Meaningful Pre-Screening ~ More Crucial Today Than Ever

Layoffs today are cutting into the "wood" of the real talent pool at many companies, making top line people available for the first time in years. Some are now likely applying to your openings. As you deal with an increasing flow of applicants, there's a lot on the line in terms of your employer branding. Prospective employees, especially those of the caliber you now or will want to hire, will be doubly impressed if they're well treated in this economic climate when they apply for a job.

One of the ways you can treat them well is by providing a timely response to their candidacy, one that goes beyond "We received your resume and will get back to you if interested. Oh, and please don't call us about the opening."

What does this have to do with me? Since April of 2004 I've created some 650 pre-screening questionnaires that candidates filled out online as part of the application process. Each questionnaire was based on job-specific information that I gathered from an interview with the direct hiring manager. The questions were meaningful; that is, they went beyond what is typical today of pre-screening questions, where candidates basically self-evaluate themselves.

For example: "Indicate your level of expertise in using AJAX." Enter 0 if no experience, 1 if basic, 2 if moderate, 3 if solid or 4 if expert."

Wouldn't a question that tapped into the domain expertise of the hiring manager be better?

Regarding my development experience using AJAX:
- I'd be new to using AJAX for web applications
- I've built a site where I dynamically manipulated the DOM using JavaScript
- I've written JavaScript that makes remote XML over HTTP calls back to a server to display interactive data
- Above, plus I understand how to build AJAX applications such that they work with multiple browser versions
- Immediately above, plus the work was done for an eCommerce online retailer

I'd welcome the opportunity to talk with internal HR recruiters about projects in which I'd interview their hiring managers and create questions for their applicant tracking systems. For those who are doing this now, let's trade some information on the questions you're now using. Maybe I can learn from you, but I'd wager that my rather unique experience of having done this hundreds of times on a daily basis for the past four years, will allow me to add further value. Moreover, good questions can be used time and time again if the same qualifying criteria remain relevant. By filtering out certain no's from maybe's and yes's, you'll be able to act more quickly and apprise applicants of where they stand. Candidates seek closure, and the simple fact that you've communicated with them in a definitive manner will boost their perception of your employer value proposition. You've given them the courtesy of a timely response.

I'd welcome the opportunity to see if I can contribute. Email me at if you wish to discuss this further and receive some more information.

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