Surviving the pre-screening process
You've sent in your application for the job (i.e. your cover letter and résumé) and are now waiting on that call for an interview.
Getting that call depends on your getting through the pre-screening of applicants done by the company's human resource management department.
Pre-screening is the second stage of the recruitment cycle and is the act of narrowing down the pool of applications to those that best fit the position so that
only excellent prospects are invited to the selection interview.
To do this, the desired qualities for the preferred candidate, often based on the job description and person specification of the position, are used to generate grading criteria to assess applicants, and identify those that fall short of, meet or exceed the criteria.
The sorting process often starts with the assessment of the applicant's cover letter and résumé, where the HR professional looks for evidence of skills, abilities, education and work experiences that closely match the essential criteria for the job. Applicants will then be divided into three distinct groups: definite candidates, possible candidates, and immediate rejections (fall too short of the criteria).
The latter group will usually be sent a pleasant rejection letter, while the other two groups, depending on the volume and the nature of the position, will go through further pre-screening to better refine the list of applicants. This may include a face-to-face preliminary interview, a telephone interview or the administration of a test. Generally, the more senior the position, the greater the screening required.
Preliminary face-to-face and telephone interviews are usually structured and brief (20-30 minutes) utilising fact-finding questions that dig into a candidate's qualifications at a high level. Candidates are usually graded on the quality of their responses and their interest in the position.
Screening tests can be administered at two points in the recruitment process - during the initial application period, for example, the use of a literacy test to immediately eliminate unsuitable candidates among semi-skilled and unskilled applicants at a job fair, or during the preliminary interview process to identify highly desirable candidates and gain more information about them.
For the purpose of screening, a number of tests are available (BOLD):
*Cognitive aptitude/psychometric tests (also known as intelligence tests or mental ability tests) that measure reasoning and numerical ability, memory and vocabulary, and is used to assess the candidate's aptitude or ability to quickly acquire job knowledge and perform job-related tasks;
* Personality and motivation tests that measure an individual's temperament, disposition, pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving, and are often used to assess a candidate's level of drive and motivation;
* Management tests that predict a person's potential for success as a supervisor, middle manager, or senior executive; and
* Job skills or job knowledge tests that measure a candidate's knowledge of the duties of the job for which he/she is applying.
Upon completing of the pre-screening and its analysis, candidates are short-listed into two groups: definite candidates, to be invited for the selection interview, and possible interviewees, whose invitation depend on how many of the definite candidates agree to attend the interview and are found favourable.
The sorting process often starts with the assessment of the applicant's cover letter and résumé, where the HR professional looks for evidence of skills, abilities, education and work experiences that closely match the essential criteria for the job.
*Patricia Grant-Kitson is a human resource management and training consultant.
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