How an Applicant Tracking System can help you Prescreen Candidates

Frustrated by reading a lot of resumes of unqualified candidates? Is narrowing your qualified applicant pool taking up most of your recruiting time? How can you efficiently prescreen the candidates? You want to know how to recruit efficiently!

You are not alone! Most of the prospective customers I talk to ask if our applicant tracking system can assist with prescreening applicants.

It’s no surprise that as an employer in today’s job market, with relatively scarce jobs and large numbers of available candidates, you are inundated with applicants who don’t meet your requirements. You may have to sift through hundreds of resumes to find qualified candidates for a job.

While the applicant’s cover letter may include a well-crafted overview of their most relevant work experience and their resume may reflect the skills, experience and buzz words listed in your job posting — anyone can look good on paper!

So if the candidate has represented themselves pretty well on paper, your next step is probably going to be a telephone screen. This stage in your process can take days just to connect by telephone or email delaying your process and adding additional expense to your company. Now on top of everything else, you’ve got a frustrated hiring manager!

Why not consider an automated step before you ever get to the prescreening methods mentioned above? During the application process, online prescreening questions can be used to filter through unqualified job seekers, enabling employers to spend their time looking at a short list of the most qualified candidates. If executed properly, prescreening can save recruiters and hiring managers as much as 30% to 50% of their time.

If you’re fortunate enough to have chosen an applicant tracking system that has this functionality, you can develop a list of questions that include the “must have” experience for the job. They can be yes/no, multiple choice, or text answers that can actually be scored. You can give value to different answers and even add knockout scores!

Customer feedback about the ApplicantStack pre-screening feature includes comments like:

  • “Eliminates undesirable or unqualified applicants”
  • “Dramatically reduced our time to hire”
  • “Allows our recruiting staff and hiring managers to spend their time focusing on the most qualified candidates”
  • “Reduced our cost of hiring by eliminating extra hours spent conducting phone and personal interviews, using costly assessment tools and doing unnecessary background checks”
  • “We were able to communicate more quickly with applicants who didn’t meet minimum qualifications, reducing phone calls to check on their status”
  • “Reduces legal liability because all applicants for the same position are asked the same prescreening questions”

Don’t ignore this valuable feature of your applicant tracking system. Once you get comfortable with creating appropriate questions and scoring the answers, you will be amazed at the benefits!

The Difference between Configuration and Customization

Interested in the SaaS model for a new Applicant Tracking System? The difference between configuration and customization can add thousands of dollars to what you thought you would pay!

As a purchaser and user of applicant tracking software, I learned the hard way that many people use the terms configuration and customization interchangeably. To us users and usually non-technical people, the terms often mean the same thing. However, software developers– those creative people behind the scenes who are developing these helpful recruiting tools– think of them quite differently. So I’m writing today to try to clear up the difference and help you avoid a major mistake when choosing an applicant tracking system.

SaaS (Software as a service) is becoming very popular because “technically” speaking it is a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the (Internet) cloud) and are accessed by users using a thin client, normally using a web browser over the Internet.

Okay, so to us non-technical users, this simply means that the SaaS model is a web-based solution that only requires an internet browser to use and requires little or no internal IT support. The system and data are securely stored on the SaaS vendor’s server.

If the SaaS vendor describes their system as “configurable” they typically mean that the software is complete and that we only need to fine tune it for our specific needs. We can change the behavior of a feature by pressing a few buttons. The benefits of the configurable system are:

  • The application is hosted centrally, so new releases can be put in place without requiring customers to physically install new software.
  • The application configurations can be tested and corrected faster.
  • The solution provider has access to user behavior within the application (usually via web analytics), making it easier to identify areas of improvement.

After all, that’s what we all want, right?

On the other hand, “customization” technically means that the product is only half way done or incomplete, which will require secondary development to meet our needs. Writing new code by a software developer typically equates to added expense and a lot more time. The cost of a professional developer and the time it takes to test the new code can often add up to spending considerably more money and taking a lot longer to implement. Additional changes to the customized system will continue to add to the cost of the system.

My advice is read the fine print, ask the right questions and get clarification on the whether the system you are interested in is configurable or customizable!

Not just for jobs: Using an ATS to streamline Program Applications, Scholarships, Grant Applications, etc

While working with several of our customers this past week, it occurred to me how many things people apply for other than jobs! Things like school admissions, societies and organizations, loans and grants, military branches, awards, scholarships, photo contests, and other applications. We have several customers–well respected

We have converted their long and detailed admissions forms into online versions that collect data like undergraduate GPA and test scores and detailed essays explaining why they are a suitable candidate for the program. All the questions can be scored which helps the Admissions Department focus on the strongest applicants. This is especially helpful when they receive over 1,000 applicants for only 25 available course seats!

We’re also working with another major university who is about to accept applications from companies applying for a special annual monetary award based on their contributions to global social challenges—Wow, how special is it to be part of that?

The unique ways our applicant tracking system is being utilized made me realize how valuable a web-based, affordable , and customizable system really is! Even more exciting for me is how much we can learn from our customers, if we take the time to listen and make their ideas a reality! Please comment if you’ve been looking for an effective way to collect data on line and have never thought about configuring a “job” applicant tracking system to fit your needs.

Effective Communications During the Recruiting Process

Imagine receiving 50 or more applicants for every open position and the necessity to communicate with each and every applicant from the time their information is received through the many stages of your recruiting process? If you review the list below of just some of the reasons to contact applicants and hiring managers, you will soon realize that communications alone can consume a good part of your business day! Electronic or phone communications may include:

  • Acknowledgement of receipt of Resume or Application
  • Requests to the Applicant for additional information
  • Responding to requests from the applicant for additional company information, benefits information, etc.
  • Responding to applicant requests of their current status
  • Requesting available dates and times from managers to schedule phone screens or face to face interviews
  • Requesting available dates and times from applicants to schedule phone screens or face to face interviews
  • Forwarding resumes to staff for review
  • Requesting/recording the Hiring Manager’s Review and Feedback of an applicant
  • Collecting feedback/evaluations from staff after interviews
  • Confirming interview schedules or changes to interview schedules
  • Letter of no interest to the unqualified applicants
  • Permission to conduct a background check
  • Informing an applicant that a position has been filled, cancelled or put on hold
  • Responding to status reports or updates to managers

Respecting candidates includes acknowledging receipt of their applications, giving them some sense of what’s coming next and eventually letting them know the outcome. Most companies want to be timely and professional toward applicants and managers, but with limited resources and time, do not communicate effectively or at all.

4 Steps to improve Communications during the Recruiting Process

  1. Establish a clear, consistent, courteous and timely process for communicating with applicants and hiring managers during your recruiting process. Document the process and decide which stages in your recruiting process require written or verbal communication. Applicants who have been selected for further consideration in your selection process should continue to receive consistent, timely and accurate messaging. While applicants who did not meet your minimum qualifications, should be communicated with almost immediately.
  2. Communicate the established process to everyone involved in the recruiting process including hiring managers, recruiters and support staff. Make it clear who is responsible for which communications to avoid confusion and possible duplicate or conflicting communications to the same applicant. This is especially important when there are multiple recruiters working with your applicant database. Nothing could be more embarrassing than one recruiter sending a “we’re not interested” email and another recruiter trying to schedule an interview with the same applicant—it happens more than you think.
  3. Automate communications when possible: Implementing an applicant tracking system enables you to automate emails as your applicants are moved through different stages in the recruiting process. Many systems have “triggered” email capabilities which save time, eliminate errors and help your company to maintain a more professional image and reputation.
  4. Track all Communications: Once again, an applicant tracking system is of great value here. Communications are automatically recorded—even date and time stamped, so staff involved in the recruiting process can view the most recent or pending communication or activity related to an applicant. If automation is not an option, using your calendar or an excel spreadsheet that can be shared by everyone is recommended.

Benefits of Effective Communications during the Recruiting Process

  • Shows respect and appreciation to applicants regardless of their qualifications
  • Keeps hiring managers and other staff informed about the status of open positions
  • Protects companies against false accusations and legal repercussions if candidates misinterpret your communication
  • Eliminates excessive phone calls, leaving messages and telephone tag
  • Tracks all activity related to an applicant for future use
  • Most importantly, confirms your company operates with integrity and transparency

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Prescreening Job Applicants

Prescreening Job Applicants

In today’s job market with jobs relatively scarce and large numbers of available candidates, it is highly likely that employers will be inundated with applications that make efficient pre-screening even more critical. Employers have to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the ideal candidates for a job.

Typical methods of applicant pre-screening

Cover Letter Review: The applicant’s cover letter may include a well-crafted overview of their most relevant work experience for the job. The cover letter might summarize why the candidate is well qualified for the position, and should be free of errors and easy to read. Poorly constructed cover letters, or letters with typographical errors might be considered grounds to eliminate a potential candidate.

Resume Review: The applicant’s resume should reflect the skills and experience listed in the job posting and contain keywords that match the qualities you are seeking. Potential red flags include long gaps in employment, spelling errors, educational deficiencies and difficulty holding a job for a reasonable period of time. This method is not reliable by itself because anyone can look good on paper and write the resume to mirror the requirements of the job

Assessment tools: Some companies use assessment tools to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit with the company. These tools often measure specific personality traits along with the candidate’s approach to relevant scenarios, and allow employers to automatically eliminate those who don’t provide the desired responses.

Phone Interview: Employers may wish to interact briefly with potential candidates by phone in order to get a better idea of their ability and evaluate their communication skills. The phone screen may include a few key questions fairly asked of each potential candidate whose answers may be evaluated based on the quality of the answers, the candidate’s understanding and enthusiasm for the position and how the answers compare to other candidate’s responses.

Enhancing the Applicant Prescreening Process

The methods above take time and can delay the process and add additional expense to the company. Consider an automated step before you ever get to the prescreening methods mentioned above.

During the application process, online prescreening questions can be used to filter through unqualified job seekers, enabling employers to spend their time looking at a short list of the most qualified candidates. If executed properly, prescreening can save recruiters and hiring managers as much as 30% to 50% of their time.

Online prescreening can quickly, fairly and efficiently reduce a potentially large candidate pool to a more manageable number that can then be moved through a more rigorous assessment phase. A well-conducted pre-screening process should give an employer a solid list of applicants to interview more thoroughly, and some initial insight into those applicants, allowing the full interview to probe more deeply into each applicant’s most relevant skills and experience.

Examples of Online Prescreening Questions

The employer can develop a list of questions that include the “must have” experience for the job. They can be yes/no, multiple choice or text answers that can actually be scored.

Knockout Questions: The knockout question is a job requirement that the candidate MUST meet to be considered for the position.

If you have an open truck driver position, there may be a knockout question asking if the applicant has a valid driver’s license or any moving violations.

Example:

Have you had any moving violations in the past three years?

Scoring1

If an open Sales position requires 40% travel, you might add a knockout question asking the applicant what percentage they are willing to travel. Any answers under 40% could knockout the applicant from the pool.

Example:

Would you be able and willing to travel 40% of the time?

Scoring 2

Scoring Questions: A scoring question is any qualification that is not a MUST in order for the job seeker to be considered for the job. However, employers can assign a particular weight or value for different responses to these questions and will identify enough questions to separate “minimally qualified” job seekers from “ideal” job seekers.

If an open Healthcare Provider position requires a candidate to be available for a flexible work schedule, the applicant who appears most flexible may receive a higher score than those who are not.

Example:

Ideally, how many hours per week do you desire?

Scoring 3

If an open Teaching position might heavily weigh the applicant’s educational background, the levels of education achieved would be valued differently.

Example:

What is the highest level of education you have achieved?

Scoring 4

Benefits of Online Prescreening

  • Eliminates undesirable or unqualified applicants
  • Takes more of the guess work out of hiring and may reduce the time to hire
  • Allows the recruiter or hiring manager to spend their time focusing on the most qualified candidates
  • May reduce the cost of hiring by eliminating extra hours spent conducting phone and personal interviews
  • May reduce the cost of hiring by reducing the number of costly assessment tools or background checks administered
  • Allows the employer to communicate more quickly with applicants who didn’t meet minimum qualifications, reducing phone calls to check on their status
  • Reduces legal liability because all applicants for the same position are asked the same prescreening questions