Most job applicants first interactions with a company occur via their contact with the talent acquisition team. This experience can make a significant difference to whether the applicant has a positive or negative view of the company. The truth is that most Talent Acquisition professionals are glorified administrators merely managing a process. But the Talent Acquisition teams that make a difference are experts at assessing applicants and advising managers on their suitability. This mean that the Talent Acquisition screening interview should be more than just a 15-minute check the box exercise, and instead should take up to an hour depending on the seniority of the applicant and nicheness of the role. Businesses that get this right not only boost their employer brand and candidate experience, but also significantly improve the quality of hire.

Cover the basics

The first part of any talent acquisition interview should be to pre-qualify the applicant against the basics. This means being transparent about things such as the budget. One of the most idiotic things that I see companies do, is not disclose how much a position can pay, until they make an offer. I have seen global firms with 500,000 take this view, and they have huge numbers of rejected offers simply because they did not align basic requirements at the very beginning of the interview. The first 10 minute of the talent acquisition interview is critical to not wasting 3-4 weeks of everyone’s time on an interview process that is going to results in a rejected offer.

Speak with the applicant candidly on their current salary, expectations and what the budget for the role is. Discuss the working hours and location, employee benefits, management style and any other items that are fundamental to accepting an offer. A lot of firms avoid doing this because they worry it may put off a potential applicant. But this is illogical, because if an applicant won’t want to join after hearing it, then they are likely to turn down an offer or quit soon after they start anyway. Its better to save time in the opening 10 minutes and filter out those who are not able to fit in to the expectations of the role requirements.

Assess Fit & Sell the role

Once the talent acquisition team have covered the basics of the role and the applicants is aligned to those expectations, the next part of the talent acquisition interview should be on the team assessing overall fit for the role. Most hiring managers would rather interview 3 candidates who are qualified for the role and make a quick decision, rather than needing to go through dozens of CVs and interview numerous candidates. If your Talent Acquisition team is not making their lives easier, then what is the point of the talent acquisition team? If all they are doing is forwarding on CVs and arranging interview, you can make them redundant and automate those activities with great cost savings. The value in having a talent acquisition team is for them to enhance the quality of hire and free up managers to manage.

The talent acquisition team should have sat down with the hiring manager before they began to recruit the vacancy to understand absolutely everything about the role. There may be some niche technical skills they are unable to assess, for example, they may not be able to tell if a software developer can code to a certain level. But they can establish whether the applicant has worked with the specific software before, delivered similar types of products and projects, with similar budgets and timelines. There is also a variety of online tests that they could acquire, that could test the coding ability if they have the budget to do so. In addition, this also provides the talent acquisition team with an opportunity to sell the benefits of working for the company. They can explain the company culture, values, career paths and so on, to ensure that the candidates are excited and eager to pursue the opportunity with the company further and position the firm as an employer of choice.

Advise managers

Once this is done, the Talent Acquisition team should then be able to fully advise managers on which candidates they should interview and why, along with areas to probe further. They should be able to explain that there were, for example, 10 applicants who on paper looked like they were suitable, after screening 4 didn’t have a critical requirement, the other 6 did, but of those, 3 in particular were clearly superior to the others for reasons they would then explain. The team would then further outline any areas of concern, or simply areas they were unable to assess because of required technical knowledge. This provides the manager with a clear understanding of who each candidate is, their motivations, reasons for moving, understanding of their level of capability and areas to probe. This means that instead of the manager focusing on having to work out all of these things themselves, they can go right in to working out whether or not they fit in to the team and have the required skills, meaning they can make an informed decision and hire someone of good quality sooner.

Automate high volume hiring

Finally, technology has existed for the last decade to also help automate these talent acquisition interviews. I don’t recommend automation for senior or technical roles where human interaction is better. But it is great for high volume hiring. For example, a previous firm I worked with would have 10,000 applications for 200 graduate trainee roles every year. It was incredibly time consuming to run all the required interviews. So, by automating the initial screening, you can in theory run 1000 interviews at the same time. There are some great tools out there that now even use AI to assess the answers. Assuming you don’t have the budget for a high-end solution, even the most basic tool will save your team time. Then your team just need to review the videos of the automated interviews. This means, where a normal in person interview would take 30-60 minutes, the team will be able to review 10-15 video interviews in the same timeframe. For example, if question 1 is “tell me what you know about our company?” and the answer is “I don’t know”, guess what? You can hit reject and move on, rather than needing to go through the rest of the interview! The bonus is that these tools can often be acquired for less than the cost of a junior member of staff.

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