Executive Recruiting Advice: How to Weed Out Unqualified Applicants

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When you’re hiring for an executive role, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a gamble. Your aim is to find someone who has the qualifications and experience to handle the job, and ideally, they will also have the desire to stick around long-term. These characteristics sound simple enough, but the truth is that it’s much easier to list them than it is to actually find someone who effectively embodies them.

Anyone who has ever been in charge of hiring in the past knows that sifting through resume after resume can prove exhausting, especially when you end up with a whole slew of no-gos. Likewise, sometimes a candidate seems like a terrific fit on paper, but they just don’t end up panning out.

While there is no magic hiring formula, there are simple solutions to help you weed out unqualified applicants so that you can focus your time and efforts on hiring only the best candidates. That being said, here are a few ideas to help you out:

Be Clear and Specific In your Job Descriptions

If you draft up a vague job description, don’t be surprised if you receive job applications from all across the board. The more specific and clear you can be in your job listings, the more relevant of resumes you should receive in return. Here are a few places to start:

  • If you’re looking for seasoned pro, be specific in how many years of experience, along with the minimum education level, you’re looking for to avoid getting applicants from those who have just begun their careers.
  • Bold and emphasize all must-haves. When you make it clear that there is no reason to apply if certain necessities can’t be met, you can deter unqualified job seekers from reaching out.
  • List all of the types of software that you’d prefer a candidate be proficient in.
  • List the salary and benefits so that you don’t waste time on candidates whose expectations don’t match up with your offering.
  • Highlight the working conditions and day-to-day hours that your new hire will be expected to accept. If you get through the hiring process only to find that these factors clash with what the job seeker desires, you’ll have wasted quite a bit of time and resources on someone who was never a viable candidate to begin with.

Look Out for Major Red Flags on Resumes

A resume is your first peek into whether or not someone will be a good fit for your company, so it’s important to take your time examining the document before calling them in for an interview. While many resumes standardly highlight previous experience and education along with current relevant skills, there are some obvious and subtle red flags to watch out for, such as:

  • Blatant typos and grammar issues. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never sent a professional message or document that didn’t have a typo in it, but if the resume you’re looking at is filled with noticeable errors, you may want to move on to the next one. A resume is a candidate’s first opportunity to showcase their attention to detail and professionalism, and sending over something that is hard to read illustrates either apathy or obliviousness, two qualities that aren’t ideal in an employee.
  • Spotty job history. Life happens, and there can be plenty of understandable reasons why a candidate has significant gaps in their employment history. That being said, it can naturally make an employer question their reliability. If you think the job seeker is an otherwise qualified choice, schedule a phone interview before an in-person one to see if there is a reasonable explanation.
  • Generic information. If the resume you’re reviewing seems like it’s intended to be universal, that’s indicative that the job seeker is sending it to as many companies as possible and isn’t particularly invested in the role you’re hiring for. While it’s natural for anyone who is looking for employment to apply multiple locations, failing to take any time to tailor the resume to your job description shows lack of dedication and effort.
  • Hefty claims without any achievements to back them up. If the job seekers lists a ton of strengths and skills (e.g., excellent at sales) without any workplace achievements or specific examples to demonstrate their talent, it could be a sign that they’re all talk.

Tailor Interview Questions to the Job Description

If a job seeker passes the resume round and you feel confident moving forward with either a phone or an in-person interview, formulate your questions around the position you’re hiring rather than asking the generic questions they’ve most likely answered in every other interview they’ve ever participated in.

For example, instead of asking what their greatest strengths and weaknesses are, ask how a specific skill they list will directly help them complete the main goal of the position. If you’re hiring for a construction project manager, ask how their strong people skills will help increase employee efficiency as well as project organization to make sure projects are completed on time. The more that you can tailor your questions to revolve around specifics of the job description, the better you can gauge if the candidate will be successful in the role.

Also, ask questions that assess whether or not they will be a good fit with your company culture. Even if they have the skills and experience you’re looking for, making sure that they will also be happy and blend in easily with the environment of your workplace will help you select someone who has a future with your company.

Value First Impressions

While first impressions can sometimes be misleading, they are often quite telling, especially in professional settings when people tend to present the best version of themselves. Here are a few things to take notice of:

  • Does the job seeker return emails quickly and send documents within the time frame you specify?
  • Do they communicate clearly and concisely?
  • Do they answer questions directly, or do they try to evade the questions that they can’t give ideal answers to? Do they seem to be as well-rounded in the industry as their resume eludes to?
  • If conducting an interview, do they show up on time? Do they seem genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity? Do they ask insightful questions?
  • Do you get the impression that they are looking to stick with a position long-term?

Don’t Skip the Reference Checks

Reference checks are incredibly important. They give you insight into a candidate’s previous work life, as they allow you to ask questions to previous employers or supervisors (it’s a red flag if all the references listed are friends or family) about reliability, skillset, and motivation. They also allow you find out if someone has a history of being hard or pleasant to work with.

Because of the advantages and information that references offer, it’s always in your favor to follow up with them. In some instances, it can take some time to actually get the reference on the phone, so it may be tempting to skip this step if you’re trying to fill a position that is time-sensitive in nature. That being said, the wait is worth it, as personal testimonies of those who have actually worked with the person you’re interviewing will help verify if they are a qualified contender.

Closing Up

Hiring is hard work. It takes quite a bit of time and resources to place job ads, review resumes, conduct interviews, and negotiate terms of employment. Hopefully this advice helps you select the right candidate from the start so that you don’t have to go through this long process all over again.

If you don’t have the time to efficiently conduct the hiring process yourself, you can always reach out to professionals to take this weight off of your shoulders. For over 41 years, S.R. Clarke & Associates, LLC has been helping companies grow their businesses and professionals elevate their careers. We are a full-service construction executive search firm, and we know how to target and recruit only the best of job seekers.

Contact us today for more information on how we can help you with all of your hiring needs.

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