The Screening Process: How Recruiters Choose Candidates Worth Pursuing


How Will You Stand Out from the Crowd?

Once a job application arrives at an employer’s office, the screening process can begin. As mentioned before, screening might be done by a single person, by a group of persons, or by a machine. You may not know which approach a company takes, unless you ask specifically about how screening is done in the department or division where an opening exists.

There may also be nuances between writing for a machine and writing for human. Lacking information specific to a particular type of screening software, job seekers must do their best to present their arguments in language that can be easily filtered by both human and machine.

Let’s imagine a “typical” screening process, discuss some possible stages in that process, and then imagine some strategies that might be useful for capturing and keeping the reader’s attention.

It’s probably impossible to give one explanation that will cleanly and accurately describe all the nuances to different stages of the job search process, but let’s try to describe some generalities.

I have been on many screening and selection committees during my career, and I’ve seen a few thousand résumés during that time. My explanation of the screening process is heavily drawn on my personal experience. In no way should it be construed that my experiences are somehow universal. However, I do believe that I can bring some insights about how résumé screeners and job search committees might conduct their screening processes.

A “Typical” Screening Process

In my experience, screening works like this:

  • Application packets arrive at the employer. This usually happens these days via e-mail or through a database-driven form that is part of an online application system.
  • Some companies may use software to scan your documents or keywords and phrases before a real person takes a look at. This is less common in small businesses, non-profit organizations, local governments, and academic institutions.
  • Other companies may allow a recruiter or members of a search committee to view a candidate’s materials as soon as they are available in the system, and to rank them.


Whether your résumé is screened by a person or by a computer, some sort of ranking system will likely be used to determine the degree of “fit” between the candidate and a fictional “ideal” candidate. Such a system relies heavily upon the use of scoring rubrics, which are much like the guides that a teacher might follow in grading a standardized test.

Ideally, the screeners use a scoring rubric to rate each candidate on their match to minimum and preferred qualifications. Ideally, those members of the committee follow those guidelines and come up with a list that accurately reflects the match between each candidate and the stated needs of the employer.

Ideally. Not always in practice. But ideally.

In the next post in this series, we’ll explore ways the screening process might break down, and what you might be able to do to minimize the possibility that you will be screened out of a process.

Take 5: Interview Travel

Ok, so you’ve been asked to travel across the country to interview at a university you’ve never been to, in a city you’re unfamiliar with.

Nervous? Don’t be! This is an exciting opportunity for you to explore a new place, meet some new people, and hopefully, begin a new adventure! Below you’ll find some tips on how to make your journey there and back bearable:

Tips on Traveling for an interview,  CNN Travel

Traveling for an Interview,  Donna Monday,

First Time Traveling for a Job Interview, Ask MetaFilter

Preparing for an Interview,

Interview Travel Etiquette: How to Tactfully Manage the Conversation,  Higher Ed Career Coach


Take 5 is a regular feature where we present links to some good articles and resources on job search topics. If you have ideas for future topics, send them to Melissa Judy, Content Development Intern at

Take 5: Navigating the Campus Interview

Take5-150x150You’ve had that nerve-wracking phone interview and now the campus of your dreams wants to meet you in person. You’ve been invited for the all- important on-site interview!

First of all, congratulations! Second, don’t freak out. We’ve compiled a list of sites to help you navigate (and survive) your campus interview and land the job:

Do’s and Don’ts for Campus Interview Presentations, The #SASearch

Dream Campus Interview, Chronicle of Higher Education

Academic Job Interview Questions & Advice,  Mary Corbin Sies, University of Maryland, College Park

Things to Consider When Scheduling an On-Campus Interview, #SAJobHunt

101 Interview Questions for College Unions and Students Activities, Association of College Unions International

Take 5 is a regular feature where we present links to some good articles and resources on job search topics. If you have ideas for future topics, send them to Melissa Judy, Content Development Intern at

Tommy Walker Knocks Down Your Excuses: Staying Motivated

Motivation is sometimes hard to come by, but it’s essential to keeping forward momentum in your career.

If anyone knows this, it’s online marketing strategist Tommy Walker, who went from being fired over pair of pants 3 years ago to writing a magnum-opus guest post “106 Excuses That Prevent You From Ever Being Great” on Chris Brogan’s web site. Brogan, known for almost never accepting guest posts, took a chance on Walker’s piece, and in the process threw any editorial guidelines he might have had out the window, posting all 7,000+ words of it.

The response the post received so far has been phenomenal, with 329 retweets and 1,260 likes on Facebook as this is being written. We’ll talk to Walker about his journey from fired cell phone salesman to successful online marketing strategist and guest blogger, and get tips for knocking down excuses and staying motivated.

This segment was pre-recorded, and will air Friday, October 28, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. ET. To listen, follow this link or use the player in the right sidebar.


Deciding On Careers Outside Academia


Dr. Laurence Shatkin

At some point, many educators find themselves looking at career options outside of academia. There are many reasons one might consider doing so…feeling stuck in a career rut, a change in interests, new opportunities that arise through networking, or perceptions of “greener grass” just beyond the academy walls.

But how should you go about deciding on a career outside of higher education? What do you need to consider in putting together a plan for making a successful transition?

In this week’s edition of the podcast, we’ll get perspectives from Dr. Laurence Shatkin, who made a successful transition to the  corporate world after several years as an adjunct.

In his current position as Senior Product Developer for JIST Publishing, Shatkin researches career topics and writes books, including “The Sequel: How to Change Your Career Without Starting Over.” You can find more information about Dr. Shatkin and his books at and you can follow him on Twitter at @LaurenceShatkin

The episode will air at 11 a.m. ET this Friday. The interview with Shatkin is being pre-recorded due to a scheduling conflict, but the rest of the show will be hosted live. Please call in with your questions and comments. The call in line is (347) 989-0055 or you can connect via Skype from the episode page, once the show is on the air, by clicking on the Skype “S” click-to-talk logo.

Check out The Sequel and other titles on Dr. Shatkin’s page on Amazon.Com (affiliate link).