What is the recruitment screening process? And how to do it

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Screening processes help businesses identify suitable candidates for positions and ensure they're a good fit for both the role and the company. To screen applicants, you can assign tests and review multiple pieces of information to determine their suitability based on pre-defined criteria. Understanding how to screen potential employees effectively can help you separate the best candidates from those who don't fully meet your requirements. In this article, we explore the recruitment process and the benefits of using it and explain how to review job applications within a company.

What is the applicant screening process?

The applicant screening process is an activity that businesses do that involves recruiters and human resources staff determining the suitability of candidates by various means. This may involve multiple screening stages, beginning with a review of CVs and cover letters. Applicants who pass this stage may receive an invitation to attend a brief initial interview over the phone or via an online call. This gives recruiters the chance to speak to the applicants, quiz them on aspects of their CV and see how good their interpersonal skills are.

Applicant screening is usually a multi-step approach, with each level filtering out the less desirable candidates and progressing the most suitable ones. If applicants pass the telephone interview stage, they may then receive an invitation to a formal interview. This is typically one of the most important stages of the process and the most significant if you are only doing one round of formal interviews. This stage gives recruiters the chance to speak with the applicant at length, asking them about their credentials, experience and how they believe they can contribute to the company.

Related: 6 stages of an effective recruitment process

How to create an applicant screening process

To create an effective application review process for a business, you can follow these steps:

1. Review CVs for minimum qualifications

It's essential for candidates to meet at least the minimum criteria for a role, but you ideally want someone who exceeds the bare minimum. For example, it's imperative to first screen applicants on criteria such as their right to work in the country because if they don't have this, they can't pass the first stage of screening. Some companies choose to use software to aid the application review process, particularly if they expect a high volume of applicants. Such software can scan CVs for keywords, such as specific qualifications and experience.

2. Check with references

Verifying the information candidates provide helps you confirm their credibility and suitability. You can ask previous employers how the candidate performed whilst working with them, including questions about punctuality and attendance. If references offer positive feedback, you may be more confident in the applicant's skills and work ethic.

Related: 9 essential recruiter skills for career success

3. Research online

Employers today have a lot of tools at their disposal when it comes to reviewing applicants, such as social media. You might type your applicant's name into a search engine to bring up any associated social media profiles, which you can then review to gain an insight into their personality and interests. You may also encounter some positive information online, such as published work, news articles or accomplishments. These can also help to inform your decision.

4. Look for preferred qualifications

After satisfying the basic criteria, candidates can move onto the next screening stage, which involves measuring them against the desired standards. This includes any non-mandatory but desired experience and qualifications, like strong speaking skills or extensive experience in a particular role. It's important to know what you're looking for in terms of preferred qualifications, as this makes it easier to discover when browsing lots of applications and gives you a standardised checklist to work with.

5. Arrange a pre-screening interview

Pre-screening interviews give you the chance to gain additional insight into promising applicants without wasting resources on lots of formal interviews. It also gives you the opportunity to more closely examine applicants who only met the minimum qualifications in a more cost-effective way. You can use pre-screening interviews to ask specific questions about the nature of their experience and education to see if they possess what you're looking for. If applicants are successful at this stage, you can confidently invite them for a formal interview. Look out for inconsistencies between the answers applicants provide and their CV information.

Related: How much does a recruiter make? (With steps to earn more)

6. Consider assigning a skills test

Using standardised tests is a great way to filter out unsuitable applicants in an objective and cost-effective manner. Much of this process is automatic, so you can distribute tests at scale and receive grades, along with a list of qualifying candidates. Testing also reveals how well candidates can stick to deadlines. If you already know that someone has the credentials you're looking for, and you're strongly considering them, you can give them a more advanced test and pay them for their time. You might also use various personality tests to see if people are compatible with your company's culture.

7. Run a background check

Background checks typically only apply to specific jobs, such as those in positions of authority or working with vulnerable people. If you're running background checks, you can do a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check to learn about any criminal convictions your candidate may have. There are various DBS check levels, with more extensive checks for more sensitive positions. Other checks include drug tests, credit checks and driving record checks, all of which can inform your decision in different ways.

Related: How long do DBS checks take? (With types and stages)

Why is the application review process important?

The application review process is useful in finding the right person to help reach your company's missions and goals. Here are some of the benefits of screening applicants before an initial interview:

It saves time

The application review process is primarily a timesaving device, as it enables you to evaluate candidates without extensively interviewing all of them properly. By screening people, you can focus your time and resources on the most qualified people and remove the unqualified people from the pool. This makes the entire recruitment process quicker, cheaper and more efficient.

Read more: 10 valuable soft skills that you need to succeed in your career

It decreases employee turnover

By thoroughly confirming whether candidates are suitable for a position, you can increase the likelihood of them remaining in the post and performing well. You can also ask people questions about their plans for the future during pre-screening discussions, which you can then use to inform your decision. You can also ask them why they departed from their previous job, as this can also reveal insights into how likely they are to stay with your company.

It protects the workplace

Screening enables you to only select candidates that fit in well with your current workforce and company culture. This is important because hiring someone who isn't a good fit may disrupt the entire workplace. Certain aspects of a person's personality may be unknown to you from just reading their CV, for example, so thorough screening may reveal traits that aren't immediately obvious.

Minimises disruptions

Because formal interviewing processes typically require the attention of key staff members, they can cause disruptions to schedules. By screening applicants first, you can reduce the number of formal interviews you undertake and drastically reduce the time you spend conducting them. This helps ensure that your business runs smoothly while the recruitment process takes place.

Tips for successfully reviewing job applications

Below are some suggestions to help you excel in reviewing job applications:

  • Take notes: To help yourself remember certain facts and details later on, record your interview either with a pen and paper or by using a recording device. You can refer to this when you're reviewing promising candidates with your team.

  • Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking only 'yes' or 'no' questions, ask open-ended questions that can provide you with more useful information.

  • Listen more: When conducting screening interviews, briefly describe the position and company, but spend most of the time letting the applicants talk and share information about themselves. The primary goal of the interview is to learn about them through their responses.

  • Use consistent questions: For each interview, use the same set of questions to ensure fairness and create an efficient process.

  • Be transparent: Provide feedback to applicants about where they are at in the hiring process to help enhance their experience with your company.


  • A Complete Guide To Understanding Background Checks

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