In tight labor market, ‘screening in’ is the new ‘screening out’

“There is … a huge upside to giving candidates a way to tell their story to uncover unexpected gems.”

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There’s been a shift in thinking amongst some hiring managers and recruiters in today’s tight labor market, with unemployment at a 50-year low, reports HR Dive. Instead of beginning the process by rejecting unqualified candidates some are hiring with an eye on finding reasons to hire people, not to reject them – called the screening-in model.

“To make sure they are finding the best possible talent,” Michelle Armer, chief people officer of CareerBuilder, told HR Dive in an email, “recruiters are no longer searching for the reasons an applicant would not fit the position or company, but rather they are considering a candidate’s current skill sets and the likely potential for them to enhance their proficiencies.”

This means you don’t necessarily have to perfectly fit the skills and requirements listed on the job description, but rather be a good overall fit and have the potential and willingness to learn.

This also means that companies and recruiters are getting proactive and searching for potential hires themselves: chasing down candidates hired away by other companies, or candidates rejected the first time. Job seekers who don’t make the cut for one position might be interviewed for another. Relationships with desirable candidates are ideally built before the position is even created.

Relatedly, Philip Leslie, CEO of web-based interview technology RIVS, and formerly of Microsoft, wrote on his blog that his two mentors at Microsoft were both history majors – not computer science or computer engineering. Had the company screened them out due to their background, he wrote, it would have lost two great employees and mentors:

“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 to uncover unexpected gems. That’s called “screening in” and we don’t see it happening enough.”

While hard screen-outs are necessary in many cases – say, travel is required and the hiring manager needs to know whether or not a candidate is willing to travel or not – in many cases, it can bring up biases. What the candidate brings to the table is their experience and traits; specific skills can be trained.

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.