Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Pre-employment screening provides a thorough evaluation of candidates and improves your chances of making the right decision. This detailed article will help teach you what applicant screening is and how to incorporate pre-employment screening into your hiring process to ensure your organization hires the best individuals for open roles.
What Is Pre-Employment Screening?
Pre-employment screening involves gathering all the information required to make a good hire. This includes identifying candidates that meet predetermined job qualifications and verifying the information they provide.
- Relevant skills and abilities required to be successful in the position
- Personality traits
- Cultural fit
- Educational experience
- Professional experience
- History of drug abuse
- Criminal history
When the time comes to make an offer, thorough pre-employment screening leaves you confident that you’ve selected the most qualified candidate and the best fit for the organization.
Why Is Pre-Employment Screening Important?
Recruiting new employees takes time, and bad hires can lead to ramifications within the company, such as wasted expenses and decreases in productivity. This is why pre-employment screening is essential to pinpoint qualified candidates in a pool of applicants. In fact, there are 3 key benefits that pre-employment screening offers your organization:
- Protect your organizational health: Bad hires diminish morale and reduce productivity within the company. Thorough pre-employment screening helps you make the right hire and reduce your organization’s turnover rate.
- Avoid wasting resources: Significant time and finances are spent recruiting and onboarding new hires. Selecting the wrong candidate is costly; bad hires drain an average of $14,900 from the budget. Screening applicants can help avoid unnecessary expenses and wasted time.
- Validate information critical to candidates’ success: Unfortunately, candidates lie on their resumes. Performing due diligence assures that you hire someone with accurate, verified credentials for the role.
By taking proper steps to pre-screen applicants, you perform due diligence in sorting out those who don’t match the job requirements and organizational culture. How do you conduct a thorough applicant screening to identify unqualified candidates?
Types of Applicant Screening Tests & Methods
There is no one-size-fits-all for pre-employment screening and the process varies by industry. In general, screening is broken into three phases:
- Pre-interview screening: Screening applications and resumes, preliminary phone or video interviews, personality/aptitude tests
- Official Interview: Interviewing candidates deemed qualified through prior screening
- Post-interview screening: Reference checks, background checks
1. Pre-Interview Screening Methods
Before inviting job applicants in for formal interviews, you can use pre-interview screening methods to weed out candidates who wouldn’t be a good fit. Doing this will save you a lot of time, helping you find that star candidate more quickly. It will also allow rejected candidates to move in other directions with their job hunts. Learn more about each pre-interview screening method in the sections below.
Application and Resume Screening
The first step in identifying qualified candidates is screening online applications and resumes. Using applicant tracking software (ATS), you can filter for resumes with keywords relevant to the position’s criteria.
After pre-screening applications with an ATS, you may manually review resumes for basic requirements, such as:
- Relevant working experience
- Minimum education requirements
- Other mandatory components essential to the role.
Although screening applications and resumes eliminate candidates that do not meet the bare minimum qualifications, be mindful: this process does not account for intangible qualities and traits that could make a strong cultural fit.
Phone or Video Interview
Once there is a group of candidates that meet minimum requirements, screen them through a preliminary phone or video interview. Determine criteria that reflect the requirements of the role and develop questions that display the candidate’s ability to meet them. Use this time to clarify any inconclusive information on their resume.
Preliminary interviews provide enough information to determine whether a candidate warrants an official interview. Be cautious not to provide specific information about the hiring criteria that applicants could use to prepare disingenuous responses for their official interview. Only give general information that the candidate could find in the job description.
Aptitude tests measure an applicant’s ability to complete the demands of the position. They ask specific questions related to the job requirements, and results are quantified to objectively evaluate the candidate’s answers.
Assign aptitude tests following the preliminary interview before extending an invitation for an official interview. This gives you an idea of their skill-level and ability to be successful in the role before committing to a second interview. Alternatively, you can incorporate this into the official interview.
Along with aptitude tests, personality tests assess individual characteristics and traits. Tests like the Myers-Briggs and the Big Five provide information that helps determine whether a candidate’s soft skills fit.
Personality tests can be assigned after the preliminary interview or during the official interview. Though they provide a high-level assessment of soft skills, personality tests are not always reliable and applicants may select inaccurate responses based on what they think the employer wants.
2. Interview Screening
Once you select the most likely candidates, it’s time to talk more with each of them to determine who would be the best fit.
After you’ve narrowed down the top qualified candidates through pre-interview screening, conduct official interviews for a thorough assessment. Gather the most important skills and qualities required for success in the role through strategic interview questions.
Use behavioral interviewing methods to determine if a candidate’s previous experience and character meet the job requirements. With the increase in remote employment opportunities, official interviews can be conducted in person or virtually through video conferencing.
3. Post-Interview Screening
After interviewing, you’re ready to make a decision about who to hire. Getting to this point is exciting, but you’re not finished quite yet. Using reference checks and other verifications, you can learn more about the candidate’s experience and character. By conducting background checks, you will identify any red flags your company should be aware of.
When you’re looking over resumes (particularly the extra-impressive ones) don’t forget that candidates are the ones creating those resumes. Though we’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s always possible that someone has embellished their resume to make themselves look better.
The purpose of verifications is to make sure that a candidate is being completely honest about their educational, professional, and personal history.
- Reference checks. Contacting references provides an opportunity to ask follow-up questions and confirm that responses from the interview are accurate. References are often previous employers and co-workers, so you can confirm previous work experience and job functions. Reference checks are conducted after the official interview as one of the final steps before making a decision. Many companies restrict previous employers from providing any information outside of confirming that the candidate worked there and the duration of their employment, so you may not gather all of the information required to make a decision.
- Employment verification. This verification is similar to the previous one. On their resume, the candidate will have listed their previous employers. Using whatever method of communication you prefer—call or email—contact these organizations. Ask about how long the candidate worked there, as well as their reason for leaving. You may discover that the candidate wasn’t completely honest about gaps in employment or other circumstances that make them look less than ideal.
- Education/degree verification. Contact the educational institutions listed on the candidate’s resume to verify the degree(s) they received and the GPA they earned.
- Licensing and professional certification verification. If you work in an industry that requires a license (medical, accounting, engineering, etc.), verify that the candidate’s license is valid.
- Military services records. If a candidate claims to be a veteran, you may want to verify their military service.
Comprehensive background checks are imperative in pre-employment screening. They protect against dishonest employees, negligent hiring lawsuits, and any false information that passed through the interview process.
There are several types of background checks, including:
- Social Security Number (SSN) Trace. An SSN trace takes a social security number and finds the birth date and addresses that it’s matched with. It also reveals alternate names. This information can then be used to conduct other types of background checks. Rather than searching only the name the candidate provides, you can search other names (including maiden names) associated with their SSN. If a candidate has changed their name to hide a criminal history, an SSN trace can help uncover that.
- Criminal records. Your company is responsible for the safety of employees and clients, so you need to hire people who will help maintain a safe workspace. By making sure your new hires don’t have a history of fraud, violence, or sexual assault, you’ll do your part to protect your business from accusations of negligent hiring.
- Civil records search. Civil records searches are somewhat similar to criminal background checks. But while criminal background checks reveal misdemeanors and felonies, civil records show whether someone has been taken to court by another person for more minor infractions. Civil court cases involve things like discrimination, eviction, personal injury, family matters (like custody), bankruptcy, and more. Someone will show up on a civil record whether they were the plaintiff or defendant in a civil case.
- Credit report check. A credit report can provide information about a potential hire’s identity, education, and previous employment. Beyond that, credit checks also reveal any red flags about a candidate’s money management. For example, if you’re hiring for a position that involves lots of responsibility, you may not want to hire someone who can’t manage their own finances. Note that some states have limited employers’ ability to access the credit reports of candidates.
- Driving records. This is particularly important in roles where workers may be driving company vehicles. To maintain safety, protect your company from legal issues, and keep insurance costs low, it’s a good idea to know the driving background of employees.
- Drug test. Employees who illegally abuse drugs can be a huge liability for your company. They’re more likely to come in late (or not at all), and they’re more likely to cause workplace injuries. Additionally, they’re likely to leave or get fired after a short time, which increases costs for the business when you have to fill their role all over again. Doing a drug test before employing an individual can help you avoid these issues.
- Sex offender registries. Sex offender background checks show you whether a person has been convicted of a sex offense. Not every company needs to conduct a sex offender background check, but it’s an important (and legally required) step in some industries. If you’re in an industry that involves lots of interaction with the public (such as education and healthcare) do some research to find out if you need to complete this check.
- Healthcare Sanctions Report (HSR). This type of background check ensures that healthcare professionals don’t have a history of penalties or suspensions. An HSR reveals if someone has committed Medicare/Medicaid fraud, been guilty of patient neglect, or been involved in other illegal activities relating to the healthcare field.
- International Homeland Security Search (OFAC). The Office of Foreign Assets Control keeps track of individuals who may be a threat to the nation’s security, for a variety of reasons: terrorist activity, money laundering, and more. Conducting an International (sometimes called Global) Homeland Security Search will reveal if a candidate has been involved in these activities.
- Workers’ compensation records. If the position you’re hiring for requires manual labor, you may want to do a worker’s compensation background check. Note that you can only do this after extending a job offer. This will reveal whether the candidate has previously filed a workers’ compensation claim as a result of a workplace injury. Employers can only use information from this type of background check if it reveals that the candidate physically wouldn’t be able to perform the tasks required for the job.
Background checks should be completed after the interview as the final step before hiring. You can conduct your own background check or outsource to a third-party provider. Some online background check services pull incomplete or outdated information, so confirm the information is relevant and timely.
Which Screening Tests Should I Use?
The specific industry and role determine what qualities to screen applicants for. Pre-screening applications, reviewing resumes, and conducting interviews are essential screening methods to use for any role.
Some form of background check is standard across most jobs, though the specific type of test depends on the position. Aptitude and personality tests vary by industry and role as well.
Legal Considerations During Pre-Employment Screening
There are laws and regulations you must adhere to throughout the screening process. The cost to defend against employment discrimination claims can exceed tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, they can damage your organization’s brand and reputation.
Specifically, you should never ask candidates about their:
- National Origin
- Veteran Status
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews how information is used and the intent of the interviewer when assessing potential employment discrimination. To avoid legal issues, always have a job-related necessity for asking any question.
Pre-Employment Screening Tools
There is an abundance of pre-employment screening tools at your disposal and several are free of charge. The following tools can be used to screen applicants.
A search of the candidate’s name on Google, Bing, or any other search engine will populate public information, images, and social media profiles. Include the location of the applicant to increase the chances of finding the correct person’s information.
Outside of the impression from interviewing, social media offers insight into the personality of a candidate. Each platform can provide different types of information:
- Delve further into their professional persona on LinkedIn
- Locate short posts or photos of their personality outside of work on Instagram or Facebook. If your candidate has a private account, you may not find much use in these platforms.
Government websites at the local, state, and national levels provide public access to different types of records. Through these resources, you can find criminal records, motor vehicle records, and more without paying.
TransUnion ShareAbles for Hires helps small business owners conduct timely, thorough pre-employment screening. Shareable includes transparent pricing on their website, so you know exactly how much a background check will cost.
Pre-Employment Screenings Help You Hire the Right Candidate
A thorough pre-employment screening process can save you time and money when hiring for a new role. You may not complete every step included above, depending on the role, but you should gather enough information to make a confident hiring decision.
By reviewing applications, screening initial candidates, interviewing top applicants, and conducting thorough reference and background checks, you have the best chance of pinpointing the right fit for the job.
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