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When every step of the recruiting process is running smoothly, your company will run like the well-loved community that it is. It is in those moments that working with an ever-growing team can feel like the blessing it is. At other times, however, there are one or two people that throw things out of whack. Despite your best efforts during recruiting, not every new hire is working out the way that you hoped that they would. Where did you go wrong?

Ensuring that you hire someone suitable for a position often starts much earlier in the screening process than new recruiters realize. Screening incoming candidates in the right way is the first step to ensuring your recruitment success.

These four techniques can help to all but guarantee that you will end up with a candidate that goes above-and-beyond all expectations!

1. Open With an Introduction

While cover letters have remained the bread-and-butter of mid-level screening in the recruitment field, there’s another unique way that you can get a great sense if who a prospect is and how they see themselves. Ask that every applicant write 100 words describing their reason for applying and what they can do for your company. Ask that they do this instead of a cover letter.

Rather than reading long and winded cover letters that repeat the same few things that you have read over and over again, the need to be brief, yet confident and creative, will inspire a different variety of answers than you might expect.

2. Pay Attention to Big Red Flags

Rather than starting your search through the prospects’ résumés that you have on hand with an aim to find out which of them is best, begin with the intention to weed out those that aren’t a good fit for your job. Set up a series of red flags that are absolute no-gos for your company. Consider what types of candidates have worked well at your company in the past and which ones have floundered.

Your list of big red flags might look something like this:

  • Decreasing responsibility at jobs over time (i.e., doesn’t want to expand their role)
  • Excessive spelling & grammar issues (i.e., no eye for details)
  • Generalized goals (i.e., “I want to work here because this company can help me grow” as opposed to “I know your company is the leader in cheese market, and this is something that I am both interested in and excited to learn more about)

The red flags that you use to do the initial weeding out of résumés is entirely up to you and the recruiting team. However, you may want to remember that not every candidate is what they seem from their résumés, so these red flags should only serve as an indicator of a problem that, without question, won’t fly at your company.

3. Separate Hard & Soft Skills

Hard skills are those that are required to complete the job in question. If there are any talents that the candidate must be fully versed in before they come into the office, these should be considered hard skills. Soft skills are those that are preferred but not required. This might include a willingness to work late a few days a week or to take on flexible jobs as needed.

When you set up your screening system, make sure that you measure candidates for each of these skill sets separately:

  • Hard skills: If they do not have one of the hard skills required, remove them from the candidate list
  • Soft skills: If they have all hard skills, check out how many soft skills they do and do not have and then rank the candidates based on these things

Creating a checklist to use while reviewing prospects or having the online application include “yes” and “no” checkboxes for each of these skills can make this comparison ranking much easier. Using a hard to soft skill screening system is a great way to organize a large batch of candidates before you even start the interview stage.

It can be hard to take a jumble of applications and figure out who is most qualified to be interviewed first, so having specific answers about which hard and soft skills each prospect has can be constructive.

Your Job Interview-career path-Suitable Candidates

4. Include These Three Telling Questions

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your prospects are right for the management style and work environment that your company has created. Not every candidate, no matter how skilled, will be a good fit for the job’s style.

To figure out whether or not they are the right fit, ask these three telling questions during pre-screening to get an early sense of the candidate:

  • What do you love most about your manager, and what do you think that they need to improve?
    The candidate’s answer to this question will give you telling insight about what type of work environment they enjoy and what they believe is essential. Find out how they communicate and learn through this question. 
  • When have you given up on a work project, and why? What was the outcome?
    Often, candidates will be hesitant to talk about failures. This kind of question might make them stumble for a moment, but should be very informative for you. Depending on your company culture, you may be seeking someone who redirects projects quickly or someone who sticks to the status quo for a longer time.
  • What is one sentence that your best friend would use to describe you? How about your manager?
    With this question, you are trying to find out more about how the “work” and “home” versions of this candidate overlap. Usually, the happiest and most successful candidates are those that share essential personality traits in both sectors.

Screening Matters, but Remember…

No matter how much time you put into screening prospective candidates before you put more time into their interview process, there will always be a few candidates that turn out to be bad fits down the line. And that is okay!

The point of the screening process is to gather a concentrated pool of prospective candidates that could be a good fit. You shouldn’t be expecting them all to be great fits because you can’t hire them all anyways.

Screening brings down the applicant pool, and interviews help you zone in on the right candidate. By optimizing both parts of this process, you’ll find success in your hiring process in no time. 


Written By
Sabine Ghali is the Director at Buttonwood Property Management, a property management company in Toronto. She is an entrepreneur at heart who endeavors to help investors create real estate wealth over time in the Greater Toronto Area. Sabine is published in a number of media outlets, including Toronto Sun and Gulf News, among many others.

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