Talent Acquisition

Candidate Screening: Dashing Through the Maze

Part One…

We’ve all been candidates at one stage. It’s a rite of passage. If you are not one of the lucky few who have been offered a position through a family member or friend, you’ve probably submitted a CV online through a job board or applied through a company website. At this stage you’ve entered a labyrinth of twists and turns and sometimes a pit of despair, and so find yourself asking –  Is my application being looked at? Do people care? Why did I never receive a call? Why is my self-worth so horribly damaged by all of this?

The Desktop Screening Process

From a corporate recruiter’s perspective, (whom average around 30-40 open positions at a time), the first sweep is a ruthless cull (Don’t worry, it’s not you; it’s what you’ve done and what you know). Recruiters will catch the first glance of your application in their inbox or more likely an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which may sound like a new terminator model, but it’s what we recruiters use to maintain control over what cannot be controlled; the hiring process.

The ‘system’ even rates you; that’s right, in many large organizations the software makes the decision for recruiters and your CV is put through a funnel, reducing the number of applications from 100+ to often around 10 based on keywords and questions. That’s the start. Smart recruiters will double-check the original list of applications on the off chance a hidden gem is concealed amongst the masses; if not, you have probably already been sent an automated decline email which seems impersonal because it is.

In an ideal world, a recruiter will talk you through the why’s and wherefore’s but with time pressures, it is often not possible. Again, practices differ but if your CV shows promise in other areas you are then added to what is called a ‘’pipeline’’ or ‘’talent pool’’ for future consideration. Ultimately, if you pass this stage you’ve done well when you consider the sheer volume of applications. If the recruiter called you instead – it’s because the role is confidential OR they simply have had no response from advertising. Take it as a compliment.

Whether this part of the process remains as key as it is today shall likely be revealed over time and with automation and job aggregator capability in mind. Talent Acquisition leaders talk of ‘talent pools’ (a pool of talent: often a folder on a desktop or in rare circumstances a real-time database of validated and available talent) to bring down ‘cycle-time’ (how long it takes to hire someone), but in reality, many teams still cannot get this right due to the time and resource investment.  Regardless, every new role is an opportunity to get the brand out there, generate interest and excite more people so for now, enjoy the ride.

I’ve rarely seen candidates talk their way from a decline email into what is known as the long-list, but don’t be disheartened. It’s happened to the best of us.  

The Phone Screen

This call is almost certainly one of the most overlooked parts of your journey, predominantly because people are caught off-guard almost every time. Why? Because it is unexpected. An appointment has not been made, you have not had time to prepare and suddenly a hand shoots out of the maze wall and hands you a receiver. I’ve declined many applications at this point based on what may seem to candidates, to simply be a delightful exchange of words, and here’s why:

  • If you’ve applied for a position with the company I represent but have no recollection of the event, that tells me all I need to know about your attention to detail, level of interest, and personal administration skills.
  • You don’t have to take the call because your phone is ringing… particularly not whilst answering the call of nature or consuming a meal that allows only a grunt in response. If you’ve made it to the phone screen you will almost undoubtedly be called back, perhaps let this one go. If you simply cannot resist the urge, then answer and offer to call back in an hour from a more quiet location.
  • Recruiters are phone ‘’experts’’.  We spend an inordinate amount of time interviewing, talking, and listening.  You’d be surprised what a voice can give away. Not only are we listening to your words, but the inflections in your voice, your volume, your breathing, what’s happening around you, etc.

The point of this call which can easily fall within the bracket of a pseudo-first interview is to clarify a few items with candidates.  We use it to double-check any gaps in work history and more often than not, discover salary expectations and availability. As with any step of the process, it’s make or break. You’re either going to stumble over your words and replay the conversation over in your head for eternity or nail it and make the list of individuals being put in front of hiring managers. It’s an important conversation so treat it as such.

Part Two takes you deeper into the often murky depths of the process and the climactic interview, negotiation, and hire…

Author: The ‘Acquirer’ – No small dose of healthy HR skepticism. A career in Talent Acquisition leadership in global companies from the heat of the Asia Pacific to the crisp air of Europe.  Pragmatic, strategic, and every now and again… serious.

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