How To Create an Applicant Screening Process

Updated February 16, 2023

Finding a qualified candidate to fit in your company is vital when hiring for a new position. To screen an applicant, you may want to consider reviewing several pieces of information and even assigning tests. Learning the ways to screen an applicant may help you find your next great employee. In this article, we discuss what the applicant screening process is and offer steps to create one for your company.

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What is the applicant screening process?

The applicant screening process is the procedure in which hiring managers review an applicant's resume or cover letter and perform initial interviews, typically over the phone or computer. An application screening process is a multi-step approach used to find the best applicant for an open role. During this stage of the hiring process, an employer determines whether they wish to orchestrate an official interview to learn more about a potential candidate. Usually, an employer reviews a candidate's education, skills and experiences to see how they would fit in the organization and what they provide.

Related: FAQ: How and When To Check on an Application

How to create an applicant screening process

Use these steps to create an effective applicant screening process for your company:

1. Review resumes for minimum qualifications

When first considering a candidate, look to see if they meet basic qualifications, such as are legally eligible to work in your country of employment. To save time in the resume screening process, consider using an applicant tracking software that looks for keywords and qualifications on resumes.

2. Check with references

Email or call an applicant's references to ask questions about the applicant. This can include questions such as how they performed at their previous job and how they handled feedback. Gaining personal insight about the applicant is helpful for learning about their work ethic and strengths.

Related: How To Create an Employee Selection and Top Employee Selection Methods

3. Research online

Look up potential applicants online to learn more about them. By searching a candidate on the internet you can find their professional profile and social media accounts. There also may be news articles about them receiving an award or accomplishing a work related task.

4. Look for preferred qualifications

Next, screen resumes to see if applicants have any of your non-mandatory but preferred qualifications. These may include items such as skills like excellent communication or someone with a certain amount of experience in the field. Beforehand, identify your "nice-to-have" items so you can easily spot them on an applicant's resume while skimming.

5. Arrange a pre-screening interview

Schedule a pre-screening interview with those who meet both your minimum and preferred qualifications. However, if you are running a high-volume recruitment process, consider interviewing those who only met your minimum qualifications as well.

During the informal pre-screening interview, ask the candidate questions based on their qualifications to see if they have the skills and experiences needed to succeed. The pre-screening will help you gain more information about the candidate to help you decide if you wish to continue the hiring process with them. Be wary if they provide you with inconsistent information or details on their resume don't match up with their answers.

Related: What Is a Pre-Screening Interview? How To Conduct One

6. Consider assigning a skills test

To see if candidates can perform key responsibilities that the job would entail, assign them a skills test. This allows you to see if they have the needed skills to succeed with your company and can meet a set deadline. You may also want to consider giving a strong candidate a paid trial project to see how they would do as an employee if they are someone you are strongly considering. Another option is to send the candidate a personality test to see what their behavior traits are.

7. Run a background check

Depending on the job, you may want to run a background check on the applicant. This could include obtaining their driving record for a position where they would be driving a company vehicle or running a criminal background for a position where they would interact with children. Other considerations including running a drug test or checking their credit score.

Why is the applicant screening process important?

The applicant screening process is useful in finding the right person to help reach your company's missions and goals. Here are some of the benefits of screening applicants before an initial interview:

It saves time

Screening applicants can help employers reserve time for the most qualified candidates and eliminate those in the applicant pool who they won't be considering for the position. The process improves the efficiency as it streamlines the hiring process.

Related: A Guide To Resume Screening for Recruiters

It decreases employee turnover

During the screening process, employers often look for candidates who look like they can commit to the company for a long period. The pre-screening phone call can focus on asking questions such as where they see themselves in five years and why they left their last job to learn if they are a committed and reliable employee.

It protects the workplace

Screening candidates helps you find someone who would mix well with your current employees and has a positive personality that aligns with your company culture. This process also allows for you to make sure the candidate doesn't have a negative past or would bring any undesirable traits to the company.

Minimizes disruptions

Since an in-person interview involves scheduling time out of your busy day, screening candidates beforehand can help you limit the number of interviews you schedule. This is especially important since these types of interviews usually involve senior-level employees who have high-priority responsibilities and can't afford to have too many distractions.

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Tips for a successful applicant screening process

Below are some tips to help you excel in running an applicant screening:

  • Take notes: To help yourself remember certain facts and details later on, record your interview either with pen and paper or by using a tape recorder. You can refer to this when you are reviewing with your team about promising candidates.

  • Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking a lot of "yes" or "no" questions, ask open-ended questions that provide you with more useful information.

  • Listen more: When conducting screening interviews, briefly describe the position and company, but spend a majority of the time letting the applicant talk and share information about themselves. The primary goal of the interview is to learn about them through their responses.

  • Use consistent questions: For each interview, use the same set of questions to ensure fairness and create an efficient process.

  • Be transparent: Provide feedback to applicants about where they are at in the hiring process to help enhance their experience with your company.

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