According to data from the NewHire applicant tracking system, at least 90 percent of candidates who apply for any advertised job opening are unqualified. That means that if you’re the hiring manager, and you get about 100 resumes, you’ll spend two or three days screening resumes just to find the 10 people who are qualified. That doesn’t even take into account the additional time needed for face-to-face interviews! Luckily, there is a solution – adding candidate screening questions as the first step in the application process.
The challenge is that candidate screening questions have to be created before a single candidate applies, but it’s simple if you remember this broad formula.
There are three screening questions that should be on every employment application:
- Past work experience relating to the key accountabilities of the job
- Work behaviors that lead to on-the-job success
- Specific subject matter expertise needed to execute the duties of the job
Here are some specific examples, all based on an ad for an outside sales representative in the property and casualty insurance space:
The right Sales Representative will have 2-5 years experience in a Sales or Business Development role and excel in working in a fast-paced environment. Property and Casualty License preferred, but not required. Strong communications skills are a must.
Our goal is to be able to quickly identify candidates who have the skills and experience expressed in the ad. Below are examples of specific questions that address each of the three categories. These questions can be easily adapted for sales-rep recruiting in other industries.
1. Past work experience
It’s clear we want to hire someone with some sales experience. Here’s the first question to ask:
This is a great first question to ask because it immediately filters candidates who don’t match your simplest criteria. The problem is that there are applicants who have been selling for years but doing it poorly. Here is a second screening question that would help us find out about selling success.
Now we can select candidates who meets our criteria of both experience and demonstrated success during the last 12 months.
2. Work behaviors that lead to on-the-job success
Now we can turn our attention to “soft skills.” From the job description we know that successful employees are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment.
This is a great question to ask, because candidates can’t Google the correct answer and not every sales job requires the same work pace. In this case, it’s probable that candidates who select “juggling several tasks with attention to detail” will be most likely to thrive.
3. Subject matter expertise
Now it’s time to find out which candidates can demonstrate they have the knowledge for success.
The ideal answer is clear. But the ad said, “Property and Casualty License preferred, but not required,” and the hiring manager is willing to train the right candidate. How am I going to identify candidates that might not have the license yet, but would likely have the ability to learn about the industry and pass the exam?
The information provided by an open-ended question is two-fold. First, we get a writing sample and can evaluate communication skills. Second, we find out if the candidate has a basic understanding about the industry and can explain the benefits of the product they will be selling.
Every employment application should include screening questions about work experience, work behaviors and subject matter expertise. These types of questions allow the manager to eliminate candidates who are not qualified and focus on those people who match the hiring criteria. Using the right screening questions will transform a tedious task into a rewarding, exciting search for the best available talent.
What screening questions do you use in your hiring process?