Getting the screening process right is so critical; ATR recruiting manager Josh Seliner advises how to do it better
Hiring a new employee can be a scary prospect. The stakes are high – if you get it wrong you’ve wasted time training and coaching and it becomes not just an inconvenience but an unnecessary expense. Even if you get the end result right, the process of getting to that great hire can be a lengthy road, and at the very least it’s time consuming.
I’ve been recruiting technology professionals and helping recruiters do the same for our clients over the past six years at ATR. We know what you’re facing when you have an open position and need great technical talent. You are not alone! We know how challenging it can be.
One of the most important things you can do to avoid inefficiencies is screen potential candidates carefully. Done right, screening can save you time and help you hire a great new team member. Here are a few tips gained from my experience, to help you understand our process better.
Tip #1 – Let others help with sourcing and screening
As a hiring manager you already have a job and adding “find and hire someone new” to your to do list is not what you need! Take advantage of the help that is available. Use your HR department or hire outside help like a good staffing firm, one that specializes in IT. It’s not as simple as posting the job and reviewing the resumes that come in for the must have skills and experience and passing over the ones that are obviously not a fit.
The first step in screening is something we call sourcing. It involves finding people in multiple ways – those who respond to a job posting, networking with IT professionals we have relationships with, and targeted searches on job boards or social media to name a few. We may pull up dozens of matching resumes, but many candidates are not on the market, or have other factors that rule them out. Having someone else pare down the possible applicants at this stage will make your life easier and save you lots of time. And when that recruiter is specialized in finding technical talent, you’ll also get better quality candidates.
Tip #2 – Understand that screening is more than just parsing resumes
Don’t think of screening as a single step that involves only reviewing a resume. An in-person interview is the most time consuming, so the goal should be to bring in only the best candidates for that stage. Screening resumes for specific skills and experience will eliminate the obviously unsuitable candidates, but don’t stop there. Recognize that phone interviews, online technical skills testing, background checks, or pre-clearing candidates who need certifications, security, or other special clearances are all part of screening. Each step is part of screening and should further narrow the pool of candidates to the best possibilities.
- Phone interviews can yield great results if you ask the right questions that help you screen. When we talk to a candidate, every question we ask is designed to provide information that puts them in either the yes or no pile for that particular position. A simple question like ‘Are you looking for an opportunity right now?’ or ‘Are you interested in this type of project/role?’ can instantly move someone ahead or not.
Through a conversation you can also get a better understanding of what their experience really entails. They might have Java development or project management listed on their resume but how much experience do they really have? How big was the project or team they managed? How many years have they been working with Java or COBOL? How did they utilize those technologies specifically? Ask for examples. You can also begin to screen for soft skills such as professional presence, communication skills, and other intangibles that you cannot get from a resume.
In short, a phone interview is a great way to get a lot of information that will help identify the most qualified candidates to move along in the interview process.
- Online technical skills tests are a helpful screening tool. This is a critical step in technology recruiting – specifically with development positions. Most people aren’t deliberately exaggerating but finding out whether their skills are at the level of mastery that the position requires is the point of technical screening and interviewing. There are great online tools that can quickly replicate on the job challenges and see how they do. At ATR we absolutely use them to help us find the right people for our clients and save hiring managers time by only sending over sound technical candidates.
Tip #3 – The more you understand Technology the better
You don’t need to be a technical or IT expert to recruit and screen effectively, but it absolutely helps to have a clear knowledge and understanding of the technologies you are evaluating and recruiting for. Understanding that Oracle is a database, Tableau is a Business Intelligence and Analytics Data Visualization software, and COBOL is a mainframe programming language makes a difference. A good, high level overview helps you to understand the position’s needs and assess a candidate’s skills to narrow the field and present only the most qualified candidates. Either hire this expertise or make sure your internal recruiters are educated and really understand what you need.
Tip #4 – Don’t forget that you are also building a relationship
As you are interviewing, testing, and evaluating the applicants, don’t forget that they are evaluating you too. As much as you are winnowing out, you are also “keeping” people in. You want to be friendly, professional, and build a rapport during phone interviews. Remember that whoever is doing these initial screening activities, whether it’s HR, procurement, or an outside recruiter, they are the first person the candidate is meeting; they are the face of your company at this point. You want them to have a positive experience and feel good about the company and the opportunity.
There’s no denying the importance of screening in the overall hiring process. It can make a critical difference in how quickly you find someone and the quality of the candidate you eventually hire. Open positions affect the bottom line. Anything that can be done to fill those position more efficiently, more quickly and more effectively should be done. Hopefully I’ve given you advice that will help you fill your open position sooner!
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