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Disagreeing with Colin: Screening Questions Done Right

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Aug 9, 2006 11:13:00 AM

Do not adjust your vertical, do not adjust your horizontal... It's still me, presenting this week's Blogswap posting from Frank Mulligan of Recruit China. Frank picks on some of my earlier criticisms of screening questions and makes some great points about how they can be used well... which is why we added them to our feature list a few months back. We continue to advise our customers to use them thoughtfully, and Frank's post has some excellent suggestions on how to do so.

Disagreeing with Colin
Taking part in the Blogswap has proved to be a job of work for many of us because we have to post on sites that are focused areas other than our own. But the differences have often proved to be the agent of the muse. The results can be better when you have to work at the writing. 

And so to Colin Kingsbury's blog. For me it's like looking in a mirror. Where are the differences between us? Few. What can I tap into I ask myself? Not much. What is obviously different is that we are on opposites ends of the world but the nature of the things we do turn out to be much the same. The components of the recruiting process in China is much the same as in the US. 

On his blog I find that Colin offers a leading-edge Applicant Tracking System that does away with many of the problems that are inherent in manual systems. We are in agreement 'cause I got one o' those. Colin's blog is on recruitment and technology. My blog is on the nexus (nice word, eh?) of recruitment and technology. Colin spins off into interesting areas that catch his attention and I do the same but probably more often and to less effect. We even read the same books for God's sake!. 

Agreement is the death of creation so I searched for something that we disagree on. It took a while and even this starts with an agreement.

Colin agrees with me, or is it me with him, that most ATS offerings are over-featured and as a result don't get used as much as they should, if at all in some cases. That's why HRMDirect built their own offering. But one feature that Colin doesn't very much like is screening questions. I love 'em and I will tell you why. 

In my ATS the screening questions are not there to be answered by the candidate during his online application. Instead they are used after his Resume has been evaluated by a real live in-house recruiter. No automated screening for us, thank you very much. 

The recruiter starts with the candidate's Resume and makes a judgement that the candidate is worth further effort, or not. If yes he does a Phone Screen. At the Phone Screen he cleans up the candidate's Resume and asks him the screening questions. These questions have been created by the line manager for that specific position. (With standard positions the questions can be previously agreed upon but for most positions they are part of the job set up.)

Since we began using this method we have found that client sendouts ratios, the number of people the recruiter sends the line manager divided by the number of people he hires, has gone down significantly. If you imagine the line manager asking the recruiter why he presented someone who does not even hold a driver's license, or who does not know how to use APQP, you can see how this might be the case. 

Line managers are notorious for not telling recruiters these things until after the candidate has been presented. They never tell you enough unless you ask them. So the ATS pushes the recruiter to talk to the line manager and demand the screening questions. There is a little script in the job setup to say that the questions are for screening out and screening in etc., but the rest is impromptu. 

The primary benefit is that allowing recruiters have this kind of conversation with line managers greatly improves the knowledge base of recruiters. Fast. They really get to know what the line manager wants, beyond the motherhood statements about '5 years experience, mechanical engineering degree, deep knowledge of product design. If anything, the ATS is set up so that recruiters must have this conversation with line managers.

There. I did it. I disagreed with Colin, sorta. 

I feel better now.