How to stop overlooking great candidates

Last updated:
December 12, 2020
November 15, 2022
min read
Adrie Smith
how to stop overlooking great candidates
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It can be hard to pinpoint the most qualified candidate for a job opening, let alone find great candidates.

While FOMO (fear of missing out) probably plays a role, the problem could lie in your hiring process. Candidates first get their CVs and cover letters scanned based on the number keywords they’ve stuffed in there. And those with minor CV mistakes are quickly weeded out. Then they are interviewed via phone calls or interviewed in person where the process is often unstructured or inconsistent.

Even if you’re finding candidates that can do the job, you could be missing out on the great candidates that have entered your pipeline.

CVs, cover letters, and screening interviews don’t always reflect the ability of the candidates on their day-to-day job truthfully. In any of those, information can be modified by the candidates to give a certain impression that can mislead prospective employers. That’s to be expected. Because we all use the same questions, candidates have heard them a thousand times and will have inevitably rehearsed answers beforehand.

4 ways to find great candidates

If you’re looking to identify the future top performers and perfect culture fits, something needs to change in your recruitment process.

1. Add screening questions to the application

Ask all candidates to answer a set of questions when they apply, besides their CVs. This long, detailed survey acts as a filter upfront to filter out candidates that don’t want to invest the time. Besides, these questions are designed in a way to reveal what the candidates are really looking for.

Don’t ask “how many years of experience do you have?” Ask situational and open questions to see a candidate’s way of thinking and how they get around a problem. Great candidates will elaborate on the reasoning behind their answers, others will google and copy-paste from Wikipedia.

Better yet, allow candidates to leave video answers to certain questions to get a good feel of their soft skills and communication style.

2. Invite candidates to a trial day

Trial days, or job trials, can be a handy tool when you’re looking to identify the great applicants in your midst. Take a small chunk out of the job the candidates apply for, and ask them to do it within a time period. Keep track of their work and results with your talent acquisition platform in the evaluations section. This way you can refer back to their performance in a final interview or when making a final candidate selection.

Some companies offer to compensate for trial days. This may help facilitate trial days for niche or in-demand skill sets. Additionally, it can help promote a message that your company values its candidates’ time.

Trial days may sound simple, but they require a lot of planning. Make sure to get your team on board to give the best experience and help them get to know your candidates (and perhaps their future colleague!). A trial day plan can be reused for future applicants and be super effective in identifying candidates who are a good fit for your team or who have the potential to be top performers.

Conducting trial days have helped many companies weed out less capable candidates. It can be tough to truly test a candidate’s skills from just their CVs. Use trial days to test hard technical skills and communication skills. This will give you a better idea of whether or not they’ll be a good fit for the job!

3. Prepare unexpected questions that reflect your company culture

Anyone can practice the question like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. Give candidates a question that surprises them and tells you a little more about them.

One of our personal favorites is the following: “What would be another position that you would take over this one if offered?” It’s unexpected and prompts the candidate to be brutally honest, but hopefully respectful at the same time. It can also gauge their level of interest in the position.

There are a few great questions that will reveal a good culture fit for your company. Make sure you keep track of which ones you use and continue to use them consistently to ensure every candidate has a shot at proving themselves!

4. Involve your whole team in the hiring process

Get everyone, especially the ones that the future hire will be interacting with, involved in different hiring stages. See how candidates interact with them and take note. Have each team member weigh in and evaluate the candidates using interview scorecards. Unconscious bias can be leveled with more people involved in candidate evaluations.

Great candidates are worth the wait

Finding good candidates often easy. These are the candidates with the right skills to get the job. But finding great candidates is where the challenge really begins. These are the candidates that can do the job, but also will add both to your company culture and drive success. If you’re just looking for good candidates, you may be overlooking the great ones.

However, like all good things, identifying candidates that are going to be top performers takes time and investment. But they’re worth the wait and the effort.

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