Early in my career I was on the Windows 2000 team at Microsoft, and two of my best mentors were history majors. That’s right, one of the largest software project teams at the time (4,000+ people) had two overacheivers that did not have a Computer Science degree, nor a Computer Engineering degree, nor an MIS degree… but rather a History degree.
The company was brilliant in that regard: there was an extreme focus on candidates who had the ability and motivation to excel at the job, even if “on paper” the candidates’ background had some elements that were non-traditional. Although there are valid reasons to “screen out” candidates based on certain firm requirements, there is also a huge upside to giving candidates a way to tell their story (maybe through a 1-way video interview) to uncover unexpected gems. That’s called “screening in” and we don’t see it happening enough.
Most people are familiar with screening out, but fewer are familiar with screening in. Here are our ideas about how you might benefit from a talent acquisition strategy that involves both techniques.
“Screening Out” Candidates
There is a time and a place for screening out. Hiring an accountant and need evidence that the candidate is a licensed CPA? Hiring a broker and need to see a clean background on BrokerCheck? Hiring a teacher and need to see evidence of their Educator License? You get the idea. You may have real, firm, non-negotiable requirements that you have already decided you would not be willing to deviate from. They are matters of fact, and absolutely suitable for use in part of your recruiting process designed for “screening out” candidates that you know you will not accept. If you are using RIVS digital interviews, consider using prequalifying questions for this kind of “screening out” need.
“Screening In” Candidates
Under-used and often misunderstood, though, is the idea of screening in a candidate. Suppose you are filling a few spots on your sales team, and you traditionally hire candidates that have a degree in sales, communications, business, economics, management, or marketing. You’ve got a broad and most likely a flexible perspective on what degree the candidate has. Sure, if the candidate has a degree in aeronautical engineering and applies for your sales position, you are going to have some questions to discern the reason for a change in career interests. But that’s where the good part comes. You can uncover some terrific candidates that will get screened out at other companies, that you can screen in as you learn the rational (and probably very interesting) story for how their career interests evolved. A great way to screen in candidates is via a 1-way video interview. In such an interview, I like to have at least one broad question along the lines of “what in your background makes you confident that this position and company is the right way for you to advance your career?” A candidate that has an unusual background will almost always take that opportunity to tell their story.
You are probably already screening out candidates — just about every interviewer and company will intuitively be doing that. Perhaps you can be more efficient in doing so (using prequalifying questions in a digital interview). However, we’ll bet that you are under-utilizing the opportunity for “screening in” candidates, and that’s a place where 1-way digital interviews really shine. Let us know if we can be of any help as you head down the path of screening candidates for your open positions!
Oh, and about those two history majors, where this post started out? I’m very glad that a screening out process didn’t stop them in their tracks. They are both thriving in the software industry, and I’m delighted to have had an opportunity to learn from them.