How Employers Screen and Hire Candidates

Over the course of my career, I’ve been on many hiring committees, and hired dozens of candidates—both in the public and private sector. And as a small business owner, I know that making a good hires is one of the most difficult—but also most important—parts of running a successful organization.

So I’ve seen the how hiring decisions are made—how employers rank candidates, select which candidates to interview, and decide on the candidate they want to hire.

Here are some insider tips on how employers find the right candidates for their jobs.

How employers screen candidates

Employers can get dozens—even hundreds—of applications for every job opening. So their first order of business is to reduce this huge number of applications down to a handful of candidates who will get serious attention.

The first round of screening involves weeding out applications with misspellings, errors in grammar, or factual mistakes like writing to the wrong company. Employers want people who know how to do the basics, who follow instructions and who care enough to pay attention to details.

Next, many companies often eliminate resumes without cover letters or applications from people who didn’t follow instructions like providing a writing sample. Not including a cover letter or submitting requested materials may indicate the person is applying everywhere.

Third, hiring managers usually look to see if the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the job.

The takeaway here? Focus on the details and follow the instructions! I’ve seen superbly-qualified candidates get ignored because they didn’t do the little things right.

How candidates without all the qualifications are reviewed

Here’s an insider secret: job descriptions are more often wish lists than a true measure of everything a candidate must have to be considered for a job.

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As such, you generally don’t need to meet 100% of the job requirements to land an interview. If you match 50% of the requirements, you should probably go ahead and apply.

Technical skills and subjects can be taught, so if that’s the issue don’t let it dissuade you from applying. To persuade an employer you can do the job, look for ways to demonstrate that you have the ability to master new skills or unfamiliar topics.

What’s more important? Skills vs. culture fit

Smart employers know that a candidate who gets a company’s culture is always the better choice over someone who may struggle to fit in.

You can always teach someone a skill, but you can’t change a personality. Successful hiring managers tell us they look for and hire people who are excited about and want to contribute to an organization’s culture and mission.

How do employers decided you’re a right fit?

I’ll admit that this one is more of an art than a science. Just as every organization has it’s own unique internal culture, every hiring manager has their own way to test your fit.

One way they can explore your culture fit is through interview questions. These could include:

  • How do you work best? By yourself or as part of a team?
  • What are you looking for in a work environment?
  • Why are passionate about working for this organization?
  • What are your interests outside of work?

Sometimes, however, an employer may evaluate your fit by more arbitrary measures—even things like shared interests. That’s why it’s important that you always share some genuine personality in your application and in your interview.

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You never know when a shared passion for baseball or travel might be the deciding factor on whether you get interviewed or hired.