How To Screen Job Applicants: 9 Effective Strategies

As Seen In

logo of wsj
logo of wsj
logo of business-insider
logo of business-insider
logo of cnn
logo of cnn
logo of fatherly
logo of fatherly
logo of nbc
logo of nbc

Table Of Contents

If your hiring process seems slow or ineffective, you should learn the best strategies for screening job applicants. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with nine of our favorite methods here. That way, you can spend less time building your team and more time managing it!

If you are looking to find and retain employees, we recommend using ZipRecruiter! When you post a job opening on ZipRecruiter, your job posting is posted to 100+ job boards. You can start posting jobs for free! You can also check out the best free job posting sites if you’re recruiting on a budget.

get started with ziprecruiter

Why Does It Matter How You Screen Job Applicants? 

Learning how to screen job applicants can help you narrow down a large pool of interested parties into a short list of potential new hires. Depending on the type of screening you do, you can learn about an applicant’s:

  • Experience
  • Education
  • Skillset
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Personality traits
  • Past job performance
  • Professional interests and goals
  • Criminal history (if applicable)

Bringing on a new team member can be a costly endeavor. That means your screening process should be thorough enough to ensure you hire the right person (at least most of the time!).

Here are a few tips for how to screen your job applicants, no matter which screening method(s) you employ:

  • Understand what a successful candidate looks like in advance. Write down the required (and desired) education, experience, credentials, skills, and other parameters, and screen applicants against that criteria.
  • Compare and rank applicants as you screen them. Frontrunners will emerge, and the less qualified will drop to the bottom of the pile.
  • Put all applicants through the same screening process (until they get knocked out of the running). That way, your hiring practices are consistent and fair.
  • Use pre-employment assessments that are proven to be reliable and valid. Doing so will ensure you can trust the results.

Remember: A fair and consistent screening process helps you find the best match for your open role and protects your organization against discrimination claims.

For more tips, check out our guide on how to find employees.

9 Strategies For Screening Job Applicants

Now, let’s get into those nine strategies for screening job applicants!

1. Implement An Applicant Tracking System

An applicant tracking system or applicant tracking software (ATS) can be a great first line of defense against unqualified applicants. The ATS will automatically scan every application and prioritize showing you the profiles that best align with your job posting. As a result, you may never see the lowest-ranking applicants.

But, while an ATS may be a real time-saver, it has some potential downsides. For example, otherwise qualified applicants who don’t know how to optimize their resumes for the software may get ruled out. And unqualified applicants who stuff their resumes with relevant keywords may make it through the initial screening.

2. Read Resumes And Cover Letters

Resumes and cover letters can take a lot of time to read — especially if you’ve got a stack of them. But they can provide valuable insight at a glance. In just a few moments, you’ll know if each applicant has the education, skills, and experience you need. Plus, you can gauge their writing abilities and learn about their goals and personality.

3. Review Social Media Profiles 

Scoping out applicants on the internet can also be time-consuming. However, doing so may reveal red flags that would discourage you from hiring them. So, if you can spare a few minutes, it’s worth checking their social media profiles and overall online presence before contacting them directly.

4. Conduct A Phone Or Video Screen

A phone or video screen is appropriate once an applicant has made it through the ATS, the resume read-through, and the social media review. This screening method is a short, scheduled conversation to help you learn more about the applicant. To get the most out of the chat, have a list of questions ready to go, save time for the candidate to ask questions about the role and organization, and take lots of notes.

Pro Tip: Want to save even more time? Consider having your applicants submit a video of themselves answering your screening questions. Then, you can watch the videos whenever your schedule allows.

5. Have A Group Interview

A group interview can be an efficient way to screen multiple candidates at once. You give each person the opportunity to respond to each question. Then, you can decide which of them will advance to the next stage of the hiring process.

Remember: While group interviews may save you time, diving deeply into a candidate’s background can be challenging. Therefore, more personal discussions should be reserved for one-on-one interviews.

6. Use Pre-Employment Assessments

Pre-employment assessments can help you gauge an applicant’s potential fit with the position and company. You can test for specific skills, behavioral/personality traits, and cognitive abilities. But remember, while the assessments provide valuable data, the information should get considered alongside what you’ve learned from other screening methods.

Some hiring managers have applicants test very early in the hiring process to help rule out those that would be a poor fit. But, some hiring managers only administer the assessments to their top candidates to help them decide who to hire. The bottom line? It’s entirely up to you if and how you incorporate pre-employment assessments into your screening strategy.

7. Run A Background Check

Running a background check can reveal a candidate’s criminal history, if applicable. Depending on the screening package you purchased, you may also be able to see things like:

  • Civil litigation
  • Credit issues
  • Previous employers
  • Degrees earned

Generally, organizations make employment offers contingent on the results of a background check. Candidates must consent to the check in writing and be informed if you’re disqualifying them from employment based on the results.

8. Check References

Insight from a candidate’s references may help you verify and better understand their past educational or professional performance. However, conducting reference checks can take a lot of time. Plus, a candidate is unlikely to list a reference that would speak negatively about them. In addition, many companies restrict human resources and management from stating more than a former employee’s dates of employment and position held.

Did you know there are tools to help you check a candidate’s references? Check out our guide to the best hiring platforms to learn more.

9. Offer A Paid Trial

If a candidate has made it through all of your screening measures, but you’re still not sure they’re “the one,” you may want to consider offering a paid trial. The candidate would work for your company for a set period at a defined rate to give both parties a chance to evaluate fit. Once the trial is over, the candidate becomes an official employee or parts ways with the organization.

Pro Tip: While these screening strategies can help you hire the best applicant, you don’t need to use them all. Find the right combination of methods for your company, and run with it!

The Bottom Line

We bet you’re excited that you now know how to screen job applicants after reading this! But, if you need to post a position to collect new applications, visit ZipRecruiter. You can also check out the best free job posting sites if you’re recruiting on a budget.