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Candidate Pre-Screening: Save Time and Improve Efficiency with AI

In this article

Andreea Macoveiciuc
Growth Marketing, Carv
Growth Marketing Manager at Carv

As many as 250 job seekers will apply to every new corporate job posting, but only around 30% of those will be qualified for the role.

This means recruiters need to spend time sifting through an average of 175 of unqualified candidates every time a new vacancy goes live. That’s a lot of unusable CVs!

This is why an accurate and efficient pre-screening process is so crucial in recruitment: You need to prioritise efficiency so you save as much admin work as you can, but also prioritise accuracy so you don’t accidentally miss out on great job candidates in the process.

In the last few years, developments in technology have meant that AI can be used to transform the pre-screening process for recruiters, making it both faster and more accurate. In this article, we’re going to explore what pre-screening candidates looks like in 2024, and how AI is enhancing the pre-screening process.

8 common types of employee pre-screening

The best type of pre-screening method to use will always depend on two things: the type of role you’re recruiting for and how many applications you’re expecting. For a lot of hiring processes, pre-screening will involve more than just one method.

Here are a few of the most commonly used pre-screening methods and how to use them effectively.

1. Resume/application review

Studies have shown that recruiters will spend around 6 seconds initially scanning a candidate’s resume. When doing this process manually, this involves identifying two or three key must-have traits and limiting your resume scan initially on those. That way, you’re not spending time getting bogged down on too many of the details.

In the end, your must-haves are your deal breakers, so focusing on these for the initial pre-screen means you can dive deeper into nice-to-haves at a later stage when you have fewer resumes to review.

A lot of hiring companies and recruitment agencies will use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to automatically do the keyword scanning nowadays too. If a candidate applies for a role, their CV will be automatically parsed into your ATS and flagged to the hiring team for review if it contains the right keywords, removing that initial top-level review stage completely.

2. Pre-screening calls and emails

Some recruiters will add an initial email or brief phone interview to the selection process. This gives you the opportunity to ask applicants some initial pre-screening questions but also look for any top-level red flags that indicate they won’t be the right candidate for the role.

For example, was it a particularly arduous process trying to reach them? Do their availability preferences not match the requirements of the role? Are they perhaps over-qualified, meaning they look perfect on paper but the role won’t suit their current career goals?

Pre-screening calls also give you a real-life opportunity to assess a candidate’s communication skills before inviting them for an in-person interview.

It’s important to make sure that if you are adding an initial call to your pre-screening process, all candidates are asked the same interview questions to ensure it’s a fair stage of the hiring process.

Note: To speed up this process, you can delegate the pre-screening calls to an AI assistant tailored with your company's or client's details. This AI assistant can then have a real-time, human-like conversation with a candidate. If you'd like to see this in practice, book a demo here.

3. Online assessments

For larger employers where you’re hiring for multiple roles at once - or expecting a particularly high number of applications for an open position - you’ll probably want to use an online skills test as part of the volume hiring process.

Pre-employment assessment technology can assess candidates for specific soft skills or knowledge that’s not always easy to demonstrate in a resume. For example, you might be looking for candidates who are very detail-orientated or patient communicators - which are both soft skills that you can easily assess for using an online skills test rather than relying on work history or taking the candidate’s word for it.

4. Reference and background checks

For some positions, background checks and references from previous employers will be non-negotiable. For example, if the role involves working with children or vulnerable people, a background check will be a legal requirement.

For roles like these, initial background and reference checks are an essential part of the pre-screening process. You can take your best candidate all the way to final interview, but if they haven’t passed their background checks, you’ve essentially cost yourself hours of wasted time.

6. Pre-employment questionnaires

Some companies will include standardised questionnaires to gather additional information about a candidate's work experience, salary expectations, and availability as part of the application.

This functions as a pre-screening tool, as it weeds out the candidates that might tick all the right boxes but still aren’t going to be the right candidate for the role as you can’t afford them, or they’re only available for part-time hours and you need someone full time.  

7. Video interviews

Adding an asynchronous (one-way) or a brief initial two-way video interview to your application process can be a good pre-screening tool to add to your recruitment process. Video interviews are great for evaluating candidates’ communication skills and rapport before inviting them in to meet with the hiring manager.

8. Social media screening

Some recruiters may review a candidate's public social media profiles to gain insights into their work ethic, professionalism, and potential cultural fit. However, there are legal and ethical considerations regarding social media screening, so it's important to have clear policies in place regarding this.

Core aspects of pre-screening for recruiters

While an in-person interview will involve getting deep into the detail of who a candidate is and how they’re likely to perform in their role, pre-screening is more about assessing candidates on 3 core aspects: essential qualifications, cultural fit, and motivation.

  • Identifying essential qualifications - By evaluating candidates on the non-negotiables, you’re able to easily assess them at a top level to identify whether they have the basic requirements to fulfil the role. Creating a talent pool in your ATS with essential keywords associated will mean you’re only notified about the most qualified candidates who apply. There are also some AI-powered resume screening tools that do the same job.
  • Uncovering cultural fit - A candidate might be highly qualified, but if they don’t fit the company culture, they’re not likely to last long in the role, and this will cost the company a lot more in the long run. Adding culture-specific behavioral questions into your pre-screening process will help you gauge cultural fit early on so you’re not disappointed later down the line when you realise they’re not a good fit.
  • Assessing candidate motivation and enthusiasm - A candidate might tick all the right boxes on paper, but how much do they actually want the job? Does the role fit with their career goals? And are they genuinely interested in the company? Some AI tools (including Carv) can even analyze communication style during pre-employment screening to identify enthusiasm (or lack thereof).

Preparing for phone screening

Phone screening is one of the most common pre-screening techniques, but a lot of recruiters don’t do the right preparation in advance. Preparation is key to making the most of the conversation, but also to ensure every job candidate is assessed the same way to avoid unintentional bias.

Preparing a solid phone screening process will also mean you can get through as many calls as possible in the time you have. Here’s the phone screening process any efficient recruiter will follow:

  • Step 1: Review candidate materials - Review any candidate information you have (CV, cover letter, social media profile, any previous call or interview notes) against the job description to ensure they’re definitely a right fit on paper before you call them.
  • Step 2: Prepare your questions - Have some pre-determined behavioural interview questions and general pre-screening questions that are important to the role. For example, specific questions about their skills and experience, work experience, motivation, and cultural fit. Again, make sure you’re asking each candidate the same set of questions to keep the screening process fair.
  • Step 3: Schedule logistics - Confirm the call and tool you’ll be using (e.g. is it a short phone interview or will you use a video interview platform?). Prepare your note-taking tool in advance so the call is transcribed automatically. If using Carv, you simply invite the AI into the meeting as a guest, and it will automatically track the conversation and even provide an evaluation of how the candidate answered your questions.
  • Step 4: Prepare your intro - Create a basic intro script that gives candidates an idea of who you are at the start of the call and a quick recap of the position you’re recruiting for. This should include important information like key responsibilities, expectations, team structure, and what the hiring manager is looking for.
  • Step 5: Prepare next steps - Before you start making pre-screening phone calls, you should already have positive and rejection emails drafted so they’re ready to send out shortly after the call. You should also have the timeline of next steps outlined so you can tell the candidate when they should expect to hear from you next.

With these steps in place before you start making your candidate calls, you’ll breeze through them quickly and give every candidate a fair chance.

How AI can support your pre-screening process

As a recruiter, your judgment and experience in candidate evaluation make you irreplaceable in the pre-screening process. But pre-screening candidates involves a lot of work, so any tool that can lighten the workload will help you be better at doing your job.

There are some excellent AI tools on the market nowadays that can support you in a few different areas of the pre-screening process so you can focus on exercising your expertise rather than battling admin work.

Writing job requirements

AI tools like Carv can assist you in writing job requirements by joining your intake calls with hiring managers and extracting the key points from these conversations. This saves you time and ensures you're not missing any detail when creating the job description and your hiring criteria.

AI-powered resume screening

There are AI-powered resume screening tools already on the market that can automate keyword searches and handle basic qualification checks. That way, you don’t need to rely on manual resume screening, which can easily result in human error where great candidates fall through the cracks.

Summarizing pre-screening calls

AI tools like Carv can save recruiters a lot of time and effort by extracting insights from pre-screening calls and creating candidate debriefs based on the transcript. This also means you can focus on the candidate conversation and don’t have to worry about missing any important details - the tool will have it covered.

Preparing pre-screening interview questions

Tools like Carv can also help you come up with the right knock-out questions to use in your pre-screening process. Using documentation, like the job description and ideal candidate profile, AI can generate a set of questions that will determine whether a candidate should be progressed to the next stage of the interview process.

Social media scanning

There are AI tools emerging nowadays that can help recruiters scan social media profiles of job applicants on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to get a better understanding of their personalities, values and whether they’d be a good cultural fit. They can also be used to scan for any red flags like offensive or derogatory language.

Virtual video interviews with AI avatars

Some AI recruitment tools allow you to delegate the entire pre-screening interview process to a virtual AI avatar that’s trained on your company TOV and documentation. That way, the candidate feels like they’re being interviewed but no recruiter time is required.

Screening via instant messaging

Some tools now allow you to automate initial screening questions to be handled by a recruitment AI bot. Questions will come through to the candidate on instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage or via a chatbot embedded on the company website.

AI-assisted interview scheduling

AI chatbots can efficiently schedule pre-screening interviews based on candidate availability. The bot scans everyone’s work calendars to propose a time slot that suits both the candidate and any recruiters who need to take part.

The future of pre-screening is AI

With all this considered, one thing is clear — the future of pre-screening candidates lies with AI.

Pre-screening can be an arduous and time-consuming process that if not handled accurately, can easily lead to you missing out on the best candidates for your roles. This makes pre-screening the ideal stage of the interview process to automate, which is why the recruitment tech world is focussing heavily in this area.

It’s important to remember that it’s not about giving bots full reign in deciding which candidates should be interviewed and which shouldn’t. These AI tools are designed to complement a recruiter's intuition so they can make faster, more informed pre-screening decisions, not replace the decision-making process entirely.

Learn more about how technology is supporting AI-powered candidate screening methods, or book a demo below to see AI pre-screening methods in action.

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