Interviewing Tips for Screening Job Applicants

Interviewing Tips for Screening Job Applicants
  • Opening Intro -

    Available and publicized job openings mean the receipt of multiple applications, sometimes numbering in the hundreds for just one position.

    Human Resources departments are often strained under the weight of the responses, but careful consideration must be made to ensure that competitive candidates are not overlooked.


For higher up or more specialized positions, a detailed screening process should be followed, one that eliminates unqualified individuals while giving the best candidates the opportunity to be seen.

1. Cull the list. With stacks of applications on hand, the culling process must begin at once. Those applications that are not complete should be set to the side and not contacted. A department clerk should open the mail, check each application and separate the viable applications from the rest. Have this individual work in a quiet area without interruption.

2. Pinpoint potential candidates. The next step in the application process is to identify people that meet basic job requirements. This may include education, work experience, skills and related factors. Those applications not meeting the minimum requirements should be separated from those that do. A clerk or a more senior human resources professional can handle this job.

3. Narrow the field. With the list of applicants narrowed to those who might fit the job, the viable applications should be forwarded to the person who will hire the individual. Task this manager with reviewing the applications and selecting at least a half dozen people she might like to interview. The remaining applications will be held to the side and reviewed again if no suitable candidates are found.

4. Arrange for phone interviews. With the first rounds of applicant screening completed, each of the recommended applicants should be contacted for a phone interview. A human resources individual experienced with conducting interviews should handle this step and arrange each interview. During the phone call the interviewer should determine the candidate’s qualifications, job experience and salary needs. Ask the candidate to describe her education background and experience, uncover her salary expectations and ask her if she would be willing to submit to credit, background and drug tests. If the candidate passes your telephone screening, then offer her an in-person interview on the spot. If not, thank her for her time.

5. The initial in-person interview. By the time applicants have been reviewed and culled, and the file narrowed following your phone interviews, your remaining list of candidates should be manageable. You can either complete the reference checks before the first in-person interview or you can save that task until after your top candidates have been identified. With the first in-person interview, you’re looking both to identify potential candidates and eliminate unsuitable prospects. Form some criteria to automatically eliminate certain individuals including those who arrive late for the interview, candidates whose appearance is not keeping with your company’s standards and for certain mannerisms evident including a lack of confidence, distractibility or arrogance.

6. During the interview. The first interview will yield your strongest candidates, individuals that can be referred to the hiring manager for a second round of interviews. Meet with each person for 30 to 60 minutes to find out if this individual is a fit for your company’s culture. Determine whether his skill sets and experience qualify him for the job. Detailed questions will reveal the candidate’s potential value to your company and enable you to come up with a short list of possible new employees. A senior human resources professional should handle these interviews.

The Short List

With the short list completed, those names will be given to the hiring manager. That manager will review the related notes supplied by Human Resources and then choose the candidates she would like to interview. The original screening process is now complete, with only qualified candidates remaining from the short list.

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Categories: Small Business

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".