In This Article


How to Develop a Strong Applicant Screening Process

applicant screening process

If you want to hire new talent for your company, you’ll need a robust applicant screening process.

A critical part of hiring, effective applicant screening separates qualified candidates from unqualified ones.

This vital step keeps your company efficient and focused on the strongest candidates for a given position.

Here at iprospectcheck, our employment screening solutions help employers across the nation streamline their applicant screening process.

This blog breaks down the must-haves of any effective applicant screening process and provides helpful tips on how you can improve yours.

Let’s dive in.

What is an Applicant Screening Process?

An applicant screening process is the multi-step workflow companies use to identify the most qualified candidates for an open position.

During the applicant screening process, employers determine whether they want to conduct a preliminary interview and move applicants to the next phase of the hiring process.

To screen applicants, hiring managers review candidates’ job applications and resumes, conduct pre-interviews, and initiate pre-employment background checks.

5 Benefits of Applicant Screening

Applicant screening is the first step of any effective hiring process, and for a good reason:

Finding a good fit for an open position requires companies to verify a candidate’s education and experience before making a hire.

Additionally, the applicant screening process allows hiring managers and teams to assess a candidate’s personality and skills before bringing them in for a formal interview.

Here are a few benefits of an effective applicant screening process:

  1. Save Time. Screening allows companies to focus on the most qualified applicants and filter out ones who aren’t suited for the position. This makes the hiring process more efficient and helps you avoid spending time and resources on candidates who aren’t a good fit.
  2. Decrease Employee Turnover. Hiring managers know that it can be challenging to find long-term employees. Today, employee turnover is a real problem for many organizations. In addition to creating gaps in your workforce, unnecessary employee turnover can impact your bottom line. On average, the cost to replace an employee equals about 6-9 months of that employee’s salary. Fortunately, a good applicant screening process can reduce your turnover rate. Since the pre-screening process focuses on assessing the long-term fit of an employee, it reduces the likelihood that they’ll leave or be fired from the job soon after being hired.
  3. Create a Better, Safer Workplace. Screening filters out applicants who may cause damaging workplace accidents, theft, or violence, thereby creating a safer workplace for your whole team.
  4. Streamline Hiring Schedules. During the candidate screening process, hiring managers can set times to interview multiple candidates on a given day or over a span of days. Batch scheduling interviews like this reduces disruptions in the company and streamlines scheduling.
  5. A Stronger Corporate Culture. Corporate culture is a critical part of any good workplace. When companies prioritize applicant screening, it ensures that every candidate who moves forward in the hiring process is an excellent cultural fit for the company and will blend seamlessly with the rest of the team.

6 Key Steps in Every Strong Applicant Screening Process

Want to improve your applicant screening process? Implement these critical steps:

1. Identify Eligible Candidates

Before you can begin screening candidates, you need to attract eligible candidates. That requires a good recruitment strategy.

Here are a few tips to help get yours off the ground:

  • Revisit your current recruiting numbers to identify what’s working and what’s not and how you can improve the next round of recruiting.
  • Set goals for your new recruiting strategy.
  • If needed, adopt new applicant tracking systems (ATS) or hiring software to help you keep track of recruits.
  • Create job postings for your open positions and post them on career sites and your social media platforms to begin receiving resumes and applications.

2. Review Applications

As people begin to apply, evaluate their job applications and resumes to identify eligible candidates.

Ask yourself whether a given resume or application demonstrates the experience necessary for the job? If not, discard the application or resume.

Here are a few tips for evaluating resumes more efficiently:

  • Pay attention to the length of the resume. Does your candidate have a lot of work experience? If so, is it relevant to your industry and the position you’re hiring for? If they’ve held many professional positions, how good are they at conveying their roles and duties concisely?
  • Check the spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. A well-written resume says a lot about the person who submitted it. A polished resume indicates that the applicant is detail-oriented and precise and cares enough to put their most professional foot forward.
  • Assess the personality of the resume. If you’re hiring for a creative position, an applicant’s resume should tell you a bit about the applicant’s personality and whether they’ll be a good fit for your corporate culture.

If you’d like to accelerate the identification of eligible candidates, use an applicant tracking system to screen job candidates.

Many ATS platforms offer an online application process that includes tools like internally validated behavioral assessments, which can make identifying qualified candidates more efficient and streamlined.

3. Pre-Screen Candidates Over the Phone

Once you’ve identified the qualified candidates, it’s time to pre-screen the applicants to identify the candidates who should move to the next phase of the hiring process.

Typically, this process begins with a telephone call.

A hiring manager should learn more about the candidate’s goals, experience, and strengths during this call.

During this phone call, HR managers will be able to determine whether a candidate seems to be a good fit and should move forward to the next phase of the hiring process.

4. Perform a Preliminary Assessment

Next, you’ll need to perform a preliminary assessment of your identified candidates.

Here are a few possible ways to do this:

  • In-person interviews. The most common way to assess candidates is with an in-person interview. While there are dozens of ways to conduct in-person interviews today, most involve a hiring manager and direct manager and take about an hour. During an interview, hiring managers ask a series of questions designed to determine whether the candidate has the depth and breadth of skills required to excel in the position and ascertain whether they’re a good cultural fit for the company.
  • Phone interviews. Another common option is phone interviews. Phone interviews are an easy and efficient way to find out more about candidates and assess their suitability for an open position. This step usually occurs after hiring managers evaluate an applicant’s resume and cover letter before scheduling an in-person interview. Phone screens are generally between 15-and 20 minutes long and cover topics like the applicant’s employment history and skills and a description of the role and the salary and benefits involved.
  • Panel interviews. Some companies choose to involve employees in the interviewing process and conduct panel or group interviews. These can be helpful since they incorporate other perspectives and allow candidates to understand what it’s like to work for your company. Team interviews tend to be less formal than individual interviews, making them ideal for companies prioritizing a dynamic, community atmosphere.
  • Video interviews. You may consider a video interview if you’re hiring remotely or looking for team members in other locations. Video interviews are a great way to connect with long-distance candidates and ascertain fit, especially if your company intends to bring the applicant to headquarters for an in-person interview later.

5. In-Depth Assessments

Depending on the position in question, assessments may be necessary to ensure the candidate has the skills, personality, and experience required to excel in the new job.

For example, if you’re hiring for a copywriting position, you might issue a typing or editing assessment. You may administer a code writing assessment if you’re hiring a software developer. These assessments are usually easy to deliver and can provide a wealth of information about the candidate’s skills.

If you intend to use pre-employment assessments to screen applicants, avoid legal issues by ensuring that your test is reliable, valid, legal, cost-effective, and equitable.

6. Run a Background Check

Once you’ve identified the most qualified applicants in your candidate pool, you’ll need to conduct comprehensive background checks before making your final hire.

The background check is a critically important step.

Here’s why:

Background checks evaluate a candidate’s previous employment history, qualifications, education history, and criminal record.

In addition to helping you identify candidates with a problematic criminal history (if you’re hiring a banker, you don’t want someone with a history of check fraud, for example), a background check verifies that the information a candidate has provided on their application and resume is accurate.

Some companies also choose to conduct a reference check. During a reference check, an employer contacts a candidate’s previous employers, peers, and managers to learn about their job performance, personality, and ability to work with others. This is a great way to verify a candidate’s personality and work ethic.

To make background and reference checks as easy as possible, outsource them to iprospectcheck. Our team uses advanced software and comprehensive databases to screen applicants quickly and efficiently, which improves your hiring workflow and saves you time and money.

We integrate with the industry’s leading ATS systems and hiring software platforms for your convenience. This means you can trust us to deliver a seamless, streamlined background check process that provides you with the knowledge you need to make the right hire.

Finally, we use SwiftHire Mobile to deliver a candidate-centric application experience. This platform allows candidates to submit their information online and begin the background screening process independently. It provides real-time updates throughout the process, so candidates feel engaged at every step.

How to Comply with Employment Laws During Hiring

While applicant screening is an integral part of the hiring process, complying with federal, state, and local employment laws is essential.

Most of the legal issues that could arise during the applicant screening process are related to background checks and equal opportunity laws.

For your candidate background checks to be compliant, they must be non-discriminatory and fair.

Here are a few guidelines to be aware of:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) exists to protect consumer information. FCRA puts safeguards in place to ensure that consumer information remains private, even as consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) collect, maintain, and report it.

The FCRA also dictates how employers can use the information reported on pre-employment background checks. Learn more about FCRA here.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) defines “protected characteristics” of employees and prohibits workplace discrimination based on those characteristics.

Like the FCRA, Title VII puts restrictions on the employment background screening process, specifically when a pre-employment background check reveals an applicant’s criminal record. Learn more here.

The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures of 1978

According to the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures of 1978, issued by the EEOC, any time an employer gives an employment requirement, it is considered a test. If a selection decision is challenged and deemed discriminatory, the potential for litigation exists.

HR professionals must ensure that every step of the selection process, and any assessments used within it, are legal, equitable, reliable, and valid.

While those guidelines in mind, it’s important to consider compliance as you create your job interview and application questions.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you can demonstrate the job-related necessity for any question you ask.
  • Only ask applicants job-related questions.
  • Before asking any question, interviewers should always determine whether the information is essential to deciding applicants’ qualifications, skills, and competence.

Keep in mind that state and federal equal opportunity laws prohibit pre-employment questionnaires that are meant to screen out members based on protected statuses unless there is some job-related necessity for asking the question.

Instead, any information gained during the pre-employment screening process should be aimed primarily at deciding whether a candidate is qualified and should not involve irrelevant factors that are not related to the job in question.

Let Us Simplify Your Applicant Screening Process

A comprehensive, efficient candidate screening process is critical for any hiring program.

Whether you’re hiring multiple candidates or looking for one highly-skilled applicant, good candidate screening is the best way to find the perfect fit for your open position.

Background checks are an integral part of that process. Fortunately, iprospectcheck is here to help.

A leader in the pre-employment background screening industry, we provide fast, efficient, FCRA-compliant background checks that you can rely on to make better hiring and recruiting decisions.

Ready to learn more? Contact iprospectcheck today to request a free quote: 888-808-9997

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.