually might have no bearing at all on whether they would be a fit for the job.
However, sometimes in desperation, these methods are used to ways to screen out the ‘inappropriate applicants’ who apply to every job advertised or who apply because they are being aspirational, they want to be a manager so they apply for every manager job advertised. If you must use a screening method like this don’t let it become a test which screens out candidates who just aren’t very good at applying for a job. Try to make it have some relationship to the position’s criteria – do not just say to yourself ‘this applicant can’t follow written instructions in English’ or ‘This candidate has no attention to detail’ particularly when a candidate who carefully follows written instructions in English is not who you’re looking for.
There is no doubt that screening candidates can be time-consuming and laborious with no certainty of success but by being systematic and applying the criteria you developed to all applicants you will have a higher chance of building a good short-list and this is, after all, the purpose of the activity.