Recruiting solo (part 4): What should you be screening for?

In the previous article in this series of blogs on recruiting solo, we discussed the importance of a job description and here, we shall look at how we can use it to work through the screening process.

First up – CV screening.

Technology today can do the heavy lifting of screening CVs. Let’s face it, it is a highly administrative and repetitive task which can be automated. If, however, you don’t have the budget, the more traditional approach would be to review CVs based on your job description, knowledge of the role and company culture.
Now some people would argue there is no longer a need for a CV, and whilst you might read an article about some progressive company somewhere no longer using the CV, for the majority, for now, it isn’t going anywhere.
So, what are you looking for in the CV?
CAPABILITY – Always look for capability. Skills can be taught for the most part.
In a candidate short/tight market sometimes the person with no prior experience or limited experience but demonstrated capability is the pick. Capability can be seen in someone who has worked in a number of different roles for longer periods of time.
Typically, you would investigate how and why they did what they did. This would demonstrate their ability to learn, work with change, multitask etc.
If you can afford the time to invest in upskilling, then hiring for capability is the way you should proceed.
GAPS & OVERLAPS – Review the start and end dates, and potential gaps and overlaps. Don’t discount them if there are, but make sure you query the dates when you speak to the candidate.
GRAMMAR – In the age of social, the grammar police are everywhere. Let’s take the approach that grammar is important for some roles not every role. More important for someone having to write proposals or briefs, but less important for say a mechanic or a front-line hospitality worker.
TENURE – Some would argue in the rising gig economy, tenure should not be taken into account. Heck, if you look at my career, my tenure is shocking aside from two longer stints with Hudson and SKM (now Jacobs).
Again, tenure is important for some roles and not others. Tenure is always worth scrutinising. Tenure can demonstrate loyalty, resilience, and trust, but could also be seen as unlikely to accept change.
Don’t place too much weight on tenure.
REFEREES – Some people will list referees whilst others do not. Me personally, I list them but at the same time I believe that references are extremely subjective and inaccurate and do not provide you with the information you need.
This will be explained in a later blog.
As you have been screening through your applications, you should have been creating buckets for unsuccessful candidates, strong candidates, and uncertain candidates.
Notify the unsuccessful candidates as soon as you can. Let the candidates know in the ‘uncertain’ bucket that you are still reviewing and will get back to them soon. Start calling the stronger candidates.
HINT: Use free scheduling tools like or Calendly to help automate some of your scheduling with candidates. Saves the missed voicemails, phone tag you can play with people and improves your time to hire by a day or two.

Next up – phone screening.

This shouldn’t be a deep dive interview. It is your opportunity to better outline the role to the applicant and gather some brief information and/or confirm some data which may have already been provided.
Here is what you would need to find out:

  • Availability and notice period
  • Remuneration – are expectations aligned to the salary offered for this role. You can provide indicative details to the prospect and let them confirm whether this is aligned to their requirements (it may not be necessary to go into detail of bonus structures, KPIs etc. at this time)
  • Push and Pull factors – why is this person looking to move on from his/her current role (is it their manager, work/life balance, remuneration, lack of opportunity etc)? What are they looking for in their next company/role (flexible work practices, benefits, parking, commute times etc.)?
  • Alignment to role in terms of experience, capability.

Do give the applicant an opportunity to ask a few of their own questions.
You should also provide an outline of the recruitment process and timeline for the individual. The phone screen can and does take about 20 – 30 minutes. Anyone who says you can phone screen in five minutes isn’t screening anything.
If you find that the person isn’t suitable for the role, tell them straight away. Be constructive and positive, they may refer someone based on their experience with you. Sometimes you have to speak to the wrong people to find the right people.
NOTE: Any notes taken during the phone screen must be saved in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles. Further information can be found here.

  • Set expectations at the beginning of the call “the call will take about 20 minutes, do you have the time now? We will cover X Y Z…”
  • Always be selling. You are also selling your company and this position to the candidate.
  • Be personable. Some people don’t come across well on the phone, try and build rapport with the individual before launching into the questions
  • Take the call in a distraction free environment (if you must take a call or expect an interruption let the candidate know in advance but make it quick)
  • Avoid questions which might be considered discriminatory (Age, sexual identification/preference, religion etc)

Ideally you would be entering notes into an applicant tracking system so you are not having to duplicate enter the information or scan your notes into a system.
Again, there are some pretty handy software solutions which can transcribe your phone calls into an electronic note file which can then be stored against the applicant record.
Stay tuned for Part 5 as we dive into the world of interviewing.
To read Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here.
To read Part 3, click here.
To read Part 5, click here.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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