5 Hacks For Weeding Out Unqualified Candidates

Depending on the job market and your industry, it's not unreasonable for a single open position to attract upward of 100 candidates, especially if you advertise the position on one of the big job-search websites, where "applying" is as easy as clicking a button. But how can a hiring manager cope with dozens of options? Try these five hacks to simplify the process and weed out unqualified applicants.

weed out unqualified candidates

1. Give Specific Application Instructions—And Only Consider The Applicants Who Follow Them

Too many people take a scattershot approach to job-hunting, clicking "apply" on, well, any position they might (or, let's be real, might not) be qualified for. If you ask applicants to supply a cover letter or complete a job application unique to your position, you can automatically screen out anyone who doesn't follow instructions. If someone is truly interested in the position, he or she will read the guidelines in the posting carefully and follow them to the letter. Who wants to hire someone who isn't really interested—or can't follow directions?

2. Rely On Employee And Network Referrals

It's a gamble to refer a potential job candidate, whether you're making the referral to your own employer or someone in your professional network. You're attaching your own reputation to the applicant’s, which can be risky. That's why it's a good indicator of a candidate's qualifications when someone steps up and takes that risk. If Susan in accounting is willing to vouch for Ben's Excel skills and work ethic, it's worth looking at his application.

3. Prescreen Candidates Via Phone Or Video Conference Before Conducting In-Person Interviews

It might feel like just another step, but pre-screening candidates—whether on the phone or via video conference—is an effective way to measure those all-important soft skills. You want employees to represent your company well. If candidates are awkward when they should be putting their best foot forward, they may not be a good match—particularly if the position involves lots of phone work.

Prescreening also gives you the chance to ask surprisingly revealing questions, such as: Do you remember applying for this position? If they don't, they're not that interested. Another good one: What could you change about your current/last position? You'd be surprised at how many candidates will let loose with complaints about their current job in response—in which case, you'll want to take a hard pass.

4. Conduct An In-Person Skills Test

A skills test is a good measure of how well candidates perform under pressure, as well as whether the skills they’ve included on their resumes are accurate.

Skills evaluations aren't appropriate for every position, but when they are, consider asking current employees in similar positions to help you develop the test. For instance, your graphic design team can craft a basic skills test to gauge a candidate's familiarity with the Adobe Creative Suite, and your marketing team can help you test someone's knowledge of Google Ads. (Just be sure to not to involve the team in "grading" the test. It’s best to keep applicants' identities confidential. You might have a good reason to hire someone who scored second or third.)

5. Don't Skip Reference Checks

True, many employers in today's litigious society refuse to give references—positive or negative—as a matter of policy and will only verify employment dates. But you still want to check those dates—and ensure the references provided exist. Plus, someone might actually provide useful information on the candidate that will help you in the hiring process.

Vetting and hiring is a tedious, time-consuming task. You need all the "hacks" you can get to help you find the right fit as efficiently as possible.

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