May 4, 2020    |    By

As you probably know, screening applicants throughout the hiring process is critical to ensuring that you make the right decision. Proper screening allows you to identify qualified candidates who will also be a good cultural fit for your company. Inadequate screening can result in a hire that’s not qualified, or a qualified hire that either does a poor job or that negatively affects your work environment. Hiring the wrong person can cost a lot of time and money, especially if you have to repeat the hiring process all over again to replace that person. Fortunately, we’ve put together a thorough checklist to help you screen your job applicants more effectively, limiting the risk of potentially hiring the wrong person.

Initial Screening

The initial screening occurs when you begin collecting resumes and cover letters from your job applicants. This part of the process can take the longest amount of time since you may get hundreds of resumes from job candidates, the majority of which won’t qualify based on your requirements. Because so many unqualified candidates are bound to reply to your job posting, you will need to screen their resumes and cover letters carefully. Doing so will help narrow the field down to those who are actually qualified.

Cover Letter

While a cover letter probably won’t give you a lot of information on the actual job qualifications that a candidate has, it can provide you with insight into their personality. If you posted directions on what the cover letter should include, see that the applicant has followed those directions. Consider it a red flag if they weren’t able to follow your instructions clearly.

Pay attention to how specific the cover letter is. If it’s vague and never mentions anything specific related to the job or even your industry, then the odds are that the candidate is just using the same cover letter for every job that they apply for. A candidate who tailors their cover letter to the position they’re applying for is taking the process much more seriously.

Resume and Curriculum Vitae

Once you get through the cover letter, get to the meat of the initial screening, which is the resume. Take note of whether the resume was organized and structured in a way that makes sense. A disorganized resume that’s difficult to scan indicates that the candidate may not be the best at keeping things organized or conveying important information. Don’t ignore spelling or grammar mistakes. These indicate carelessness.

Most importantly, the resume should allow you to identify the candidate’s qualifications and whether they meet your requirements. The best way to do this is to split their qualifications into two categories: minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications. Minimum qualifications are requirements that absolutely must be met for the candidate to be considered. Preferred qualifications are additional qualifications that you would like your ideal candidate to have but that they don’t necessarily need to have to do the job. For example, you might prefer a candidate to have at least ten years of experience, but you don’t necessarily want to disqualify someone with nine years of experience.

Some of the different qualifications to look for based on your requirements should include:

Work experience

Work experience can include how long they’ve worked within the industry, how long they’ve held a certain position, or what other job titles they’ve held.


Education can refer to how much post-high school education an applicant has as well as what specific degrees and/or licenses they have.

Technical Skills

Technical skills refer to the ability to do certain tasks relevant to the job you’re looking to fill. You’re likely looking for candidates with particular technical skills as a minimum requirement, like coding in a specific programming language as a technical skill.


Knowledge refers to the information, concepts, and principles related to the job or industry that a person knows and understands. Whereas technical skills refers to knowing how to do something, knowledge refers to the understanding of a particular subject.


You may have particular personality requirements, such as the ability to work as part of a team, that you can glean from a resume as well. People often include details about how they work as well as about their hobbies that can give you some insight into their personality and how they will fit in your work culture.


Competencies refer to the ability of a person to apply a range of skills, knowledge, and abilities to perform a specific job effectively. For example, being able to make data-based decisions is a competency.


Document Screening

It’s not difficult to do an initial screening when looking at an applicant’s resume as long as you know what you’re looking for. However, what can be difficult is trying to remember what requirements each applicant met, especially if you’re comparing hundreds of applications. To make it easier to keep track of each applicant’s qualifications, create a document in which you can indicate what minimum requirements and preferred qualifications each candidate meets so that you can easily compare them.

Classification Of Applicants

Consider making a master document classifying the applicants according to the minimum requirements they’ve met and any preferred qualifications that they have. This document should classify every applicant that you screen into one of three categories based on your requirements and preferences. These categories should include “unqualified,” “qualified,” and “highly qualified.”

Selection Of Shortlisted Applicants

Once you’ve classified all of your applicants, you can go back through the qualification document containing information on all of your qualified and highly qualified applicants to create a shortlist of potential candidates. Most of these candidates will likely be from the highly qualified classification; however, you should still look over your qualified applicants again to see if anything about their resumes stood out (such as their cover letter). You might want to add them to your shortlist. You will eventually use this shortlist to set up interviews.

Reference And Credentials Checking

Before you begin scheduling interviews, you will want to perform a bit of background checking to make sure that the applicants on your shortlist were telling the truth on their resumes. Every resume should have references that you can contact. Your hiring officer should reach out to the applicant’s former supervisors and associates to inquire about the candidate’s credentials (as well as their personality — how easy were they to work with? Did they have problems with authority? Do they work well with others?)

Google The Applicant

Checking the applicant’s references will go a long way towards getting an idea of whether they are honest or not. You can also do a basic Google search. Doing so can give you some insight into their history and personality. However, you need to be very careful about any information you use in your hiring decision based on what you find on the Internet. First of all, not everything you find online about people is accurate. Secondly, you could open yourself up to a lawsuit if you’re dismissing candidates based on frivolous information you’ve found online.

Provide Pre-Employment Tests

Just because a candidate lists the required technical skills on their resume doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually know those skills — and if they do, whether they can apply those skills effectively. Depending on the position you’re looking to fill, you may want to provide a pre-employment test to applicants on your shortlist so that you can actually gauge their capabilities. You can save a lot of time if you narrow down your shortlist by removing applicants who do poorly on your pre-employment test.

Schedule An Interview

The interview process typically consists of several interviews. Each interaction can give you more insight into the candidate, their personality, skills and experience. While holding multiple interviews may not always be feasible (you don’t want to lose good candidates because your process is too long), if you have the time to do so, it can make a difference in your hiring success.

Phone Interview

Using your shortlist, contact the applicants and schedule phone interviews. During a phone interview, you can get an idea of their personality as well as their communication skills. You’ll also be able to ask for more details about their skills, education, experience, knowledge, and competencies.

Have A Worksheet

Unless you’re recording the call (which requires their permission to do so), you will want to jot down the answers they give to your questions. It helps to have a worksheet handy so that you can keep track of your prepared questions, thereby ensuring that your phone interview is thorough.

Video Interview

Some companies prefer to do video interviews using Skype or Zoom instead of phone interviews. Others may require video interviews if the candidate has impressed during a phone interview. Seeing a candidate over a live video feed gives you much more information about their personality than over a phone. For example, did they dress appropriately for the interview or are they sitting on their couch in a dirty t-shirt? Is the space they’re in loud and dirty or clean and quiet? Just remember that some candidates might be a little nervous if they’re thrown right into a video interview. Just because they don’t perform well and appear nervous doesn’t mean they’re not good at what they do or that they won’t be a good fit.

In-Person Interview

Generally speaking, the in-person interview is the last interview you conduct. You may perform more than one if you’ve finished a round of in-person interviews and are still trying to decide between multiple candidates. However, it’s basically the last step of the screening process. It’s during this interview that you want to give the candidate the opportunity to talk about what they can bring to the table, why they want the position, what their goals are and more. All of this information can give you an idea of how they will fit in your company as well as if they have a potential long-term future at your company.

In addition to paying attention to their answers, the way they carry themselves, and how they engage with you, take note of any questions that they ask. In fact, make sure that you give them the opportunity to ask questions. Questions about the job or about your company indicate that they’ve spent some time preparing for the interview. You can generally assume that this means that they genuinely care about who they work for and what their job will entail.

Prepare An Interview Report

Whoever has conducted the interview will need to create an interview report following the interview. A good interview report informs decision-makers about the candidate’s responses as well as provides the opinions of the interviewer on things like appearance, ability to engage, communication skills, and more. The interviewer may even outline potential strengths or weaknesses based on the in-person interview and end with a general recommendation about the candidate. The interview report should be concise and well organized so that it’s easy for decision-makers to read.

A Good Screening Processes Maximizes Quality of Hire & Minimizes Time to Hire

When hiring new employees, you must screen them properly to ensure that they are not only qualified to meet the requirements of the job but that they will be a good fit for your company. By using this checklist to ensure that you have a good screening process in place, you’ll not only increase the quality of your hires, you’ll also reduce the time it takes to complete the hiring process, all while ensuring that you don’t waste your valuable resources.

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This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.