Candidate selection is a cornerstone of finding the best talent for your organization, but it can be a lengthy and costly process.
An efficient applicant selection process will help you keep your hiring costs low and predictable. And it will make things easier for everyone involved: management, HR , and candidates. It will also project the right company image to your applicants, employees, and even customers.
In this article, we’ll explain the importance of the candidate selection process and provide actionable tips on how to improve it.
What is the candidate selection process—and why is it so important?
Candidate selection is the process of finding the right person to fill a given position at your company. It covers all steps from initial resume screening to making a final hiring decision and preparing a job offer. It can include skill assessments, an interview, and a background check.
It’s the most important factor in attracting the best talent, i.e. people who are both highly skilled and share the core values of your organization.
The candidate selection process needs to be perfectly aligned with the strategic goals of your company. Failing to align the process with your organization’s objectives will result in more unsuccessful hires—and those mistakes are costly. This is why the employee selection process is crucial for your company’s success: in fact, creating a strong recruitment strategy is essential for the growth of any organization, according to Zuraida Curtis, employment law editor at XpertHR.
What elements make up the candidate selection process?
The candidate selection is a multi-step process that includes:
- Posting a job offer & collecting applications: it may seem like you're not doing much at this stage of the game, but this is actually a crucial element in hiring the right talent.
- Reviewing resumes: you screen CVs (unless you have TestGorilla!) and select candidates that you’ll be contacting.
- Performing skill assessments: this step helps you avoid skills mismatch and keep unconscious bias in check. Additionally, you save time by screening out candidates who don’t have the necessary core skills.
- Screening calls: these help you better evaluate the skills and qualities of potential hires. They give you the opportunity to ask specific questions and start discussing employment conditions and benefits.
- Interviews: interviews can be done in-person or remotely. Interviewing candidates is the most intense and expensive part of the selection process. Conducting video interviews helps keep costs down and improve efficiency.
- Background & reference checks: these help you confirm the candidate’s employment history.
- Making a final hiring decision: selecting the right applicant is the final step.
What are some common mistakes during the candidate selection process and their consequences?
Mistakes during the candidate selection process fall in three main categories:
- Lack of efficiency, meaning that both sides (the company and the candidate) are wasting resources. If your time to hire is too long, that makes it less likely for your company to be able to hire the best candidate. If you’re too slow, you risk losing strong candidates to another company and wasting time, effort, and money.
- Failure to properly assess candidates’ skills can result in a bad hire—and those can be extremely costly. This can be the result of not using the right tools to evaluate skills, not having enough data, or not analyzing the data properly. With well-formulated skills assessments, you can avoid all of those errors. For example, you can create tests that are relevant for the role you’re looking to fill—or use existing ones— and send them to applicants so you can analyze their preparedness for the position.
- Disregarding candidate experience may lead to a negative perception of your company among prospective hires. This has a negative impact on your ability to attract talent, according to a study by Simon Knox and Cheryl Freeman for the Cranfield School of Management. Further, Liz Ryan, former contributor at Forbes and founder and CEO of Human Workplace, says that a broken hiring process can be disastrous for your brand image. Customers and potential employees often come from the same community—so treating your candidates poorly can easily result in a bad brand image, which, in turn, can hurt your sales.
How can HR managers improve their candidate selection process?
Create an efficient application process
First impressions are important—and in many cases the application process will be the first time a candidate is exposed to your company.
You need to know exactly what you want—and be clear about it in your job posting. Define the elements that are crucial for success for the role, and outline them clearly.
If you’re asking applicants to fill in a form, qualifying questions should be in the beginning, not at the end. Having a candidate complete a lengthy form only to see at the end that they do not qualify won’t leave them with a good impression.
Ideally, you should avoid having a lengthy and overly complicated application process in the first place because 73% of candidates abandon applications if they take longer than 15 minutes to complete.
Make the most out of screening calls
Screening calls are a great opportunity to get to know your candidates better and evaluate their motivation. You can check their actual availability too. For example, if you’re looking for someone to start in two weeks but the candidate isn’t available until two months from now, that could be a problem!
This is also a good moment to start discussing employment conditions—salary, bonuses, perks, working hours, etc. Gauging someone’s expectations and discussing with them what the company has to offer will help you see who could be a good fit.
Prepare thoroughly for each call and make sure you read the resumes of the candidates you’ll be calling. It’s a good idea to have your requirements written down before you call, together with potential questions—or even a template for taking notes. Having a clear structure will help you be consistent and give you the ability to compare candidates afterward.
Use skills assessments to narrow down the list of candidates
Skills assessments allow you to screen candidates based on specific skills, both soft and technical. For example, TestGorilla’s Test Library offers an assessment for each skill you need your candidate to have. This way, you can be sure that you’re interviewing the best candidates.
Additionally, skills assessments help you to be empirical and objective during your selection process. Tests “prevent interviewers from accepting or rejecting candidates on the basis of conscious or unconscious biases”, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic from Harvard Business Review.
And you can measure soft skills, cognitive capacities, or personality characteristics. Tests such as the Big 5 (OCEAN) or TestGorilla's test on critical thinking give you important insights into a candidate’s emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and cognitive capacities.
Optimize your interview process
Interviews are the most resource-intensive part of the candidate selection process. Be selective and conduct only a few. You can cut down on costs & time by doing video interviews—and during the current pandemic, they’re becoming the norm.
Optimize the interviewing process and make it more objective by doing structured or semi-structured interviews. To do that, prepare a list of questions, and stick to it in all interviews.
Of course, you can allow for some freedom to delve into specific topics, based on the applicant’s experience and answers. After all, each candidate will require a slightly different approach. However, keep in mind that small talk or the lack of structure can easily lead to biased decisions.
Provide all essential information to give candidates a chance to prepare and be transparent with them about what to expect. Important details include:
- The scope and duration of the interview
- The names and positions of the people who will be present
- The time and date—be mindful of time zones and offer a few alternatives to avoid endless back and forth emails
- The address (if the interview will be in person) or the right link if it’s a video interview
- What candidates need to bring
Make sure that all candidates have a positive experience—even those you won’t be hiring.
Communication is key: keep candidates updated and be transparent
Maintaining a high standard for your communication with candidates will project the right image of your company. It’ll also show that you value their time and effort.
Explain the stages of the selection process to the applicants and let them know what they should expect from each one. Then keep them updated on the status of their application.
Your company's image is essential to the success of the business. Even small mishaps could have lasting consequences. Especially in certain industries like retail, where every candidate you’re interviewing today could be a customer tomorrow. Every aspect of your communication with a candidate needs to be in line with the brand image you’re striving to project.
People do extensive research before committing to anything, especially to an employer.
According to a 2017 study by Glassdoor and Aptitude Research Partners, 83% of candidates thoroughly research companies’ ratings and reviews before deciding where to apply. A happy applicant will probably not take the time to write about their experience online, but an unhappy one is much more likely to spread the word. Potential future candidates and customers will take notice of that.
It can take a lot of effort to undo the damage of a single bad review—or approximately 40 good customer experiences. You cannot directly control reviews and comments, so make sure everyone who’s in touch with your company is having a positive experience.
Automate and simplify tasks
Some steps of the hiring process can be automated or simplified. This reduces costs, improves efficiency, and speeds up the selection process. This, in turn, helps create a positive candidate experience so that you can continue to attract the best talent.
Screening resumes, performing skill assessments, evaluating performance, and ranking candidates can be easily automated. Scheduling interviews, where you send the same email to a few candidates to invite them to an interview, also doesn’t need to be done manually.
That said, be mindful of the impact auto-responses and templates can have on your brand image. They have their place, but applicants need to be able to reach someone in person when necessary, especially further down the selection process.
Analyze what works well and what doesn’t
If some things during the selection process didn’t go very well, analyze the reasons why and plan accordingly for the next hiring round.
Track cost per hire and time to hire to make sure that your candidate selection process is efficient. With time, you’ll be able to compare results for the different hires. Recruitment is costly, and in times when budgets are tight it can drain resources. The average cost per hire in the US is at $4,000 according to Bersin by Deloitte.
That's why being able to measure success is such an important part of the candidate selection optimization process. Keeping track of successful hires is something that only 1/3 of US companies are doing at the moment, so you'll be ahead of most of your competition!
Optimizing your candidate selection process will result in more successful hires
Finding the best talent is far from easy, but with a streamlined candidate selection process, you'll reduce the risk of having a bad hire, lower your costs, and reduce your time to hire. This will allow you make a better use of your resources, and project a better brand image to prospective hires, which is crucial for attracting the right candidates in the future.