6 Steps to Screening Job Candidates - the Process Unveiled

Many people claim that they are really good at making quick “assessments” or rather judgments about whether or not the person sitting in front of them has the right stuff. Allow me to explain why that does not work.

From a psychological perspective, when we make those quick judgment calls, we are simply comparing the individual to us. If they walk and talk like us, then we give them the thumbs up. If they are different than us, then thumbs down. The more hardwired our own personality traits are, e.g. assertiveness, friendliness, cautiousness, detailed-orientedness, etc., the more we feel this type of behavior is normal and therefore, good behavior.

The other problem with this approach is that the person you're assessing in an interview is typically not the “real” person; it is their interview representative or perhaps even an actor who is attempting to say and be all you want them to be. That is why I always insist on at least 3 interviews with most roles: by the time someone comes in for their third interview, they are relaxed and confident that they have already sold themselves, so they can now show you the real person you need to meet to make your final hiring decision.

To help guide you in screening candidates in an effective manner, here is the process we use at Excelsior.

call job candidate

1)    Call the candidate and have a brief conversation:

Discuss the “opportunity” you are offering, which will hopefully build her interest and desire. Don’t be pushy; just present the opportunity and let the candidate show (or not) her interest in the position.

2)    Send candidates an Applicant Screening Questionnaire (ASQ):

Once you define the specific requirements of the role, you should develop an ASQ that you will send to all candidates whose resumes meet the requirements of the job AND who have expressed an interest during your phone call. This will help narrow down the candidates by eliminating those who don’t meet basic requirements (i.e., who don’t fall within the appropriate salary range, willingness to travel, work weekends, and other expressed requirements). A hidden bonus of the ASQ is that is allows the candidate to demonstrate if he or she can articulate himself or herself in writing.

3)    Ask candidates whose ASQ meets your satisfaction complete a Personality Profile:

After determining the candidates who successfully filled out the ASQ, have them complete a Personality Profile. Then compare the candidates’ traits with those identified as ideal and/or required in the job description (see my post, The Right Person in the Right Role: the Peak Performance Profile). The alignment between the required traits of the job and the candidate’s hardwired traits along with having specific knowledge and experience is what will create a consistent, happy, and productive employee. While we’re not looking for a perfect match, what we are looking for are gaps between the requirements of the job and the individual’s traits, which tell us where we may need to ask additional behavioral questions in the interview. 

Peak Performance Profile

4)    Interview #1:

During the interview, use the job description (P3) and ask questions that help clarify where the candidate is strong and where she is weak, as related to the job requirements. Don’t bother asking all those generic 'thought-provoking’ questions you have heard and probably have been asking like, “Tell me what motivates you.” These questions can be identified by using most personality profiles and are important should you hire them. But ultimately, they tell you very little about the candidate’s ability to successfully execute the job.

5)    Interviews #2 and #3:

Candidates who make it past the 1st interview should be called back for a 2nd and possibly a 3rd interview to further clarify their expertise and meet with other members of the team. This process of follow-up interviews allows the candidate to start to relax so you can see who the real person is rather then her representative who shows up on the first interview and may never show up again. The first one or two interviews should be all about the candidate’s ability and desire to do the job, and the last interview is all about getting to know her on a personal basis to determine if she will be a good fit with your team. 

6)    Conduct background and reference checks: 

When it comes to hiring people, this is NOT the place to be trusting. Minimize your risk and obtain as much data as possible on the potential new hire. There are many firms that for about $250 will provide you with a full background check, including criminal/sex offender information, employment and education verification, Social Security check, credit checks, and for a few dollars more, drug and alcohol testing.

Since we are dealing with human beings who are not perfect (expect for you and me!), you need to do everything possible to minimize your risk and increase your chances of success. A thorough screening process will help you to do just that. 

What are your best practices for ensuring you hire the right people? Please post your responses so we can all expand our knowledge and abilities to hire the right people. 

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