Screening Applicants – or, How to Find the Needle in Your Haystack

According to Wikipedia, a needle in a haystack is “a figure of speech used to refer to something that is difficult to locate in a much larger space.” Or, put another way, “to search for something that is impossible or extremely difficult to find, especially because the area you have to search is too large”.

If you work in recruitment, either as recruiter or an HR specialist, you know how this feels. It’s what you experience every time you post a new vacancy and in response receive dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of applications. Your job then is to find “the needle in the haystack” – the applicant(s) worthy of the open position, and qualified for round two of your recruitment process.

Screening Applicants

Some HR folks still believe it’s necessary to read EVERY CV and EVERY application they receive – but you and I know that this is more about job protection than finding qualified applicants. I say this only because I know that you aren’t “that person” – because if you were, you would have already stopped reading! But seriously, most HR employees have limited time and lots to do, and thus are able to discern what’s useful and what isn’t.

And believe me, if you “implement”* an eRecruitment solution – that is, if you streamline your application and screening process, and put it online (as opposed to the old paper-and-file approach) – then you can maximize your efficiency and greatly reduce the size of your haystack.

First, you must ensure that the eRecruitment solution you choose can create different application forms so that you can modify your forms when relevant. Secondly, you should confirm that your eRecruitment solution can support unique (i.e. created by you, the customer) screening questions and answers. These should be used to sort and search for relevant applicants (aka the needles in your haystack). Understand that this is not a substitute for the interviewing process, but it will allow you within a matter of minutes to find the 3 – 5 applicants you’ll invite for an interview – which is the fun part of the application process, right? :-)

We could talk at length about formatting the application’s “personal information” part, i.e. how to decide what’s relevant for a specific vacant position; what’s relevant for statistical purposes; what should be optional, what should be mandatory; and perhaps most importantly, what’s legal and what’s not?

However, this post has a different objective. Today we’re focusing on screening questions and answers! And so without further ado, here are eConscribi’s “Top five things to consider when creating screening questions”:

1) Choose 1 – 2 people from the HR department to oversee the creation of screening questions and answers, but be sure to involve several hiring managers in the process as advisers. In the end,         they’re the ones who know the most about the specific job requirements for positions in their department.

2) Use a variety of question types, i.e. yes/no, true/false, multiple choice, etc.

3) Make sure the same question can have a different “right answer”, depending on the specific vacancy to which the question pertains.

Example: For one position, you’re seeking a GUI designer in the US. For another position, you’re seeking a GUI designer in Germany. The unique screening question could be, “Where would you like to work?” The answers could be, “A) US B) Germany C) China”. For the first position, your desired answer (and therefore the answer which earns the applicant the highest score) is “US”, and for the second position your desired answer is “Germany”. This allows you to search for a specific question and answer in one operation, while giving you the flexibility of multiple possible answers. It also prohibits duplicate questions (and by extension, duplicate records) in your database.

4) Make things easy for you and your hiring managers!

Example: If you only want applicants with a specific degree, don’t ask, “Which degree do you hold?” but rather, “From the list below, please select the degree you hold”. If the applicant doesn’t have the required degree, he/she can’t apply for the position – and thus you have one less application to process.

5) Avoid essay questions whenever possible. It’s almost impossible to “score” these, since there might be misspellings, misconstrued meanings, etc.

We could go on for hours about this subject – in fact, we’ve actually hosted several seminars titled “How to setup screening questions and answers that provide maximum value” – but these five should provide some inspiration!

It might take some time to perfect the process, but we promise it’s worthwhile. We think you’ll agree the first time it only takes you five minutes to find your needle!

We would love to share our list of standard screening questions and answers! However, only you and your hiring managers can determine the screening questions and answers that will optimize your hiring process and provide you with the best list of possible applicants for a specific position.

* ”Implement” is in quotes, since eConscribi eRecruitment comes ready to use, with no “implementation” required!

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