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Applicant screening

Jason Ennor, Co-founder and CEO at MyHR

by Jason Ennor, Co-founder and CEO at MyHR
June 30, 2015

A practical view from a small business owner.

There’s a vacancy in your organisation. You’ve put an ad online, told all your networks, and the CVs have started rolling in. Next comes the daunting step of working through each CV to identify a short-list of people 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 interviews, 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 graduates 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 etc. 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 don't fit your needs.

Of course, all this assumes you have some CVs to review! If nobody applied (or the wrong type of people applied), you’ll have to review your whole approach and start again.

Know what you want from the start

Before starting recruitment or sitting down to look at the CVs, be really clear on 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, 2 minutes per CV is plenty.

The “yes” CVs will have most of the skills, education, and/or experience you need, all articulated in a concise 2–3 page document that is easy to follow, with no spelling or grammatical errors.

The “no” CVs will have none of what you need (or not enough); possibly also badly formatted. You may like to build a “maybe” pile for the CVs that look okay and with applicants that may have some relevant experience, but not quite what you are looking for… difficult to make up your mind at first read.

If you don’t have enough “yes” CVs you might choose to look again at the “maybes”, but be very careful not to lower your standards too far. This could also be a symptom of not really knowing what you want. So it might be better to just start again.

Remember: It is much better to take your time during the recruitment process to find the best applicant than to hire somebody who is not right. In the long run, the work you'll put into managing a person who doesn’t meet your needs is far, far greater than keeping a job open for bit longer in order to find the right person. This is harder to do than it sounds.

Try our guide to CV screening.

Now you have your short-list

Ideally, you want a short-list of 3 (or 5 in some situations) 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 CVs.

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

  1. Weirdly, Haystack Jobs, Helping Hands, and Snaffle are some examples of cool and effective online recruitment support tools. They each provide a very cost-effective way to find and select potential applicants, 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 you’re engaging a professional so you should expect some cost. Also the applicants are guaranteed for 12 weeks so if they don’t work out the consultant must replace them for free. Paying a consultant will save you time on screening and will enable you to leverage their database and recruitment expertise. As with all industries there are dodgy operators out there, but a good recruitment consultant can really help.

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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AUTHOR
Picture of Jason Ennor, Co-founder and CEO at MyHR

Jason Ennor, Co-founder and CEO at MyHR

14 years of international experience in large organisations, with geo-dispersed workforces; Jason has a breadth of experience from fast paced day-to-day HR management to long term business strategy development and government consultation. Jason launched MyHR in 2013 with a vision to change the face of HR. MyHR is intuitive, easy-to-use, online HR software, coupled with a team of dedicated HR professionals, providing customised support to over 600 organisations who employ 10,000 people in NZ, Australia, UK and Singapore.