Screening and Evaluating Candidates | A How to Guide

The practice of screening and evaluating candidates has changed significantly over the last decade.

Most of the changes have been influenced by technological advances, which has paved the way for better hiring decisions, lower staff turnover, and increased productivity.

As well as technical advances, the COVID-19 pandemic has also altered the way in which we screen and select candidates. Now, there is a larger emphasis on video interviews, online pre-employment screening, social media assessments, testing, background checks, to name a few.

This article provides tools and techniques you can use to screen and evaluate your candidates. Specifically, we cover tools, employment application, pre-screening, testing, and avoiding non-compliance (and legal repercussions).

Tools for Screening

  • Job websites, career sites, and social media (LinkedIn), to obtain CVSs and job applications
  • Pre-screening. Listing the basic requirements for the role, and eliminating those who do not meet them
  • Assessments to determine which candidates have the desired skills and competencies for the role
  • Pre-employment screening, to obtain a full background of the candidate (including their criminal history, credit, right to work, etc)
  • Referencing, to ascertain the candidate has the experience to do the role

Employment Application

This is where you collect CVs, applications, cover letters, and other relevant information for the role in question.

At this stage, it is advised to have an internal process that collects this information effectively from the websites and platforms where you post the role.

You should only be interested in qualifying candidates as suitable for the role. This requires an analysis of their qualifications, employment history, and location (if relevant). Therefore, it is recommended to implement qualifying questions as part of this stage to screen out candidates without the basic requirements for the role.

Websites like Reed allow you to post qualifying questions with the job listing. For example, “Do you have 3+ years working in the financial sector?”. The only thing to note is that some candidates may answer untruthfully in hope of securing an interview. Therefore, an ATS (applicant tracking software) may prove useful if your budget allows and if you are receiving a high volume of applications per role.

Some organisations implement a more rigorous application process, that requires the candidate to answer competency-based questions. For example, “in 500 words, describe how you offered excellent customer service in your last role?”. The aim is to make the interview process easier, by having a clearer picture of the candidate’s abilities. However, it is easy to make this process long-winded, which can deter top candidates from making an application.

In summary, it is advised to:

  • Devise and implement internal policies and procedures to obtain CVS and cover letters
  • Ask qualifying questions where possible, which should determine the candidate’s:
    • Years of experience
    • Qualifications
    • Willingness to travel/relocate (if applicable)
    • Salary requirements
  • Obtain information regarding the candidate’s competencies (where possible)

Post Application: Pre-Screening Candidates

Once applications are received, you should screen them manually (even if it has gone through an ATS). This allows you to determine whether the candidate has the qualifications and/or experience your company needs. This can be done in a variety of ways. The most recommended are:

Telephone Interviews

Due to its low cost, telephone interviews are the most favoured way of screening out unsuitable candidates.

How in depth you go during this stage is up to you, but the aim is to check for both basic requirements and gauge the interest level of the candidate.

Some good telephone interview questions include:

  • Why are you interested in the position?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Walk me through your CV
  • Tell me about your previous/current job role?
  • Please can you explain the gap in your employment history
  • Why are you leaving (or wanting to leave) your current role?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What are your strengths, challenges, weaknesses?

Following this, you can decide whether to progress the candidate to the next stage or dismiss their application.

Face to Face Interviews (via video chat or in person)

This is typically the last stage of the application process before you decide to offer the candidate the role. At this stage, you have a clear idea of the candidate’s employment experience, qualifications, as well as an idea of their interest in the role and company.  The aim here is to get to know the prospective employee and delve deeper into their skills and experience.

You will also be looking to ascertain whether the candidate has the passion, goals, initiative, and communication skills to fit in at your company. In addition, you want to determine they will be a good fit with your company’s values and culture.

To ensure good practice, it is recommended that you:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Take notes

Social Media

Social media screening has become an integral part of the pre-screening process for many UK companies. This is because it allows employers to understand a candidate’s behavioural characteristics that may not have been revealed during the interview process.

This method has its risks. Firstly, you can only check a candidate’s social media profiles if they are in the public domain. If their profiles are set private, you can not screen their social media profiles. Secondly, you must have good reason not to hire a candidate following a social media screening. You can remove a candidate from the application process if they are:

  • Revealed to be part of social media groups that incite hatred or discrimination
  • Have posted disrespectful, inaccurate, or derogatory comments about a previous (or current) employer
  • Have posted confidential information from previous employers
  • Havelied about their qualifications

What you cannot do is not hire a candidate based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics revealed from a social media screening.

Pre-employment Screening

Once you have selected the candidate for the role, you must now perform employment background checks. Also known as pre-employment screening, this process gives you a clear idea of the candidate’s background, including any criminal history, their credit rating, qualifications, and work experience.

With your candidate’s consent, you can proceed with background checks. You will have to collect additional information before you can complete any background checks. This includes their address history, national insurance number, date of birth, references to name a few. You can ask candidates to provide all this information using Employment Check App, which also allows your candidate to perform their own background checks.

Do note: some industries require certain background checks by law. For example, aviation companies require candidates go through a 5-year background check and a basic criminal record check; and healthcare require all staff to undergo DBS enhanced checks.

There are ten background checks all employers must consider. The most important checks to implement are:

Right to Work

A right to work check ascertains whether your candidate has the right to work in the UK. This is a legal requirement and, if performed incorrectly (or not at all), the penalties include criminal prosecution, a fine of up to £20,000 per breach, and withdrawal of sponsor licence (to name a few).

Recently, the rules regarding right to work checks have changed, which have included:

  • Different requirements on the type of documents to be checked and retained (H3) Criminal background check
  • New laws for EU nationals
  • The online checking service

We discuss right to work checks best practice here.

Criminal Record Check (DBS Check)

Criminal record checks determines whether your candidate has a criminal record. If a criminal record is found, then a document (a DBS certificate) is issued with the applicant’s spent convictions, unspent convictions, and other information. The aim of these checks is to prevent the hiring of staff who may cause criminal, legal, and or reputational damage.

There are three types of checks: basic, standard, and enhanced; and their application depends on the type of role and sector in question.

More information on criminal record checks (and what to do if your candidate has one) can be found here.

Credit Check

Credit checks, or pre-employment credit screening, is a check typically performed by financial companies. In short, the check helps employers understand the candidate’s financial situation, and if their company is at risk of fraud.

Non-financial companies have been known to conduct credit checks (or roles such as, for example, accountancy).

The current rule of thumb is to perform these checks if the employment regulations of your industry demand it, or if your candidate will be handling monies. However, for extra protection again fraud, it is highly recommended to perform a credit check on candidates.


Referencing allows you to confirm that your candidate has the experience, qualifications, and achievements stated on their application.

Failure to conduct referencing can lead to staff who may be ill-experienced for the job; wasting company time and money.

References should be obtained from the following sources:

  • Employers from the last 2-5 years
  • The candidate’s former places of education
  • A referee who can account for a gap in their work history (not a family member or friend)

Qualification analysis

Whilst it is a simple process to ask for an academic reference and certificates, there are candidates who fabricate educational credentials. From fraudulent certificates to bogus online colleges, you should implement a process to ensure the credentials you check are genuine and valid.

Post-employment Screening

Once new employees are onboard, you should incorporate a post-employment screening procedure as part of your vetting process.

This looks at utilising the data you already have and performing checks periodically to minimise legal risks.

Your industry may require you to take out regular criminal record checks. For example, in the care industry, organisations perform DBS enhanced checks annually (some even perform checks every six months). And within the transport industry, DVLA checks are performed regularly to ensure their drivers have not accumulated any points or committed any driving-related offences.

For more information on post-employment screening, click here.

Avoiding Screening Non-Compliance and Legal Repercussions

When it comes to screening and evaluating your candidates, you must put an emphasis on preventing non-compliance and legal repercussions.

Throughout your process, you must:

  • Ensure all job offers correspond with the information supplied in the job advert and to the candidate (e.g., the salary offered matches the salary bracket)
  • Not ask questions that directly target the candidate’s personal life (e.g., “do you plan on having children?”
  • Obtain your candidate’s permission to process their data, particularly for the background check process
  • Ensure no part of the recruitment process discriminates against the candidate
  • Not obtain information about the candidate from online resources that are set to private (e.g., social media)
  • Implement a process that deals with every eventuality that may occur from a background (e.g., your candidate has a criminal record with unspent convictions)
  • Not perform background checks that are disproportionate to the role

To ensure complete compliance, you can integrate background check software, which also allows for onboarding. We offer this in the form of Employment Check Pro. For more information, visit


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