The Candidate Evaluation Process

If your candidate outreach has been successful, you'll soon start to receive resumes. As you begin the evaluation process, keep in mind that the most skilled candidates are those most likely to be in the running for positions with other companies. An inefficient or unnecessarily long hiring process can result in the loss of your top choice to another opportunity.

Your goal shouldn't be to simply reduce the time you spend on the evaluation process but to also make sure that its most time-consuming aspects, such as interviews, are expended only on the best candidates. The more quickly you can reach the strongest professionals for the job, the greater your ability to add productive members to your team.

No set rules exist for the evaluation process other than common sense. The important thing for small businesses is to have some kind of system or protocol in place before resumes begin to arrive.

The evaluation process should include a set of hard criteria to use as the basis of your decisions. Otherwise, there's a good chance you'll end up making choices based on factors that may have no bearing on desired work performance. You need to keep in mind the following three key questions at all times:

  1. What are the prerequisites for the position? These should track with the qualifications listed in the job description, assuming the description is targeted and carefully thought out.
  2. What are the special requirements in your organization, such as certifications or special education? If you own a public accounting firm, for example, you would most likely consider only applicants with a valid CPA credential.
  3. What qualifications and attributes are critical to high performance in this particular position? If your business depends on telemarketing, for instance, some people will be better than others at engaging the interest of the people they call. What attributes make them more effective? One is certainly their ability to not let repeated rejections wear down their spirits. Identify those attributes that you feel will produce superior performance in functions critical to your small business' competitive strength and look for these attributes in prospective employees.

If you haven't answered these three questions, you're not ready to start the applicant evaluation process.

Here's a basic overview of the evaluation process when reviewing resumes:

  1. Scan resumes first for basic qualifications. If you do a good job of communicating the job's qualifications to your recruiter or in your posting, you shouldn't get too many responses from unqualified candidates. Keep in mind, however, that some applicants apply to virtually any job opening, whether they have the requisite skills or not. For example, if you're seeking to hire a medical technician who will be working on equipment that requires a licence, eliminate applicants without this licence.
  2. Look for more specific criteria. After you eliminate unqualified candidates, focus on more specific hiring criteria, such as strong organizational skills, supervisory experience or a good driving record.
  3. Set up a process to identify top candidates. At this point, you probably want to separate the wheat from the chaff, which means establishing a separate file for each of the applicants who passes the initial evaluation.
  4. Narrow your list further. Your next move depends on how many applicants remain. If you have only a few, you may want to invite them all to come in for an interview. If you have more applicants than you can handle, consider adding yet another level. Many hiring managers find that a phone conversation is very helpful.