Hiring Managers: Stop Screening Out and Start Screening In


Did you know that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.6 million more job openings than there were unemployed workers in December 2021? The job market has changed significantly over the past few years, and hiring practices are changing with it. In the past, hiring managers could be very particular with their requirements for candidates, and due to different market and unemployment conditions, could usually find that candidate with ease. Today, factors like a growing remote workforce, competitive salaries and shifting overall priorities of job seekers mean it’s time for hiring managers to rethink their approach to finding the ideal candidate. To do this, they need to stop “screening out” and start “screening in”. 

Screening out refers to being very stringent, possibly overly so, in your hiring requirements. If you’re finding every reason not to hire someone, you’re screening out. Screening in means looking critically at an applicant’s skills and experience and hiring them for the value and potential they add, not what they lack. This practice involves evaluating a candidate with a holistic approach, prioritizing how well they fit into the team and company culture and focusing on existing skills and learning potential rather than skills they have yet to develop.  

This doesn’t apply to every role; some roles have very specific requirements for a reason, like legally needing the candidate to hold certain accreditations or certifications. However, in today’s evolving working world, making screening in a more common practice will benefit both the company and the candidate. 

How “screening in “can help you find your dream candidate 

Screening in candidates creates a larger applicant pool to work with. By expanding the hiring criteria and focusing on the candidate overall rather than a select set of skills, you are more likely to find the right team and culture fit. It also promotes hiring efficiency - being less selective can lead to a shorter time-to-fill timeline. 

Hiring will continue to move beyond looking only at degrees, diplomas and past experience.

- LinkedIn Talent Blog's Top 5 Talent Predictions for 2022

Here are four ways to practice screening in to find your dream candidate. 

4 ways to screen in candidates 

1. Reevaluate your “nice-to-haves” versus “must-haves” 

Take a look at your hiring requirements and reevaluate which ones are a hard must vs. where you have flexibility. You’d be surprised at how relaxing some of your requirements invites strong candidates to apply. For example, if your job listing has an unwavering requirement for 5 skills, you’re already disqualifying quality candidates who have a majority of those skills and could learn the rest. Finding compromise is key when screening in, so make sure you’re crafting job listings with flexibility in mind.  

2. Lean on soft skills 

While the value of hard skills shouldn’t be discounted, soft skills are growing more important and desirable in today’s workplace.

89% of hiring executives say bad hires often lack soft skills.

- LinkedIn

Instead of eliminating a candidate for lacking a specific hard skill, focus on how their soft skills can support development in the desired area. For example, if you want a candidate to be able to use a certain software program that they don’t have experience with, evaluate their soft skills like self-motivation, adaptability and trainability that would help them learn the program quickly. Remember that the overall priority when screening in is looking at the candidate through a different, less restrictive lens to evaluate their overall strengths and team/culture fit, rather than focusing on technical skills that can be learned after onboarding. 

3. Consider learning potential

Instead of disqualifying a candidate for something they lack, consider the opportunity to offer training or continuous education. During the interview, ask the candidate about areas of learning and development that they’re interested in. If their interests align with your needs for the open role, it’s likely that they’ll be a good fit. Thinking not only of what the candidate can offer you, but what you can offer them, will result in finding a strong fit and an overall positive hiring experience.  

For example, say you’re hiring a BI Specialist and you need them to be proficient in Power BI, SQL, and Tableau. You really love a specific candidate, but they only have experience in Power BI and SQL. You hire them anyway and pay for them to complete a Tableau training course. Overall, your organization benefits—you not only hire your preferred candidate, but the cost of upskilling for one proficiency offsets the continued financial and time commitment of leaving the role unfilled to search for someone who already has experience in each area. 

4. Look beyond the superficial 

While professional conduct is important, letting go of unnecessary and superficial biases can help hiring managers avoid rejecting great candidates. For example, don’t get hung up on small details like resume format or whether the candidate has an unconventional hair color – focus on the bigger picture of experience, qualifications, personal conduct and skills. Again, you’re looking for the candidate that will fit best with your team and company culture, so take a balanced approach. 

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