pre-qualify applicants

In this day and age, every minute is valuable, and in the role of a hiring manager there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish everything on our task lists. This is especially true when seeking to fill a new position.

In today’s market, it isn’t uncommon to have hundreds of applicants apply for a single job. It is our estimate that at least 25% of those candidates will be fraudulent, another 25-35% will be underqualified, and the rest of the candidates may technically be qualified but not necessarily meet your specific needs in terms of quality or culture fit. After all, aren’t you looking for top-quality CRAs who meet your position requirements and fit your company culture?  And in this hot (hot hot) CRA market, great quality CRA candidates are snatched up quickly.  

The Challenge

Given that you as the hiring manager will have so many applicants to review, how are you going to find the time to efficiently and effectively review each candidate’s credentials and move to an interview before another company snatches up the top candidates?

To maintain the idea of efficiency while moving quickly, we suggest hiring teams have a pre-qualification process that can be performed ahead of scheduling interviews. The goal is to save time while quickly shortlisting the pool to only contain the top candidates. 

Want to know how?

Here are some suggestions you can use to pre-qualify candidates before scheduling interviews in order to help you find a great fit for your team.

Review the grammar, spelling, and punctuation via the communication method they used when they applied. 

We often receive resumes with misspellings, incorrect sentence context, or poor punctuation. With today’s word processing tools, not only may this be a sign of poor communication skills, this could be a sign of sheer laziness.  Having proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is important in any industry, and if the applicant was not careful to present a well-crafted resume and/or application during this step of the process (when they are supposed to be on their “best behavior”), I believe it is safe to assume the poorly written content will continue after hired.

Pay attention to the resume. 

  • You want to check job tenure to understand if the candidate is a job hopper or otherwise in control of their career.  Why waste valuable time training someone when they won’t be with you for a long period of time, or worse, take your training to a competitor?
  • Also, there are many times when applicants will change or tweak their titles to get the chance for an interview. While we don’t necessarily recommend you ignore the titles, we do recommend to be sure to view the tasks listed under each employment section to determine what they have really done. 
  • Lastly, pay attention to the companies listed and truly assess if the titles provided match the companies’ focus.  For example, we often see individuals use a Clinical Research Associate title at a company that doesn’t do clinical research.  Immediately, we know the individual is (at a minimum) embellishing their credentials, and we are therefore able to move them out of our candidate pool.

Confirm no fraudulence.

Assess the resume to confirm the companies are real and were in operation when the candidate stated he worked with them. Confirm the degree listed is from an actual educational institution instead of from a diploma mill.  For more tips on how to review the resume for fraudulence, check out our articles and checklists on the topic. 

Create a prequalification questionnaire to screen the applicant through email.

The third step is to finish the prequalification process by creating a list of screening questions to email the applicant in order to determine if he meets not only the job requirements but also falls within the logistics of the job opportunity.  This completed questionnaire is gold because not only will the results answer important questions regarding their qualifications, it will also provide a further glimpse into their writing style, how professional they are with their written communications, and their responsiveness.

Questions to consider adding to the questionnaire include certain logistics such as compensation requirements, clarification on experience in the industry as it relates to the number of years experience for important tasks, the reason they are seeking a position along with any restrictions that the applicant may have such as travel or utilization. We eliminate approximately 35% of our candidates through this method! For example: if the position requires significant travel, an appropriate prequalification question would be to ask what travel restrictions or preferences the candidate has. In this example, eliminating individuals at this stage who do not want to travel will enable you to focus on those applicants that do.

Gauge their interest.

Does your candidate seem to genuinely care about the field you’re hiring for? Are they actually interested in your company or just throwing a dart at a board to get hired anywhere that will take them? A great way to assess this is to pay attention to any cover letter or equivalent they have provided with the application. Does it seem like a cookie-cutter piece of writing that they submit to every job they apply for? Or do they mention your mission and goals and how they align with their own? Interviewing and hiring a candidate that isn’t ultimately interested in the opportunity can be a waste of time for both applicant and employer. Instead, seek to nip this issue by paying close attention to how they speak specifically about the position and your company in any written material they’ve provided. 

Use your network.

Do you know anyone that has worked with the candidate in the past? While the candidate’s provided references can be useful in gauging hireability to a certain extent, the candidate has likely only supplied individuals they know hold a high opinion of them.  You may want to consult trusted members of your network before making an offer. Although a candidate’s written qualifications, technical knowledge, and experience can be adequate in gauging their fit for the position, understanding how they operate from an inside source is invaluable. 

Dig deeper.

The candidate likely has some impressive credentials on their resume, which is why you are considering the candidate’s application. That being said, are you aware of what their stated credentials mean, and are you examining their work history? For example, they may be representing several years of experience in clinical research, but you want to be able to identify if they have classical training as a Clinical Research Associate. Did they begin their work as a Senior CRA out of nowhere, or do they show a progression from a more junior level on their resume? It can also be beneficial if the candidate has foundational experience at the site level in roles like Coordinator or Research Nurse. The bottom line is, hiring managers should avoid providing merit to candidates simply because they have experience and instead take a closer look at their quality of experience. 

After considering these tips…

Shortlist your candidate pool, arranging your interviews, then exhaust their references.  Did the candidate follow the instructions when it comes to the references provided?  Meaning, that if you ask for a certain number of supervisors and pin requirements to this expectation, such as ‘from recently completed projects, did the candidate comply? Then, speak to the relevant references.  Speaking with former hiring managers, direct reports, and other research colleagues of the candidate can be incredibly useful in gauging whether or not they would be a good fit for your organization. For example, your candidate may say they work well within a team, but have they supplied former coworkers who share that sentiment? Consider asking their references specific questions to explore their time with your candidate. By doing this, you can gain relevant information about how this person may or may not be a good fit for the position you’re attempting to fill.

With these time-saving tips, you will get the right candidate in the door. After all, who has the time to interview hundreds of different candidates?  Be sure to check out our hiring manager tips for advice to guide you and help keep you on track. You can also join our LinkedIn group and Like us on Facebook!

Angela Roberts