Depending on who you talk to, candidate screening is either the best or the worst. I’ve worked with organisations that screen in a bunch of different ways. Most will use a 15-30min call (or, up to 30mins) to make sure the candidate can adequately communicate, can articulate the experience on their CV and gauge “fit” in the organisation.
More often than not, it’s someone from the HR department that will do the screen. (Sometimes that’s even an intern - nothing against interns - but you do need some experience and you don’t really get what you need). When HR do it, I worry it will be too clinical and more like a spotlight interrogation “EXPLAIN THIS THREE WEEK GAP ON YOUR RESUME!”
When I start a hiring process, I like to do the screening myself, but I’d usually just freestyle it and treat the screen as a chat. I assumed I could measure engagement, interest etc by using my honed skills as a conversationalist and get to what I needed.
I was wrong.
I realised I was wrong when I noticed that every single screen was moved to the next stage. It made screening pointless. I was basing my screen on whether I would have a coffee with them or a sidewalk chat. So, I resolved to improve my process and this is what I come up with. I like to fit it into 15 minutes so I’m wasting nobody’s time:
- Intro, in which I explain what I’m going to talk about and that there’s time for Q’s at the end.
- I talk about the company, how great it is (fortunately, I work for a genuinely great EdTech scale-up, so it’s easy to be excited about it), how I like working there, what our mission is, how we’re doing, etc etc. I’m trying to get the candidate interested and _sell_ the org.
- Then I ask why _they_ would be interested in working for _us_. I’m looking for someone to describe how they’ve researched the org, are excited to be a part of it and the mission. If I hear ‘My skillset matches the requirements on the job spec.’, I’ll rush through the next bits. I need someone as genuinely engaged as their colleagues will be.
- Then I ask about their last three jobs. I’m digging for _experience_, not just skills and abilities. I want someone who can articulate what makes them different from others. The best answers involve describing situations and outcomes, not processes and tools.
- Finally, I ask about career goals - what do you want to achieve in the next one, two, five years? How can my organisation help you achieve those goals. Good answers to this help me to know that the candidate has thought about these things.
At the end, I allow a few minutes for candidate questions.
In 15mins I can:
- Guage whether they’re interested: have they researched the company, or is it a spray and pray application.
- What they’re good at: the experience section helps me with that.
- What kind of aspirations they have and whether I think we might be able to help with that.
- Whether they can communicate well and which team I think they might be best placed in.
If a majority of boxes are ticked, then I’ll move them to the next round. Frankly, I’m flexible on a lot of points, but the real deal-breaker for more is no engagement in the organisation, no research and no energy for what we do. If that’s lacking, then it’s a really bright red flag for me.
What’s your screening process like?