How to Set Up a System for Evaluating Employment Candidates

No set rules exist for evaluating potential employees. The important thing is to have a system in place before résumés begin to arrive. The process should include a set of hard criteria to use as the basis for decisions so that you don’t end up making choices based on factors that may have no bearing on desired work performance.

You need to keep in mind the following three questions at all times:

  • What are the prerequisites for the position? These should track with the qualifications listed in the job description, as long as your description is current, targeted, and carefully thought through.

  • What are the special requirements of your organization, such as certifications or special education?

  • What qualifications and attributes are critical to high performance in this particular position? Think of the key qualities of your best people. Identify those attributes that you feel will produce superior performance. Look for these attributes in prospective employees.

Here’s an overview of the candidate evaluation process:

  1. Scan applications or résumés first for basic qualifications.

    If you do a good job of communicating the job’s qualifications to your recruiter or in the posting, you shouldn’t get too many replies or résumés from unqualified candidates. Some applicants, however, apply to virtually any job opening, regardless of whether they’re qualified.

  2. Evaluate résumés based on your hiring criteria.

    After you eliminate unqualified candidates, you can focus on more specific hiring criteria. This task is considerably easier if you do a thorough job of identifying these requirements at the time you put together the job description.

    Begin the résumé evaluation process by setting a high standard. But if your reject pile is growing, and you haven’t cleared anyone, you may need to review your criteria to see where you may be able to be more flexible.

  3. Set up a process to flag and identify top candidates.

    At this point, you probably want to establish a separate file for every applicant who passes the initial evaluation process. Some HR professionals like to develop a flow sheet (a document that you attach to the outside of a folder that keeps track of the steps in the evaluation process).

    Other HR organizations use an applicant tracking system. These software applications can post job openings on various websites, automate résumé scanning, generate response letters, and perform other functions.

  4. Extend an invitation.

    Your next move depends on how many applicants remain. If you have only a few, you may want to invite them all to come in for an interview. If you have more applicants than you can handle, you may want to add yet another level of evaluation. Possibilities for the latter include a phone conversation or a visit to your office so they can complete your company’s own application form.

Though the use of job applications is declining, they still can be effective as an evaluation tool. Some application forms are weighted, meaning that you give each element in the form a certain value, putting more emphasis or weight on qualifications you feel may more heavily influence later performance on the job.

The basic idea is to determine how accurately a specific criterion may predict superior job performance. The problem, however, is that no one has developed any sort of weighting scale flexible enough to cover everything that can affect job performance. If you assign values to work experience, licenses held, and so on, you have to be careful that the criteria you’re using relate to actual job performance.

One way to add validity to a weighted application form is to do your own tracking. Score applicants for a while and then recheck the scores of those you hire. The criteria used in an interview to assess how well an applicant might fit a job should be the same criteria used for the performance evaluation.

If you can determine the attributes and qualifications that make successful employees, you may find that you can structure a weighted application form that indicates when these qualities are present in a candidate.

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