When carried out correctly, pre employment screening during the human resources hiring process can eliminate a large number of unsuitable applicants without the need for a traditional interview. This both streamlines and increases the effectiveness of the employment process.

Not only does this save time before employment, candidate screening can also be responsible for finding candidates who are more likely to be engaged in their employment. Plum states that, although resumes are able to show a candidate's past achievements, a good screening can demonstrate their work ethic, personality and potential. "More often than not, education and past work experience are byproducts of circumstances and luck."

By utilizing screening therefore, not only does the process become much more manageable and less time-consuming, but it can succeed in more reliably producing employees with a 51% lower turnover and 18% greater productivity.

So, let's get started with the process of screening a potential candidate for HR.

Initial Resume Screening:

Look for the minimum requirements

Once the candidate has applied, you can begin to assess their suitability for the position. The first and most basic thing to look for in their resume is that they meet the minimum requirements for the position being filled. 

Record the details of the candidate and application in general using the form fields below.

The minimum requirements can be checked in the job description if needed, however, the applicant should be removed from the screening process if these minimum requirements are not met.

For example, if the minimum requirements of a Human Resource Manager are:

  • Bachelor's degree in HR management, business administration or a related field
  • 3 prior years of management experience
  • Previous experience within a manufacturing environment

The candidate should be discarded if they possess less than these requirements (or their accepted equivalents).

Scan for keywords

Another way to quickly examine if the candidate should progress to the phone or video screening is scanning for keywords. Stemming again from the job description, these keywords should be used to sort the candidate further in terms of their suitability for the role.

Record the keywords they use compared to what you're looking for by using (and editing) the sub-checklist below.

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  • 2
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For example, a more technical role may warrant the keywords:

  • Javascript
  • Python
  • Full stack

Whereas a blogging position may include:

  • Copywriting
  • Social media

And so on, and so forth.

Eliminate the candidate if they score poorly on the use of keywords (or synonyms of said keywords).

Check the context of the keywords

Due to the widespread knowledge of automated resume screeners, you need to check that the candidate uses the keywords beyond a simple mention.

After all, as John Vlastelica has noted, "smart candidates have figured out... they're more likely to rise to the top of search results" by including as many keywords as possible.

For example, if a keyword is "technology", focus on whether or not the candidate has demonstrated where and when this "technology" was used on their previous jobs. If the resume succeeds in doing this, they can continue to the next stage of screening.

Ensure that the resume is personalized

Whilst a strong enough resume can be considered without this aspect, in general, it is best to ensure that the candidate has personalized their resume to the job being offered. This can be seen by the presence of a cover letter and a summarized statement of qualifications.

If present, ensure that both of these are addressed to your company, or the specific requirements of the vacancy. Record copies of these aspects using the form fields below.

The presence of these documents demonstrates that the candidate has actually looked into the position being offered, and therefore is likely to care more about the employment. If the candidate has not supplied these and did not score well on keywords, eliminate them from the pile.

Examine their resume in full

Now for a more in-depth examination of their resume and cover letter. Whilst the candidate should not be judged solely on these documents, this step forms a base to compare to the later phone, video or personal screening.

MaRs Library highlights that the key items to keep an eye out for are:

  • Skills, education and experience relevant and aligned with the position's requirements
  • The last three to five years of job duties, and their relevance to the opening
  • Long gaps in employment (and any explanations for these gaps)
  • Job-hopping (and any explanations for this)
  • Lack of career progression
  • Spelling or grammar mistakes
  • A clear and concise cover letter
  • An understanding of the job

Use an assessment grid to score their resume on aspects such as these. If the score is poor, remove them from the process. Save a copy of the grid to the form field below.

If they pass the assessment grid, the candidate's (future) line manager will also review the resume in the next task (which is an approval task). After reviewing the information, they will make a decision on whether you should go ahead with the screening by approving or rejecting what they see.

The line manager has been automatically assigned to the approval task via role assignments.

Approval: Line manager review

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Look for the minimum requirements
    Will be submitted
  • Ensure that the resume is personalized
    Will be submitted
  • Examine their resume in full
    Will be submitted

Contact the candidate

Be sure to contact the applicant and notify them of their success or failure. This can be done through a simple note, email or phone call, but is a common courtesy and ensures that all know where they stand in the process. This can be made easier through the use of a program such as ApplicantPro.

If the candidate has been successful so far, organize a time for their subsequent phone or video screening. Note this time in the form field below.

Be sure to do this enough in advance to allow the candidate to ensure they have the appropriate software, charged phone or anything else they may require for the separate mediums.

Pre- Phone or Video Screening:

Prepare your resources

Phone or video screenings are an extremely useful pre employment check to ensure that the candidate matches their resume, whilst getting a feel of their personality and work ethic. As such, it is vital that before the screening you spend extra time to review the candidate's resume, familiarizing yourself with what should be the main topic of discussion; the candidate, and how compatible they are with the role.

Print off copies of:

  • The candidate's resume, and any other application documents
  • The job description (to refer back to during the screening)
  • Your screening questions

Along with any other required documents.

Prepare a way to take notes

Vital to the method of phone or video screening is the aspect of taking notes. Prepare separate paper (never write on the applicant's resume, cover letter or other documents), or alternatively plan to record the pre-employment screening on a phone, digital recorder or through a program such as Call Recorder for Skype.

This way the screening session will be saved for later review, and notes can be made without fear of missing an important aspect of the session.

Phone or Video Screening:

Conduct the screening

The format of both a phone and video screening is the same. Remember to welcome the candidate and spend a few moments making small talk, preventing the presence of an "interview front". If taking notes during the session, remember to tell the candidate of this to avoid confusion whilst you write, and remember score the candidate on their responses. HR Group International recommends either a numbered rating of 1 - 5 or a lettered grade from A - D.

During the screening remember to:

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    Overview the position offered
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    Mention any necessary background checks (stop the screening and eliminate the candidate if they are not willing to undergo these)
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    Ask your questions
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    Invite them to ask questions of you
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    Say when you expect to schedule interviews
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    Provide the candidate with means to contact you
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    Thank them before ending the call

If conducting a video screening be sure to also make note of their appearance and hygiene.

Score the candidate

Now that the phone or video screening is complete, you need to score the candidate based on their performance and eligibility for the role. Once again, it is recommended that you adopt a numerical system of 1 - 5, or a graded system of A - D. Score their answers to your screening questions, along with their insight or initiative shown through any questions the candidate asked back.

Consider aspects beyond your questions such as:

  • Their communication skills
  • Their tone - if enthusiastic there is a greater chance that the candidate will be engaged with the position they are applying for
  • Any inconsistencies between their answers and their resume
  • Their long-term plans or career aspirations

Once the candidate has been scored on all of these, combine this with how they previously ranked on examination of their resume (keywords, personalization and in-depth analysis). If they are in the high end of the scoring system, make the final preparations before proceeding to interview them.


Perform background checks

Performing a background check on the preferred candidate before inviting them to an interview can potentially save you a huge amount of time and effort. Any candidate (no matter their score) who fails these checks should be immediately discounted from the interview pool.

Where necessary, perform:

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    A drugs test
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    Criminal background check
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    References check
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    Educational background check
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    Any other checks as appropriate to the position

If the candidate passes all of the necessary checks, there is only one more stage before moving on to the interview process.

Contact the candidate

Even if failing the background checks, it is time to contact the candidate and inform them of their success or failure. If successful, congratulate them and arrange a time for the face-to-face interview. Record this time in the form field below.

If unsuccessful, you must still contact the applicant. Whilst again more of a courtesy than necessity, it can potentially reflect well on your company and any person contacted by the unsuccessful candidate.

Congratulations, the pre-employment screening process is complete! Now it is time to move on to the interview stage.


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