Effective screening tactics when recruiting top talent

As the talent market tightens, the pressure on HR to recruit, hire and retain high-performing employees is more intense than ever.

Companies of all sizes are seeking that perfect employee as the demand for talent quickly exceeds the supply.

You’ve no doubt heard that the cost of hiring the wrong person is significant – up to 200% of the employee’s annual salary. Some costs are unquantifiable, such as the potential loss of revenue by a poorly performing employee who may lose you good customers while also dragging down the people around him.

One recent study found that many hiring managers ask job candidates the same questions today as they did 20 years ago.

Questions like “Where do you want to be in five years?” have little value in measuring the skill level required for success right-now-today!

Here are some ideas to help hiring managers take steps now to maintain a consistent pipeline of talented job applicants, starting with the hiring interview.

Effective Screening Procedures

 There are a number of effective screening procedures, including a long line of vendors that supply personality and aptitude tests. Despite all of the advanced assessment tools, interviews by your recruiting team remain the most effective way to weed out the bad fits and identify superstars.

Before scheduling face-to-face time with all the candidates under consideration, conduct telephone interviews and refine the final list.

It’s important to have an efficient and effective method for conducting phone interviews.

Telephone screening will help recruiting managers determine if a candidate has what it takes to move to the next level in the hiring process and save valuable time interviewing unqualified candidates.

Effective screening will also reduce the time spent in the overall hiring process and spare the inconvenience of travel for those who do not qualify.

All recruiting managers should have a simple and effective interview process that aligns with the technical skills, experience, soft skills and problem-solving skills for the job being filled.

Making sure there’s a comfortable environment for candidates to interview in before they arrive is a good start. The recruiting team should spend a few minutes chatting informally to put the candidates at ease.

5 Ways to be most effective

  1. Set a goal of having the applicant do 80% of the talking.
  2. Learn to differentiate good information from sizzle. Good information usually contains specific behaviors the candidate has engaged in. Sizzle sounds good, but means little and serves to falsify the evaluation.
  3. Be comfortable with silence after a question is asked. This will allow the candidate time to think and take initiative.
  4. Display energy and show enthusiasm for the job being filled.
  5. Prepare for the interview by reviewing the candidates’ resume and by rehearsing what you want to ask.

5 Common mistakes to watch for

Here are the top five common interviewing mistakes made by recruiting managers:

  1. Failure to develop up-front contact with the applicant. If the ground rules for the job aren’t established at the start, the interview will fail.
  2. Failure to tell it like it is. Some managers oversell the job, which ends in disappointment for the applicant and the manager.
  3. Failure to match the applicant’s ability to the job. Out of desperation, overqualified candidates may accept a job below their capabilities, while underqualified ones will promise anything to get a job.
  4. Failure to allow enough time for the interview. Rushing an interview will only lead to hiring mistakes.
  5. Failure to interview the “real” person. Applicants rarely ask or answer the “real” questions upfront.

Asking the right questions will uncover facades and help you learn more about the person sitting in front of you.

Good questions and good answers

While it’s essential to ask good questions, it’s equally important to know what “good answers” you want to hear, as well.

Here are examples of 5 good questions you can ask, and how to best assess the answers you might get.

  1. How did you deal with the situation the last time your boss chastised you or strongly disagreed with you?

Look for candidates who:

  • spoke directly to their boss about the issue
  • tried to find where the problem was coming from, and
  • resolved the issue quickly.

Strong candidates aren’t interested in placing blame. Instead, they have the courage to admit they’ve made a mistake or could’ve done thingsdifferently. Misunderstandings happen. Good candidates keep the lines of communication open and resolve the issue.

Red flag: Be wary of candidates who claim they’ve never had a problem with a former boss. It may indicate the candidate is strictly a “yes” person or is not totally forthcoming.

  1. Give an example of how you won over a key person in another department.

There isn’t one best technique, but talented employees probably have developed their own framework to do this. The best candidates will be able to tell you what they’re trying to accomplish to help your business to move on to the next stage.

Red flags: Watch out for candidates who appear too smooth and polished, but don’t get down to business fast enough. A common mistake is spending too much time on pleasantries in the opening.

  1. Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

This response will show how prepared applicants are for the job interview. They should be ready with pertinent examples of past successes, and how they met and exceeded customer/manager/co-worker expectations.

Red flags: This is one of those responses that allows candidates to brag a little about past successes without sounding obnoxious. They may even produce notes from former customers/employers supporting their stories. If the interviewee can’t think of a story, it may indicate a poor candidate.

  1. Give a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy you didn’t like.

With all the directives, instructions and policies being changed on a regular basis in the business world, it’s almost impossible for experienced go-getters not to have run into such a situation. How they handled the situation is critical. Did they go to their supervisor and explain why they didn’t like the policy? Did their explanation sound more like a confrontation than a discussion?

Red flags: It’s OK for people to express concern about a policy and go to management to discuss clarification. It’s not OK if the objection sounds like a serious undermining of a working, established policy.

  1. Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.

Asking candidates to describe difficult situations and their reactions is called behavioral interviewing. It goes beyond basic technical skills and gets to the heart of how candidates will act if hired. The best job candidates must be able to react appropriately during rough times. Look for candidates who are able to prioritize critical tasks, and resolve them calmly and intelligently.

Red flags: Candidates who spend a lot of time pointing fingers at others in their past jobs will probably do the same at the next job.

Rich Henson
Rich Henson, a member of the HRMorning staff, has spent the past two decades developing potent HR and Management content that helps guide successful leaders forward with confidence. He is a former editor and reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer.