• James Walton

Screening Applicants 101

Here's two steps to arrive at the one candidate your organization needs when trying to fill an open role.

Step 1: Do the work to get clarity on exactly what it is you're looking for.

If you don't know where you want to end up, any path will do. It's worth the extra time to determine ahead of time answers to questions like:

  • What are skills are essential to add value immediately?

  • What skills can be trained and developed?

  • What type of candidate would fit best in this culture? (think of culture on both the broader company level and the more specific departmental or team level)

  • What certifications / experience / credentials / educational background is required?

The more clearly you can define your target, the more likely you'll recognize the candidate who hits closest to the center.

Step 2: Compare applicants to the standard, not to each other.

Your goal as an interviewer isn't to interview a lot of people, or to compare one applicant to another. It's to arrive at the candidate who best fits the requirements of the role. Whether that takes interviewing 1 candidate or 25 is irrelevant to the end goal of finding the right person.

On a tactical level, when faced with a batch of resumes, keep your initial sort simple and quick.

  • Pile 1: "Yes" candidates. Call these people first for an initial screening.

  • Pile 2: "Maybe" candidates. Call these people only if no one from the initial screening moves forward to an interview process.

  • Pile 3: "No" candidates. Remember that though they may not be a best fit for this role doesn't mean they couldn't be useful elsewhere.

What's been your experience with screening candidates? What tips have you learned?

h/t to Donald Herrmann for the kernel of these ideas


At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. If you feel overwhelmed and need a proven system to focus on the next best thing, we can help. Companies who work with us see revenues go up, anxiety go down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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