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Candidate screening is a vital part of successful staffing. Your screening process will determine the quality of your hires—and if you’re working in healthcare, that translates to the quality of your service and care. 

Candidate screening can be complicated, but current staffing technology is simplifying the process. No matter what tools you use or what industry you’re in, we’ve got you covered. Here are all the tips you need to help you screen your candidates, from start to finish.

Understanding Candidate Screening

Candidate screening refers to the whole process of deciding whether an applicant is a good fit. This can include a lot of steps and can measure many different qualities. Depending on your priorities, you might screen a candidate for their qualifications, experience, attitude, skills, and for whether they’d fit into your company’s culture. 

Evaluate Your Current Candidate Screening Process

Before you start introducing new processes, take a look at the ones you have in place. How do you currently screen candidates? How many people are involved in recruiting? Do your recruiters work well together or do they tend to operate in silos? It’s very common for candidate screening to feel chaotic and disorganized. If this describes your process, don’t fret—there are plenty of simple fixes that can help streamline screening. 

While you’re reviewing your process, don’t just look for problems. Also keep an eye out for the parts of the process that are already working. There’s no reason to throw away your whole system if some of it is effective. Maybe your team already does a great job sharing notes on applications, but it takes a while to schedule an interview. Maybe your screening system is time-efficient, but your team still finished the candidate screening process with a lot of unanswered questions. Take note of what’s working and what isn’t so you know where to focus your attention.

Define Your Must-Haves

Before you get any further, you need to decide on your open role’s minimum requirements. This is the combination of experience, skills, or qualities that suitable candidates must possess. Understanding these qualities from the start will help you identify a good fit faster, with less waffling.

These must-haves will vary widely from role to role, and from business to business. If you have a great in-house training program in place, for example, you might not have as many strict requirements. Ask yourself how much a new hire needs to know by the time they show up for their first day of work. What gaps in their experience would actually be a problem? How important are education and experience compared to a positive attitude and a willingness to learn? Settle on your non-negotiables. This will make it much easier to screen unqualified candidates out during your recruitment process. 

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Define Your Nice-to-Haves

After you’ve figured out your minimum qualifications, consider your ideal qualifications. One way to think about this is by imagining what you’d like candidates to learn on the job. This could be familiarity with specific software, experience working in your industry, or a proven track record of managing others. 

These ideal qualities and experiences can also include soft skills. For instance, in some cases, a candidate can accomplish their position’s goals without having strong written communication skills—but this is almost always a plus. Keep these nice-to-have qualities recorded separately from your must-haves. You can use them as a secondary screening tool after you’ve narrowed your candidates down to those job seekers who already have your baseline qualifications. 

Figuring Out Talent Development Opportunities 

There’s a reason your must-haves list is distinct from your nice-to-haves. Given healthcare’s talent shortage, you don’t want to unnecessarily screen out candidates who are happy to complete further training. Some candidates might not have every advanced certificate they need for clinical work, but their career path could still take them into clinical roles in the future.

The easiest way to anticipate talent development opportunities is by asking candidates direct questions about their strengths and goals. Don’t be discouraged if candidates aren’t sure of where they want to be in five years—that could mean they’ll still be excelling in the role you hired them for. But do try to get a sense of whether they’re excited to stay in the industry. Bringing this up in the screening process is good for both you and the candidate. You’ll get an idea of their enthusiasm for your business, and they’ll get the promise of a manager who will support their growth. Candidates who are confident they’ll receive support are more likely to accept an offer letter quickly. 

Screen Candidate Resumes

So, you’ve got your candidate screening criteria in place. Now it’s time to move on to actually reviewing applications and making decisions. The first place to look is, of course, the candidate’s resume. While not every role requires a cover letter, a vast majority of applications will include a resume. Resume screening is often the first step to narrowing candidates down to those who have the basic qualifications. 

There are two main ways to review resumes: manually, or with software. If your team is looking at each resume manually, make sure everyone involved has easy access to (and a strong understanding of) your must-have and nice-to-have qualifications. At this early stage, all you need to do is sort out the resumes that don’t meet the must-have criteria. You’ll get a much more holistic idea of the applicant from interviews and, if applicable, their other materials. 

Don’t Neglect Your Cover Letters

Not every role requires a cover letter. If you request one, though, don’t ignore them. Cover letters can be extremely helpful when it comes to assessing a candidates’ experience and attitude. This is especially true for candidates who are making a career change (which, currently, many Americans are attempting to do). A good cover letter will help you understand why candidates want to work for you, and can also give you hints about how invested they are in your company. 

Every hiring manager has experienced terrible cover letters. Even if writing skills aren’t particularly important, sloppy cover letters are a red flag. If someone accidentally sends you a cover letter addressed to another organization, for example, they’re probably neither detail-oriented nor particularly excited about the job. If you’re not collecting cover letters for the role, a few carefully selected pre-screening questions can offer some of the same insight. 

Use Pre-Screening Questions to Measure Skills

Is pre-screening a part of the candidate screening process? We think so. Pre-screening questions are typically added to the initial application, so candidates can fill them out at the same time they submit their resumes. 

Be strategic with these. If you’re using mobile applications or quick-apply, you’re probably attracting some job seekers who are looking at jobs on the go and may be discouraged by a long list of questions. Keep pre-screening short and sweet. Think of it as an opportunity to see your applicants’ highlight reel. You might be asking questions that are answered in the resume, but pre-screening can help you automatically sort out unqualified candidates without digging into their applications. 

Share Notes With Your Team

Silos are the downfall of many recruiting teams. If the people involved with hiring aren’t full-time recruiters keeping everyone on the same page can be especially difficult. Different teams might have radically different goals and perspectives on recruiting. The trick is to help your whole team work together. 

Strong communication will make recruiting much easier, especially if you’re hiring for multiple facilities. Consider a shared recruiting platform. That way, any user can store their observations, update an application status, or list to-dos.

After you’ve rounded up some qualified candidates, use your shared platform to review the applicant pool once again. This is where your list of nice-to-haves will come in handy. Which applicants are rising to the top? Ask your team to keep tabs on their most promising candidates. Then give another recruiter a chance to verify that the candidate would be a good fit before you move on to interviews. 

Treat Interviews As Your Most Powerful Candidate Screening Tool, Because They Are

The interview process offers a major opportunity to fill in the gaps and get a better understanding of your candidates. If you’re still missing any information about an applicant, you can ask them about it directly. You’ll also get the chance to evaluate their desire to join your business and hear how they think about their career and values on the spot.

While interviews are great for getting a feel for a candidate’s personality and attitude, there are some sensitive topics you should avoid. Feel free to ask about what they want out of their work culture, but avoid any questions that might be biased against specific political views, unless you’re hiring for a political organization. 

Check References (No, Really)

If you’re asking for referrals, there’s probably a reason for it. Many recruiters skip following up on references, but they can be a huge help if you’re still trying to get a full picture of a candidate’s qualities and work ethic. 

To keep things fair for all candidates, standardize the questions you ask references. These questions shouldn’t be overly personal, but you can verify your candidates really have the previous experience they claim. If you’re on the fence about whether an applicant will be a good social and cultural fit, references can tell you a little more about what it’s actually like to work with them. 

Complete Background Checks

If a candidate has made it this far, you’re probably thinking seriously about sending them an offer. It’s at this point that you may think about a background check.

Background checks can look very different from organization to organization. You might be verifying their employment history and identity information, or just checking their public social media to see if they’re able to present themselves professionally. You can either complete background checks in-house through your human resources team or you can hire a service provider to do them for you.

Get Your Recruiting Team on the Same Page

You’ve now completed the final step and can make an offer. Congratulations on your new hire and revamping your candidate screening! Now you just need to make sure everyone understands the new hiring process. 

Everyone involved with hiring should feel comfortable completing candidate screening in the same way. A roundtable meeting might be a good way to roll out your new best practices and answer any questions. Talk through your new workflows and make sure everyone understands their updated responsibilities. 

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Simplify Candidate Screening With Technology

Candidate screening can be a lot of work. If it’s starting to feel like a lot to manage, you might want to explore software solutions.

A good recruiting and applicant tracking system can help you complete many of these steps automatically. Solutions like Apploi offer fully customizable automated workflows. That means you can decide what work to do manually and what to automate.

These tools can be helpful when it comes to scheduling or rescheduling interviews, scanning resumes for minimum qualifications, and recording notes. You also might be able to update a canddiate’s application status automatically, so you know how many active applicants are in your system. By leaving repetitive work to the recruitment technology, you can focus on getting a holistic understanding of the candidate with interviews and other forms of person-to-person contact. 

One more benefit of recruitment technology: by automating your process, you’ll get cleaner data on how well it’s working. Data is an often-overlooked part of candidate screening, but it’s vital for understanding how well you’re succeeding and if you need to adjust your process.

Apploi Improves Your Candidate Screening

Apploi is here to simplify staffing and improve candidate screening. We help employers source candidates, hire quickly, and onboard new recruits. Our candidate screening tools are developed to work efficiently and painlessly, even across big teams. We offer built-in pre-screening questions, interview scheduling, integrated background checks, and instant credential verification all from one platform.

Interested in learning more about how you can recruit, hire, and onboard staff quickly? Contact us today for a free demo of our end-to-end talent management solution.

Melanie Boroosan

Over her six years in healthcare administration, Melanie has managed human resources, legal, compliance, payroll, and recruitment efforts at a corporate level. This oversight granted her a deep appreciation for the unique needs of healthcare managers, and for the direct ways that business operations affect the wellbeing of each employee. As Apploi’s Director of Healthcare Innovation, Melanie draws from her experience in healthcare HR and ancillary long-term care to pursue a vision of holistic healthcare staffing. Her work is rooted in the knowledge that great care begins with improving quality of life for all healthcare workers.