How to Find the Best Candidates in Your Applicant Pool

When you’re knee-deep in the hiring process, working through an enormous amount of applications isn’t always a good thing. The reality of the modern-day job search is that job seekers are able to blast resumes off to jobs that they may not necessarily be qualified (or even interested) to do. Ultimately, it comes down to the patience and grit of your recruiting team to sort through your applicant pool to find the candidates who genuinely have what it takes to fulfill your position.

Fortunately, there are a few key steps you can take to attract qualified candidates with the exact skillset and experience you’re looking for. Understanding how to narrow down your search quickly and effectively is the best way to saddle your company up with the help it needs to grow and succeed. Using this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through how you can fish out the best candidates from your massive pool.

Step 1: Phone screen prior to in-person interviews

In-person interviews are hard work for both parties, so it’s important for you to do a little extra work upfront before asking someone to come in for an in-person interview. Phone screenings have been the go-to method for companies looking to make meaningful and promising long-term hires. They can be as simple as taking 30 minutes to talk with a candidate about their skills and previous experience.

Phone screenings are also excellent venues for running through the points listed on the job description and answering any questions a candidate might have about the expected duties and details. You can also get a loose feel for the candidates’ personalities beyond their resume and gauge if what you’re picking up would align with your preferences and company culture. If all goes well, the next step is inviting them in for an in-person interview.

Step 2: Conduct smart interviews

By the time your candidates reach the interview stage, you should have a much smaller applicant pool. While selecting the best one out of the batch may prove to be the most challenging part, you’ll find that it’s made easier when you conduct smarter interviews. A smart approach to interviews begins with thoughtful questions. Effective interview questions give you a more well-rounded understanding of a candidate’s skill set, background, and thought process. For instance, situational questions like “what would you do if…” and “how would you react if…” questions put candidates on the spot and give you an authentic look into how they would handle a situation in real-time. Be sure to mix in a few behavioral questions as well to gain insight into how they have reacted in past situations.

Pro-tip: While you’re at it, consider running a basic disclosure background check on your most promising candidate to ensure they’re in good standing and a good fit for your company. Wondering how much is a background check? Even if you haven’t budgeted for this extra step, it’s a good protective measure to take in the long-run.


Step 3: Assess Their Interest

Any candidate who has made it past the in-person interview likely wants the job. This may mean you have between 2-10 applicants in the final stages. Assessing their interest is an important step to the hiring process as those who are more passionate will make better employees. Gauge a candidate’s interest level by asking pertinent open-ended questions such as “do you have any questions for me?” or more plainly “why are you interested in this position”. These questions can help you weed out the engaged job seekers from those just looking for a way to pay the bills.

Step 4: Request a Short, Paid Trial Assignment

Even with a pile of resumes, cover letters, and portfolios in front of you, it can be difficult to assess a candidate’s skill level. Paid trial assignments are a great way for talented candidates to show off their unique skills and demonstrate to you that they are able to create timely, impressive deliverables. In essence, a paid trial assignment gives you a taste of what you would get if the candidate in question were to be hired.

How do you dive into your applicant pool without drowning? Open up the discussion in the comments below!


Sudarsan Chakraborty is a professional writer. He contributes to many high-quality blogs. He loves to write on various topics.