The art of candidate screening

26th April, 2016

Imagine it.

There’s a vacancy in your organisation. You’ve placed an ad online and told all your networks. The CVs have started rolling in. Now what?

Next comes the daunting step of working through each CV to identify a shortlist of candidates to interview.

For business owners with a million things on their plate, this step can appear daunting and time consuming. But with the right approach you can find great people out of that pile of CVs.

A few lemons might also slip through the net and end up at your interview, but such is the nature of screening applicants. It’s an imprecise process. CVs are very easy to dress up – the truth is easily stretched and a piece of paper doesn’t really tell you much about a person.

Also, if you’re hiring grads or school leavers, there isn’t much to put on a CV. Work experience may be limited to some holiday work in unrelated industries and referees will likely be sports coaches, family friends and other personal contacts so a CV may have limited value.

For these reasons you must be prepared for a decent interview process.

REMEMBER: You are not looking to hire somebody straight from their CV. You are simply trying to identify the best potential applicants for your organisation and quickly get rid of those who do not fit your needs.

Before you start

Before starting recruitment or sitting down to look at the CVs, be really clear about what you actually want.

It sounds simple, but business owners are often not totally sure what they need and end up discarding potentially good applicants or interviewing people who are not suitable. Using the interviews to help define your job needs is not an effective use of your time and it might cost you a quality person.

Know what you’re looking for. Do some preparation before you even pick up the CVs.

Benchmark each CV against your checklist.

Use a simple checklist to keep you focussed and start sorting through the pile. When you’re using a good checklist, two minutes per CV is plenty. Try our checklist.

The ‘yes’ CVs will have most of the skills, education and/or experience you need, all articulated in a concise two- to three-page document that is easy to follow, with no spelling or grammatical errors.

The ‘no’ pile will have none of what you need (or not enough), and are possibly also badly formatted.

You may like to build a ‘maybe’ pile. These CVs may look OK and the applicant may have some relevant experience, but not quite what you are looking for. If it’s difficult to gauge at first read, it may be worth revisiting them later if you don’t have enough in the ‘yes’ pile. Be very careful not to lower your standards too far, which could be a symptom of not really knowing what you want. If that’s the case, it might be better to just start again.

REMEMBER: It is much better to take your time during the recruitment process and find the best applicant than to hire somebody who is not right. In the long run the work you will put into managing a person who doesn’t meet your needs is far, far worse than keeping a job open for bit longer in order to find the right person.

The shortlist

Ideally you want a shortlist of three to five people for a job. Then you can begin preparing for the selection process which should include phone screening, interviews and maybe some form testing. Preparation for this process will require a more detailed re-read of the short-listed CV’s.

If you’re struggling to do this on your own consider engaging help. There are a number options. Here are a couple you might consider:

  1. Weirdly, Haystack Jobs, Helping Hands and Snaffle are some examples of ffective online recruitment support tools. They each provide a very cost-effective way to find and select potential applicants, and the pricing is flexible and reasonable. They help with the screening process and general applicant management.
  2. Alternatively you may consider a recruitment consultancy. Very often a small business owner will not take this path due to cost, but as you’re engaging a professional the cost should result in some value. Also the applicants are guaranteed for 12 weeks, so if they don’t work out the consultant must replace them for free. Paying a reputable consultant will save you time on screening and will enable you to leverage their database and recruitment expertise.

If you hit the job market with a very clear idea of what you want the applicant screening process should be a piece of cake.

Get through this phase quickly and start talking to the humans!


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This article is provided courtesy of MyHR. MyHR is your complete HR agency, with intuitive HR software to provide the right set of tools for every employment situation and our experienced team of HR consultants to ensure you’re always in control. It’s the new way to experience HR. Visit to find out more.