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Aug 20, 2014
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by James

How to Filter Out Unqualified Job Candidates

Posted in Interview Process Excellence

Modern resume sourcing technology has made finding candidates today incredibly easy.   The problem is…it’s a little too easy!

Companies today are receiving more unqualified applicants than at any point in the history of employment.   As a result, we’re seeing a shift in the recruitment technology market from companies offering services to help you “find” more candidates, to services that save you time by “filtering” down applicants.

Since knowing “who’s good” is the single biggest challenge that companies face in the hiring process, it makes sense that you have a multi-pronged assessment strategy.    While I’m a huge proponent of sitting across from a live human being and conducting an interview, there are ways to ensure that you spend your valuable time talking to only the best fit, top tier candidates.  Here are a couple of my favorite tips:

1.  Write a Job Description That Repels the Wrong Candidates

One of the best ways to attract unqualified candidates is to write a vague job description.   Putting just a little extra work into your job overview or the way you describe your company can do as much to ATTRACT candidates as it can to DETRACT them from applying.   To be clear, this is what you want!   You want to write your job description to EXCLUDE the wrong audience.

Here’s an example of a Netflix ad for a Financial Analyst.   My guess is that they don’t get many applicants from your neighbor Johnny who just graduated from the local community college.   Their aggressive tone and emphasis on “analytics driving big decisions” is a clear signal to anyone who didn’t ace the math portion of their SAT’s to stay away:

“As Netflix pushes to expand globally, we continue to look for the best and brightest to drive the analytics for strategic business decisions. Netflix operates a financially complex business and believes that it derives a significant competitive advantage from the highly analytical approach it takes to managing the company….Senior leadership depends heavily on the Content Planning & Analysis group to accurately model and forecast the business as well as lead the strategic analysis that is used to inform important business decisions…..Candidates are required to be highly analytical and be strong, effective communicators. He/ She must thrive in a fast-paced environment, possess a high level of intellectual curiosity, focus on generating results and exhibit the highest personal and professional standards of integrity and ethics.  Candidate must be motivated, disciplined, flexible, and be able to work effectively autonomously…2-5 years of experience in a top management consulting firm, investment bank and/or entertainment/digital media company as an analyst, or a similarly demanding environment in which complex modeling and analysis is performed.”

2.  Use Pre-Apply Knockout Questionnaires

Almost every applicant tracking system today has the ability to put a questionnaire on the front end of an application process.   If you design it right, you can collect some valuable information about the candidate that will help you make a go/no-go decision (like salary data, relocation preference, etc) OR you can program the questionnaire to automatically reject a candidate who answers a question incorrectly.

Typically, a “knock out” question would be something tied to the minimum qualifications of the job such as the ability to lift 50lbs, operate a fork lift, relocate to rural Nebraska or provide proof that you’ve passed the state bar exam.   At any rate, if you’re receiving oodles of unqualified applicants, turn to questionnaires to whittle down the first wave of applicants.

Don’t have an applicant tracking system?   You can create a questionnaire using a Google Docs form.  Best of all…it’s free!

3.  Formal Applicant Assessments

I’m not an expert in this area and due to the legalities involved with adding these to a hiring process, I don’t have much experience using them.   However, I do know that many companies large and small are turning to more formal assessments or tests to siphon off another layer of candidates who make it through the early stages of an application.   There are tons of these companies out there — simply Google “pre-employment testing” and you’ll get an eyeful.

4.  Recorded Video Interviews

So you wrote a scary job description, you automagically rejected all the minimally unqualified candidates with a “knock out questionnaire” and you delivered a final blow to the hopes of the remaining contenders with a personality or skills test, right?   How many more hoops could you possibly throw at a poor job seeker?

Well, let me introduce you to the recorded video interview.

I don’t recommend that you use recorded video interviews for every job, but if you have a job where you receive a TON of applicants whose resumes are inconclusively acceptable, then you may want to consider spending 5-10 minutes watching an interview instead of grinding out a 30 minute call with someone and still not having a clue about their executive presence or ability to communicate with impact.   This technique works well with bank tellers, salespeople, cashiers, waitresses, interns, etc. It is also excellent for interviewing freelance employees.

I’ve sampled a few of the players on the market in this space and highly recommend InterviewStream.   They have robust technology, can operate just about anywhere globally and their price point is fair for what they offer.

In summary, there are a multitude of ways to streamline your interview process by eliminating the no fit candidates from even entering your process.    I know it sounds bad – believe me – I lose sleep over this issue all the time but the Internet, job boards and the parade of me-too sourcing tools have driven recruiting teams to the point of needing more effective ways of spending more time with great candidates and less time with ones who just aren’t going to fit.

Have another suggestion?  Leave your ideas in the comments section!

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