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6 common mistakes you might be making when screening candidates

Justin Lowe Oct 16, 2018 9:00:00 AM

Poor recruitment practices can put some serious strain on a company’s hiring efforts. Recruiters may sometimes decide to take short-cuts, which only creates problems with selecting the right people. One area that should be handled with care is candidate screening. The problem is, many recruiters struggle with accurately evaluating candidates using traditional recruitment methods.

A recent survey conducted by global consultancy Mercer and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed, “Only 20 percent of recruiting professionals said they were fully confident in their employers' overall ability to effectively assess the skills of entry-level applicants using time-honored selection methods like interviews and application and resume scans.” Many recruiters said they leaned heavily on in-person interviews, applications, and resumes to make hiring decisions -- although less than half said they had little to no confidence in these methods.

What are the benefits of doing a phone screen before an interview?

The normal process of candidate selection begins with reviewing a resume or application, then conducting a phone pre-screen. Some recruiters will also review a candidate’s social networking profiles too. There are several advantages of doing a phone screen before bringing a candidate in for an interview. Some of them include:

Eliminating unqualified candidates: The purpose of the phone screen is to determine if the candidate has the basic skills and aptitude to meet the requirements of the job. Asking general questions about the candidate’s job history, education, and interest in the company should weed out any unqualified candidates.

Giving the recruiter a clearer impression of the candidate: A lot can be said for resumes and applications, but they do not provide the added insight that a phone interview can give. The recruiter can listen for subtle verbal cues from the candidate that indicate sincerity, if the candidate has a professional demeanor, if the candidate has a good sense of humor, if the candidate listens and responds well, and other signs that things should proceed to the next step.

Pro-Tip: Learn more about sourcing and hiring in the new 2018 McQuaig Global Talent Report

Providing a glimpse into the culture: The candidate experience matters too. A phone pre-screen gives the recruiter a chance to share a little more information about the work environment and culture. This can help the candidate decide if he or she may (or may not) be a good fit, based on personal work style and values.

Time and money savings: Instead of bringing every candidate in for a face-to-face interview, and phone screen can help to reduce hiring costs and time. Things like travel costs and time spent with the recruitment staff can be eliminated by the phone screen. However, it should be noted that the purpose is to narrow down the most qualified candidates who should be treated to a traditional interview.

What are common mistakes to avoid during candidate phone screens?

Due to the complexity of recruitment practices, it’s easy to miss things when conducting candidate phone screening. Remember, though, that this is the first critical opportunity to learn about a candidate, and this time must be maximized. Some of the more common mistakes made with phone screens include:

Scheduling a time in advance for the phone screen: The resume and application have been received and reviewed. Now what? Candidates are instructed to expect a call at a certain time and day by the recruiter. What if they are still working or have a conflict at that time? Instead, attach a free scheduling link to an email inviting them to self-schedule for the phone screen. People are more apt to show up for a meeting when they have control over when it takes place.

Having a clear goal of what information to gather: Before engaging in a phone interview call with a candidate, it’s a must to have a goal for what information needs to be gathered. Too many recruiters make this a casual conversation rather than a productive call with the candidate. If you don’t have the time, perhaps an AI-enabled candidate screening solution can get the job done more efficiently?

Not knowing what questions to ask the candidate: This goes along with being prepared for the call with the candidate. Develop a list of at least 10 questions that are appropriate for the pre-screening process. Make sure they are job skills and requirement specific and not focused too much on the personal qualities of the candidate.

Sharing relevant aspects of the job and company: The interview should not be one-sided. Candidates will likely have some concerns and want more information. Need some ideas? For starters: try to think about things from the candidate’s perspective. What are the work hours, the wages, the benefits, the training, the environment, the culture, and hiring process like?

Read more: How do you balance all the different factors in the hiring process

Rushing things, not giving candidate time to ask questions: It’s easy in the pursuit of getting things done to blur through the call and before you know it, you are saying “Buh bye”. Consider the experience of the candidate and be sure to say somewhere in the middle of the call, “Are there any questions I may answer for you?”

Setting up next steps with each candidate: Following up with candidates is important, but so is giving the candidate an indication of what the next steps will be. Many forget to include this information at the end of the telephone screen. Instead, inform the candidate that he or she can expect an invitation by email within one week if they’ve been chosen to move forward in the hiring process.

What are some key questions to ask or key information a recruiter should be trying to discover?

According to Roy Maurer, who contributes to the Society for Human Resource Management, the goal of any screening call should be to obtain a few vital pieces of information about the candidate -- and to sniff out any resume lies. In a short period of time, a recruiter can gauge if a candidate has a pleasant demeanor, if he or she has the right skills and education for the job, and if the correct reasons are given for applying to the company.

Some examples of questions for a pre-screen phone interview can include:

  • Why are you looking for a new position at this time?
  • What do you see as your top skills and challenges?
  • Is the salary range for this position acceptable?
  • Are you prepared to work virtually during the training period?
  • Have you considered that you may need to relocate for this position?
  • What is your highest degree earned?
  • What can I expect when I call your references?
  • Can you share why you are interested in this industry?

How does a good pre-screening inform the future interview?

Pre-screening candidates requires only a few small extra steps. However, it can result in better hiring results. Candidates who are a good fit go on to the next phase of hiring and those who indicate from the pre-screen that they may not be a good fit are notified and their information securely filed away for future plans. This gives recruiters more time to focus on the candidates who demonstrate suitability for the organization early in the game.

The information gathered during the candidate pre-screen can inform the future interviewer in many ways. For example, the candidate’s answers can be compared to what is presented on the resume to determine accuracy. If something is amiss, the interviewer can clarify the information with the candidate.

Another benefit of having this pre-screening information is to determine the motivating factors of the candidate. If the candidate is financially-driven, the recruiter can be mindful of this when speaking about the company’s compensation and benefits during the interview. If the candidate is seeking a family-friendly workplace, the recruiter can emphasize work-life balance policies or aspects of the corporate culture.

Pre-screening information can also help to make the interview more productive because some of the typical interview questions are out of the way. The recruiter can focus on learning more about the candidate on a deeper level, instead of rehashing the same rehearsed interview questions. This can provide added insight that may predict future success in the position.

It is important to mention that once pre-screening becomes a normal part of the recruitment practice, that all candidates must be pre-screened using a structured system. Consistency of handling candidates can produce more accurate results that compare similar characteristics and factors. This makes hiring less biased and more fair.

Topics: Hiring Strategies, Interviewing

Justin Lowe

Written by Justin Lowe

Director of Marketing and Sales