Online Screening of Job Applicants: A Better Tool

Jul 23, 2001

Continuing to use the resume as the primary source of information for matching people with jobs is like hammering away at a square peg that has been shoved in a round hole. If you keep hammering hard enough you may meet with some success, but if you stop hammering for a minute and really look at what you are doing, you’ll realize that using a different tool to get the peg to fit will work a lot better. This article is the first in a three part series devoted to the discussion of online screening as a better tool for matching people with jobs. The purpose of this article is to provide information on the basics of online screening. Installments two and three will provide a more detailed discussion of scientific screening, as well as tips for those who are considering adding some form of screening to their online hiring process. Why Isn’t the Resume a Good Tool? I am not the first person to suggest that resume-based searches are a very inefficient way to screen job applicants. By now it is pretty well acknowledged that, although resumes contain useful information, they just don’t do a good job of getting at what is behind the fa?ade of a job applicant. Good hiring practices require comparing all applicants using the same information, and that this information be based only on characteristics that are important for success at the job in question. The information found on resumes does not do a very good job of satisfying these criteria. Resumes offer little quality information about a candidate, nor do they allow for standardization of information across candidates. Searching resume databases is also a very inefficient use of the flexibility and power of the Internet. What Is Online Screening And Why Is It A Better Tool? Online screening is the process of:

  • Creating a blueprint of the requirements for success at a given job
  • Gathering information from each applicant in a standardized manner in order to assess how well they match this blueprint
  • Providing recruiters or hiring managers with a summary of the results of this matching process

Not only does this process allow for the standardized collection of information, it is also perfectly suited to the type of automation made possible by the Internet. The Internet allows screening systems to be highly efficient, because they ask applicants to provide only information relevant to their ability to perform a job. Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, screening uses technology to eliminate the haystack and just asks candidates to present you with the needle. The use of screening allows the hiring process to begin with an automated tool that immediately screens out persons who do not meet a set of minimum qualifications, while simultaneously providing the information needed to make decisions about the suitability of applicants who do match a blueprint of the ideal person for a given job. Types Of Online Screening Now to complicate matters a bit. It is important to understand that all screening was not created equal. There are two basic types of online screening: scientific screening and non-scientific screening. Although they have some commonalities, these types of screening are very different in terms of their complexity and the type of information they provide about candidates. It is also important to understand that you do not have to make a choice between using scientific or non-scientific screening methods. The information gathered from each type is important for creating a full blueprint, and a good screening system will use both types to paint a complete picture of applicants. Non-Scientific Screening Non-scientific screening involves basic background information about a candidate that is easy to collect very quickly. Almost every ATS system currently available offers some type of screening function. These are typically based on the information a candidate provides about their experience, degrees obtained, willingness to relocate, etc. These questions are a normal part of the online application process and are an excellent start in moving away from a reliance on the resume in that they offer an efficient way to help screen out a portion of the responses received based on job-related criteria. Despite the usefulness of non-scientific screening for telling us which applicants meet basic eligibility requirements, it doesn’t really tell us much about the job applicant’s ability to do a job. So while filtering out applicants who don’t have eight years of experience or who aren’t willing to relocate does add some value to the application process, you really haven’t strayed too far from the stuff that you can find on a resume. The missing piece of the puzzle is still figuring out who the applicant really is and how this will allow them to excel at a given job. This is the type of information needed to really add efficiency to the online screening process ? and it can only be provided by using the data driven tools used in scientific screening. Scientific Screening Scientific screening is what really allows you to see what makes an applicant tick. But of course, there is no free lunch, and the extra value added by scientific screening comes at a price. Scientific screening is more complex than non-scientific screening and is much harder to use. To be effective, scientific screening requires a good deal of groundwork to ensure that it’s set up properly. The screens used rely on data that is the product of extensive research and development in order to offer some form of proof that they can predict performance for a given job. It is also critical that scientific screening measures do not discriminate against applicants based on their race, sex, or age. Finally, the results of scientific screening can be hard to interpret and must be simplified in order to cleanly integrate into an ATS system in a way that is really useful to recruiters and hiring managers. How Does Scientific Screening Work? Although there are many issues surrounding the use of scientific screening, all scientific screening systems involve three basic things:

  1. Defining a job. Scientific screening systems must offer a way to create a blueprint of what is required for success at a job. This involves breaking a job down into things such as experience, knowledge, skills, competencies, and work values.
  2. Collecting data from applicants. Scientific screening involves asking applicants to answer questions in order to measure the things found on the blueprint. Different types of information about an applicant require different types of questions to be asked, so a full screen may contain a variety of types of items. All of the items used must have evidence documenting their ability to predict performance for the job in question.
  3. Providing an index of comparison. The data from these questions can then be used to compare applicants against the blueprint and against one another. The screening system needs to be able to calculate how well an applicant matches the blueprint and then relay this information in an understandable way. Information on how well a candidate matches the blueprint can then be used to remove candidates who do not meet a minimum standard as well as to provide data-based information about which of the remaining candidates have the greatest possibility of being successful at the job.

What Is The Result? The result of a good scientific screening process is an index of an applicant’s suitability for a given job that is based on science ? not speculation. These results will provide a way to compare all applicants for a job using the exact same information about who they are and how they will perform on the job. The best part about this is that this information is provided automatically at the earliest stage in the selection process. The information presented here should make it clear that there is really no comparison between a system in which one performs searches to sift through piles of resumes and one that clearly outlines what a person needs to bring to the table to be successful at a job, and provides a tool to quickly measure these things and compare applicants based upon the results. The next installment in this series will take a more in-depth look at the science behind scientific screening and provide some details about what is required for effective, legal online screening.

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