Candidates vs. Employers: Who’s screening who?

You post a job.  Candidates apply.  And this is where the screening process begins for most recruiting organizations.  First, recruiters filter through resumes in their ATS to find qualified candidates to interview.  Second, they interview the best candidates and progress them into more interviews if needed.  Lastly, they take all the information available to them (from both recruiters & hiring managers) to decide which interviewee is hired at the company.


This screening process (or some variation) has been around for a while and this is where you as an employer get to screen the candidate and learn more about them, their skills and ultimately understand if they are a fit for your organization.


But there’s one problem with this.  You can only screen candidates that actually complete the apply process.  What if the best candidates don’t end of applying?


This is where the screening process is flipped on it’s head.  At the beginning of your recruitment funnel it’s not the employer that controls the process but the candidate.  It’s before they become an applicant in your ATS (or contact in your Recruitment CRM), that the candidate controls the “screening” process and needs to decide if your company is a good fit for them & if they should use their valuable time to apply for a given position.


While candidates have the final decision to connect or apply, employers are not fully devoid of power in this process.  Through candidate experience, employer branding and recruitment marketing messaging, employers have a tremendous opportunity to shape how candidates view their employment opportunities and encourage them to apply.


But before we get into what employers can do during the candidate’s screening process, let’s take a look at the stages candidates need to go through order to get to apply.


4 stages of a candidate to apply (and what you need to convert them to the next stage)

While a candidate will come across & interact your employment brand and jobs in a variety of ways, there are 4 main stages that a candidate must go through in order to become an applicant in your ATS.  Across all these 4 stages you need to collect valuable recruiting metrics in order to give you an idea of how effective your efforts as an employer at providing the right information for candidates to correctly “screen” your opportunities.


Here are the 4 stages and the metrics you should be collecting during each stage:

1. View the Job: No matter if they heard about the job via a job board, email campaign from your CRM, on your Career Site, through Recruitment SEO, via your social recruiting profiles or any other channel, the candidate sees the job title and decides to take a look at the job description.  The key here is that your relationship with the candidate could be years in the making or it could be your first interaction.


Getting them to the next stage: This is the most finicky of the stages as you need the job opportunity to reach the candidate at a time when they are willing to look at other opportunities and be a fit for their skills.


In order to ensure, this happens more frequently there are a few things you can do.

Understand your Best Channels: First and foremost, you need to continually evaluate all the channels you are using in your job distribution campaigns.  How well are your current channels at getting candidates into the top of your recruitment funnel?

Building your Talent Network: For every one of your job campaigns you have a great opportunity to build your Talent Network by making it easy for candidates to opt-in to receive recruiting updates.  Having this network of candidates will enable you to share the right job opportunities with the right candidates on a more consistent basis.  And to keep the relationship with a candidate going past just the first interaction.

Targeted Messaging: Most importantly, make sure that your communications to candidates are targeted to the candidates.  There is no better way to get candidates to tone out your communications than sending them irrelevant jobs and content.

Employer Branding: In today’s day and age, it’s important to have as much information out there as possible.  On your Career Site, make sure to have information that candidates want to know like employee interviews, what it’s like to work at your company, benefits you provide, etc.  Also, make sure all this content is easily viewable from all the channels you use.  If a candidate can’t find this information, how useful is it?

2. Click Apply and Enter the Application: This stage is all about your recruitment messaging in your job ad.  A candidate will view your messaging, the job requirements and make answer two quick questions:

  • Am I qualified for this position?
  • Do I want to apply to this position and company?

If they say yes to both these questions, they most likely will click “Apply”.  And this whole process happens in less than a minute.


Getting them to the next stage:  When was the last time you went and read through your job ads?  Hopefully, you do this with each one as you have full control over the messaging and content that the candidate sees.  And this can make a tremendous difference on if a candidate applies.  So how can you make your messaging better?  Here are a few pointers:

  • Use headings & bullets to break up text and make it easy to scan your job description (candidate attention spans can vary but are most of the time short.)
  • Make sure to answer two main questions: “Why should a candidate want to work for your company?” & “How would this position help their career?”
  • Keep it short.  Ever visit a webpage with a lot of text and have your eyes glaze over.  Candidates go through this every day with job ads.

But don’t just take my advice.  Measure how effective your job ad messaging is and when you make changes to it, measure it some more!  Your messaging will never be perfect but small changes to it can have an significant impact on the number of quality applicants you receive.


3. Become a part of your Talent Network:  If you are like some organizations, you probably provide the option to add themselves to your Talent Network during the apply process (If not, you should!).  It’s after a candidate decides to apply that they can provide simple contact information to receive future recruitment updates.


Getting them to the next stage:  Very simply this usually happens on it’s own.  Nearly 70% of candidates that reach this step will include their contact information and opt-in.  It’s a simple win for your recruiting organization to get more contacts into your CRM / Talent Network.  It has no real impact on whether candidates ultimately apply (except that you collect information on candidates that don’t finish the process so you can follow up with them.)


4. Finish Application: A candidate that clicks apply will be taken into the application.  Whether they finish the application depends on a variety of factors including length, difficulty, them being prepared (i.e. finished resume / cover letter), etc.  If you are seeing a lot of candidates dropping off during the application (through metrics), you need to try and figure out why they are dropping off.


Getting them to become applicants: First and most importantly, you need to make sure your process makes sense and doesn’t take ages to complete.  If you can make your process less than 10 minutes long (hopefully shorter) and prepare the candidates for this commitment at the beginning of the process, you should see more conversions.  Second, it’s also important to go through your process at least once per quarter to make sure everything is working properly and you don’t have too many redundant processes.


The Big Finish: Utilizing Metrics

By capturing metrics throughout your entire recruitment marketing funnel, you can provide your organization with profound insight on where you improve your recruiting strategy.  Your recruitment marketing metrics (views, apply clicks, contacts, applicants) provide you with an aggregate view of how well your messaging & process is at converting candidates along each stage of a candidate’s “screening” process.  With ATS applicant data, you are able to assess your ability to find and screen hires, while understanding what channels are the best at bringing in qualified candidates into your ATS.


The key is to capture and report on these metrics in one centralized location so that you can have one report that shows you this integrated pipeline.

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