How to Improve Your Candidate Screening Process

To win the best candidates before the competition, recruiters must have a well-oiled process for screening talent. David Windley, president of IQTalent Partners, offers up some valuable tips for choosing the best prospects and taking your screening up a notch.

Recruiting in a candidate driven market can be tricky.

With the help of developing technologies like artificial intelligence, automation and mobile applications, candidates can apply to multiple positions at many different organizations in no time at all.

With candidates applying to more places more quickly, you either keep up or miss out on the ones coming through your talent pipeline.

What are you doing to screen the candidates coming through your pipeline and how can you improve your practices?

If you’re uncertain, here are some best practices to get your screening process buffed, polished and ready to roll, courtesy of David Windley, president of IQTalent Partners, an executive recruitment firm based in Los Altos, CA.

Create Your Candidate Persona

For starters, to get the right candidates, you have to understand exactly who the right candidates are for you. “To do this, you and your team should set up a candidate persona to really understand what your team, company and long terms goals are and what kind of person is going to be able to meet them,” said Mr. Windley. “Doing intake calls and creating calibration profiles are a perfect example of this, plus they help hiring managers understand their needs.”


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If you have certain goals, look for candidates who have a good track record of meeting similar goals. In the same way, if you notice an IT skills gap, don’t only search for candidates who are experienced in IT. Instead, look for the intangible qualities of candidates that show they would be able to learn the ropes of IT fairly quickly.

“Not every candidate lists everything they’ve done or want to do on their resume or various social profiles,” said Mr. Windley. “Sometimes, you look for 75 percent of the characteristics, work experience and skills you need from a candidate, then screen people in or out for the remainder. These can be based on role, company, industry and even geography.”

Use Automation

AI is here to stay. If you’re not using chatbots to at least engage your candidates during the first steps, you’re losing candidates to companies that are. Use automation to screen through candidates who don’t know where they fall in your pipeline and who can be moved to a different position if need be. “If your ATS functions have the capabilities, assign relevancy scores or ask questions to help filter the right candidates,” said Mr. Windley. “These weed through the candidates who just aren’t going to fit into the position while also keeping great candidates from slipping into the ATS black hole.”


David Windley oversees IQTalent Partners’ strategic direction and day to day operations. Prior to joining the firm in 2014, he was the chief human resources officer (CHRO) at Fusion-io and Yahoo! Mr. Windley also held executive HR positions at Microsoft, Intuit and Silicon Graphics. He is currently a board member at the Tennant Company and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). 


Pre-Hire Projects

Give candidates a chance to show what they’ve really got by letting them complete a sample project of something they might encounter. This is an opportunity for them to get a feel for what type of work your company does and what they can produce in a deadline situation. It also enables you to gauge their adaptability to specific projects that would be sent their way in the event they do end up getting hired.

Related: Hiring Times Rise As Recruitment Screening Methods Multiply

It’s also important to note that this is not an opportunity for you to get work done for free. “Pre-hire projects are to help you streamline the process and see what your candidates have to offer,” said Mr. Windley. “While this concept is still relatively new, it never hurts to simply ask for a portfolio, share their business media profile like LinkedIn and Github or have candidates take a code assessment if that works better for your process.”

Incorporate Business Profiles and Digital Media

Having a strong recruiting plan and recruiting technique sets your company apart. It also helps to get more candidates through your pipeline. One way companies are starting to do this is by implementing business profiles like LinkedIn into their screening process. But, before you do this, said Mr. Windley, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t assume a lack of LinkedIn presence means they’re a bad candidate. Some of the best candidates are focused on more than their digital media persona.
  • Have a plan for how you want to handle social media recruiting. Don’t go in blind to a new platform. Take the time to explore and understand how it works and how your candidate audiences are engaging there.
  • Don’t believe everything you see online. Having an in-person conversation is always the best way to get to know the real candidate.

Calibrate Often

Prepare. A lot. Prepare so much that your time-to-hire is cut down enough to beat the competition’s time-to-hire and get the best candidates first. Doing background checks or checking up on a candidate’s social media can help you sort out who’s a good fit before an interview happens. But make sure you don’t lose good candidates at the first sign of trouble, said Mr. Windley. “If a candidate bombs a phone screen or an interview, take the time to re-calibrate with the hiring manager and interviewers,” he said. “Do your homework on who the candidate is before taking unnecessary steps.”


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You’ve probably heard the buzz surrounding AI in recruitment. Whether you think it’s a hoax or a soon-to-be-reality, you like most HR leaders are at the very least thinking about its capabilities. Don’t fear, the robots are here to help. When you open your doors to AI, your team will love you, and all of the improvements that AI can offer 


Once you’ve done your homework and you feel you have a preliminary lineup, get ready for the interviews the best you can. Ask questions designed for the candidate and listen and observe their answers. “General questions are a great starting point, but if you did your homework right, you should be able to dig in deep and ask the right questions to see if they’ll fit,” said Mr. Windley.

Sort Your ‘Maybes’

Just because a candidate isn’t an automatic yes doesn’t mean they’re a definite no. Think of them as more like “not right nows” and keep the relationship building. “Continuing relationships with candidates who didn’t hit the mark in their interview are an opportunity to bring them back in for a second interview or an interview for a different position down the road,” said Mr. Windley. “Give candidates who you think have potential a second chance to wow and show you what they really have to offer.”

Related: This Recruiter’s Top Five Secrets for Landing Candidates

Not every candidate is going to be right for the positions you have open right now. But, they might be great for a position you know is going to open up in the future. Save these candidatesfor future opportunities. “Having a talent pipeline with candidates you’ve already interviewed once will give you a head start on the candidate screening process later down the road and, in turn, cut your time-to-hire and beat the competition,” said Mr. Windley.

Your candidate screening process isn’t going to be perfect the first time and probably not even the second time. “With each new round of hiring, take the time to see what worked and what didn’t, make the adjustments and make the next screening process even better,” said Mr. Windley. “Creating personas that are right for your company, using tools like social media and AI and saving candidates for future opportunities are just a start to having a perfect screening process.”

IQTalent Partners is a professional services firm that focuses on finding, assessing and hiring key talent. Its team includes over 140 recruiting professionals with expertise in various industries and functions, from fast growing start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. IQTalent can partner with a company’s in-house team, providing support where and when it is needed, or build and manage the business’ complete in-house function with its consultants.

Related: Close the Book on Searches and Hire the Best Candidates Quickly

Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media. Original post here.

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