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How to Turn Job Listings into an Early Screening Tool


Whether you’re hiring for assistants or lead engineers, posting a job listing often brings an onslaught of interested applicants hoping that they are the right candidate for your open position. Of course, not every candidate will be perfect and, in fact, many of them will be completely unsuited in either competency, capability, or personal work attitude but these disqualifiers are hard to see looking at resumes alone. Often two candidates with nearly identical apparent work histories will be wildly different when it comes to actually fitting in well with your existing team and what you would like to see in a new employee.

Normally you would have to go through several rounds of interviews before these important differences become apparent, but this is not always the case. The way you write your job listing can be used as an incredibly helpful early screening tool, proving everything from reading comprehension to actual work skills simply by the way your applicants respond.

Tone and Company Culture

All too often, job listings are written by recruiters and hiring managers in a stilted, formulaic way that gives little to no clues as to what it’s actually like to work in the company itself. When writing a job description, keep the company culture in mind, not just the technical tasks required for the position. Are you light-hearted and flexible or down-to-earth and results-oriented? Are employees expected to join after work gatherings or is the culture more aligned toward getting parents home to their kids after a shift ends? If you really want to clue-in your candidates on whether or not they will fit in among their potential new co-workers, try including a little but of the company sense of humor. Whether you tend toward dry wit, painful puns, or silly doodles on shared whiteboards, sharing the company culture will help candidates self-sort based on their own suitability.

Reading Comprehension

If attention to detail is a vital part of the open position, why not ensure that every candidate you screen has the right kind of precise attitude and responsiveness from day one? By accepting cover letters, you can use your listing to check and see if candidates read your description all the way through or simply skimmed for ‘the good bits’ like benefits and required capabilities. Ask a question in the middle or at the end of the job description that should be answered in the cover letter or ask them to include a specific phrase like “mischievous raccoon”. Candidates who don’t catch this request probably won’t read your memos and instructions carefully while in the job either and can be set aside, making your screening process that much easier.

Early Skill Assessment

Now that you’ve captured the interest of your alert and detail-oriented candidates, engage them further with a test of skill that can be included in their cover letter. While you can’t run them through complex procedures or equations at this early stage, you can ask them to answer an in-depth industry question that will reveal their true knowledge of the position they’re applying for. This can take the form of a math problem, a ‘how would you solve…’ procedural question or even just an inquiry into their favorite process within the set of tasks you’ll expect them to perform. The detail and level of interest they show in their answers will give you a much clearer idea of who knows their stuff, loves their work, and is ready to dive right into your job tasks if hired.

When seeking a new employee, your job descriptions don’t have to be dry lists of required skills and offered benefits. Include a little personality and ask for engagement in return. Applicants who passionately want the job and care about the work you’d like them to do will shine through the masses of others who are applying for everything they find within a specific field or level of experience. With a little thoughtful and creative writing, you can turn your job listing into an incredibly useful early screening tool, ensuring that you only spend time interviewing the most interested and capable applicants. For more tips on hiring best practices, contact us today!