March 21, 2024

Kati Lechner

What Is Candidate Screening Software

What Is Candidate Screening Software
Kati Lechner

In one LinkedIn study, remote jobs received 50% of all applications despite making up just under 20% of job postings. While the average number of applicants per open role sits around 118, this number balloons for highly competitive roles, such as remote jobs or roles in tech and other competitive industries, commonly reaching the thousands.

With an average review time of six seconds per resume (yes, it’s often much higher), it would take hours upon hours to manually review the applications for a single role. In today’s demanding world, recruiters simply don’t have the time for this. That’s why talent acquisition professionals use candidate screening software — to cut through the noise and uncover the diamonds in the rough, the candidates with high potential. 

In this blog, I explore the benefits and limitations of different candidate screening software and share what you need to know to pick the right solution for your team.

What Is Candidate Screening Software? 

A candidate screening tool is any method or instrument that helps recruiters evaluate candidates on specific criteria, such as knowledge, skills, abilities, personality, or cultural fit. In other words, these tools help recruiters narrow down applicants to efficiently identify high-potential candidates for further evaluation.

Just like an ATS (applicant tracking system) can be anything from Greenhouse to your LinkedIn inbox to even a piece of paper, candidate screening solutions can vary drastically in quality and effectiveness, from background checks to automated one-way video interviews that use facial analysis. I’ll be focusing specifically on candidate screening software, the technology that helps recruiters screen candidates (think resume parser rather than resume).

Common types of candidate screening software include:

  • Resume-parsing tools: These tools automatically scan resumes for specified keywords or other important information, such as experience or skills. Resume parsers often use Boolean searches (searches that allow users to specify AND, OR, or NOT with their keywords) and AI to uncover more granular and specific results.
  • Pre-hire assessments: Pre-hire assessments or candidate tests can include different types of tests, such as personality, skills, behavioral, or multi-measure assessments. Results will vary depending on which type of assessment you use.
  • Video interviewing software: These solutions offer one-way interviews in which candidates record their answers to pre-determined questions. Certain video interviewing solutions may even use AI to monitor facial expressions and analyze speech (we don’t recommend this).
  • AI chatbots: AI-powered chatbots can act as a proxy for interviewers, prompting candidates with preliminary questions that help recruiters gather basic information and weed out unqualified candidates.

To be effective, candidate screening software must be both scalable and provide quality results. For example, over-indexing on keywords is unlikely to give you the desired results, as keywords are not highly predictive of performance. Conversely, if you have a highly predictive pre-hire test but it takes three hours to complete, no one will finish it (lack of scalability). To choose a candidate screening software that effectively and responsibly screens candidates, you’ll need to first understand their strengths and limitations.

Benefits of Candidate Screening Software

The average time it takes to review a resume is six seconds — or at least that’s the number that gets thrown around. In practice, it often takes much longer. My back-of-the-napkin math says that if you received 600 applications for an open role, that’s one straight hour of reviewing resumes with no breaks, no schedule coordination with hiring managers, no email or Slack messages — just rote resume review.

Sometimes, my eyes have glazed over, and that’s not fair to every candidate who sincerely wants the job and deserves equal consideration.

Not only would that be an inefficient use of time, but that approach is also prone to human error. People aren’t machines — we can’t review thousands of applications without missing something. And that’s where candidate screening software comes into play; it’s a vital piece of the hiring process.

Here are several benefits you can expect from an effective candidate screening software:

A faster hiring process

New features like LinkedIn’s EasyApply have made it easier than ever for candidates to apply for open roles. However, more applications mean more resumes to sift through. To complicate things further, most of the applicants you receive won’t be quality ones. According to one behavioral study, 74% of job seekers apply to jobs for which they’re underqualified.

Candidate screening solutions help recruiters and hiring managers pinpoint high-potential candidates from the get-go, instantly saving hours that can be spent on other high-impact recruiting activities like interviews or catching up with hiring managers.

Reduced bias

Every person brings a degree of subconscious bias and preconceived notions into their day-to-day work. Unfortunately, recruiters are no exception. Effective candidate screening tools can mask certain demographic information — such as age, race, and gender — to help promote equitable hiring decisions.

More informed hiring decisions

A meta-analysis featured in HBR revealed that experience is, surprisingly, a poor predictor of on-the-job performance. Why? Because knowing someone has experience isn’t the same as knowing the quality of that expertise. Resumes don’t capture behavior; they can’t answer questions like “How did this applicant perform in their past role?” “Did they learn from their mistakes?” and  “How well did they work with others?” That’s why candidate screening solutions like multi-measure assessments will always be an effective candidate screening solution — they measure multiple dimensions of a person, including personality, motivation, and cognitive ability, to determine whether someone can do a role and if it will energize them.

Challenges and Limitations of Candidate Screening Software

Do you remember white fonting? This job-searching “hack” is making a resurgence. Candidates write dozens of keywords in teeny text somewhere on their resumes and then change the font to white so AI-powered resume screening software picks up the keywords, but they look perfectly normal to the human eye. 

This example illustrates the limitations of certain candidate screening solutions. Being aware of the limitations below will help you pick the right solution for your team.

Potential for bias

In 2018, Amazon was on a hiring spree for engineers. They spent years building an AI-powered solution to review resumes to find the perfect candidate. The only problem? The model was built by looking at patterns in resumes over a 10-year period and almost all of the past engineers were male. As a result, women were disqualified. 

As with all AI solutions: garbage in, garbage out. Depending on the data and algorithm a software uses, there is a potential for bias. That’s why it’s essential to vet your candidate screening provider, understanding how they built their tool, whether it’s based on the latest industrial-organizational science, and if and how they implement AI.

It’s a “black box”

In 2021, video-interviewing software provider HireVue came under fire for their AI-powered facial speech analysis features, with many critics calling them discriminatory. Jenny Yang, former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, commented on the situation, saying, “The complexity and opacity of many algorithmic systems often make it difficult, if not impossible, to understand the reason a selection decision was made. Many systems operate as a black box, meaning vendors of algorithmic systems do not disclose how inputs lead to a decision.”

If a solution doesn’t provide transparency into how decisions are made, you can’t trust it. The same goes for tools that aren’t backed by scientific literature. Commenting on the situation, Merve Hickoc, a thought leader on AI ethics, added, “Facial analysis has never been an independently and scientifically validated predictor of a person’s ability, capacity, or success in a role. Facial expressions are not universal — they can change due to culture, context, and disabilities — and they can also be gamed. So, accuracy in correctly categorizing an expression is problematic to start with, let alone inferring traits from it.”

Inaccurate results and vulnerability to self-representation

White texting can “game” resume parsers. If a pre-hire test is constructed poorly, candidates can skew the results by answering questions in the way they think the employers wants them to. In essence, if the solution you’re using can be tricked — if it isn’t resistant to self-representation —  then the results you get won’t be reliable.

Potential for non-compliance 

Compliance is always a key consideration for any HR practice. However, the federal government is far from implementing wide-sweeping legislation around AI regulation — if they ever do. While this doesn’t mean AI is the wild wild west, it also doesn’t mean you should completely avoid solutions that use AI in one way or another to protect your organization. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the benefits and could fall behind competitors. When choosing a candidate screening software, look for a solution that prioritizes ethical, responsible, and explainable AI. This way, you can reap the benefits today while being in a great position should any legislation come about.

Best Practices for Using Candidate Screening Software

Now that we’ve looked at some strengths and weaknesses of candidate screening solutions let’s explore some best practices to follow as you pick out and implement your candidate screening software of choice:

Define your needs and use cases

First, decide what you’re trying to solve for. For example, what roles do you commonly find yourself hiring for: highly specialized roles with few applicants or entry-level positions with far too many candidates? Do you need accuracy or speed? Choosing candidate screening software tailored to your unique business needs can help you decide on the best solution, e.g., a tool to screen out disqualified candidates versus a tool to choose between high-quality finalists.

Always have a human in the loop (HITL)

Many candidate screening solutions use AI in one way or another, but the goal of these solutions should never be to remove the human from the equation. Rather, they should help recruiters make the most informed decisions possible. The rise of generative AI is only making having a human in the loop (HITL) more vital. 

According to Gartner, some 38% of HR leaders are piloting, planning to implement, or have already implemented generative AI in their department. These new solutions aren’t infallible. In fact, they often generate inaccurate results — or hallucinations. That’s exactly why many generative AI solutions in the market are called co-pilots, not pilots. Humans will always — and should always — make the decisions. 

Use scientifically-backed screening tools with high predictive power 

If you use a pre-hire assessment, such as a skills test or psychometric assessment, as a screening tool, make sure that the test is based on the latest industrial-organizational (I/O) science. The assessment should have explainable and understandable results, be resistant to manipulation, and provide reliable, scalable, highly predictive results.

How Wonderlic Select Helps with Candidate Screening 

Wonderlic Select is our multi-measure pre-hire assessment that helps recruiters solve for scalability and quality. Wonderlic uses the most up-to-date I/O science to assess candidates on three dimensions: cognitive ability, personality, and motivation. In other words, can they do the job, how will they do the job, and do they want the job? Combined, these factors give recruiters highly predictive insights into how well a candidate will perform in a role and how likely they are to want to stay in it.

Here’s a little bit more on how it works:

Candidates can either take the Wonderlic Select assessment immediately upon applying or can take the test as a finalist. Select gives recruiters a single score for candidates that shows how well they fit a role. This score is weighed against job-specific requirements defined by our jobs engine, which uses AI and thousands of labor data points to provide very granular insights about the hard and power (soft) skills required for a role.

Even better, recruiters can drill down into different elements of candidates’ scores to see exactly why candidates scored a certain way, providing the explainability and transparency needed to make fair and equitable hiring decisions in the recruitment process. 

So, going back to the example of 600 applicants, Wonderlic could help you immediately narrow that list down to just the candidates who have an above-average chance to succeed, significantly cutting your resume review time. Suddenly, deep-diving into resumes and screening via phone calls doesn’t seem so daunting.

Wonderlic Select is easy to use, scalable, and reliable, and I’m confident it will help you make the best hiring decisions possible.

Ready to see Wonderlic in action? Sign up for a demo today.

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