7 ways to screen employees before the first interview

Have you been struggling to fill open positions at your company? Want to find a better way to get the A-talent joining your team?

Building a talented workforce is top of many recruiter’s to-do lists. A solid team gets work done, strengthens company culture, and improves their skill set.

But finding these individuals is tough.

You have to wade through an endless amount of resumes, field calls from interested candidates, and find time to make offers and negotiate salaries.

How do you make that process more efficient?

By pre-screening candidates. Instead of interviewing everyone who applies, why not do some pre-screening and only bring in the best candidates for the job.

Here’s 7 ways to pre-screen employees:

1. Call them up

The phone is a lot less intimidating than an in-person interview. A quick 2 or 3 minute interview to get an idea of how they answer basic questions and communicate tells you a lot about a potential hire. Here are a couple questions to ask:

These are are all soft-balls. Avoid asking challenging questions. Often, candidates take these calls while they’re running out of the office or driving. Keep it quick and easy. After all, it’s just a screening phone call.

2. Check LinkedIn

Almost every college grad or mid-career worker has a LinkedIn profile (and if they don’t, I wouldn’t invite them in for an interview). A strong online presence is necessary for today’s unemployed because practically everything happens online these day. What should you look for on their LinkedIn profiles? Here’s a couple tips:

LinkedIn provides a wealth of information for recruiting teams. Use it as a reference, but not an all-knowing source of information.

3. Call references

Some HR professionals discount a reference’s opinion (because 99% of the time they’re stellar). I take a different stance. References offer an objective view of the benefit and value they received from their former employee or coworker. It’s likely they’ll be able to provide the same value for your company. Here are a couple questions to get the most out of references:

And no, there’s nothing wrong with calling references prior to the interview. It just means you could hire the candidate on the spot if you wanted to.

4. View their personal blog

Oh, they don’t have a blog? I can understand if you’re trying to hire a material scientist or custodial engineer, but if your job is full of work on the web, I would expect an established web presence. Here’s a couple things a personal blog tells you about the candidate:

Blogs are one of my favorite ways to see what makes candidates tick. They may be applying for a job in product management, but write a blog about their travel adventures. You learn a lot about people by looking at their writing.

5. Read their cover letter (hopefully there is one!)

I can’t believe the number of people who skip over the cover letter. The candidate wrote it for a reason. It explains why you should hire them. A resume doesn’t do that. Take time to read the cover letter. Here’s what it tells you:

6. Compare them to your job listing

There had to be an obvious one in this list, right? Do side-by-side comparison of your job candidates and the listing. Do they match up. While it may not be perfect, here’s a three things to keep in mind when you’re comparing:

Whatever you end up doing, decided on your hiring strategy for this position early. Is an 80% going to cut it for an interview or are you looking for the candidate to meet all of your requirements. This makes a difference on who you’re going to bring in.

7. Give them a test or project

Back in college, I applied for an art internship with a popular brewery. I was a marketing major with zero art experience. But I understood the importance of a consistent brand. While I did have some self-taught Photoshop skills, the Art Director wanted to see how I put those skills to work. She sent me a test to turn an ugly beer distributor poster into a poster that better represented the brewery. And I passed with flying colors.

Finding a test to send to potential hires is a fantastic way to separate the experienced candidates from the rest of the pack. Stuck with what to do? Here are a couple of ideas:

The hunt for the best employee takes time. That’s why pre-screening is so important. Rather than waste your hiring team’s time on unfit candidates, do work beforehand to bring in the A-players.