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Screening and Evaluating Candidates: Best Practices


Recruiting a new hire can feel overwhelming, especially if you receive a lot of applications. Just working through a pile of resumes takes up time—and it can be tricky to know how to screen and evaluate candidates based on a short resume and cover letter.

Here are five best practices to speed up the process and to make sure you identify the best talent.

  1. Remove Names, Dates of Birth, and Photos Before Evaluating Resumes

However much you might think you aren’t biased at all, it’s very easy for unconscious biases to creep in when you’re going through a pile of resumes.

Perhaps, when dithering about a candidate, you put them on the “reject” instead of “maybe” pile because of their name, age, gender, or the color of their skin. For decades, studies have shown that white candidates receive more callbacks and interviews than nonwhite candidates. 

Standard resume formats often include these details right at the top, so they form part of the first impression you get of a candidate. The best way to avoid this type of bias is to simply remove names, dates of birth, and photos from resumes before you evaluate candidates. Your recruiting firm, or someone in your office, can do this. You can then assign resumes a letter or number code to keep track of them.

  1. Clearly Define Your Candidate Persona

What are you looking for in an ideal candidate for the role? While you’ll often need to settle for someone who doesn’t quite check every box, you do need to figure out what’s absolutely essential, what’s just “nice to have”—and what’s a deal-breaker.

Be careful that your candidate persona doesn’t push you toward a particular gender, age, race, religion, or similar. Instead, focus on the skills and personal qualities you’re looking for, and you’ll be working toward a more diverse team too. Keep that in mind by reading their cover letter.

It’s only natural to Google a candidate and sees what shows up on social media—but this can backfire, as it may give you lots of information that you can’t legally use when hiring. 

For instance, if you discover that a candidate is pregnant from an announcement on her Facebook page, you can’t factor this into your hiring decision. Unfortunately, once you know that the employee is likely to be taking some time off in the next few months, it’s going to be very difficult to put that out of your mind.

This is another reason why removing names from resumes is a good idea: it means you avoid the temptation to check out candidates’ online presence. 

  1. Use Short Telephone Interviews to Screen Candidates

Scheduling dozens of in-person interviews is likely to be much too time-consuming—and potentially expensive if you’re paying travel expenses.

Instead, telephone (or Zoom) interviews are a great way to screen potential candidates before moving on to the full interview process.

You can schedule a 20-minute telephone interview to make sure that the candidate is on the same page as you with things like salary and job roles and to ask basic questions that help assure you that it’s worth moving forward with talking further.

  1. Run Necessary Background Checks at the Appropriate Point

However excited you are about a candidate, you shouldn’t move forward with the hiring process until background checks are complete. Depending on your system and the checks you need to run, you might be running these before or after the interview process.

Don’t be tempted to bring a new hire on board when you’re still waiting for the results of, say, a drug screen or credit check. It could prove to be a costly mistake if you have to restart the hiring process all over again.

Screening and evaluating candidates is a big part of recruitment. By streamlining your processes, and avoiding bias, you can ensure that you get the best hires possible—without spending an inordinate amount of time on hiring.

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