How to Effectively Screen Candidates for Your Team

How to Effectively Screen Candidates for Your Team

The rise of remote work and hybrid workforces has rapidly expanded organizations’ access to top global talent. However, with a greater pool of potential candidates, having an efficient and effective screening process is more important than ever.

This article serves as a guide to evaluating candidates applying for opportunities on your team, whether you’re looking for independent talent for a specific project or potential full-time hires.

Candidate screening: Priorities and potential challenges

When it comes to finding the best candidates, hiring managers and recruiters should establish their priorities in searching for them. Modern tools can help with this search, allowing businesses to quickly solicit resumes, cover letters, portfolios and sort them according to the criteria that matter most to their organizations.

On Upwork, for example, businesses can post job descriptions, quickly search through a list of qualified candidates, and view their portfolios to find workers who fit their requirements. Knowing what you want to see in a candidate can help your team move forward with the selection process.

However, businesses should be aware that they may encounter pitfalls when screening candidates.

Common challenges during candidate screening

Hiring managers and team leaders may encounter these pitfalls when screening candidates, which is why a rigorous screening process is necessary.

  • You may not recognize fraudulent or other misleading credentials. Simply put, it’s hard to know if a candidate is telling the truth in their application materials.  Some people fabricate competencies on their resumes or list degrees they haven’t actually obtained. Without proper screening, you run the risk of inadvertently bringing in unqualified candidates who don’t have the expertise or experience to perform the necessary work.
  • It’s hard to evaluate an applicant’s skill set. The right person should be competent and have the desired skills, which can be difficult to ascertain from a resume alone. Fortunately, Upwork offers alternative staffing services which helps attract only the most qualified independent talent.
  • You can’t find enough quality candidates. Sometimes, it can be difficult to even find quality candidates. One reason is that skilled workers are always in demand, no matter the economic environment. So competition for the best talent is constantly high. Another reason is that the talent pool is not evenly distributed across every market. If you’re limiting your search to the local area only, you could be overlooking qualified professionals who are available but living in another state or country.
  • Candidates don’t fit the work culture. It’s critical to find a team member who meshes with the existing work culture. Teams must work together well, with strong communication and a cohesive attitude. A candidate who doesn’t fit in personality-wise, even if they have the technical skills, can hurt the progress of the entire team.
  • You’re inundated with a large volume of applications. You may have trouble sifting through huge pools of job applications in response to a job listing. Looking through hundreds of candidates can quickly drain resources and waste your time. It can also result in moving too fast and missing someone who could be an excellent fit.
  • There’s a lack of clear guidelines when making a final decision. When it comes down to the last few candidates, you need to have clear guidelines and established priorities to make the right decision and avoid hiring the wrong candidate after so much effort has gone into the hiring process.

6 candidate screening tips you should consider

Keep in mind that when it comes to adding a new team member, it doesn’t always mean you need a full-time hire. Some companies can find success in adding an independent professional with the right skills their team lacks for a specific project. Fortunately, no matter which direction you choose, a thorough candidate screening process can help you avoid all of the challenges above and select the right talent. Here are six steps to consider:

A 6-Step Guide

1. Filter for resume criteria

Many hiring platforms offer businesses the opportunity to filter proposals or resumes based on the candidates’ skills and experience in the field. This resume screening can help you target only the candidates who have the experience you want to see for the role. It will also limit the number of resumes you have to comb through so that you can focus on the ones most likely to be a good fit from a skills perspective.

On Upwork, you can screen potential candidates by looking at features like their job success rate, previous projects they’ve worked on, and ratings and reviews from previous clients. This will help you better understand their success in the industry and if they would be worth considering.

2. Review cover letters for important features

Reviewing a cover letter can provide you with several benefits:

  • You can often gain a better sense of a person’s personality from the cover letter.
  • People have the chance to elaborate on key skills that make them a good fit, particularly soft skills that might be hard to convey on a resume.
  • You can ask candidates to answer specific questions in their cover letter, such as, “Why do you think you are a good candidate for the project or role?” If a candidate answers the question as requested, it gives you a good indication that they pay attention to detail and care about this specific opportunity.

Filter potential candidates next by their cover letters to help you better understand their abilities. You can also ask them to complete a small, paid task or answer some questions to help narrow down your selection. On Upwork, for instance, you can add screening questions to job posts for job seekers to answer.

3. Conduct an initial interview

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates based on their skill sets and cover letters, it’s time to conduct a screening interview. You can use this initial interview to better understand the candidate’s experience and qualifications, get a feel for their fit with the team, see how well they understand your organization’s priorities, and answer any questions around pay or other issues.

Although you can conduct phone interviews, you may find it helpful to conduct video interviews so you can see the candidates during your conversations.

4. Review relevant portfolios

To further narrow down job applicants and gauge their work experience, request to look at their portfolio. For example, web developers should provide a list of websites they’ve worked on.

If you want to find a graphic designer, for instance, looking at their portfolio can give you a feel for their style and past designs, and you can consider how well that fits with what you have in mind.

5. Have one-on-one interviews with the hiring manager

When you are down to only two or three candidates, the time has come for one-on-one interviews with the hiring manager. Come to the meeting with a clearly defined list of hiring priorities and factors that go into the final hiring decision. Use interview questions that help draw out the candidate’s potential to thrive in the open position and what they will bring to the team.

Some effective interview questions include:

  • If a previous team member asked you about your most valuable contributions, what would they say?
  • In what type of work environment do you thrive?
  • How receptive are you to both providing feedback and receiving it?

6. Check references and social media profiles

To identify any candidates who may have made it this far and see how they performed in the past, consider verifying references and checking social media profiles, such as LinkedIn. The goal here is to determine whether or not the candidate will be a good fit for your team both in terms of their skill set and personality.

Some best practices when it comes to checking references include:

  • Have a standard list of open-ended questions. Whether you choose to email or call the reference, provide them with a list of open-ended questions that you can use across all applicants. Some sample questions include, “How long did you work with the candidate?” and “What are some of their strengths that made them an asset to your team?”
  • Provide a brief job description to the reference. This allows the reference to provide specific details on whether or not they believe the candidate will be successful with the position.
  • Be respectful of the reference’s time. Whether it’s an email or a 15-minute phone call, stick to what you agreed upon.

When it comes to screening independent talent specifically, you should also check out their client testimonials or reviews—something that is readily available through Upwork.

Simplify screening and attract top talent

When finding new hires to fill an open position, many businesses face different challenges and obstacles. Filtering through countless proposals, sorting through credentials, identifying quality candidates, and making a selection that will fit well with the existing team culture can feel daunting. However, with the proper screening procedures in place, finding the perfect fit is possible.

When it comes to attracting and selecting highly qualified independent talent, the Upwork work marketplace makes it easy to find the right candidates. See how you can hire these independent professionals to help your team thrive.


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How to Effectively Screen Candidates for Your Team
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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