May 5, 2016

Employee Screening Tips for Small Business

Figuring out how to attract top talent is an issue that all employers must grapple with. What kind of work environment does an in-demand candidate typically prefer? How can you detect “red flags” in a candidate’s employment history that potentially point to inadequate workplace skills and/or serious character deficiencies? What is the best way to quickly sort through the mountain of resumes that so often arrives in the company’s inbox after a job posting? There are no easy answers to these questions.

It would be difficult to find a company of significant size that has not, from time to time, ended up with problem employees who failed to live up to the promise they seemed to exhibit during their interview. This is understandable. The process of hiring employees, from soliciting resumes to interviewing applicants, is burdensome enough even for those organizations that have the resources to give sufficient attention to all of its various stages.

For organizations that command fewer resources, company personnel who are responsible for resume processing and hiring decisions often have serious trouble finding the time to devote to this task. Therefore, it is important to understand how to “cut to the chase,” so to speak, by making the employee screening process as pain-free as possible. Having said that, let’s explore some tips that companies can follow to ensure that they land the kind of quality personnel they need to stay competitive.


Consider the Cover Letter

For generations, the cover letter was a standard element of a resume package, and for good reason. It gave the applicant an opportunity to include pertinent information that might not be appropriate for inclusion in a resume, as well as reveal the person behind all those dry bullet points. These days, though, employers tend to be split on the value of the cover letter, as an increasing number of hiring professionals find it simply irrelevant and wasteful. It remains true that a personalized, well-written cover letter can show off important qualities in an applicant that might not otherwise be apparent.

Even if you’d rather not go through the bother of reading cover letters, consider this: Applicants who send them along with their resumes tend to be more qualified than those who do not. Candidates engaged in “resume spamming”—sending massive numbers of resumes in scattershot fashion to as many job openings as possible—seldom include cover letters. Someone who is willing to compose a cover letter for you, preferably one that isn’t obviously recycled for every job opening, is more likely to be specifically targeting your position because they find it desirable and suitable.


Know What You’re Looking For

This would seem to be rather obvious—you’re looking for someone to fill a vacancy on your team. Do you know what qualities that someone should ideally have? Do you know what you’re willing to settle for if that ideal person never walks into your office?

It’s best to take the time to write down the characteristics you’re seeking—the experience level, the relevant skills, the educational attainments, and anything else applicable to success in the position. This will help you eliminate the obviously unqualified from the large pool of candidates who may apply. It also helps you figure out how to make the best decision later on, when it’s time to select a specific candidate for employment.


Perform Background Checks

Everyone understands the gist of background checks—it’s a way to verify the educational, employment, and/or credit history of an applicant. For many employers, however, it’s a hassle they would rather dispense with, and this can be a serious mistake. The simple fact is that a significant number of applicants lie on their resumes; one all-too-common practice is listing a nonexistent college degree; e.g., claiming a bachelor’s when they dropped out in their second year, or mentioning an M.A. when they never set foot in graduate school.

Even if you’re willing to take applicants at their word and simply sort through the candidates at the interview level, consider this: You could even be liable for compensatory damages if someone at your workplace becomes injured due to the criminal actions of an employee whose felonious record you overlooked during the screening process. It’s called “negligent hiring,” and it could land you in a lot of trouble.

Do a Social Media Search

In general, job applicants know they need to put their best foot forward when interviewing for a job at a company, but many are remarkably careless about the kind of material they put on the Internet for the whole world to see. Past DUI arrests? A habit of playing video games nonstop during work hours? A history of stealing office supplies from employers? Some people brag about this sort of thing on social media. One look at a person’s Twitter or Facebook account can reveal much more than a candidate will ever admit to during an in-person interview. Best of all, this information can be one Google search away, and it is totally free of charge.


Consider the General Path of the Applicant’s Work History

For the most part, an applicant’s career should be marked by a trend toward growing responsibilities with appropriate salary increases. The absence of this type of work history could be a red flag. Bear in mind, though, that the economic downturn of the late ‘00s took their toll on the highly skilled and the mediocre alike, so an applicant who failed to thrive during this period shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

Consider Adaptability of Applicants

Flexibility—it’s an attribute we usually consider to be a positive trait, but most hiring professionals would have difficulty explaining why this is so. There are several reasons why an applicant with a history of adapting to challenges should be regarded as particularly valuable.

The business sector continues to evolve at a breakneck pace—it wasn’t so very long ago that Windows 98 and 8GB hard-drives belonged to the cutting edge of technology; today, we have exotic inventions like cloud storage and virtual laptops that play an increasingly central role in the business community, whether we’re ready for them or not.

The ideal candidate should be able to keep pace with developments and advances of this nature. For that reason, when searching through resumes, you should take a closer look at those candidates who have demonstrated an aptitude for mastering new tools and techniques.


Also, consider that a candidate who has shown great skill at a certain position may not always be able to cope with the individual demands of their new gig—unless the two jobs are precisely identical in their day-to-day responsibilities, the applicant will need to learn a few things in order to fit in at your company.

Use a Third-Party Service to Pre-Screen Applicants

As we’ve noted, a big problem with the hiring process at small businesses is the lack of time that managers and the HR team can devote to these matters. This becomes particularly frustrating when hiring personnel find themselves wasting their very limited time in face-to-face interviews with candidates whose expectations are obvious out of sync with what the company can provide.

One way to save a lot of time is to utilize a third-party organization like Always Answer to perform pre-screening interviews that filter out people who clearly don’t fit in at your business. Our telephone agents use dynamic scripting software to determine whether the applicant matches your qualifications. If a caller has the right stuff, we can promptly connect you to them live, if that is your preference. We can also send you reports via fax or email with data about your applicants. It’s a great way to save valuable time!


One way to save a lot of time is to utilize a third-party organization like Always Answer to perform pre-screening interviews that filter out people who clearly don’t fit in at your business.