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Finding the Perfect Fit: A Guide to Job Applicant Screening

We get it – hiring the right candidate for a role is not always a walk in the park, especially in today’s competitive job market. Posting and marketing a job is already a lift, not to mention the screening and selection process. Once a pool of candidates is formed, recruiters spend time looking for candidates with the skills and qualifications needed, but also targeting those whose values and culture align with their organization’s. Prioritizing building a diverse workforce is also important, and adds an additional layer to the process. Moreover, a clear hiring process is essential to create a positive word of mouth. 

While considering all of these factors when reviewing applicant materials, you may be asking yourself: How do I ensure that I’m making fair and unbiased decisions, while meeting my hiring goals?  This guide provides some best practices for how to do just that: 

Use a screening software:  

Consider using applicant tracking systems (ATS) or screening software to help streamline your review process. These tools can automatically filter applicants based on predefined criteria, making it easier to identify top candidates objectively. However, it is important to note that  Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) my contain intrinsic biases if they are not carefully designed and configured to actively mitigate them. Here are some ways you can make your ATS bias-free: 

Skills over background

Keyword selection

Auditing process

  • Program your software to assess candidates based on their skills and abilities, rather than their demographic background. For example, a company hiring a software engineer could program their ATS to assess a candidate’s technical skills (i.e. known programming languages, data structures, and algorithms) and will not ask questions on demographic background (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, or age).  
  • When selecting keywords and phrases for your ATS, involve a diverse panel of employees in the process to ensure a broad perspective on what constitutes essential qualifications. 
  • Regularly audit your ATS  and recruitment process for potential biases.  

Focus on the applicant’s skills and experience: 

Avoiding judgements

Transferable skills

Soft skills

  • When reviewing resumes, focus on the applicants’ skills, and experiences that are relevant to the position.  
  • Avoid making judgments about the applicants’ appearance, personal life, or other factors that are not relevant to the job. 
  • Look for transferable skills. Even if a candidate doesn’t have direct experience in the posted role, they may have transferable skills that are relevant. For example, a customer service representative may have transferable skills that would be valuable in a sales role. 
  • Take into account the applicant’s soft skills (i.e. teamwork, communication, and problem-solving). These skills are just as important as technical skills for many roles! 

Establish a structured review process: 

Develop a set of standardized criteria against which all applicants will be evaluated. Your rubric should:  

Minimum qualifications

Additional experiences


  • Include minimum qualifications, i.e, the essential skills and experience that a candidate must have in order to be considered for a position. They are typically non-negotiable and are required for the candidate to be able to perform the job duties. For example, a minimum qualification for a software engineer position might be a bachelor’s degree in computer science. 
  • Also include the skills and experience that are desirable for the position. This will help you narrow down the pool of selected candidates and identify those who are the most qualified for the job. For example, a preferred qualification for a software engineer position might be experience with a specific programming language. 
  • Consider factors such as the applicant’s work experience, education, and skills. 
  • Be applied to each and every resume that you review. This will help ensure that you are evaluating all candidates fairly and consistently.  

For more guidance on how to create rubrics tailored to your company’s needs, please refer to our comprehensive guide

A few more tips to consider:  


Job descriptions

Talent pool

  • It is important to communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process, even when you are declining them. Candidates like to be informed and receive feedback throughout the hiring process, especially when they are not selected. Moreover, a clear hiring process is essential to create a positive word of mouth.   
  • Invest time in crafting thorough job descriptions that clearly outline the requirements and responsibilities of a role, making it easier to match applicants’ qualifications. For guidance on writing effective job descriptions, please refer to our JD guide on our website
  • Consider maintaining a database of resumes belonging to candidates who may not have been selected for a given role, but could be a good fit for future opportunities. This proactive approach can be a huge time saver, as you can tap into a talent pool you’ve already vetted! 
By Vibha Sathesh Kumar
Vibha Sathesh Kumar