In a world of automation, candidate screening can be streamlined and optimized for efficiency — but do recruiters rely too heavily on technology to screen for them?
Recruitment professionals have often honed their skills and instincts for finding the right fit, but as hiring evolves, those efforts may need occasional adjustments, experts said. Even if you're a seasoned recruiter, there may be new ways to screen better, faster and more effectively that you haven't considered.
At the ATS level
Applicant tracking systems can be the first step to making a quality hire and are more ubiquitous now than ever. They can streamline tasks significantly but, as with any tech, caveats apply. Remember that candidates long ago figured out how to beat the algorithms, adjusting their dates of employment to meet your minimum standards, for example.
1. Incorporate eligibility flexibility
Are your minimums legitimate in today’s market? Is that "five years’ experience" requirement a holdover from a job description that’s decades old? It might be time to adjust your requirements or rethink them in a new light, according to some.
"Look for competencies and don’t put too much weight on number of years of experience or exact job similarity," Gretchen Van Vlymen, vice president of human resources at StratEx, told HR Dive via email. Recruiters may be passing up great applicants because they're looking for an exact match, she said. Instead, look for competencies that align with what the company needs. A software customer representative may not have five years on the job in that role, but a background in front-facing customer care positions could be a competency-related skill that translates.
2. Toss in a few curve balls
Incorporated in most ATS software is the ability to add a few screening questions, Veronica Valenzuela, human resources manager at CPS Security Inc., told HR Dive in an email. She recommends including some of the basic first screening questions you might ask of every candidate; this strategy can offer information as well as a look at how they put their thoughts to paper.
You may be using chatbots or other technology to conduct an initial screening — like assuring an applicant is available for shift work — but a personal phone screen still has tremendous value.
3. Make good use of the phone screen
"During the phone interview you are able to learn about their communication skills, attitude and professionalism," Valenzuela said. The 15 to 20 minutes a recruiter spends at this point in the screening process could eliminate a host of steps down the road. "It’s important to also use a phone interview questionnaire and take notes during the interview," she said. Applicants even have a chance to ask questions of you, some of which could cause them to eliminate themselves from consideration.
Van Vlymen agreed, adding that questions should be aligned with the basic requirements for the job, such as hours, shifts and education. The few minutes spent at this step may be well worth the effort.
Finding the right fit
If you rely on your instinct to tell you whether a candidate won't be a "good fit," or won’t adapt to the culture, you may be passing on quality hires. Obvious red flags aside, sometimes the culture fit argument is just an excuse to exclude, experts say. Go beyond that first instinct and find concrete information about why you shouldn’t be passing this candidate on to hiring managers. If you can’t find one, send them through.
With an emphasis on hiring a diverse workforce, more effort has to be made. Nada Chaker, content lead at Beamery, has researched conscious and unconscious bias in the screening process and recommended companies put in more effort at this crucial step. "Asking more questions about how recruiting tools use candidate data" is a key first step, she told HR Dive in an email. But further, comb through hiring decisions to determine why a candidate was really eliminated.
"Hiring a truly diverse workforce can bring so much value to the company — actual impact on the bottom line," she said, "but not enough recruiting teams recognize what an opportunity that is."
4. Look for 'culture add'
Van Vlymen suggested acknowledging unconscious bias and working actively to think outside the box for candidates who fit the overarching company values, but also bring something new to the table via their background, their experience or their language. Her company uses the term "culture add" as opposed to "culture fit."
Turn to tech
Some tech, like artificial intelligence, promises to help employers screen better and remove unconscious bias from the process. But it has to be vetted and implemented carefully.
5. Find offerings that screen better
Still, employers are testing the waters. "AI and other technology brings an increased level of intelligence to organizations’ hiring processes by giving them the ability to learn and provide predictive insights," Raahul Srinivasan, product manager at AllyO, told HR Dive in an email. It can, for example, help identify high-potential candidates based on early interactions with those job seekers.
Trust but verify
The unfortunate truth is too many companies fail to perform reference checks, but they can be critical. With so many candidates exaggerating their qualifications, reference information can put the brakes on a bad hire.
6. Check, and do so in a consistent manner
And when it comes to background checks, Van Vlymen recommends careful management: "Watch how you administer background checks as doing them incorrectly, without proper documentation/sign off, or misinterpreting results can cost you in FCRA and/or discrimination law suit settlements."
Valenzuela also recommends developing a reference check form to ensure you collect the same information for every candidate.
Remaining open to change
While the screening process may be rote for many recruiters and hiring managers, there are ways to up your game for better screening and hiring. The challenge for most is to rethink the things you do instinctively, and to see them in a new light.
The ability to do so, however, is key to remaining relevant and on top of hiring trends. Flexibility and continuous learning is key for so many jobs, and recruiting is no exception.