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Recruitment and Section: How to Choose the Right Candidate

Reviewing applications and interviews can be a time-consuming process. These tips will help you learn how to choose the right candidate so that you do not miss out on hiring the best employees during the application and interview process. This is especially important when you have received hundreds of applicants for a role.

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Key steps in the screening process

Your screening process should involve multiple steps. The stages of a good screening process may include the following:

  • Reading applicants’ cover letters carefully;
  • Gathering relevant experience from applicants’ CVs;
  • Conducting interviews to evaluate top candidates;
  • Conducting skills or aptitude tests during interviews with top candidates;
  • Background checking and online research into your candidate’s social media presence.

The screening process does not have to be complicated. When your screening process is simple and easy to execute, then this is the first step towards making sure that you find your best candidates quickly and efficiently. After all, if your screening process is time-consuming, you may lose the interest and excitement of your best candidates.

Work ethic

Your candidate may look great on paper, with an excellent skill set and a good history of experience. Despite this, you should look out for clues while reviewing applications that they have had any issues with management, work ethic or handling their workload. You can subtly ask questions about employee work ethic during the interview process. It is useful to find out more about how your candidate takes responsibility for a heavy workload or changes to their workflow. Find out more about a candidate’s work ethic with references from past employers.

Talk about their accomplishments

Find out what accomplishments your employee is most proud of, and ask them questions about it. Perhaps they have won an award or were an employee of the month at their previous workplace. Asking about an employee’s accomplishments is also a good way to find out how they handle challenging situations. A good way to gather information about past accomplishments is to ask STAR questions, which follow the acronym:

  • Situational: the employee describes an accomplishment/situation;
  • Task: they described the task they accomplished;
  • Action: they describe the action they took to achieve the accomplishment;
  • Result: they describe the results of their accomplishment.

You can use the STAR acronym throughout your interview process to find out information about your employee’s soft skills, such as communication and conflict management skills. This will give you key insight into how they handle complex tasks and people orientated situations.


Many employees at the start of their careers will be eager to learn new skills. However, it is a sign of a star candidate if they are a life-long learner. If they have shown on their CV that they are continuously picking up new skills wherever they go, then this shows they are likely to do the same while working for you. You can follow this up during the interview process, finding out how they handle on-the-job learning and whether they would be keen to learn more during your onboarding process.

Finding out about their hobbies and interests outside of work

Do not be afraid to ask slightly more informal questions about your candidate, such as what they are passionate about outside of work. Not only may this help your candidate to relax and open up more about themselves, but it also allows you to find out whether they would be a good fit for the rest of your team and company culture. Finding out more about your candidates’ personal interests may also help you to find out what motivates them psychologically. Consider attracting candidates by offering perks that match their interests. Your candidate may be interested in what gym perks or shop discounts you have to offer.

Allow your candidates to ask their questions

What questions your candidates ask also gives you insight into what motivates them. It also allows you to find out how assertive, analytical and curious they are. Their questions may demonstrate how excited they are about the role. It may also show how much they have researched the role and the company. These are all great indicators that your candidate is serious about taking the position if it were offered to them.

Competency-based interview questions

Competency-based interview questions are a great way to find out more about entry-level candidates. They may have not developed all of the experience necessary for the role, but perhaps have the right personality and attitude. You can find out more about a candidate via competency-based interview questions like:

  • Describe a time you troubleshot a difficult issue at work;
  • Describe a time you successfully handled conflict with a colleague;
  • Imagine one day you and your team are particularly busy. How would you take responsibility for and prioritise the workload?

Conduct an aptitude or skills assessment test during the interview process

If you want to single out a skill that a candidate supposedly has to test, you can do this during the interview process itself. Perhaps you need to test a candidate’s grammar, spelling and typing speed for your role. If so, you can use an app to assess these skills. For social media related roles, consider setting your candidate a short written task to find out more about their tone and whether it closely matches that of your company’s.

Setting your candidate a small task during the interview may reveal other aspects of your candidate’s personality that you might not get to see through asking questions alone. Even if the result isn’t completely what you are looking for, it gives you a glimpse into how they handle tasks and solve problems on the spot.

Ask yourself questions about the candidate before you hire them

After reviewing applications, give yourself adequate time to reflect on what you are looking for in a candidate. This may differ depending on your business and the role, but ultimately you are looking for someone who will easily assimilate into your team. Regardless of how qualified your favourite candidate is, you should be able to answer the following questions positively:

  • Are they eager to learn and motivated?
  • Do you think they will fit in with the rest of your team?
  • Do you think that their values align with those of your company?
  • Do you think they will be cooperative with a mentor or coach?
  • Are they interested in building their career with your company, in other words, are they in it for the long-haul?
  • Are they able to complete the tasks necessary to fulfil the role?

This way, you can ensure that you are choosing the candidate who will take to their new role with ease. You still may have to train them and provide on-the-job experience during their onboarding, however, they should not struggle to fulfil their duties. Ideally, you should try to avoid hiring a candidate that looks good on their CV but isn’t the right fit for your company.

Other points to consider during the screening process

During the screening process, you should try to record all notes taken during and after the interview, while being sensitive about personal data handling. Any personal data collected on candidates during evaluation should be stored in accordance with the Data Protection Act and the GDPR. Your screening process does not have to be complicated. It can be a great way to find out more about your candidates beyond the skill-set they present in their CV or their cover letter. Make sure to ask competency-based questions and use the STAR method to help them to open up more about themselves. These can also help you to find out what leadership, communication and conflict resolution skills your candidate might have.

Ask your candidates what they feel most passionate about outside of work, and the role itself. This will give you a solid indication of whether they are the right fit for your company culture, both in terms of skills and personality. You should now have a better understanding of how to choose the right candidate. This guide should have given you an effective checklist of points to watch out for while reviewing applications and during the interview process. Further reading:

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